061221. 5/46, Thirty-six Views of Bath Abbey. My tribute to Hokusai’s Fugaku Sanju Rokkei

December 21, 2006 at 3:39 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath Abbey, Cathedrals and churches, Christmas, Crowns, Fugaku Sanju Rokkei, Hokusai, Overcast, people, somerset, Towers | 5 Comments

061207.05.Somset.Bath.ChristmasFair

Koishikawa yuki no ashita

Originally titled ‘Christmas Delights:’ She later claimed to the officers on the scene that she had no idea her little cocooned babe couldn’t breath…Ho, ho, ho!

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061219. 4/46, Thirty-six Views of Bath Abbey. My tribute to Hokusai’s Fugaku Sanju Rokkei

December 19, 2006 at 9:39 PM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bath Abbey, Cathedrals and churches, Christmas, Crowns, Fugaku Sanju Rokkei, Hokusai, Olive Trees, people, Reflection, somerset, Towers | 2 Comments

061207.23.Somset.Bath.ChristmasFair

061207.23.Somset.Bath.ChristmasFair

Koshu Misaka suimen

Hello everyone, Hopefully eveyone will have a happy holiday season. I myself am heading to Salisbury and London, and will be away for the next week(s…) but thankfully JC has agreed to post in my absence. I will thank her more properly later but I’m running out the door now. Hope everyone else has a great time.

Cheers!

061119.Bath, King: “I Had a Dream!”

November 19, 2006 at 12:32 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bath Abbey, Cathedrals and churches, Chisel Marks, Conservation, Crowns, cumulus clouds, gargoyles, Ladders, Light and Shadow, Olive Trees, Preservation, Restoration, Ruins, Sculpture, somerset, Stained Glass, stairs, Towers, towns | 7 Comments

061002.123.Somset.Bath

Then he [Jacob] dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the Earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

–Genesis 28:12

Firstly, don’t even think of looking up the skirts of these angels: they’re genderless…and God will know if you try. Weekends typically kill viewership so I was going to play it easy but here’s the story on the west façade (although it was briefly mentioned back in the first Hokusai post):

When the former secretary to Henry VII, Bishop Oliver King, came to his new diocese he found the old large Norman Church in a state of grave disrepair and so endeavored to get the King to pay for a new Cathedral.

Owing his ecclesiastical office (See earlier “Investitures Conflict”) to his former secretarial duties and far from being concerned with civil rights in 1499, King had a dream in which angels ascended and descended a ladder from heaven and a voice spoke to him proclaiming: “Let an olive establish the crown and a king restore the Church.” (See the built image here.) I should add that by King, I mean Bishop King. And that the actual king probably responded by having an equally vivid dream in which God told him to let his former secretary pay for it. Anyway, the royal master masons (Robert and William Virtue) were used, which explains the similarity between its fan vaulting interior and that of Cambridge’s King’s College Chapel. It is the last large scale medieval cathedral constructed in England.

It’s all very confusing since not only is there a King, king, Oliver, and olive in this story but the actual king, Henry VII, was eager to shore up his “crown” image since he had just established his dynasty. This Tudor dynasty was born out of overthrowing the “evil” Yorkist Richard III* and ended the War of the Roses (dynastic civil war) by “uniting” the families of Lancaster and York. (Actually, he just married a York and then the happy couple spent their Honeymoon and subsequent marriage executing the wife’s entire family on trumped up charges.) His son was Henry VIII so you can just imagine the mother-in-law jokes of the Tudor Court!

Clearly Bath Abbey wasn’t just a dreamed folly (built) but part of God’s divine plan. God willed a Cathedral there, or rather a new cathedral there (3rd on the site!), or rather a new bi-cathedral there (since the “cathedra” is split with Wells, making it the diocese of Bath and Wells.)

Or as Bishop Jocelin would put it: “…the folly isn’t mine. It’s God’s Folly. Even in the old days He never asked men to do what was reasonable. Men can do that for themselves. They can buy and sell, heal and govern. But then out of some deep place comes the command to do what makes no sense at all–to build a ship on dry land; to sit among the dunghills; to marry a whore; to set their son on the altar of sacrifice. Then, if men have faith, a new thing comes.” (Excerpt from William Golding’s The Spire, 1964…pick up a copy, much better than Lord of the Flies)

And new things did come: Reformation, which made this structure redundant and caused it to be sold at auction a mere three decades after King’s dream.

