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Updates – Ljubljana #1

And then we hit the road again, for a short transfer to Ljubljana, where we stayed at a very convenient hotel, being it near to the most amazing part of the town.

Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of SloveniaIt has been the cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative center of independent Slovenia since 1991. Its central geographic location within Slovenia, transport connections, concentration of industry, scientific and research institutions, and cultural tradition are contributing factors to its leading position. During antiquity, a Roman city called Emona stood in the area. Ljubljana itself was first mentioned in the first half of the 12th century. It was under Habsburg rule from the Middle Ages until the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. Situated at the middle of a trade route between the northern Adriatic Sea and the Danube region, it was the historical capital of Carniolaa Slovene-inhabited part of the Habsburg Monarchy.

While looking through the photos I needed for my blog, I realized I had so many of them and many very similar, taken in different days and times….I got a little confused about how to post them here, so I decided to show this beautiful city by “subject” hoping to be able to do so (it won’t be easy I guess…)

Back in the 13th century, the Order of Teutonic Knights, the so called Knights of the Cross, settled at the upper end of the Novi trg square and built a church there. The only surviving item from the church is the famous relief of the Madonna of Krakovo from the church’s main portal. The relief, created between 1265 and 1270, is now kept at the National Gallery of Slovenia. Back in the day the church has also been referred to as the Monastery Church of Our Lady of Mercy. The present Križanke Church was built between 1714 and 1715 by Domenico Rossi, one of the leading Venetian architects of the time. This indicates that the only church of the cross located on Slovenian territory was of great importance not only to the Knights of the Cross but also to the imperial court in Vienna, which donated interior furnishings. Side altars were painted by the court painters Martin Altomonte and Anton Schoonjans. The main altar painting, a work by Johann Michael Rottmayr which burnt down in the 19th century, was replaced by a painting by the Viennese painter Hans Canon in 1859. Too bad the church is not open to tourists…..

The church is located next to the Križanke Summer Theatre (once part of the monastery, now renovated) where the Opera Music Festival is held every summer.

Near the church, just at the corner with Gosposka ulica…..

…..there’s Križevniška ulica, beside Metelkova (the artists’ neighbour) the most gypsy street in town…..photos studios, tattos’ parlors, craft shops and alternative restaurants……

(can you spot me above?)

Ljubljana is crossed by a river with the same name. From Roman times to the construction of the railway in the mid-19th century, the Ljubljanica was a major trade and supply route. On its way to Ljubljana, the river flows through the unique natural landscape of Ljubljana Marshes. Its bed is one of Slovenia’s most important archaeological sites. Excavations have yielded objects dating from prehistory to the early modern period. Archaeologists believe that the river once had a cult status. During our stay we crossed it so many times through its most famous bridges……….

The site of the present Cobblers’ Bridge, built by the architect Jože Plečnik between 1931 and 1932, was formerly occupied by a covered wooden bridge connecting the Mestni trg and Novi trg squares, two major parts of medieval Ljubljana. The bridge provided space for cobblers’ workshops – hence the name Cobblers’ Bridge. At its south end it was decorated with a statue of Christ, now kept in the Church of St. Florian. The 19th century saw the building of a new, cast iron bridge. On the initiative of the architect Jože Plečnik it was later moved to a site opposite Ljubljana’s maternity hospital to connect the Zaloška cesta and Poljanska cesta roads. The present Cobblers’ Bridge was conceived as a broad balustraded platform connecting two different parts of the city. It was made of artificial stone like another of Plečnik’s creations, the Triple Bridge. The characteristic appearance of the Cobblers’ Bridge is due to its balustrades with short balusters and tall, different sized pillars topped with stone balls. The central two pillars support lamps and are slightly shorter, which gives the bridge a uniquely dynamic appearance. On the sides, the bridge platform is decorated with a geometric pattern.

The Triple Bridge is a group of three bridges, connecting two parts of Ljubljana’s downtown, located on both banks of the Ljubljanica. Originally, there was only a single bridge, which linked Central Europe and the Balkans. In order to prevent an 1842 stone arch bridge from being a bottleneck, two additional pedestrian bridges on either side of the central one were added in 1932 according to the Plečnik’s 1929 design. He decorated them with large stone balusters and lamps. There are two staircases, leading to terraces above the river, the banks with poplars, and the Ljubljana fish market. Two Plečnik’s urban axes of Ljubljana, the water axis and the Ljubljana Castle–Rožnik Axis, cross at the bridge.

