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Updates – Ljubljana #3

The central square in Ljubljana is Prešeren Square (Prešernov trg).

It’s no exaggeration to say that Prešeren Sqaure is not only the centre of Ljubljana, but truly the spiritual centre of the Slovene nation – and more practically the defacto meeting point in the city. It is part of the old town’s pedestrian zone and a major meeting point, where festivals, Ljubljana carnival, concerts, sports, political, and protest events take place. It was renovated in 2007. To the south, across the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje), it is connected to Stritar Street (Stritarjeva ulica), which leads through a symbolic town gate formed by the Kresija Palace and Philip Mansion towards the city’s town hall at the foothills of the Castle Hill. At the eastern side of the square, a bronze statue of the Slovene national poet France Prešeren with a muse was placed in front of the Central Pharmacy. One of his poem, “A Toast”/ “Zdravljica” became the national anthem. The poet’s statue is symbolically faced by the statue of Julija Primic, his great love, mounted on the facade of a building located across the square, in the Wolfova ulica.

The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is a Franciscan church; Its red colour is symbolic of the Franciscan monastic order. Since 2008, the church has been protected as a cultural monument of national significance of Slovenia. Built between 1646 and 1660 (the bell towers following later), it replaced an older church on the same site. The early-Baroque layout takes the form of a basilica with one nave and two rows of side-chapels. The Baroque main altar was executed by the sculptor Francesco Robba. Many of the original frescoes were ruined by the cracks in the ceiling caused by the Ljubljana earthquake in 1895. The new frescoes were painted in 1936 by the Slovene impressionist painter Matej Sternen.

 

The front facade of the church was built in the Baroque style in 1703–1706 and redesigned in the 19th century. It has two parts, featuring pilasters with the Ionic capitals in the lower part and pilasters with Corinthian capitals in the upper part. The sides of the upper part are decorated with volutes and at the top of the front facade stands the statue of Our Lady of Loretto, i.e. Madonna with Child. It has been made of beaten copper by Matej Schreiner upon a plan drawn by Franz Kurz and Thurn und Goldenstein. The faces and the hands were modelled by Franc Ksaver Zajec. The statue replaced an older wooden statue of a Black Madonna in 1858. The facade also has three niches with sculptures of God the Father above the main stone portal, and an angel and the Virgin Mary in the side niches, work by the Baroque sculptor Paolo Callalo. There is a stone entrance staircase in front of the church. The wooden door with reliefs of women’s heads dates to the 19th century.

Ljubljana Cathedral or St. Nicholas’s Cathedral (stolnica sv. Nikolaja), serves the Archdiocese of Ljubljana. Easily identifiable due to its green dome and twin towers, it is located at Cyril and Methodius Square named for Saints Cyril and Methodius by the nearby Ljubljana Central Market and Town Hall.

The site of the Cathedral was originally occupied by a three-nave Romanic church whose earliest mention dates back to 1262. After the fire of 1361 it was re-vaulted in the Gothic style. When the Ljubljana Diocese was established in 1461, the church underwent several alterations and additions. In 1469 it was burnt down, presumably by the Turks. Between 1701 and 1706, a new Baroque hall church with side chapels shaped in the form of the Latin cross was built to a design by the Jesuit architect Andrea Pozzo. As the church’s dome was only built in 1841, originally a fake dome was painted on the arch above the centre of the cross. The surviving Baroque interior decoration notably includes frescoes by Giulio Quaglio (painted in the periods 1703-1706 and 1721-1723), Angelo Putti’s statues of four bishops of Emona situated beneath the beams of the dome (1712-1713), Putti’s painting of Dean Janez Anton Dolničar (1715), who initiated the rebuilding of the church in 1701, Francesco Robba’s altar angels in the left part of the nave (1745-1750) and brothers Paolo and Giuseppe Groppelli’s altar angels in the right part of the nave (1711). A host of other works of art were added later. One of the more interesting is the dome fresco painted by Matevž Langus in 1844. The most outstanding 20th century additions include Tone Demšar’s main entrance door relief depicting the history of Slovenia, commissioned to mark the 1250th anniversary of Christianity in Slovenia, and Mirsad Begić’s side doors with portraits of bishops.

Only a tourist train leaves Prešeren Square every day, transporting tourists to Ljubljana Castle.

The castle of Ljubljana is just one of the castles in the city but certainly the biggest one and also the most visited. Built in the middle of the 15th century, today it is a popular tourist destination for locals and foreigners also. No wonder. It offers an outstanding view over the city, a romantic athmosphere and a place of numerous cultural events. Guided tours of the castle are conducted every day. The castle is depicted on the city’s coat of arms, along with a dragon on top.

