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


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.

061111.Bradford, Cemeteries and Armistice Day

November 11, 2006 at 2:52 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bradford, Budapest, cemeteries - churchyards - and tombstones, Conservation, countryside, cumulus clouds, Flowers, Gardens & Parks, Monuments and Memorials, New York, people, somerset, towns | 6 Comments

Friday’s lecturer was a distinguished, and thoroughly British, structural engineer who had worked on all the great English Heritage listings. Out of all the case studies he projected, what struck me was his outfit. Accepting that it was a tad cold in the room, he wore a very formal heavy suit with a maroon vest and even had attached a gold pocket watch chain. His whole appearance was very colourful, which is how I came to notice that pinned to his label was a red and black poppy.


My grandfather’s occupation required him to frequently travel and these were two photos he took sometime in May of 1948. The first is the otherwise unremarkable skyline of Geneva, Switzerland but he had typed on the back of the photo that the League of Nations’ headquarters building (Palais des Nations) was located at the extreme right of the horizon line. (I believe the old League of Nations’ HQ building, Palais Wilson, is on the extreme left of the horizon line.) The second photo is of a then recent WWII cemetery in Arnheim, Holland, filled with wooden crosses marking the graves of fallen American soldiers whose bodies had not yet been sent home, or their grave markers made permanent with a stone cross.


061021.066.Somset.Bath.Bradford.Landsdown Hill.Beckford’s Tower

Wikipedia Photo. Calvary Cemetery, Queens

Today in the US, Amistice Day is known as Veteran’s Day due to the events that occurred between the League of Nations building and this cemetery in Arnheim.

Please see my previous posted photo of a Hungarian WWI monument-like memorial, and here for the post explaining it.
The cemetery at Beckford’s Tower in Bradford, previously posted, struck my eye because of the incredible swirling clouds and its location on Lansdown Hill overlooking the city of Bath.

It reminded me of this last photo, which I grabbed off Wikipedia’s Photo of the Day a while back, and which features the cemetery in New York City that that grandfather is buried in.

It would appear Bath has fewer people to bury and fewer buildings to house them in than New York City.

061109.Bath, Parade Gardens and Pulteney Bridge

November 9, 2006 at 12:49 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bridges, cumulus clouds, Flowers, Gardens & Parks, Pulteney Bridge, river, River Avon, somerset, Trees | 13 Comments


Update: Dems win all, Rumsfeld resigns, and I’m stuck typing a paper.

061102. 2/46, Thirty-six Views of Bath Abbey. My tribute to Hokusai’s Fugaku Sanju Rokkei

November 2, 2006 at 1:48 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bath Abbey, Cathedrals and churches, cumulus clouds, Fugaku Sanju Rokkei, Gardens & Parks, Hokusai, river, River Avon, somerset, Tabernacles, Towers, towns, Trees | 6 Comments

OK—onto the realm of abstract theory and the irrelevant: Art History, here I come!

Perhaps some of you have noticed that there have only been a few posts about the true centres of this city: the Roman Baths and the grand Tudor 15-16th Century Abbey. These two city attractions define, create the eyebrow (or skyline), and yes, NAME it.

In terms of the Abbey, photographing this city heart could inadvertently dismiss its importance and insufficiently challenge its vast and monolithic Late Medieval impression it leaves on an otherwise suffocating Georgian city. I won’t say much about the history yet, except that the abbey was begun in 1499 after demolishing the older and much larger Norman cathedral on site.

Construction began in 1499, just a few decades before Henry VIII’s break with Catholicism and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which means among other things that it was the last large scale Medieval work attempted in England. It also bears the distinction of being one of the finest Tudor structures in the world, even though most of its interior fabric is the result of Victorian restorations. (But what in England isn’t?)

The interiors are breathtaking and I have deliberately failed to post any grand views so as to save them for a DP sweeps week. Nevertheless, I wish to dwell on the exterior of the abbey, which is incredible in itself, and this leads me to the new theme challenge.

Approaching the same subject from different angles is not new, and was brought up in Roger Zelazny’s Hugo Award-winning 1985 novel 24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai. I ran into a review of this book, which is constructed around an abridged set of the famous Japanese prints by Hokusai Katsushika (1760-1849). Zelazny writes “it struck me that it would be good to take one thing in life and regard it from many viewpoints, as a focus for my being, and perhaps as a penance for alternatives missed.”

My goal in following this approach for the next few months is to intermittently focus on the exteriors of Bath Abbey with the same theme as each print of Hokusai’s series of “Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji” (Fugaku Sanju Rokkei). Everyone is familiar with at least one of these iconic images, even though it confusingly features 46 prints (blame the “new math”)!

Along with posting my image of Bath Abbey’s exterior, I will try and provide an Internet jpeg of the Hokusai print that led me to the captured viewpoint. All the prints are featured here.

Finally, this is the second of the series of 46 (possibly 36 or less if I give up). The first one was posted a while ago and recently refitted with the Hokusai print. Take a look here to get a better idea.

I should make clear that I do not intend to foolishly compare my photos with Hokusai’s prints but instead I am using his prints as a guide to help me find different views of the Abbey exterior that I might have otherwise missed.

About the shot: it was taken from Alexandria Park, direclty south of the city over the Avon in Lyncombe (?). Enjoy.


Tokaido Hodogaya

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)



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.


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


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.

060924.Wells, Cathedral Close, Bishop’s Great Hall Ruins

October 17, 2006 at 10:34 AM | Posted in Architecture, Cathedrals and churches, cumulus clouds, Ruins, Sculpture, Wells | Leave a comment

060924.Wells, Cathedral Close, Bishop’s Great Hall Ruins

Wells has one of the few remaining English Cathedral Closes left intact. There was a Phillip Jackson sculpture exhibit taking place in the Bishop’s Palace around the ruins of his Great Hall. You can see the Wells Cathedral Crossing tower through the ruins of the Bishop’s Great Hall.

060922.Claverton Down, Osborne House

October 17, 2006 at 10:20 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Claverton Down, countryside, cumulus clouds, Gardens & Parks, Mansion, somerset, University of Bath | Leave a comment


Here’s a picture of my house, Osborne House, next to the former Vice Chancellor’s Mansion (my ears perked up at that one too). Her newplace in Bath Centre cost over 1.4 million pounds. There’s no common space but it has room for a small garden, but nothing grows there. There are some gardens across the street and some very nice houses.I’m right next to the bus stop; however, I have yet to see the busthere.

The vice chancellor position is the equivalent of the “Fran” in the States. The chancellorship is an honorary position held by an archconservative Belgian confectionery giant, Lord Tugenhat, who only visits the city annually for a charity benefit tea and luncheon at the incredible fan-vaulted Abbey, where they hand out our diplomas on the side.

Regrettably, I don’t have a mailbox. I have a little old lady who slips the posts under my door whilst I sleep. It’s not at all creepy since I imagine her humming merrily as she makes her rounds, silently mouthing a “sleep well” to my locked door.

I can’t say much else. To a large extent, when conversing on their mobiles, British men sound like women and British women sound like men. How many people live on “The Avenue?” Even though the university looks and feels like a large state school with nearly 10,000 students, I’m living at the edge of the campus in the scenic English countryside. The one drawback is that I’m across the street from an “RSPCA,” which must be like an “ASPCA,” except that here the dogs are violently whipped and tortured every morning at six. I imagine it’s like a rooster at a farm, except that these are vicious hellhounds that rightly sound as if they are outside my window.


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