The Dragon Bridge, built by Josef Melan and designed by Jurij Zaninović, is often regarded as the most beautiful bridge produced by the Vienna Secession. t is located in the northeast of Vodnik Square (Vodnikov trg). It is a triple-hinged arch bridge and has a span of 33.34 meters (109 ft 5 in). When opened in 1901, it had the third largest arch in Europe. Today, it is protected as a technical monument. The chief attraction of the bridge are four sheet-copper dragon statues, which stand on pedestals at its four corners and have become a symbol of the city.

The symbol of the city is the Ljubljana Dragon. It is depicted on the top of the tower of Ljubljana Castle in the Ljubljana coat of arms and on the Ljubljanica-crossing Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most). It symbolizes power, courage, and greatness. There are several explanations on the origin of the Ljubljana Dragon. According to a Slavic myth, the slaying of a dragon releases the waters and ensures the fertility of the earth, and it is thought that the myth is tied to the Ljubljana Marshes, the expansive marshy area that periodically threatens Ljubljana with flooding. According to the celebrated Greek legend, the Argonauts on their return home after having taken the Golden Fleece found a large lake surrounded by a marsh between the present-day towns of Vrhnika and Ljubljana. It was there that Jason struck down a monster. This monster has evolved into the dragon that today is present in the city coat of arms and flag. It is historically more believable that the dragon was adopted from Saint George, the patron of the Ljubljana Castle chapel built in the 15th century. In the legend of Saint George, the dragon represents the old ancestral paganism overcome by Christianity. According to another explanation, related to the second, the dragon was at first only a decoration above the city coat of arms. In the Baroque, it became part of the coat of arms, and in the 19th and especially the 20th century, it outstripped the tower and other elements in importance.

One day we decided to not cross the bridges but to take a boat ride under them and to see the river from another point of view….

The last photo above is the Butchers’ Bridge, a footbridge. It was officially opened in july 2010 and complets Plenik’s plans from the 1930s. Shortly after the opening, padlocks of couple in love started appearing on its steel wires, symbolizing declarations of eternal love, a phenomenon similar to the one on the parisian Pont des Arts or Ponte Milvio in Rome….

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Posted by on October 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Seven – Patti Smith

The american singer arrived in Italy to partecipate at the ceremony for honorary degree in Classical and Modern Letters, which was delivered on May 3rd at the local University. For the occasion, there was also the beautiful exhibition hosted at the Governor’s Palace: a collection of shots and artists met and photographed by Smith with his Land 250 Polaroid over the years. In the shots, you can really meet many different characters, from Virginia Wolf to Rimbaud, to Frida Kahlo or Grabriele D’Annunzio. Sometimes indirectly told and represented, through their personal objects and places. Higher Learning is an evolution of Eighteen Stations, presented in New York and recently exhibited in Stockholm. The original project was realized in collaboration with the Robert Miller Gallery in New York and the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern in Stockholm.
Born in 1946, Patti Smith, known to the general public as one of the most important singers in rock history, is a multifaceted artist: photographer, painter, sculptor, writer, poet and performer who left, and continues to leave an indelible mark in the American and international cultural landscape through a career that lasts for over forty years. During his first explorations in the field of visual arts he worked closely with Robert Mapplethorpe, one of the greatest photographers and portraitists between the sixties and eighties of the last century. The two artists met for the first time in New York City in 1967 and remained friends until the death of Mapplethorpe in 1989.