When in 1335 the Habsburgs took over the area of today`s Slovenia, they demolished the fortress of the Spanheim family, which stood on the hill, and in the second half of the 15th century started building a new one that still stands today. At first it consisted of only walls, towers and wooden barracks but through centuries the castle got the shape that it has today. Its main purpose was to defend against Turkish invasions, which were the most frequent in the 15th and 16th century. Besides, peasant rebellions were not rare as well. In the 17th and 18th century the castle had the function of a military hospital and an arsenal. When in 1809 Napoleon brought freedom and cultural and national enlightment to the citizens of Ljubljana, the war with the Habsburgs broke out. During this war the Pipers tower was demolished and a new wooden one erected on the place of today`s stone one. After the French had left, the Habsburgs used the castle for jails.  Several famous people were jailed in the castle, including the Italian revolutionary Silvio Pellico, the Hungarian Prime Minister Lajos Batthyany and the Slovene author Ivan Cankar. The jail period lasted until the end of the Second World War, when first Italians and after their capitulation Germans took over the management of the castle. Until 1963 ostracized citizens of Ljubljana lived on the castle in terrible conditions. In the 70s the renovation began and today the castle is a popular tourist destination for home and foreign visitors.

The castle Chapel of St. George, on the basis of a document of the year 1489 emitted by the emperor, was consecrated to St. George, St. Pancracio and the Empress Helena. The original entrance to the chapel was in the north; it was reached along thirteen steps and is in use to this day. The original Gothic chapel had openings in the ceiling, counted four gothic windows and a balcony from which the nobles listened to the Holy Mass. This construction was restored in Baroque style and in the year 1747 they added images of the shields of the governors.

Above the Chapel stands the panoramic tower….

….if you’re brave enough to climb the many, many steps inside, you’re awarded with a beautiful view over the castle courtyard, and the amazing view of the city…

Can you recognize some of the places I told you about…..from ground level?

We walked one morning through the east part of town, past more stunning buildings…

…..to have lunch in a very special place, enjoying some beautiful music…

…..before reaching the nice Tivoli Park, where we spent a lazy afternoon….

Tivoli City Park is the largest park in Ljubljana. It was designed in 1813 by the French engineer Jean Blanchard and now covers approximately 5 km2The park was laid out during the French imperial administration of Ljubljana in 1813 and named after the ParisianJardins de Tivoli. Between 1921 and 1939, it was renovated by the Slovene architect Jože Plečnik. Within the park, there are different types of trees, flower gardens, several statues, and fountains. Several notable buildings stand in the park, among them Tivoli Castle, the National Museum of Contemporary History and the Tivoli Sports Hall.

 

We had a great time in Ljubljana, and we highly recommend a visit there, history, magic places, good food and beers, and so very nice people….

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Posted by on October 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Ljubljana #2

A simple walk through Ljubljana it’s a really nice experience…..especially along the river banks, full of restaurants, bars and shops…

Below, Novi trg. The name Novi trg, which originally referred to a separate urban area on the left bank of the Ljubljanica river, is now used in reference to an open space in the centre of Ljubljana’s elegant quarter extending between the Križanke Summer Theatre, Vegova ulica street and Dvorni trg square. Settled in the 12th century, the area was only incorporated into the city and its walls in the 14th century. A new city gate was built near the present Dvorni trg square and named Vice Duke’s Gate (Vicedomska/Fištamska vrata) after the nearby Vice Duke’s Palace (Vicedomska/Fištanska palača), which stood on the site of the present University of Ljubljana building. The buildings surrounding Novi trg notably included the Carniolan provincial estates palace called Lontovž, which occupied the site of the present Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and Auersperg Palace, Ljubljana’s most beautiful Baroque palace, destroyed in the earthquake of 1895. The site of the latter is now occupied by the National and University Library, built by the architect Jože Plečnik between 1936 and 1941. The building located at the top of the square, at No. 3 Gosposka ulica street, is Barbo Palace (Barbova palača), built at the beginning of the 1750s on commission from Count Barbo von Waxenstein. It was designed by the architect Matija Persky on the model of Viennese palaces of the time.

You have to walk with your nose up to see all the beauty on the city old buildings…..

(below St. Jacob Church)

(below,the oldest students residence)

(below, Ljubljana Opera House) The theatre building, constructed in 1892, has a varied history. At the turn of the 20th century it housed first the German Theatre (Nemško gledališče) and then the Provincial Theatre (Deželno gledališče). 1918 saw the establishment of the theatre’s opera and ballet ensembles and orchestra, which, after the Second World War, began to tour outside the country and receive international acclaim. The Opera House’s façade has two niches adorned with Alojzij Gangl’s allegorical statues of Tragedy and Comedy. The building’s characteristic appearance is mainly due to the richly adorned front façade with Ionic columns supporting a majestic tympanum above the entrance. The allegorical sculptures in the tympanum represent Poetry and Glory, and the figure with a torch above them – another work by Alojzij Gangl – an allegory of Genius. The stone pedestals in front of the building support the busts of the Slovenian theatre artists Anton Verovšek and Ignacij Borštnik sculpted by France Kralj in 1921, and the pedestal by the side of the building Stojan Batič’s portrait sculpture of Julij Betetto.

Republic Square, at first named Revolution Square, is the largest square in Ljubljana. It was designed in the second half of the 20th century by Edvard Ravnikar. On 26 June 1991, the independence of Slovenia was declared here. The National Assembly Building stands at its northern side.The four-storey building is externally austere. A freestanding cube, is inlaid with Karst marble, with green Oplotnica granite below each window. The only decorative element is the two storey main portal – four oak doors surrounded by statues by Zdenko Kalin and Karel Putrih which represent working people.

