Travel Theme – Looking up

Since I love to look at and photograph architecture, I always look up to see details on buildings, doors, windows, ceilings etc. to see details above eye level. On my travels, I take photos in all directions, “up” included. The interiors of churchs and cathedrals make it almost mandatory to look up. You miss so much that’s beautiful and interesting if you don’t.

For the Daily Post challenge – Look Up and also for the Travel Theme – Indoors, from Where’s My Backpack

The scissor arch in Wells Cathedral.

The scissor arch in Wells Cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City

St Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral, the altar canopy

Sacre Coeur interior dome

Sacre Coeur, Paris



Travellers know this thing is true

St. Augustine's Chair, Canterbury Cathedral

St. Augustine’s Chair, Canterbury Cathedral

The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page. – Saint Augustine

A Word a Week Challenge – Ornate

This week, Susie’s word challenge is Ornate. You don’t see as many ornate details these days. I guess it costs too much to really put the flourish into things. But go back, even less than a hundred years to the Art Deco period and you see wonderful detail. Go back even further and you will see ornamentation everywhere. The Victorians and Georgians were over the top. Baroque’s middle name is “Ornate”. The rich details in the Renaissance era are astounding.

One place you can always find lots of ornate details is in a cathedral when more was better, and all to the glory of God. The architecture, the decoration, the stained glass, the altar. Statues and tapestries. Everywhere you look you’ll find intricacy. Architecture is a great place to spot it, even just a little swirl on a window frame or door.  The Vatican Museums are lined with intensely detailed paintings and moldings along the walls and ceilings of the hallways. Whole rooms have every inch of wall space covered in murals and frescos.

Palaces and old manor houses, the owners all seemed to want to out-do each other but not many can match places like Versailles but there are a lot who gave it the old college try including Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen.

Below are a few photos I’ve taken of ornate bits of architecture, decorative items and interiors, including a door from Georgian Dublin, details from both Wells and Canterbury Cathedral exterior, Galleries Lafayette (a Parisian department store), some Belgian lace examples, and a few shots from Rosenborg Castle.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Detail

WordPress’s weekly photo challenge this week is about details. Getting up close when you take a photo, getting more than just an overall picture. The Big Picture is great but it’s the details that make it far more interesting. Fortunately I’ve got lots of examples because it’s something I do a lot.  In particular, I really enjoy taking photos of buildings. I love the structures, the lines and curves, the doors and windows, the flourishes and embellishments, the older the better, but modern architecture is interesting as well, sometimes.

There’s an expression: “God is in the details” and when it comes to cathedrals, it’s particularly appropriate. Modern cathedrals and the ones we have in North America in general are not very old and tend to be plainer. But in Europe, when I travel, I love to visit these old cathedrals and churches. I’m not religious but the architecture and the detail in these buildings is amazing. I’m awed by these massive structures, and can hardly imagine the resources and effort to build them when you think they were constructed from the 11th century onward with nothing but ropes, scaffolding and a lot of manpower and yet the towers and spires soar to the heavens.

I’ve been to a number of cathedrals in the U.K. and Italy and scattered ones elsewhere. My favourite is probably the Glasgow Cathedral dedicated to St. Mungo. I’m not sure why. It’s not very big and not all that elaborate, but there’s something in the quiet dimness that speaks to me. Another one that’s really beautiful and steeped with history is Canterbury Cathedral which soaring fan vaulting over the nave and a dim blue-lit quire.  I don’t love all of the ones I’ve seen, there are a few that left me cold but usually I enjoy exploring them.

A few years ago we visited the small Cathedral city of Wells in Somerset, the “west country” part of England. The catheral is stunning. It’s west front is covered in carved statues and inside, the fan vaulting is superb and it’s got a “scissor” arch to support the towers. Very unique. Here then, is a photo essay of the Wells Cathedral and some of the details.

Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral, the west front. This will be the Big Picture

Wells Cathedral

A little closer. Wells Cathedral west front.

Wells Cathedral. Closer still, focussing in on some of the exterior detail

Wells Cathedral quire

Let’s go inside. This is the quire of the cathedral.

The scissor arch in Wells Cathedral.

The scissor arch in Wells Cathedral.

Fan vaulting detail in Wells Cathedral

And finally, the sun creating shadows through a window that overlooks the catheral cloisters

Fab Photo – Bath Abbey and Bath

Bath Abbey is more formally known as the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and is in the city of Bath, in England. The Benedictine Abbey was founded in the 7th century. The present church dates to the 12th century with major restoration in the 16th and, later, the 19th centuries. There is beautiful fan vaulting in the nave and really nice stained glass.

