Tag Archives: Culture

A to Z of Cathedrals – S is for Siguenza in Spain

For a small town the cathedral is an immense building and one of the most important late Romanesque buildings in Spain which was built to symbolise the power of Bishop Don Bernardo who began construction in the twelfth century.  It has three naves and a main chapel with an ambulatory and a dome and around the outer walls are a series of commemorative chapels which reads like a who’s who of the local campaigns of the Reconquista.

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A to Z of Cathedrals – P is for Palencia in Spain

Catedral?” I enquired and the poor man (victim) that I had selected just stared back at me with an expressionless face as though I was a visitor from the planet Mars.

So I tried again but this time, remembering that upside down question mark thing at the beginning of the sentence I tried to sound a bit more Spanish, ¿Catedral?” but his face went so blank that I though rigor mortis had set in.  I have to say that Catedral sounds a bit like Cathedral to me so I don’t know why this was so difficult but his solution was to call someone else over who was an obviously educated man who spoke excellent English and with optimism I tried again ¿Catedral?”

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A to Z of Cathedrals – O is for Oviedo in Spain

Oviedo is only a small city, only just scraping into the top twenty largest cities in Spain and it isn’t even the largest in Asturias so it didn’t take that long to walk around the historical centre and soon there was only one thing left to do – visit the Cathedral.

The building was severely damaged during the Spanish Civil War when the conflict more or less started here and there was fierce Nationalist oppression inflicted by General Franco but it has been restored now and has been returned to its former medieval grandeur.

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A to Z of Cathedrals – M is for Milan

“What a wonder it is!  So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems …a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!…”, Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’

I have made no secret of the fact that I didn’t especially like Milan but I have to say that the Marble Gothic Cathedral is perhaps one of the most sublime and finest that I have ever seen in Italy. In design, more French than Italian perhaps. The location is magnificent with a wide open Piazza to the front and it rises dramatically upwards with spires like needles piecing the sky, each one decorated with a Saint or Apostle at the very top.

It is claimed there are more statues on this cathedral than any other building in the world; there are three thousand, four hundred statues, one hundred and thirty-five gargoyles and seven hundred figures. There are two hundred and forty steps to the top but that did not concern us, we had climbed nearly five hundred in Bologna so we ignored the extra charge for the lift and began the ascent.

Now this was really something really worth doing and well worth the admission charge. My first impression of the roof was that it resembles a petrified forest,  There was a lot of restoration work at the top but this didn’t interfere with the stunning views and the rooftop panorama of the city. We stayed up on the top for quite some time and after two circuits made our way down the steps and into the Cathedral which was equally impressive.

I will tell you two stories…

Above the apse there is a spot marked with a red light bulb. This marks the spot where one of the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion was allegedly placed. Once a year in September the archbishop of Milan ascends to the apex in a wooden basket decorated with angels to retrieve the nail.  The nail is displayed on the altar for three days and then put back again. You do have to wonder why?

Inside the Cathedral is a statue of the Apostle Saint Bartholomew who met an especially grisly end when he was skinned alive. Condemned to death he was flayed and the skin of his body cut into strips,then pulled off leaving his body open and bleeding for a long time, after that he was beheaded and then crucified just to make sure. I am prepared to be challenged on this point but I don’t believe that it would be possible to be skinned alive, I imagine you’d die of shock quite quickly.  The pain must have unimaginable, I know I call for a sticking plaster for just the tiniest of little skin-nicks!

We left the Cathedral and took the dreary walk back to the hotel. I still hadn’t warmed to Milan but the Cathedral helped redeem it a little.

Considering it is such a centre of high fashion, Milan is remarkably devoid of architectural beauty.  Milan is all about making money, it is in the blood and in the history” – Michael Palin, ‘Hemingway Adventures’.

 

 

A to Z of Cathedrals – L is for Lecce in Italy

After the main square we slipped into into the side streets and made our way to the Basilica di Sante Croce, said to be the most beautiful church in the city and it may well have been but unfortunately for us the builders were in and the front was covered in scaffolding.  My picture is therefore a postcard.

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From The Archives – Hillmorton County School

The Hillmorton County Junior School was an old Victorian building with high ceilings that soared into the sky and partitioned classrooms with rows of old fashioned wooden desks with years of scratched graffiti  and attached lift up seats on squeaking hinges.

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A to Z of Cathedrals – I is for Reykjavik in Iceland

I is another difficult letter in the A to Z .  It might be considered cheating but I am choosing Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral in Iceland…

As the sky was so clear and we could guarantee excellent views we returned now to Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran Cathedral and the tallest building in the city which took nearly forty years to build and was consecrated in 1986.  The design is said to be based on a geyser plume or a lava flow but if you ask me it looks more like a space shuttle about to blast off  but it is nice enough inside and the signature piece is a twenty-five tonne organ with 5,275 pipes and someone was in there this morning practising on it.

Our main purpose for visiting the cathedral however was not to visit the interior but to take the lift to the observation tower at the top of the seventy-three metre tall tower.  It cost 700 krona (about £3) and it was worth every one because from the top there were glorious uninterrupted views in all directions, to the sea in the west, the glaciers in the north, the islands in the south and the ragged coastline to the east and we stayed at the top for several minutes enjoying the views.

 

A to Z of Cathedrals – H is for Heidelberg in Germany

I was struggling with H until I suddenly remembered that ten years ago I visited the German Rhine town of Heidelberg.  I don’t remember visiting the Cathedral, I don’t think that I did but I did take a picture of it.  It was one of those bright white days which makes taking pictures with a cheap camera quite difficult.

Last time out I was in Freiburg that was needlessly destroyed by Allied bombing raids in World war Two.   Heidelberg avoided the same unfortunate fate, it is said because the US army rather liked the look of it and fancied setting up shop there and instructed Bomber Harris to keep it off the list of targets that were elsewhere unnecessarily destroyed.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

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A to Z of Cathedrals – G is for Girona in Catalonia

I have had to decide between two strong candidates for the letter G, Granada in Andalusia and Girona in Catalonia.

I have picked Girona…

Eventually and inevitably we arrived in the square in front of Santa Maria Cathedral whose Baroque façade conceals an austere Gothic interior that was built around a previous Romanesque church, of which the cloisters and a single tower remain.

We found the energy to climb the steps from the square to the Cathedral but once there Kim declined the opportunity to go inside and left me to visit the interior of the building alone and see the World’s widest Gothic nave and the second widest overall after St. Peter’s in Rome.

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This, by the way is the Cathedral in Granada

I also considered the Royal Monastery in Guadalupe but that technically isn’t a Cathedral so that would be cheating and I have to save my cheating for later…

Sunday Sunsets – Fazana in Croatia

In the sky the late sun and some occasional clouds were beginning to assemble into an impressive sunset ensemble rather like a bonfire in the sky and with Kim’s magic camera (if you remember, it can capture a sunset even if there isn’t one) it seemed certain that we would be able to get some good pictures.

Micky and I met first and after taking the pictures we took an outside seat at the tavern and over a beer we approved the menu by making sure that there were not too many slippery things from the ocean on it and there were some suitably plain alternatives for Sue and Christine and having satisfied ourselves that it would meet with approval we sat and waited for the others to join us.

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