Congress Square (Kongresni trg) is one of the most important centers of the city. It was built in 1821 for ceremonial purposes such as Congress of Ljubljana after which it was named. Since then it became an important center for political ceremonies, demonstrations and protests, such as the ceremony at creation of Kingdom of Yugoslavia, ceremony of liberation of Belgrade, protests against Yugoslav authority in 1988 etc. The square also houses several important buildings, such as the University of Ljubljana Palace, Philharmonic Hall, Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity, and the Slovene Society Building. Star Park (Park Zvezda) is located in the center of the square.

(below, the University of Ljubljana)

Town Hall (Mestna hišaMagistrat), located at Town Square, is the seat of the City Municipality of Ljubljana. The original building was built in a Gothic style in 1484. Between 1717 and 1719, the building underwent a Baroque renovation with a Venetian inspiration by the architect Gregor Maček, Sr.

Near Town Hall, at Town Square, stands a replica of the Baroque Robba Fountain. The original has been moved into the National Gallery in 2006. The Robba Fountain is decorated with an obelisk at the foot of which there are three figures in white marble symbolising the three chief rivers of Carniola. It is work of Francesco Robba, who designed numerous other Baroque statues in the city.

The Vodnikov square was built after the devastating earthquake of 1895, when an old monastery housing a diocesan college and a library had to be pulled down. The space gained was dedicated for use as an outdoor market. The square was named after the Slovenian poet Valentin Vodnik, whose monument by Alojzij Gangl had stood on its site since 1889. Across the street from the monument, which gives the square a special character, a walking path leads to Ljubljana’s castle hill. From Monday to Saturday, the square is the site of Ljubljana’s Central Market (Osrednja tržnica), which stretches from the Dragon Bridge across the Pogačarjev trg square to the Triple Bridge. The lower, riverside end of the square is occupied by a monumental colonnade building designed by the architect Jože Plečnik’s. The building houses a covered part of the Central Market and thus serves its original purpose.

The National and University Library, whose archives contain, among other things, a rich collection of medieval manuscripts, incunabula and Renaissance prints, was built between 1936 and 1941 to designs by Jože Plečnik. It is considered to be the architect’s most important work in Slovenia. It stands on the site of the former Ducal Court (Knežji dvorec), a 17th century Baroque palace destroyed in the earthquake of 1895. The building’s exterior reflects Italian influences. Its characteristic façade, combining bricks and stone blocks in variable finishes, was modelled on Zuccari Palace (Palazzo Zuccari) in Rome. Each of the two handles on the main entrance door is decorated with a head of Pegasus, a winged horse symbolically guiding visitors to the realm of knowledge. From the vestibule, a door leads to the famous monumental central staircase with 32 pillars of black Podpeč marble and further on to the library’s grand reading room. The reading room’s most outstanding details are Plečnik’s chandeliers and a couple of glass walls allowing light to reach wooden reader desks and books from two sides. The Library’s side entrance is surmounted by a bronze statue of Moses by the Slovenian sculptor Lojze Dolinar.

(below, the Glasbena Matica, the music cultural association house)

I was in Budapest some years ago, and the majesty of Ljubljana reminded me a lot of the hungarian capital, I was so impressed by the history among all those beautiful buildings and streets and squares…

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Six – June

June, where summer really begins….

Near the river Po, there’s a village called Zibello, known all around the world for a culinary excellence, culatello….every year, the first week-end of june all the area celebrates it with dinner, concerts, games, markets and debates with italian top chefs…….could we miss the chance to eat something so good?

However, the best part of the dinner was the company, as always…….

The village was full of people, all the shops and tourists’ attractions were open………

and I just couldn’t pass the chance to visit the local main church…….

Following the foundation of the marquisate of Zibello, Giovan Francesco Pallavicino, the first gentleman of the small state, before his death expressed the desire to complete the construction of the Dominican convent, which he started in 1494, and a church in the village that served as a family chapel; it was only in the middle of the sixteenth century that the work for the church was started, on the initiative of the Marquis Uberto Pallavicino, before he was forced to surrender the marquisate to the Rangoni of Modena.

The work was concluded around 1580 but the church was consecrated only in 1620; elevated to parish, assumed the functions of the church of the Blessed Virgin of Graces , until then it was dedicated to the saints Gervasio and Protasio. In 1673 the rectory was erected attached to the church, while the bell tower was built in 1677, at the wish of the parish priest don Gardini.

The imposing church develops on a three-nave plant, with three chapels in the absidial area and a baptistery beside the entrance. The symmetrical salient facade , made of red brick in Gothic-Lombard style, is marked in three parts by buttresses surmounted by high tented roofs; in the middle there is a large rose window framed by terracotta tiles made by Jacopo de Stavolis around 1484. On the left side of the façade, the baptistery rises with Renaissance tracts, on which an octagonal dome rises. 

Inside, the three aisles are subdivided by a high colonnade whose decorated capitals support elegant arched bows, whose solemnity is accentuated by ornamental motifs that frame them, and from high vaulted ceiling, repeated in the same shapes even in the lower aisles.

