Posts Tagged ‘cathedral’


Photo: Bertramz
When you look at the remains of Qalb Lozeh church in Syria, you can see the inspiration behind Notre-Dame.

As many of us have been learning in recent years, much that is beloved in Western architecture was originally inspired by buildings in the Middle East. Moreover, there are Christian cathedral styles that mirror Muslim mosques.

A new book aims to set the record straight. Oliver Wainwright reviewed it at the Guardian.

“As Notre-Dame cathedral was engulfed by flames last year, thousands bewailed the loss of this great beacon of western civilisation. The ultimate symbol of French cultural identity, the very heart of the nation, was going up in smoke. But Middle East expert Diana Darke was having different thoughts. She knew that the origins of this majestic gothic pile lay not in the pure annals of European Christian history, as many have always assumed, but in the mountainous deserts of Syria, in a village just west of Aleppo to be precise.

‘Notre-Dame’s architectural design, like all gothic cathedrals in Europe, comes directly from Syria’s Qalb Lozeh fifth-century church,’ Darke tweeted on the morning of 16 April, as the dust was still settling in Paris. …

“It is not only the twin towers and rose window that have their origins in the Middle East, she pointed out, but also the ribbed vaults, pointed arches and even the recipe for stained glass windows.

“Gothic architecture as we know it owes much more to Arab and Islamic heritage than it does to the rampaging Goths. ‘I was astonished at the reaction,’ says Darke. ‘I thought more people knew, but there seems to be this great gulf of ignorance about the history of cultural appropriation.’ …

“With Stealing from the Saracens, an exhilarating, meticulously researched book, [she] sheds light on centuries of borrowing, tracing the roots of Europe’s major buildings – from the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey to Chartres cathedral and St Mark’s basilica in Venice – back to their Middle Eastern precedents. …

“ ‘Now we have this notion of east and west,’ says Darke. ‘But back then, it wasn’t like that. There were huge cultural exchanges — and most came from the east to the west. Very little went the other way.’

“Given their prevalence in the great cathedrals of Europe, it is easy to imagine that pointed stone arches and soaring ribbed vaults are Christian in origin. But the former dates back to a seventh-century Islamic shrine in Jerusalem, while the latter began in a 10th-century mosque in Andalucia, Spain.

“In fact, that first known example of ribbed vaulting is still standing. Visitors to the Cordoba Mezquita can marvel at its multiple arches intersecting in a masterpiece of practical geometry and decorative structure, never needing a repair in its thousand-year existence. …

“The pointed arch, meanwhile, was a pragmatic solution to a problem encountered by masons working on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. One of the holiest sites in the Muslim world, it was built in 691 by the ruler of Islam’s first empire.

“The challenge was how to line up an outer arcade of rounded arches with a smaller inner arcade, while maintaining a horizontal ceiling between them. For the openings to align, the masons had to give the inner arcade tighter arches, forcing them to become pointed. Another world first can be spotted higher up in the shrine, where encircling the dome is an arcade of trefoil arches, the three-lobed style of arch that went on to encrust practically every European cathedral. …

“[Misidentification of] the Dome of the Rock was down to the Crusaders of the Middle Ages mistakenly thinking the building was the Temple of Solomon. They used the domed, circular layout of this [shrine] as the model for their Templar churches (like the City of London’s round Temple church), even copying the decorative Arabic inscription, which openly chastises Christians for believing in the Trinity rather than in the oneness of God. Their pseudo-Kufic calligraphic patterns went on to adorn French cathedral stonework and the borders of richly woven textiles, with no one aware of what they actually meant.” More at the Guardian.

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Photo: Shutterstock
The original clock at the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris was destroyed by a conflagration in April.

What is lost can often be found — or a decent replica created. That is the message of a recent story about the clock destroyed by the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. After I read it, I felt curious about the clock expert who realized that a different church had an almost identical clock in storage. So I looked him up. Such discoveries are not ordinarily stumbled on by people with no expertise.

The Catholic News Agency, in an item widely shared last June, reported, “A clock nearly identical to the one destroyed in the fire at Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris has been found in storage. The duplicate was found at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris, in what is being called a ‘miraculous discovery.’ …

“The original clock was located near the cathedral spire, which collapsed during the April 15 fire. It was feared there would be no way to rebuild the clock, as there were no surviving drawings of its mechanism or any digital records of how the clock was made.

“The timepiece’s near-twin was found by clockmaker Jean-Baptiste Viot, during a storage inventory at Holy Trinity. Viot called the find ‘incredible.’ …

“The Church of the Holy Trinity’s original clock was replaced by an electronic model about 50 years ago. The old clock was then put in storage, and was discovered behind a wooden board amid statues and furniture in a small storage room.”

Said Olivier Chandez, who was responsible for maintaining the clock at Notre-Dame, ” ‘If we only had the photos, we would have had to extrapolate. … But with this model, we have all the dimensions.’

“While the clocks are very similar, Chandez said that there are enough differences to prevent restorers from simply inserting Holy Trinity’s clock into the refurbished Notre-Dame.”

Here is some of the information I found on the shard-eyed Jean-Baptiste Viot [J-B Viot].