After more than ten years of his latest photo exhibition in Italy, with Higher Learning, Patti Smith returns to exhibit with an exhibition around the world of M Train book, released in 2015. In the volume, the artist, as he wrote the prestigious “Rolling Stone” magazine, “tackles a journey through the most memorable memories, travels between life lived and dream universe, his faithful companion of all time”. Smith describes what is, in effect, his autobiography, “a roadmap for my life,” telling from coffee shops to homes where he worked around the world. Reflecting on the themes and sensations of the book, Higher Learning is a sort of meditation on the act of creating art and over time. The illustrations accompanying the pages of the book, together with the writings, dwell on the potential that art and literature can offer to hope and consolation. The photos portrays the beds, the statues, the artwork and the gravestones that have belonged to characters that have contributed to the formation and development of the culture of humanity, creating a sort of visual diary. Frida Kahlo’s crutches, Gabriele D’Annunzio’s bed, Johnny Depp’s bathrobe, Carlo Mollino’s apartment, Virginia Woolf stick, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s tombs and Jean Genet’s chair and Roberto Bolaño’s chair resuscitate their soul through the images of their goods or their resting places.

“As a young woman – says Patti Smith – I dreamed of attending a large university. It is an honor to receive the honoris causa degree from the University of Parma, one of the oldest and most prestigious Universities in Europe. I have always believed in the importance of education, and getting recognition from this eminent higher education institution is both embarrassing and stimulating.
The sense of the exhibition is a tribute to another kind of education. The university of life, travel, books, artists, poets and teachers. The images are visual representations of pilgrimage and gratitude, and continuous love and respect for our cultural voices, their great works, and the humility of their instruments. A brush, a typewriter and the beds they dreamed of. The places of their eternal peace “.

Along with Higher Learning, another exhibition of photographic works was inaugurated at the Palace of the Governor, The NY Scene – art, culture and new avant-garde, 1970s and 1980s, produced by Photology in collaboration with the Municipality of Parma and “devoted  to the New Yorkese scene of those years that have so much been about creativity and a culture that has become global and on the same experience as Patti Smith. ”
Throughout the 1970s, New York became the world capital of contemporary art, and the great commercial affiliation of Pop Art makes the avant-garde culture grow in the bourgeois salons of the city. The exhibition wants to remember those moments that New York lived through sex, art, drugs, pop culture and literary avant-gardes.
Photographers on display have been chosen among many people who worked in those years in a New York photo-making. Shots and videos on big pop characters, common citizens, and creative and fashionable sites are fragments of memory of a kind of experience that great photographers and artists like Galella, Ginsberg, Goldin, Gorgoni, Makos, Mapplethorpe and Warhol wanted or knew how to deal with with courage and abnegation.
Some of these were deeply tied to Patti Smith, who watched Ginsberg on the deathbed and lived the most formative years of his youth together with Mapplethorpe.
In the 1970s, artistic photography went through radical changes. The birth of performance and installations, as well as various types of landart and bodyart, makes photographic documentation indispensable. The great revolution that these artists have captured in the “Big Apple” of those years is the first symptom of a changing world, that of “total culture”, “mass snobbery”, of a society with no “middle class” . It is the new hedonistic America of Ronald Reagan that is about to be born, a company that in a few years will match the “market system”.

Smith uses a vintage Land 250 Polaroid camera, produced at the end of the 1960s with a rangefinder Zeiss Ikon. The camera uses a special film that produces instantaneous printing. Patti Smith’s Polaroid photographs are printed on silver jelly in limited editions of ten. In the era of digital shots and image manipulation, her works fought for the use of photography in its most classic form, as a tool for documenting and fixing an instant for a moment, a moment found.

The Patti Smith Library, which contains a hundred literary and cinematic works inspired and directed the work of the artist during his life, and was set up inside the exhibition. Books and DVDs will be available to the public, which can be consulted on the spot. Some works were also be on sale in the bookshop.

For my daughter and I, really and deeply in love with photography, Patti Smith and New York, this was really a great experience….all the best in just one place!

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2017 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 six – Within the walls of Carcassonne

Above, a mold of La Citè and its walls as seen inside the castle. You can see in it a castle and a church…….

The castle of Carcassonne, known as the “Palatium” or Château Comtal has a strong claim to be called a “Cathar Castle“. When the Catholic Crusader army arrived in 1209 they first attacked Raymond-Roger Trencavel castrum at Bèziers and then moved on to his main stronghold at Carcassonne. The castle takes its shape and position from the need to be a safe place, fortified and capable of receiving attacks without succumbing to them. It is a fortress within a fortress that is the city itself, since both have their own walls and watchtowers and defense.