To the left is the baptistery, covered by an octagonal, featuring 19th century decorations by Girolamo Magnani, a scenographer.

The left chapel houses a particular relic of the patron saint of the country, Saint Carlo Borromeo, a piece of the robe he wore on the day when he was extraordinarily saved by an attack. 

The next day we had another culinary date in the city center…..the second edition of Gola Gola Festival, the first after Parma was nominated Unesco City of Gastronomy, so this year the foods stands were even more…

our friend A with two new friends….lol…

For dinner we opted for a very much loved abruzzo excellence, arrosticini

and obviously a little dancing was mandatory!

The night of June 23 is the magic night for excellence. There are, in fact, very ancient popular traditions and profound esoteric and religious meanings that Saint John’s recurrence is linked to the summer solstice that corresponds to the winter one that is remembered at Christmas. In conjunction with the summer solstice, when the sun reaches its maximum positive declination and then resumes the winter walk, begins the summer, so St. John is the supreme solar festival, the overwhelming victory of light on darkness, good on bad. But the most clear and eloquent explanation on the important and significant astral situation is provided by Maria Castelli Zanzucchi, a writer, a scholar of traditions and author of interesting publications: “The sun reaches the highest point on 23 June: it is common knowledge that the night of St. John is the best time for planets and zodiacal signs to give stones and herbs their virtues. It is a magical night, the night of the impossible, of wonders, deceit, evil influences and witches. “

In Parma and around, the traditions of the “rozáda äd San Zvan” (dialect for dew of Saint John) are countless: from the best known, such as the gastronomic dish “tortelli di erbetta” (chard ravioli), to those less well-known, whose origins are lost in the night of time. Preferably the “tortelli” are made to be enjoyed with the feet under the outdoor table, but inside is allowed too, as long as you leave the door and windows open to favor the benefits of dewy influences……better if with dear friends and surrounded by flowers and herbs collected the year before…

Another month gone, leaving great memories of food, places and dear faces……..

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Five -Another castle

An elegant fortress, with a big farming court, a moat full of water takes our memory back in time. Today it is a private residence, a biological farm, a vegetable garden with old vegetable varieties, educational farm and place of imporant meetings dedicated to land farming……that’s the Castel of Paderna.

These two kind human beings are the owners of the castle, who where there on a warm sunday in may, when we joyned our friends present with their stand at the spring date in the beautiful castle garden, for the great exhibition of plants, flowers and fruits…. and so many other things….

The first testimony of the existence of the castle is a notarial purchase order dated 1028 , another act of 1163 which attests the property to the monastery of San Savino in Piacenza maintained until 1453 when it was given to the Rimini family of the Marazzani that kept it in the centuries to the current owners Pettorelli, their descendants. It suffered heavy destruction in 1216 due to Pavia and Parma troops invasions and in 1247 by the troops of Emperor Frederick II to repair which the abbot provided in 1280 to the reconstruction works and to the rise of the tower.

A strongly articulated, trapezoidal plant complex is completely surrounded by the walls , which are surrounded by buildings, and by a large moat that is still full of water. It is divided into two segments separated by a wall, one to the south, with a large square encircled by farmland: stables, barns, porches and farmhouses; the other, to the north, divided into two courtyards: one with the stately residence, the well, the main tower and other dwellings; the other with the chapel and the building through which you enter the garden. The access on the south side is protected by a massive dungeon that collects the two lifting bridges, one for the pedestrian crossing and the other for the carriages . The towers, all based on quadrangular but of different shape and size, are four distributed along the walls in an irregular manner. Unusual the location of the north tower outside the walls but inside the moat.

 

We bought herbs pots, asparagus, strawberries and seeds but the most interesting thigs was that we had the chance, following our friends who for almost a decade are well knwon to the castle tenants, to have a look at small private area just “behind the scene”…………

We had a very special day off, spent in the open, smelling so many perfumes and enjoying some very special quality time with our friends, filling our eyes with so many colors and our hearts with treasured moments….

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Step ten (and last) – A walking through Castres

Another beautiful road led us north of Carcassonne, to visit the city of Castres….

Castres is a commune, and arrondissement capital in the Tarn department and Midi-Pyrénées region, and it lies in the former French province of Languedoc. Castres is (after Toulouse, Tarbes and Albi) the fourth largest industrial centre of the predominantly rural Midi-Pyrénées region and the largest in that part of Languedoc lying between Toulouse and Montpellier. It is noted also for being the birthplace of the famous socialist leader Jean Jaurès and home to the important Goya Museum of Spanish painting.

(above and below, old houses along the river Agout)

The name of the town comes from Latin castrum, and means “fortified place”. Castres grew up round the Benedictine abbey of Saint Benoît, which is believed to have been founded in AD 647, possibly on the site of an old Roman fort (castrum). Castres became an important stop on the international pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain because its abbey-church, built in the 9th century, was keeping the relics of Saint Vincent, the renowned martyr of Spain. It was a place of some importance as early as the 12th century, and ranked as the second town of the Albigeois behind Albi. Despite the decline of its abbey, which in 1074 came under the authority of Saint Victor abbey in Marseille, Castres was granted a liberal charter in the 12th century by the famous Trencavel family, viscounts of Albi. Resulting from the charter, Castres was ruled by a college of consuls.