060927.07.Bath.Abbey.WestFacade.Angels Climbing Jacob’s Ladder to heavenMy favorite aspect of the Jacob’s Ladder is its uninterupted spanning of the windows. And despite their stone wings, the angel’s share a valuable safety lesson with us mere humans: NEVER CLIMB A LADDER WHILE HOLDING ONTO THE OUTSIDE RAILINGS SINCE IF YOU SLIP YOU WILL SLIDE DOWN. (Somewhere on this facade must be the equally famous Nilda instruction: NEVER EVER SHAKE A BABY) God bless the angels and fundamentally basic safety procedures.

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking

Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

Led Zeppelin

 *Please note Paul Trevor Bale left a concerned comment on this ironic characterization that is well worth reading.

061108.Claverton Down, British Haven’t Burned White House in 192 Years!

November 8, 2006 at 12:18 AM | Posted in Bath, Claverton Down, Crowns, somerset | 8 Comments

061107.Somset.Bath.ClavertonDown
Yesterday was Midterm Election Day in the US. All I can say is thank goodness I don’t have to worry about any of that here. England doesn’t have dead presidents on the currency. Heck, they don’t have presidents here at all.

She’s the head of the Church.

She’s the mother of the country….

And as long as she’s whole and crisp, her stiff upper lip can be fed through vending machines to provide me with much needed nutrition and help settle my gambling debts, just as a good mother should.

I post early here so I still don’t know the Midterm results but I’ll summarize the basics for anyone who’s been in a country America hasn’t touched to some extent. The Republican Party controls all three branches of government in the US, which include 1) the presidency (Executive), 2) the House and Senate (Legislative), and 3) the Supreme Court (Judiciary). The Midterms will decide the control of the House and Senate, although mostly the House. The next presidential election won’t be for another two years and the nine justices on the Supreme Court are appointed for life. So voting for its members only comes up when one of the nine are near death, and appointing a new one becomes an election issue. However, the majority of the Justices are conservative and to insure their own legacy remains they typically will resign (or die) during a conservative presidency.

If this really is the first time you’re hearing any of this, take my advice and don’t trust me. Get the information from a better source. Americans are notoriously uniformed about almost everything.

I’m trying not to be political here so I will just sum up the current situation. After a series of scandals concerning the Republican leadership (too lengthy to list here) and general unpopularity over the Iraq War, it appears as if the Democrats will take back the House and will gain considerable influence in the Senate (since only 1/3 of it is up for reelection).

RepublicanDemocrat

Here are two different editorial cartoons, one favoring the Republicans and one favoring the Democrats. Note the Republican Editorial Cartoon indicates the “Swing Voter” (the undecided who have been voting for the Republican majorities for the last 6 years) as a bucktooth redneck, while the sophisticated intelligent bar patron wearing the necktie (or rather, the employed and responsible man) reads a paper that stresses the lack of another major terrorist attack within the country and a minor increase in the economy, while omitting the War in Iraq or any of the current corruption charges. (I’d like to know the newspaper he’s reading. Its front page has three divides for two stories with the headline proclaiming: “British Haven’t Burned White House in 192 Years: We Must Be Doing Something Right!” Talk about a knee-jerk election issue.) The Democratic Editorial Cartoon is a typical attack on the president, depicting him as a clown so as to mock his performance in Iraq and other areas of foreign policy, while omitting any opposition party alternative plans or strategies.

The one issue both parties can agree on is that their opponents and their opponents’ supporters are stupid idiots.

“The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people don’t acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.”
–Kurt Vonnegut, Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons, “In a Manner that Must Shame God Himself”

061023.Budapest, Fiftieth Anniversary of Hungarian Revolution

October 23, 2006 at 11:59 AM | Posted in Architecture, Berlin, Budapest, Conservation, Crowns, cumulus clouds, Gardens & Parks, Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Preservation, Restoration | 19 Comments

‘Tis the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution today. Although this does not relate to Bath, the Hungarian DPs Budapest and Szentes created interesting posts, and so I thought I could post some photos of Budapest taken last year.

As a tourist, I thought Budapest was one of the most beautiful and polite cities in Europe. As a conservationist, I always thought Hungary, above all other places I’ve visited, had the most interesting and honest conservation program in place in regards to their Soviet Era history.