During the French royal domain, between 1228 and 1239, the castle was completely redesigned to become a fortress within the city. Several structures were built. A barbican with a walk and a parapet wall guarding the entrance to the castle, just before the moat surrounding the entire inner wall; the entrance to the castle, framed by two towers, with machicolation, accessible only by a fixed bridge with a stone, followed by a liftgate driven counterweights. The walls replaced the original fence completely surrounding buildings. At the end of the stone bridge, overlooking the pits, the door of the castle and single access point, is flanked by twin towers that defend the entrance to the main courtyard.

The castle consists of two bodies in a building forming a L. In the northern area is a chapel dedicated to St. Mary, notable the apse of the Romanesque period. Only a fence separates the castle from the rest of the walled city.

Galleries made with wood in order to launch missiles on several assailants. They are placed 40 meters in height above the courtyard and two are located also on the belt of the castle walls.

On the walls of the castle there are nine towers, two of them being the highest in the city, the tower of the Chapel and tower Pinte, from the Visigoth period. The rest of the towers were built over the XII century, and are identical both inside and outside: consisting of four plants, including the ground floor. On the ground floor and first floor the ceilings are vaulted, while the upper floors are flat. Communication between plants is done through holes in ceilings. The Tower of Justice, built on the site of another tower (a Gallo-Roman prison) was used by the Inquisition.

 

The Lapidary Museum is located inside of the castle. Since 1927 are on display local archaeological findings in the department of Aude, ranging from the Roman to the Gothic, through the Romanesque, as well as some findings from the castle restoration. Present also some documents on the history of the city and the restoration carried out by Viollet-le-Duc. It is an ideal complement to finish the visit to the Castle and the Cité de Carcassonne. It’s worth stopping to admire its statues, alabaster, frescoes … not to mention the view of the city, which can be admired from its large windows……

A very short walk separates the castle from the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus ………The original church is thought to have been constructed in the 6th century during the reign of Theodoric the Great, ruler of the Visigoths.

On 12 June 1096, Pope Urban II visited the town and blessed the building materials for the construction of the cathedral. Construction was completed in the first half of the twelfth century. It was built on the site of a Carolingian cathedral, of which no traces remain. The crypt too, despite its ancient appearance, dates from the new construction. Around the end of the 13th century, during the rule of kings Philip III, Philip IV, and the episcopates of Pierre de Rochefort and Pierre Rodier, the cathedral was reconstructed in the Gothic style. It remained the cathedral of Carcassonne until 1803, when it lost the title to the present Carcassonne Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Michel de Carcassonne).

The Church of Saints Nazarius and Celsus obtained the status of historical monument in 1840. Around this time, the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc renovated the church along with the rest of the citadel. In 1898, the church was elevated to a minor basilica.

The sandstone basilica’s floor plan is based on a Latin cross, internally measuring 59 m in total length, 16 m in nave width, and 36 m along the transept. The oldest part of the church is the Romanesque tripartite nave. The main entrance in its north wall is formed by a Romanesque portal of five receding arches over two doors. A fortress façade forms the west wall, as is common for medieval Languedocian church buildings. The transept and choir were rebuilt in the Gothic style. The larger windows in this part of the church permit a better illumination compared to the darker romansque nave. The central stained glass window of the choir from 1280 is one of the oldest ones in the south of France. Together with the upper trefoils (the Resurrection of Jesus and the Resurrection of the dead), it depicts the life of Jesus in 16 medallions.

If you’re willing to know more about it, here’s a link to a very exhaustive brochure….

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Step three – Aigues-Mortes

 The day we decided to visit the fortified city of Aigues-Mortes (meaning dead waters = marsh) was incredibly hot, and almost all the visit consisted of a long walk on the ancient town walls, but the view, the history we savoured and that blue sky (along with lots of water) made up for the discomfort….(sorry….lots of pics of hubby….)

The foundation of the city is said to have been by Gaius Marius, around 102BC but there is no documentary evidence to support this. A Roman by the name of Peccius fitted out the first salt marsh and gave his name to the Marsh of Peccais. Salt mining started from the Neolithic period and was continued in the Hellenistic period, but the ancient uses of saline have not resulted in any major archaeological discovery. It is likely that any remains were destroyed by modern saline facilities.