During the Albigensian Crusade it surrendered of its own accord to Simon de Montfort, and thus entered into the kingdom of France in 1229. In 1317, Pope John XXII established the bishopric of Castres. In 1356, the town of Castres was raised to a countship by King John II of France. However, the town greatly suffered from the Black Plague in 1347-1348, then from the Black Prince of England and the Free Companies (bands of lawless mercenaries) who laid waste the country during the Hundred Years’ War. Consequently, by the late 14th century Castres entered a period of sharp decline. In 1375, there were only 4,000 inhabitants left in town, only half the figure from a century before. Following the confiscation of the possessions of Jacques d’Armagnac, duke of Nemours, to which the countship of Castres had passed, it was bestowed in 1476 by King Louis XI on Boffille de Juge (Boffillo del Giudice), an Italian nobleman and adventurer serving as a diplomat for Louis XI, but the appointment led to so much disagreement (family feud between Boffille de Juge, his only daughter, and his brother-in-law) that the countship was united to the crown by King Francis I in 1519.

(above, the statue of Jean Jaurès in the same name square – below, with a very interested husband – at market time, and after it)

Around 1560, the majority of the population of Castres converted to Protestantism. In the wars of the latter part of the 16th century the inhabitants sided with the Protestant party, fortified the town, and established an independent republic. Castres was one of the largest Protestant strongholds in southern France, along with Montauban and La Rochelle. Henry of Navarre, leader of the Protestant party, who later became King Henry IV of France, stayed in Castres in 1585. The Protestants of Castres were brought to terms, however, by King Louis XIII in 1629, and Richelieu came himself to Castres to have its fortifications dismantled. Nonetheless, after these religious wars, the town, now in peace, enjoyed a period of rapid expansion. Business and traditional commercial activities revived, in particular fur and leather-dressing, tanning, and above all wool trade. Culture flourished anew, with the founding of the Academy of Castres in 1648. Castres was turned by the Catholic Church into an active center of Counter-Reformation, with the establishments of several convents in town, and the building of a renowned bishop’s palace by Mgr. Tubœuf, still the most famous monument in town today. A new cathedral was also built, after the destructions of the religious wars. Perhaps even more important, Castres was made the seat of the “Chambre de l’Édit” of the Parliament of Toulouse, a court of justice detached from the Parliament of Toulouse and in charge of dealing with the cases involving the Protestants of Languedoc, a measure of protection granted to them by the Edict of Nantes. This court attracted lots of business to Castres. In 1665, there were 7,000 inhabitants in Castres, 4,000 of whom Catholic, and 3,000 Protestant.

In 1670 however, the Chambre de l’Édit was transferred to Castelnaudary, much to the discontent of even the catholic citizens of Castres, who lost a major source of business and revenue with the departure of the lawyers and the plaintiffs. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes soon followed, and Castres suffered a lot when a great number of Protestants chose to go into exile. Then came the plague of 1720-1721 and the fire of 1724. Last but not least, Castres lost its liberal charter in 1758. In the 1760s, a few years after the famous Calas Affair in Toulouse, Castres made the headlines nationwide: Pierre-Paul Sirven and his wife, both Protestants, were wrongly accused of having murdered their daughter in order to prevent her from converting to Catholicism. Tried and sentenced to death “in absentia” on March 29, 1764, they were defended by Voltaire, and eventually exonerated in 1771.

The outbreak of the French Revolution was generally welcomed in Castres, particularly among the local Protestant merchants and entrepreneurs, but the majority of the population remained moderate during the whole period. In 1793 for instance, Protestant pastor Alba La Source, Castres’ representative at the Convention in Paris, opposed the deportation of “non-juror” Catholic priests to French Guiana, where death in the horrid jungle was certain. “Non-juror” priests were by far the majority in the region of Castres. Accused of being a moderate, Alba La Source was guillotined in October 1793. Suspected of being lukewarm toward the revolution, Castres was duly chastised. The bishopric which had been established by Pope John XXII in 1317 was abolished, Castres later becoming part of the bishopric of Albi. Capital of the département of Tarn in 1790, the town was downgraded to capital of an arrondissement in 1797, Albi being made the capital of the département. Despite these setbacks, in the 19th century the economy of Castres developed greatly, and the town grew outside of its old medieval center. As early as 1815, the first mechanized wool mill was set up in town. Originally specialized in luxury cloth, the Castres textile industry then turned toward more ordinary types of cloth, whose markets were considerably larger. Around 1860, there were 50 wool mills in town, employing 3,000 people. In the end of the 19th century, mechanical engineering industries appeared beside the textile industry, which led to Castres becoming a major arsenal for the French army during the First World War. Castres was linked to the French railway network in 1865. At the end of the 19th century, Castres was the largest town in the département of Tarn, with 5,000 more inhabitants than Albi.