Not being Hungarian, I reflect more on the Hungarians’ modern conservation and memorializing efforts than on their historical sacrifices. When minor damage (such as shrapnel or bullet holes) occurs to stone-clad buildings, the cost of restoration can be too great to re-clad the façade with new stone. Also, merely covering over the holes with cement or plaster only works on similar material structures (plaster to plaster restorations in St. Petersburg). Besides, the damage is historic and often equally or more valuable than the original building. Restoration against the damage is dishonest to the structure and indicates a willingness to forget the history that caused it.

The two options that remain are preservation and conservation. For the most part, the surviving bullet-riddled structures in Berlin chose to preserve their damaged history and leave the holes to weather as a reminder of the events there. (Below, left)

050507.289.Ber.MuseumIs050423.085.Pest.SupremeCourtMuseumofEthnography

050507.289.Ber.MuseumIs050423.085.Pest.SupremeCourtMuseumofEthnography

However, right in back of the Hungarian Parliament building, I found this interesting conservation of bullet holes memorial to the 1956 revolution. (Photo above, right: I may have the wrong building but I believe it was at the base of the old Supreme Court Building, now the Museum of Ethnography). This arresting conservation of (what I take to be) a damaged stone façade with inverted bullet holes and a small 1956 memorial plaque tucked away neatly to the side really is more moving than the honest preservation of decaying Berliner bullet holes. Perhaps I’m wrong, though, I don’t know. (I cannot read Hungarian so I do not know if this is simply an invented memorial, but I’d like to think they were emphasizing the bullet holes.)

Admittedly, some Soviet Era structures, which were a blight to the Hungarian cityscapes, have been removed or altered and treated much the same way as those buildings treated their plot predecessors. However, unlike most former Communist bloc nations, many Hungarian Soviet Era monuments were conserved, such as the one in Independence Square. If memory serves me, this monument commemorated those who died liberating Hungary from the Nazis. It is prominently in the center of the city in a main square, opposite the MTV building and several other embassies. The only altercation, I believe, was the removal of Russian name plaques at the base.

050423.100.Pest.IndependenceSq

Monuments in Hungary are very interesting because they do not always denote triumph and thread a thin line between monument and memorial. Below is a Hungarian WWI “monument,” which although set up as a conventional monument is somewhat striking in its subject depiction, since as an American, I’m used to seeing a bronzed “doughboy” march happily home or see a mournful but proud roster of English names killed in action.

050423.167.Pest.VamhazGellert Sziklakapolona, (?)

Two other interesting Hungarian preservation and conservation observations were a bullet-hole in back of the central speaker’s box in the the Parliament building’s main room resulting from an assassination attempt, and also the bent cross atop a crown, which became Hungary’s most identifiable symbol.

Hungarian Coat of Arms

050424.137.Buda050423.051.Pest.Parliament

Budapest also bears the distinction of one of the finest Gothic-Revival structures in Europe for their Parliament building, but as it was a design competition, Budapest also built the second and third place winners (at a smaller scale and for different functions) in back of the first place Parliament design. It’s a great place to visit, and a heck of a lot bigger than Bath.

060926. Thirty-six Views of Bath Abbey, 1/46. My series tribute to Hokusai’s Fugaku Sanju Rokkei

October 17, 2006 at 10:43 AM | Posted in Angels, Architecture, Bath, Cathedrals and churches, Crowns, Fugaku Sanju Rokkei, Hokusai, Hot air balloons, kite, Ladders, Olive Trees, Saints, Sculpture, Tabernacles, Trees | 5 Comments

This is Bath Abbey’s west facade. Here angels climb and descend a Jacob’s Ladder to Heaven. There are other symbols on the facade, which all come from Bishop King’s original dream in 1499 when he was inspired to knock down the immense Norman Cathedral and construct on the site of its nave a smaller Tudor Abbey Church.

 

 

 

 

060927.21.Bath.Abbey.WestFacade.Angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder to Heaven
Apart from the balloon / kite, tabernacle (decorated buttress pinacle) / scaffolding , and Jacob’s Ladder / scaffolding ladder justaposition, look at the shadowed lower left hand corner of the abbey with the carving of the Olive Tree ringed in a crown. Below the top three pagoda tiles and above the crown of the roof pitch, observe that same tree shape!Toto Asakusa honganji

 

 

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