Rome: mostly churches actually

So this is the Pantheon. It was built as a Roman temple in the 2nd century, replacing an earlier building.

In 609, the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV, who converted it into a Christian church and consecrated it to St. Mary and the Martyrs on 13 May 609: “Another Pope, Boniface, asked the same [Emperor Phocas, in Constantinople] to order that in the old temple called the Pantheon, after the pagan filth was removed, a church should be made, to the holy virgin Mary and all the martyrs, so that the commemoration of the saints would take place henceforth where not gods but demons were formerly worshipped.”

Inside I found it rather underwhelming. It’s just another church. I mean, it’s nice enough but I’m glad I didn’t have to pay or queue to get in.

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Paris: Day 3 A lot of walking

Today’s walk requires going to the other side of the Seine, and crossing Île de la Cité.

Île de la Cité is an island in the river Seine in the center of Paris. In the 4th century, it was the site of the fortress of the Roman governor. In 508, Clovis I, the first King of the Franks, established his palace on the island. In the 12th century, it became an important religious center, the home of Notre-Dame cathedral, and the royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle, as well as the city’s first hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu. It is also the site of the city’s oldest surviving bridge, the Pont Neuf. With the departure of the French kings to the Louvre Palace, and then to the Palace of Versailles, the island became France’s judicial centre. In 1302, it hosted the first meeting of the Parliament of Paris and was later the site of the trials of aristocrats during the French Revolution.

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Paris: Day 1

This is Château de Vincennes, a 14th century castle. From the website:

A symbol of the modern French state. The building affirms the power of the monarchy: it guarded the capital, whilst at the same time protecting the kings against uprisings. It was at the heart of the French monarchy until 1682, when Louis XIV chose to settle in Versailles. The keep was used as a prison from the 16th up to the 19th century: Fouquet, the Marquis de Sade, and Mirabeau were held here. Under Napoleon I it was transformed into a barracks and arsenal, and the fortress protected Paris during invasions in the 19th century.

The onsite information is mostly about Charles V (the room is his main chamber). From Wikipedia:

The defeats of the French and the capture of the King by the English in the Hundred Years War, as well as uprisings of the Parisian merchants under Etienne Marcel (1357–58) and a rural upraising against the crown, the Jacquerie (1360), persuaded the new French King, Jean II of France and his son, the future Charles V, that they needed a more secure residence close to, but not in the center of Paris. The King ordered the construction of a fortress at Vincennes with high walls and towers surrounding a massive keep or central tower, 52 meters (172 feet) high. The work was started in about 1337, and by 1364 the three lower levels of the keep were finished. Charles V moved into the keep in 1367 or 1368, while construction was still underway. When it was completed in 1369–70, it was the tallest fortified structure in Europe.

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Glastonbury Abbey

I loved this place. It was full of interesting things to look at and also good for just sitting quietly. I went first thing in the morning. There were maybe a dozen other people there, but as it’s a big site (there’s some gardens off to the side), it felt more deserted than crowded. As the entry ticket lets you come and go throughout the day, I went back just before the last entry and stayed until closing.

The first thing you see on entry is the Lady Chapel.

The monastery that was here dates back to Saxon times, the 7th or 8th century, and there was a church here before that. It was an important–and influential–institution in Medieval Christian England.

But in 1184 there was big fire that burnt down many of the monastery’s buildings, and the old church as well. As a replacement, the monks wanted to build a great church but they ran out of money. Then they discovered the tomb of King Arthur and his second wife! Which brough pilgrims (and money). Who says God doesn’t perform miracles.

(That is what happened.) (Also maybe some political stuff going on.) (And I want to know about his first wife.)

The ruins of the great church, but that’s not the entry to the church. Where I’m standing is the nave (what you might think of as the body of the church, where people sit). The arches are the entry to the choir (or quire).

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This is Tintagel. Do you know the story?”

Back in about 1135 a guy by the name of Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a book called “The History of the Kings of Britain” and he included a story about a wizard who magicked a king so he could sneak into the castle of the duke he was at war with and have it off with his wife. Then almost a century later, the castle was built by the Earl of Cornwall.

After his death, no one really lived here, other than caretakers. It’s a giant folly. Also over time, bits of it have fallen into the sea.

In 1337 the buildings were in a ruinous state, a part of them joining the work on the mainland to that on the island having fallen into the sea : the drawbridge fell in the sixteenth century.
“The castles of England, their story and structure”, James MacKenzie, 1896

In the background is the village of Tintagel (which was Trevena until according to an English Heritage panel “by about 1900, the village had changed its name . . . making the most of its association with the famous castle”, due to the increased interest in King Arthur in the 19th century.) On the far left is the hotel, unfortunately covered in scaffolding, which was built in 1899 and is an interesting mixture of elaborate late-Victorian decor and worn 1940s furnishings. It’s quirky and comfortable.) The castle is in the middle there, with the mainland section (towards the rear) and the “island” section connected by a bridge.

The “island” (you can see the connecting bridge and some of the ruins to the right).

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Three interesting things about York Minster

(I almost called this “You won’t believe what they found under York Minster.”)

Minster is Old English/Anglo-Saxon term, used for an important church, and cathedral is a new-fangled term the base for an archbishop.  A church can be either or, as with York Minster, both. It’s been built, (partially) destroyed and rebuilt many times since the 8th century, so I’m not going into that. (If you’re interested.) Instead, just three interesting things:

Interesting thing 1: The Minster is inhabited by teeny, tiny people. (Some are so small you might need to click on a picture to get a bigger version so you can see them.)

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St Aidan’s, Bamburgh.

Can you see the railing and sign on the far right side of the building? Guess what’s down there.

There’s a crypt, there’s a crypt with an ossuary and a video presentation about the inhabitants of the ossuary.

Basically, they discovered a 7-8th century graveyard in the dunes surrounding the castle. From the remains, archaeologists were able to determine things about their daily life, and then they were placed into boxes and put into the crypt.

The church is quite interesting inside too. (There’s a guided walk leaflet.) It does back to the 12th cenury, but there’s not much left of that building except for bits like the right hand window (the shape is different to the others).

Originally, St Aidan (remember him from Holy Island) erected a wooden church here. The story goes that he was leaning against a wall beam when he died. After that, the beam survived two fires and it’s considered miraculous. Now it is in the roof of the current church.

There is an effigy of Grace Darling (of the lighthouse resece) which used to out in the grave yard but has been replaced by a newer one. Across the road from the church is a Grace Darling museum.

And a unknown knight effigy.

A Day Trip To Alnwick

So this is Alnwick (pronounced Annick), the county town of Northumberland (the administrative centre). It has two major tourist attractions: the castle and the garden.

Alnwick Castle has the feel of a theme park, without the park. It feelsl ike it’s set up to have a lot going on but it wasn’t going on.

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