The Goya Museum (below) is settled in a part of the ancient bishop’s palace of Castres which plans had been designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, one of Versailles architects. Although the museum exists since 1840, the Briguiboul legacy of 1894 determined its Hispanic vocation. Painter and collector, dazzled by the famous Spanish master, he acquired numerous quality works among which Goya famous : “Self portrait with glasses”, “Portrait of Francisco del Mazo”, a set of engravings : “The Caprices” and” The Philippines Assembly”. In 1949, prestigious deposits from the Louvre Museum confirmed such specialisation :”Portrait of Philip IV” by Velázquez, “Virgin with the Rosary and child” by Murillo. Since then, the Castres Museum never stopped enriching and, particularly, those past twenty years and this place, unique of the kind, became a reference to appreciate Spanish creation, from Antiquity until the 20th century. (sorry, but inside it was forbidden to take photos).

Castres Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Benoît de Castres – below), now the Roman Catholic church of Saint Benoît (Saint Benedict), was formerly the seat of the bishop of Castres, but the diocese was not restored after the French Revolution and was added by the Concordat of 1801 to the Archdiocese of Albi. The first cathedral was built in the 14th century after the creation of the diocese of Castres in 1317, along with a number of other dioceses created in the region after the suppression of the Albigensians. It was destroyed during the French Wars of Religion. The present building which replaced it was constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries.

On a plaque is written: “Bishop of Tuboeuf initially, first put into effect plans for the building in 1678”, on the site of the former St. Benedict Abbey, which had been destroyed by religious wars. The works were later halted by a lack of funding. The construction was then resumed under Monseigneur de Beaujeu. The cathedral was consecrated in 1718. The style is baroque and very sober. The initial plans were for a large imposing building. The interior is huge. The decoration of the vault dates from the last century. In the choir is a canopy of gilded wood supported by red marble columns from Caunes (Aude). The side chapels contain a rich collection of paintings from the Toulouse school of the eighteenth century (Chevalier Rivals). Most of the decorative elements are from the old monastery of Saïx, including : the seats of the canons, the doors of the sacristy and the paintings. The Cathedral of Saint-Benoit was classified as a Historical Monument on June 24, 1953.

It was a very interesting visit, the last one of our vacation in France. This country never stops to surprise us, and each time it leaves seeds for another visit….

 

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Step seven – The other two cities

Our hotel in Carcassonne was located near the walls of the old medieval city of ” La Citè” in the old neighbourhood of Trivalle, just halfway from the old Bastide St. Louis….

In rue Trivalle (just opposite the hotel) stands a three-story house whose façade, long neglected, has recently been restored, House Montmorency. The ground floor is made of stone like the framing of the stories, but it have an inside structure of wood. This type of construction, common in the sixteenth century – probably the date of construction of the building – was obviously fragile due to frequent fires that were ravaging towns: this is one of the few building that have survived over the centuries in the region. The name of Montmorency is given by a family of the sixteenth century, the most famous of its member being Henri de Montmorency, Lord of Damville, who during the Wars of Religion between 1585 and 1591 was the captain of the Catholic “moderates” based in the Trivalle area, that was the scene of violent clashes, as the one that took place between the 14 and 16 April 1590, when the fortress pulled over the lower town and the suburbs more than 600 cannon shots.

One of the many houses that presents a cathar symbol (a flag in this case, disturbed by the wind…) a cross that has became the symbol of the region…

A church dedicated to Our Lady seems to have existed in the fourth century. It was then mentioned at the beginning of the tenth century under the name of Sainte-Marie-du-Saint-Sauveur. This church was served by regular canons living under the rule of St. Augustine. The Capuchins settled in the Church of Our Lady of the Abbey in 1592 and restored it completely. In the nineteenth century, the chapel again changed its name to St. Gracious and became the major seminary chapel. It houses now the Diocesan Museum.

On the outer wall of Notre-Dame of the Abbey, a magnificent fresco realized in 1991 by ” The City of the Creation “a company based in Lyon. Measuring 100 m of length and 5 m of height, the fresco represents strong moments of the past of the medieval City between XI ° and XIII ° century. In the form of miniatures from the 11 letters of “Carcassonne”, it offers a succession of historic pictures staging characters of the crusade among whom Trencavel, Saint-Louis, Simon de Montfort, the “heretics”, the Saracens and the crusaders…..

Between old houses and little shops…………….

 

……at the end Rue Trivalle surprises with the old Royal Manifacturing building, with the coat of arms of the king of France on the main entrance door. Material benefits accompanied the honorary privileges. Manufactures Royales each received three thousand pounds a year as a subsidy for rent and a bonus for the amount of linen exported to the Levant. In return, the Manufactures Royales had to maintain the number of jobs in business and ensure a minimum production. Former home of a noble family Carcassonnaise, the building was bought in 1694 by a relative of Colbert, who founded a cloth mill. The latter will take the title of Manufacture Royale in 1696. The only building from that time still visible, is the owners’ home. The Royal Factory grew until 1789, but by lack of investment, modernization of equipment and accounting rigor, the establishment went bankrupt.

On the side door of the old factory, has disappeared the word “Royal”, it was cleared out in 1789, during the French Revolution.