Bath Abbey from next to the Georgian Pump Rooms

Bath Abbey from next to the Georgian Pump Rooms

Looking toward Bath Abbey from the Roman Baths Museum

Looking toward Bath Abbey from the Roman Baths Museum

The Abbey is well known as the location where King Edgar was crowned by Dunstan (later St. Dunstan) in 973, the first in the unified Kingdom of England to be formally crowned in this manner. He had actually been king for many years by this time and died 2 years later. He was acknowledged as the king and liege lord over any minor regional kinds and the coronation marked that. This window below is Victorian and commemorates the coronation.

Bath Abbey stained glass window

Bath Abbey stained glass window

Bath as a city was originally Roman who found hot mineral springs there and created baths and temples and named it Aquae Sullis. The City was not abandoned or in disrepair as is most commonly thought but during Georgian times, it became popular as a spa destination and architects John Wood the Elder and the Younger, along with businessman Ralph Allen, built up the city and it became THE place to be and be seen in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Today, the elegant Georgian architecture sweeps up the gentle hills and surrounds the leafy squares. Many of the buildings from that era are constructed with a honey coloured Bath Stone from nearby quarries. The two most famous places are the Circus, three curved sets of houses around a round square and the Royal Crescent, a long curve of very elegant houses overlooking a sloped field of grass. The fronts of these houses are all similar but the owner would purchase a house or two and finish the inside and back individually so they are all different behind the facade. Those houses now sell for over a million pounds!

The Royal Circus, Bath

The Royal Circus, Bath

The Roman Baths have been excavated and there’s a very good museum where you can explore the ruins. There’s also the fancy Georgian Pump Rooms which were used by the social set to take the waters of the baths and have sophisticated cups of tea after.

Elsewhere in the city there are a number of good museums and there are festivals held through the year celebrating music, books, arts and beer! It’s also famed as one of the locations where author Jane Austen spent some time and she based several of her books or parts of them in Bath. There is a Jane Austen centre for fans. The Fashion Museum, located in the Assembly Rooms building is one of my favourite places.

Bringing films into it, there are a few that I enjoy that have been filmed here, including Persuasion, Vanity Fair, and The Duchess. One of the last covered bridges in the U.K. crosses the River Avon, the Pulteney Bridge and has shops inside it.

Bath is one of my favourite cities though it can be *very* crowded especially during school holidays and bus tour season.  I love the architecture and the lovely shops and museums. It’s a busy city and outside of the Georgian centre, looks much like any other city but it’s still one of the places that inspires me.

Down with York, Up with Rievaulx

Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire

The beautiful and historic city of York is one of our favourites so we thought we might enjoy a day trip. We headed out from Salford under iffy skies, it could clear up, it could rain. But that’s typical of  Greater Manchester weather. We often liken it to Mordor, the grim and depressing location from Lord of the Rings. Weather-wise it’s not often really nice when I’m here but otherwise, the comparison isn’t really fair. Manchester is a nice place. Really! (The cities of Salford and Manchester are right next to each other, only separated at the city centre by a narrow strip of the River Irwell.)

It’s a little over an hour across to York. We parked in a Park and Ride lot and took the bus into the city center stop closest to the mighty York Minster. That is one awesome cathedral in the literal sense of the word. It is the seat of the Archbishop of York who is the most important church leader next to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Minster is very large and very old with beautiful stained glass windows, soaring high and dramtacially into the vaulted ceilings.

Sadly, the Minster was closed to the public today because it was being used for university graduation. Bummer! We had a look in St. Michael le Belfry, the parish church next to the Minster. It was charming, with some interesting points. It was also the church where Guy Fawkes was christened. He’s the guy that was the scapegoat of the Gunpowder Plot and his death and the triumph over the anarchists is celebrated with fireworks and bonfires every year in Britain on November 5.

We walked through the narrow streets and found a nice pub for lunch. That’s a great thing about York, there are lots of historic old pubs and all of the ones I’ve been in are atmospheric and all have served very good food and ales and beers. This one was called the Golden Lion.

I wanted to go to the Yorvik Viking Centre as i’d never been there and had heard good things about it in the past. They have a lot of exhibits, some gruesome and some rather smelly (depicting the actual smells of a medieval Viking village). The north and northeast were prime targets for raiding Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries and lots of the names in this area have Viking origins. Anyway, we paid nearly 10 pounds each as an entry fee. There’s a bit of an exhibit and a glass floor over a model of the area of York where a lot of Viking artifacts and remnants of a village were discovered. The museum is near that site now. There’s a little cart that you sit in and ride around a recreated village with an audio track describing what everyday life was like in the villages. No gruesome. No smells. But with animatronic figures that speak in ancient languages while the audio track translates. It’s all a bit simple and sanitized and “Disneyfied” and we weren’t very impressed. There’s also a few rooms of exhibits of artifacts found and that’s it. Overpriced and underimpressive.