In 791, Charlemagne erected the Matafère tower amid the swamps for the safety of fishermen and salt workers. Some argue that the signaling and transmission of news was not foreign to the building of this tower which was designed to give warning in case of arrival of a fleet, as for the Magne Tower at Nîmes

The purpose of this tower was part of the war plan and spiritual plan which Charlemagne granted at the Benedictine abbey, dedicated to Opus Dei (work of God) and whose incessant chanting, day and night, was to designate the convent as Psalmody or Psalmodi. This monastery still existed in 812, as confirmed by an act of endowment made by the Badila from Nîmes at the abbey.

At that time, the people lived in reed huts and made their living from fishing, hunting, and salt production from several small salt marshes along the sea shore. The region was then under the rule of the monks from the Abbey of Psalmody.

In 1240, Louis IX, who wanted to get rid of the influence of the Italian navy for transporting troops to the Crusades, focused on the strategic position of his kingdom. At that time, Marseille belonged to his brother Charles of Anjou, King of Naples, Agde, Count of Toulouse, and Montpellier, and King of Aragon. Louis IX wanted direct access to the Mediterranean Sea. He obtained the town and the surrounding lands by exchange of properties with the monks of the abbey. Residents were exempt from the salt tax which was previously levied so that they can now take the salt unconstrained.

He built a road between the marshes and built the Carbonnière Tower to serve as a watchtower and protect access to the city. Saint-Louis then built the Constance Tower on the site of the old Matafère Tower, to house the garrison. In 1272, his son and successor, Philip III the Bold, ordered the continuation of the construction of walls to completely encircle the small town. The work would not be completed for another 30 years. This was the city from which Louis IX twice departed for the Crusades: the Seventh Crusade in 1248 and again for the Eighth Crusade in 1270 for Tunis where he died of dysentery.

The year 1270 has been established, mistakenly for many historians, as the last step of a process initiated at the end of the 11th century. The judgment is hasty because the transfer of crusaders or mercenaries from the harbour of Aigues-Mortes continued after this year. The order given in 1275 to Sir Guillaume de Roussillon by Philip III the Bold and Pope Gregory X after the Council of Lyons in 1274 to reinforce Saint-Jean d’Acre in the East shows that maritime activity continued for a ninth crusade which never took place.

There is a popular belief that the sea reached Aigues-Mortes in 1270. In fact, as confirmed by studies of the engineer Charles Leon Dombre, the whole port of Aigues-Mortes, including the port itself, was in the Marette pond, the Canal-Viel and Grau Louis, the Canal Viel being the access channel to the sea. The Grau-Louis was approximately at the modern location of La Grande-Motte. At the beginning of the 14th century, Philip the Fair used the fortified site to incarcerate the Templars. Between 8 and 11 November 1307, forty-five of them were put to the question, found guilty, and held prisoner in the Tower of Constance.

Aigues-Mortes still retained its privileges granted by the kings. Curiously it was a great Protestant in the person of Jean d’Harambure who said that the one-eyed light horse commander of King Henry IV and former governor of Vendôme should be appointed governor of Aigues-Mortes and the Carbonnière Tower on 4 September 1607. To do this, he took an oath before the Constable of France Henri de Montmorency, Governor of Languedoc. But one Catholic, the Lord of Berichère, supported the rival Adrien de Chanmont. The conflict continued until 1612, and Harambure, supported by the pastors of Lower Languedoc and the inhabitants, finished it by a personal appeal to the Queen. He eventually resigned on 27 February 1615 in favour of his son Jean d’Harambure, but King Louis XIII restored him for six years. On 27 July 1616 he resigned again in favour of Gaspard III de Coligny, but not without obtaining a token of appreciation for the judges and consuls of the city. At the beginning of the 15th century, important works were being undertaken to facilitate access to Aigues-Mortes from the sea. The old Grau-Louis, dug for the Crusades, was replaced by the Grau-de-la-Croisette and a port was dug at the base of the Tower of Constance. It lost its importance from 1481 when Provence and Marseille were attached to the kingdom of France. Only the exploitation of the Peccais salt marshes encouraged François I, in 1532, to connect the salt industry of Aigues-Mortes to the sea. This channel, said Grau-Henry, silted up in turn. The opening, in 1752, of the Grau-du-Roi solved the problem for a while. A final solution was found in 1806 by connecting the Aigues-Mortes river port through the Canal du Rhône à Sète.