Near this building there’s the access to the oldest bridge of the town “Pont Vieux” (‘old bridge’) and it is indeed old, dating from the 14th century. Until the 1800s it was the only bridge between the Bastide (the ‘newer’ lower town) and La Cite (the ancient walled town) over the river Aude. It’s closed to traffic and it’s a really nice walk for pedestrians…

On the other side of the bridge the building of the Old Hospital still exists (very much restored), and it is nowadays a house for pensioners.

In front of it, the little chapel Of Notre-Dame de la Santè (Our Lady of the Health). It was formerly used as the chapel of the hospital and this function certainly gives the explanation for the name….

This chapel is a true jewel and a perfect example of the Flamboyant Gothic architecture, though it was built during the Renaissance period. In the choir of the chapel behind the altar stands a nice statue of the Virgin and Child. Another statue of the Virgin is to be found outside, hidden in a recess of the wall. Although the dimensions of this chapel are very small, it is still visited by many people who come there to pray, or just light a candle. Obviously many visitors had their whishes granted according to the wall full of ex-voto….

Just around the corner of a beautiful house recently renovated, there’s one of the most frequented place, Square Gambetta.

Built on the former Place Coal after various properties acquired or expropriated by the City, following a city council decision of 20 December 1850, it was then called Place St. Cecilia. It took the name “Gambetta Square” by decree of July 7, 1883 with the addition of a garden. This garden remained in its state until March 27, 1944 when “by order of the German occupation authorities” began the demolition of the square. 
After the liberation of the city on 22 August 1944, the Municipality worked to remove the stigma of the passage of the occupant.
On the platform facing the east stands the Monument of the Resistance, by the sculptor Iché, presented to the City of Carcassonne by the Resistance Veterans. The sealed urns at the feet of the monument contain soil from the Buckenwald camp. 

The Museum of Fine Arts, closing one side of the square.

Oh my…how much I love this kind of old houses, very french, don’t you think?

As well as this school….

….or this Court of Justice….

We walked so far as to reach the first lock of the city on the Canal du Midi (south canal)………

The work of Pierre-Paul Riquet and excavated in the XVIIth century to link the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Canal du Midi, formerly used for transporting goods and people, is today frequented by numerous boaters and tourists and flows through the centre of the city of Carcassonne. In 1996, the Canal du Midi was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The locks, bridges, aqueducts and canal bridges along the 240 km of the waterway are witness to the technical prowess of its constructors and also a work of art..The canal banks, once towpaths, are fringed with different varieties of trees and are a ideal walking and cycling trail for visitors

From there we walked toward the Bastide St. Louis.  The bastide is hemmed by boulevards built in the 18th and 19th century over the old, once fortified town ditches. The military enclosure and the gates protect the “ville basse” or lower town. Its surrounding wall was built betwen 1355 and 1359, under the orders of the comte d’Armagnac; it was 2,800 metres long; the bastions were built after 1359; at that time, people simply erected in the corners some round-shaped towers, greater than the other parts of the wall. Toward the end of the 16th century, during the wars of religion that devastated the South of France, the town was flanked with 4 bastions located at each corner: the bastion of Saint-Martial in the northwest, the bastion of la Figuières in the northeast, of Montmorency in the southeast, of la Tour Grosse or les Moulins in the southwest (now called du Calvaire).

On the eve of the French Revolution of 1789, the lower town had yet only 4 gates: – the western gate, porte de Toulouse or des Augustins (rue de Verdun), adorned with two handsome towers forming like a manor, which were restored in 1749. But because of a Council decree issued on 31 May 1778 ruling that the walls, towers, ditches, ramparts and walkways were to be handed in perpetuity to the Lower Town Community, the consuls let this monument fall into decay, and it was entirely destroyed in 1806.
– Rue des Carmes (located at the end of today’s rue Georges Clemenceau).
– The western Rue des Cordeliers, located at the eastern end of today’s Rue Aimé Ramond (formerly rue de la Mairie).
– The gate, porte des Jacobins, currently preserved and registered on the additional Historical Monuments inventory.

Situated right in the heart of the main avenue of the lower city, nested between two shops so that it would almost go unnoticed, the Church of Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel (XIV century) remains open permanently. Very dark, very Gothic also, you can admire especially an attractive altarpiece and some very old statues made with golden wood.

Near the church there’s a place very dear to the people of Carcassonne, Place Carnot….

Place Carnot, while one of many squares scattered throughout town, is the “heart” of the city, the central square since medieval times that has been the main meeting place and market for the lower town.  Place Carnot is where the open-air vegetable, fruit, and flower market is held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  This is the place to sit and enjoy a morning café creme or afternoon Pastis at one of the many cafés’ outdoor tables and watch people walk past. Place Carnot is where you can enjoy watching children chase pigeons past the Fountain of Neptune or skate on the seasonal skating rink that is assembled during the Christmas season.  This is where many free musical events and an occasional wine tasting are hosted during the year.