Born in 1967, he “began his training in watch repair at the Public Watch Making School of Paris in September 1983. After graduating, he went to Switzerland to continue his studies at the Technical School of the Vallée de Joux. … The federal certificate he obtained in June 1988 enabled him to pursue his training with the International Museum of Watchmaking of Chaux de Fonds … resulting, after two further years of study, in a degree in watch restoration. …

“In June 1998, J-B VIOT was hired by Breguet 7 place Vendôme, giving him the chance to return to watch restoration in Paris. Indeed, working on original Breguet movements from the historical period 1775-1840 gave him the opportunity to study this great master from the past. …

“Following the purchase of the firm by the biggest Swiss watchmaking group (Groupe Swatch), J-B decided to devote himself entirely to the restoration of antique watches and clocks.” More here.

I like to imagine how Viot felt when he saw what Trinity had at a time that all Paris was mourning the cathedral.

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Photo: Sergey Kelin/istock, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Casts of the original Gates of Paradise are installed on the outside of the Baptistery in Florence. Perfect copies are now at a Kansas City museum.

Victoria Stapley-Brown, at the Art Newspaper, has a nice story about Florence’s famous Gates of Paradise and how a replica landed in Kansas City.

“The original gilded doors were made for the east entrance of the baptistery in front of Florence Cathedral by Ghiberti and his workshop from 1425 to 1452. They depict scenes from the Old Testament and their startling virtuoso relief — figures are placed in landscapes or perspectivally rendered architecture to suggest depth — influenced generations of artists.

When Michelangelo saw them, he said: ‘They are truly worthy to be the Gates of Paradise.’

“Now the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, is installing a bronze copy of the famous doors in its entrance hall. …

“In 2015, when the Nelson-Atkins trustee Paul DeBruce and his wife, Linda Woodsmall-DeBruce, were visiting Florence, [they went to] the Marinelli Foundry for the Frilli Gallery.

“The DeBruces discovered that when a copy of the gates was cast at the foundry in 1990 to replace the original doors on the baptistery … another bronze version was made for the Japanese collector Chochiro Motoyama, an importer of Italian luxury goods, who funded the restoration of the original doors and the casting of a replacement.

“The second copy of the doors, which belonged to Motoyama, had been left in storage ever since, apart from appearing in an exhibition in India and South Korea (2013-16).

“The DeBruces bought the copy from the Japanese collector. They transported the gates to New York by ship, then on to Kansas City by train and truck. The 17ft-high doors, which weigh four-and-a-half tonnes, have been hung on the walls of the lobby of the museum’s Bloch Building. …

“The scenes depicted, including the Creation of Adam and Eve, fill ten square panels. To create the illusion of depth and movement, ‘the relief is shallow at the bottom and deeper at the top,’ the museum’s senior curator of European arts, Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, explains in a statement.”

According to the museum’s director, Julián Zugazagoitia, the replica creates a “ ‘nice dialogue and tension’ with a contemporary work in the lobby, a tapestry made from recycled bottle tops by the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui.” More.

Don’t you love Art Speak? For artists and museums, the word “tension” is positive. Bless their hearts.

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This batch is all Rhode Island. First I have a couple pictures from the mall. If you don’t call the mall Providence Place, people aren’t sure if you mean the Arcade. I’m having a hard time keeping track of the local names. You have the Rhode Island Convention Center, which is not the same as the Civic Center (is that the Dunkin Donuts Center?), which is totally not the same as the same as P-PAC (Providence Performing Arts Center), which is not the same as the Veterans Memorial Auditorium …

Back to the photos. Lady Godiva hangs out in Providence Place, as does PF Chang restaurant’s fine-looking Tian horse. Next, I’m posting a glimpse of  some old brick buildings that were merged and renovated to house my new workplace. I love the view out this conference room window.

The archway is from a different renovated building, the historic Heating & Cowling Mill, which has beautifully repurposed to house formerly homeless veterans.

Several homeless people were watching me from the steps of the cathedral early one morning like wary deer. I took an unobtrusive picture around the corner, where the sun was warming a quiet nook.

The Modern Diner is in Pawtucket and serves breakfast all day, but not breakfast only. It was recently featured on the Food Network show and made a list of top diners in New England. Check out the Providence Journal report.
































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Dirk-Jan Visser for The New York Times

I’m a sucker for any story about an angel because it gives me a chance to mention that Suzanne’s birthstone-jewelry company, Luna & Stella, has a lovely angel charm.

That is why I zeroed in on this article.

John Tagliabue writes in today’s NY Times, “The statue of an angel outside St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in ‘s Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, holds a cellphone, which has two numbers.

“That is because, shortly after the statue was unveiled last April, a local couple, the parents of two children, set up a number so people could call the angel. Business cards soon appeared in pubs, restaurants and hotels with a picture of the angel and the number. So successful was the line that the couple opened a Twitter account, @ut_engelke, managed by the husband, which now has about 2,700 followers.”

Then the church, not amused by @ut_engelke, set up its own number. It charges for calls, and people get to hear recorded messages about the church.

The woman who answers the original phone number doesn’t charge. She answers with “Hello, this is the Little Angel,” and she just sees where it leads.

“ ‘In most cases there is laughter, but there are callers who have no faith in friends or relatives, so they would like to talk to someone they have some kind of faith in,’ she said. A widow in her 80s called from Amsterdam to complain of loneliness …

“ ‘She said she’d lost faith in humanity, in her own family,’ said the woman who lends the angel a voice. Two weeks later the elderly woman called again, to thank the angel. Things had gotten better.” Read more.

I would be interested in your angel stories.

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