From the walls we had a great view of the salt pans, the water pink colored because of some shrimps (the same color they give to the flamingos there – plenty of them).

After lunch we had the chance to see the town from another point of view, by a little train, in and out of the city wall…..shaded this time!

It’s been really a nice day, so full of colors, smells and wind…such a sweet memory to cherish.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Mellifont – a reminescence from the past

Mellifont Abbey is a ruined 12th-century Cistercian monastery near Monasterboice in County Louth, Ireland. It is of considerable historical significance, for it was the Cistercians’ first and most important abbey in Ireland, and a site of conflict between the Irish and the Anglo-Normans.

By the mid-12th century, Irish monastic life (as in many other places) had become significantly less austere and more corrupt than in earlier days. So in 1140, Malachy, Bishop of Down, invited a group of severe Cistercian monks from Clairvaux to set up a monastery in Ireland and act as a reforming influence. Malachy had stopped by Clairvaux in France during a pilgrimage to Rome and had been so impressed by St. Bernard (founder of the Cistercian order) and his monks that he converted to the monastic life himself. Malachy was canonized a saint after his death. A group of Irish and French monks settled in this remote site in 1142 and began construction in the traditional Cistercian style. This marked the first time that a monastery was built in Ireland with the formal layout used in the Continent. The name Mellifont comes from the Latin, ‘Fons Mellis’ meaning ‘Fount of Honey’.

The Abbey was extremely successful from it’s earliest stages, and it developed rapidly. Monks from Mellifont were dispatched to found ‘daughter houses’ around Ireland, within just five years of the foundation of Mellifont in 1147 a daughter house had already been established at Bective in County Meath and within twenty years the Cistercians had establishments in Connacht, such as that founded at Boyle, County Roscommon in 1161. It is recorded that at least 21 abbeys were founded by monks from Mellifont.

The Cistercian community in Ireland faced a grave crisis following the Norman Invasions of Ireland in the late twelfth century. Irish established Cistercian institutions such as Mellifont became embroiled in a power-struggle with the Cistercian establishments that came from England following the invasion. The outcome of what became known as ‘The Conspiracy of Mellifont’ led to a dramatic reduction in the powers and number of monks allowed to Mellifont. Despite these restrictions, Mellifont remained one of the richest monastic institutions in Ireland due to it’s huge landholdings of the rich agricultural land of Meath and Louth.

It was probably due to this vast ownership of prime land that Mellifont was one of the first of the Irish monastic sites to be dissolved in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Mellifont became the private fortified home (1556) of Sir Edward Moore, using materials scavenged from the monastic buildings. This house was the site of a turning point in Irish history. After Hugh O’Neill, last of the great Irish chieftains, was defeated in the Battle of Kinsale (1603), he was given shelter here by Sir Garret Moore. O’Neill soon surrendered to the English Lord Deputy Mountjoy and was pardoned, but he fled to the Continent in 1607 with other Irish leaders in the Flight of the Earls. Later Mellifont played host to William of Orange, who established his headquarters at Mellifont during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The site of Mellifont Abbey and its manor house was abandoned in 1727.

Of the site itself there isn’t much of the original Abbey left standing today. However excavations have revealed the foundations of many of the buildings, so it is easy to get a good sense of the size and layout of this important Abbey. Mellifont became the standard format for all Cistercian Abbeys in Ireland, and many other monastic orders were influenced by the layout. The cloisters were positioned at the south, and were surrounded by a range of domestic and spiritual buildings, with a cruciform shaped church to the North. The site is certainly worth visiting for its famous Lavabo. This building is in the Romanesque style of architecture, and dates to the early thirteenth century. It is octagonal in shape and served as the ritual washroom, where the monks would wash their hands before entering the refectory for meals. Excavations revealed fragments of lead pipe that brought the water into the central fountain. The interior was decorated with delicate images of plants and birds. A number of fragments of the fine architectural features are on display in the visitor centre.

The first ruins visitors encounter are those of the abbey church, which has a typical cruciform plan and some gravestones in its floor. Beyond this, to the south, is the cloister (with only a short section of its colonnade remaining) and the chapter house. The chapter house remains mostly intact and is partially paved with medieval glazed tiles that originally decorated the church. Adjacent to this was the refectory, kitchen and warming room. The monks’ sleeping quarters was in the eastern range.