We walked around a bit more but decided we’d had enough disappointment for one day. Oh yes, and my camera, only a few months old, packed it in! Not happy over that either.

East transept of Rievaulx Abbey

Our overnight trip to Sunderland in the northeast was far more successful. We drove up and across the Yorkshire Dales National Park through some lovely scenic areas. High hills and bare bleak moors dotted with farms and lots of sheep. We stopped in a market town called Hawes for lunch. We didn’t have the time to properly explore the town because we still had a ways to go but it would definitely be worth visiting again. It’s in the heart of the area that produces Wensleydale cheese and they have a creamery where you can watch them make the cheese. There is also a ropeworks and a country museum and the town has a lot of nice little shops and a few very nice pubs.

We stayed with friends in Sunderland which is on the coast just south of Newcastle. We dined out and spent an enjoyable evening with them. The next day we decided to visit the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in the North York Moors National Park. It was really good! In addition, the sun was shining! We used a provided audio guide and wandered around the grounds. Rievaulx is a Cistercian Abbey and was founded in 1138 and was an important Abbey in the north until the Dissolution of the Monasteries closed it down in 1538. The audio guide was very interesting and they also had a little exhibit on the life styles of the monks and how the abbey was run. We tramped around there for well over an hour listening to the information and taking photos. We also had lunch in the cafe and that was excellent as well.

All in all a very good road trip! Much more enjoyable than our visit to York yesterday. York will still be there, though and we’ll go back again.

We arrived back home just as it got dark, about 5:30. Tomorrow’s my last day here! It always comes too soon!

St. Augustine’s Chair

St. Augustine's Chair

St. Augustine’s Chair, Canterbury Cathedral

Just testing the photo posting, it wasn’t working for me before but I searched around the help forums and there it was! I was using the page url not the photo url. Doh! I’m still finding my way around WordPress.

Shrine of Thomas Beckett

Canterbury Cathedral is a beautiful cathedral, one of the loveliest I’ve been to even without the Thomas a Beckett connection. If you’ve read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, you may remember that near the end of the book, he takes Prior Philip to Canterbury to meet with Beckett and Philip ends up witnessing the murder in the cathedral. Now I’ve seen the cathedral and the spot where the murder happened, it makes it all the more vivid.  The shrine, left, is modern and is just to the left of the quire and down a few steps near the entrance to the crypt.

There used to be a large shrine up in the quire and pilgrims would stream to it,  but Henry VIII had that torn apart in the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. (My other main interest is history, especially British and the Tudor era in particular)

The other memory this photo evokes is that it was during the trip I made to London in 2008, when my mother traveled to England for her first ever visit. She wasn’t sure at first she wanted to go and didn’t think there would be all that much that would interest her. I lent her a guide book and she came back to me with a list as long as my arm! We saw a couple of shows, did some shopping, and though she didn’t think she would find churches or cathedrals interesting, I insisted that she see St. Paul’s in London. She was duly amazed.

Canterbury Catherdal nave

We also booked a day tour with a tour company that stopped at Leeds Castle because that was on her list, to see a castle and another stop was in Canterbury. When she walked into this medieval cathedral with the vaulted arches soaring above her, her jaw dropped. She talks about it to this day and I think this was the highlight of her trip.

My mother will probably  never go overseas again but we made some wonderful memories.

I love cathedrals. My first proper medieval one was Salisbury though I had seen St. Paul’s first. Salisbury is lovely but I think Canterbury tops it and another of my favourites is the old cathedral, St. Mungo’s in Glasgow. It’s smaller, square, dark and kind of gloomy inside (maybe that’s because both visits were on rainy days) but for some reason, I felt very comfortable in it and really loved the atmosphere.

The basilicas and cathedrals in Rome and elsewhere in Italy are quite something to see, many are gloriously grandiose, many others are more sparse. Montreal’s Notre Dame is a blue glow! Most of the cathedrals and basilicas I’ve seen are in the U.K. or in Italy for the most part and I prefer the older ones, rather than those built in the last 100 to 150 years. It’s amazing how each one seems to have it’s own personality and ambience. I can’t say I haven’t met a cathedral that I haven’t liked because I have been in a small number that left me cold but mostly they are one of my favourite things to visit where time permits, mainly for the art and architecture as I’m not particularly religious.

We’re visiting Rome in a month or so and I look forward to seeing some. In Rome there’s a danger of over-churching ourselves so we’ll have to pick and choose, aside from St. Peter’s of course. That’s a must-see since my partner has never been to Rome before. Stay tuned!