The history of the square is very rich.  At the junction of the main streets of rue de Verdun and rue Georges Clemenceau, royal surveyors marked out a large square. After 1355, the square was reduced to the size we see today. After the fire in 1622 which destroyed more than 150 houses and the arcades filled with shops round the square, a new corn market (now the covered market) was built on the site of the Officiality. This cleared the square. On 27th December 1792, during the French Revolution, Jeanne Establet, or Joan the Black, was guillotined here with two of her accomplices. Two years later, Father Henri Beille, Vicar of Alet, a non-juring priest became the only victim of the Reign of Terror when he was executed. During the Napoleonic Empire, the square was renamed Place Impériale. It became Place Royale during the Restoration of the Monarchy, then Place Dauphine, Place de la Liberté and Place de la Révolution, Place aux Herbes (1852) and, finally, Place Carnot (1894).

At the center of Place Carnot is the marble Fountain of Neptune.  The fountain is surrounded by a rose-colored marble basin from the village of Caunes-Minervois which has been producing marble since Roman times. Neptune was sculpted by Italian artist Barata and his son and finished around 1771.  Beneath Neptune are marble figures of dolphins and naiads.

Straight from Place Carnot, one the old gates of the Bastide, the Jacobins’ Gate…..

Raised in 1779 on the place of an old gothic gate, it is part of a more ambitious town planning. In the 18th century old gothic buildings were not fashionable anymore. Bishop Bazin de Bezons decided to raze those old gates and build modern and monumental entries to the Bastide in neo- classical style. There were four gates (north, south, east, west) which were old were destroyed.The Jacobins’ Gate which is the south gate of the Bastide is the only one that was erected. The royal coat of arms decorating the gate was destroyed during the French Revolution. The little house next to the gate was formerly the lodging house of the doorkeeper. There is a very nice fountain too, on the square facing the gate…

We walked around a little portion of the old Bastide walls. The three bastions we see today in the Lower Town are the only remains of the former fortifications. They date back from the 16th century.There were five of them originally. Bishop Armand Bazin de Bezons ordered in 1764 to demolish the two others together with the ramparts. The fortifications were replaced by the Boulevards.

And then, through some little streets and alleys, here we are again, on the Pont Vieux towards the Citè…..

Stunning view, isn’t it? We’ll keep this view in our eyes and in our hearts for a very long time…..

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Step one – Uzès

We were there already, four years ago, but just for a few hours, a walk through its streets and squares…..This time we found on the web a lovely B&B  where to stay for three nights (and the expectations were more than satisfied!)….there we met an english family from Sheffield, and by the end of our stay we were already friends, exchanged our home addresses, phone numbers and e-mails, to be sure to stay in touch…and the place was so charming and cozy and the owners so friendly, we’re thinking of coming back this fall….

Staying longer we had the chance to see a little more of this charming village (photos posted at random) its very quiet streets, especially at the end of the day, or its crowded places………both aspects are nice to see.

(hubby being the lonely walker at that moment...)

Originally Ucetia, Uzès was a small Gallo-Roman oppidum, or administrative settlement. The town lies at the source of the Alzon river, at Fontaine d’Eure, from where a Roman aqueduct was built in the first century BC, to supply water to the local city of Nîmes, 50 kilometres (31 miles) away. The most famous stretch of the aqueduct is the Pont du Gard, which carried fresh water over splendid arches across the river Gardon (another beautiful memory of the region, back in the summer of 2006).

The civilized and tolerant urban life of 5th-century Uzès contrasted with the Frankish north. Jews were apparently settled there as early as the 5th century. Saint Ferréol, Bishop of Uzès, allegedly admitted them to his table; on this account complaint was made of him to King Childebert I, whereupon the bishop was obliged to change his attitude toward the Jews, compelling all those who would not become Christians to leave Uzès. After his death (581) many who had received baptism returned to Judaism. Jews were expelled from the region in 614.

In early 8th century, Uzès was a fortified civitas and bishopric under the archbishop of Narbonne. During the Umayyad conquest of Gothic Septimania, Uzès became the northernmost stronghold of the Andalusians circa 725. Charles Martel went on to lay siege to the stronghold in 736, but it remained in Gothic-Andalusian hands up to 752, when counts loyal to Ansemund of Nîmes handed over a large number of strongholds to the Frankish Pepin the Short. In 753 the stronghold rebelled against the Franks after Ansemund’s assassination, but the uprising was suppressed and a Frankish trustee of Pepin imposed. In the 13th century, Uzès hosted a small community of Jewish scholars, as well as a community of Cathars. Like many cloth-manufacturing centers (Uzès was known for its serges), the city and the surrounding countryside were strongly Protestant during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century, which wreaked havoc in Languedoc. Numerous of the city’s churches were trashed and burned by furious Protestants: only two remain today.

While there, we enjoyed some very good meals in local restaurants….the first we tried was good for the food, but the service was really deplorable, a very long wait and not so cheap….the location, on a terrace, and the view made up for that…

Located on the Place aux Herbes there are at least 15 restaurants….we chooce A Cotè and it was a good choice….

The best was the one we found following a horse carriage, in a little place just behind the main square….

Obviously, being in France, we couldn’t avoid the nth market (not that we wanted to, but we didn’t look for it neither)……the explosion of colors and smells was amazing as always…

We decided to exlpore more of the place….but that’s for another chapter…

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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