Up the hill from Mellifont Abbey and worth a quick look is a ruined little church, of unknown date but presumably used by the lay employees of the monastery.

My daughter is sorting out things to throw away and things to keep, when she finally will be at her own home, we hope in just a few months. So we were lost among books, photos albums and travels diaries…I found myself so longing for coming back to the Emerald Isle….

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Back to Milan…..yes, again.

Last saturday of february, rainy and windy….we took a train to Milan for another day in the city. We arrived at the Centrale railway station under a heavy rain….

Milano Centrale is the main railway station in Milan, and one of the main railway stations in Europe. The station is a railway terminus and was officially inaugurated in 1931 to replace the old central station (1864), which was a transit station and could not handle the new traffic caused by the opening of the Simplon tunnel in 1906. It is served by high speed lines and conventional railways.

The first Milano Centrale station opened in 1864 in the area now occupied by the Piazza della Repubblica. It was designed by French architect Louis-Jules Bouchot (1817–1907) and its architectural style was reminiscent of Parisian buildings of that period. The station was designed to replace Porta Tosa station and Porta Nuova station and was interconnected with all lines, either existing or under construction, surrounding Milan. It remained in operation until 30 June 1931, when the current station was opened. There is now no trace of the old station left. King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy laid the cornerstone of the new station on April 28, 1906, before a blueprint for the station had even been chosen. The last, real, contest for its construction was won in 1912 by architect Ulisse Stacchini, whose design was modeled after Union Station in Washington, DC, and the construction of the new station began. Due to the Italian economic crisis during World War I, construction proceeded very slowly, and the project, rather simple at the beginning, kept changing and became more and more complex and majestic. This happened especially when Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister, and wanted the station to represent the power of the fascist regime. The major changes were the new platform types and the introduction of the great steel canopies by Alberto Fava; 341 m (1,119 ft) long and covering an area of 66,500 square metres.

Construction resumed in earnest in 1925 and on July 1, 1931 the station was officially opened in the presence of Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano. Its façade is 200 metres wide and its vault is 72 metres high, a record when it was built. It has 24 platforms. Each day about 330,000 passengers use the station, totaling about 120 million per year.

The station has no definite architectural style, but is a blend of many different styles, especially Liberty and Art Deco, but not limited to those. It is adorned with numerous sculptures. “The ‘incongruous envelope of stone’ (Attilio Pracchi) of this gigantic and monumental building dominates Piazza Duca d’Aosta.” On September 25, 2006, officials announced a € 100 million project, already in progress, to refurbish the station. Of the total cost, € 20 million has been allocated to restore “certain areas of high artistic value” while the remaining € 80 million will be used for more general improvements to the station to make it more functional with the current railway services. The project includes moving the ticket office and installing new elevators and escalators for increased accessibility.

Off the train and on the subway to Piazza del Duomo….I’ve already posted about the stunning Milan Cathedral here, if you’ve missed it.

Looking over the main square in Milan, there’s also the Galleria, simply as that as the MIlanese called it, its full name being Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Read more about it here.

We did a little shopping under its arches and we had a nice coffee break.

We tried to get lunch at our usual place, a nice self-service restaurant overlooking the spires of the Cathedral, but it was so crowded we gave up….

Instead we choose a cozy and traditional restaurant just behind the square, and I’m glad we did….

After lunch it was time for the very reason we went there, the Mucha exhibition held at the Royal Palace, on the right of the Cathedral….

Alfons Mucha is one, along with Lempicka and Klimt, on mine and my daughter fav artists….and the exhibition was great!

He was one of the greatest  Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, known best for his distinct style. If you wanna know more about him, read this.

The one above is the piece my daughter likes the most, in fact she has a copy in her bedroom, see below….

For the ones who purchased a guided tours at specific times (as we did) there were free tickets for another exhibition about the history of bijou. We enjoyed it as well, many pieces were not new to me, having seen them already in another contest.

It was a very interesting visit indeed….we had just the time for a quick tea break at the Palace bistrò, before catching the train back home…

Till next time Milan…..au revoir….

 

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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