Black and White Sunday: Traces of the Past

The only remains of St Andrew’s Old Kirk in North Berwick is a small white-harled stone building which stands just inland from the path to the Scottish Seabird Centre.

The first church was probably made of wood and was probably constructed by monks from the Abbey at Lindisfarne some time in the 600s. A later building was erected some time in the 1100s, but little of this is left other than low stone walls on the grass to the north of the only part remaining. Continue reading Black and White Sunday: Traces of the Past

Inside the unfinished temple

On 11 July 2010, the Sagrada Familia was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and elevated to the status of a basilica. It is not, as some assume, a cathedral as it is without a bishop’s headquarters. But the huge dimensions of the interior is worthy of that status.

Stepping inside the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is like stepping into an enchanted forest. Tall trees towering above us; their branches creating a canopy. The streams of coloured light; the verticality and the enormous, seemingly empty space takes your breath away. At first I didn’t know what to look at, where to begin the tour, what to focus my camera on. Double-storey height windows flood the space with a light never before seen within a church.

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The nave is a sight to behold. A work of mathematical genius with natural light flooding in through clear glass leaded panels to allow as much light in as possible.

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The columns are modelled after a forest and form a light canopy of palm leaves.

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I’m not going to go into all the symbolism of the basilica, you can find that out for yourself, instead I shall just let you have a look at some of the bits that caught my eye and where I could actually get a shot without dozens of people in the way.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe apse contains the altar, but this section was being worked on so we couldn’t get too close. Your eyes are drawn to the dramatic suspended crucifixion with a large ‘parachute’ dome from which artificial grape bunches and wheat stalks hang as symbols of the Eucharist, in which wine and bread are consecrated as religious symbols.

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The main access bronze door that Josep M. Subirachs created for the Glory façade is a masterpiece of using typography as art.

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The centre of the Prayer Door is inscribed with the Lord’s Prayer in Catalan with relief letters, and highlights the fragment ‘Give us, o Lord, our daily bread‘  (Translation from original Catalan: ‘el nostre pa de cada dia doneu-nos-el avui‘) and 49 other languages

The greens, blues, yellows and reds of the light coming through Joan Vila Grau’s stained-glass windows form shifting patterns of light and colour across the stone.  Gaudí left several documents explaining how the stained glass windows should be arranged in order to achieve a symphony of evocative light and colour.

Gaudí said that colour was the expression of life.

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The stained-glass features modern geometric shapes are sometimes overlaid with the names of saints. The windows on the lower part of the side aisles are brightly coloured, whereas those on the upper half are in lighter, almost translucent colours.

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The windows on the Facade of the Passion, which are dedicated to water, light and the Resurrection are mostly blues, yellows and greens.

The windows on the Nativity facade allude to the birth of Christ, poverty and life and are mostly reds and yellow.

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A pretty clam-shell font containing holy water rests on curved wrought-iron supports. Everything here is considered,

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even the curve of a spiral staircase leading to the upper floors.

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The basilica is a continuing work of art; the culmination of many years by many talented architects, sculptors and master craftsmen following Gaudí’s instructions. You could spend countless hours, days, even years studying the details of the Familia Sagrada and still not discover everything about it.

One has to wonder what Gaudí himself would think about it today? And what does it now represent?

An unfinished temple

I’m taking a short break from the UK trip and English cathedrals and going back to October and my first visit to Barcelona where I continue in the cultural vein. First the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família which probably needs no introduction to most of you. Famous as Antoni Gaudi’s last and greatest masterpiece, it is hoped that it will finally be finished in 2026 to mark the centenary of his death. Maybe, with a bit of luck, I will be able to visit it again then.

“My client is not in a hurry…”

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View from Avenue de Gaudi

The Sagrada Familia is an international centre for spirituality which, in an exceptional setting, invites people of all backgrounds and faiths to share in a sense of life based on love, harmony, good, generosity and peace.

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Passion façade

Before going in to the building we took a wander around the outside. Although there is a lot of construction going on and cranes, scaffolding etc. in the way, it is possible to see a lot of the recent work.

The sculptures on the Passion façade (Western side) are very different to those on the Nativity side. It is austere, plain and simple, with ample bare stone, and is carved with harsh straight lines to resemble the bones of a skeleton. Although I’m not keen on the sculptures, they do convey the feeling of despair and deep suffering. The building itself is supposed to represent ribs and muscles.

Please consult Wikipedia for more information about the façades

In contrast the Nativity façade is much more decorative and characteristic of Gaudi’s naturalistic style. It faces the rising sun to the north-east to represent the birth of Christ and divided into three porticos – Faith, Hope and Charity – and a tree of life.

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The tree of life

“It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art”
~ art critic Rainer Zerbst

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The scene of the birth of Jesus with musicians and singers

“The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.”
~ Paul Goldberger

You could spend an awfully long time looking at the stories and all the little details on the façades and one of my favourite parts was actually the doors – about which I will create a separate post.

If you are going to visit the Sagrada Familia then I would recommend that you buy your timed tickets online before you go to avoid the long queues, and also choose the audio tour. This gives you so much information about what it is you are seeing and you can do the tour in your own time and route. I would imagine trying to hear a tour guide in among all the crowds must be pretty difficult.

Next will be the interior which is like no other interior of a church ever seen.

All Saints Church – Brightlingsea

After visiting the Beth Chatto gardens it was still too early to return to Mistley Thorn so we drove down to Brightlingsea, for no other reason than to see something of the Essex coast. However, if you look closely there is often something of interest to find. Brightlingsea has the distinction of being the only Cinque Port not within Kent or Sussex. It was not taken into the Confederation of the Cinque Ports until after 1353. As a thriving ship-owning port, in becoming a Limb of Sandwich it could contribute to that town’s ship-service quota.

The town has a history of shipbuilding and seafaring. In 1347 five ships and 51 men were sent to the siege of Calais. And ‘William of Brightlingsea’ was in Sir Francis Drake’s fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.

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On our way in to the town we noticed a rather lovely church so decided to have a look inside on the way back. Continue reading All Saints Church – Brightlingsea

Scrobbesbyrig/Shrewsbury: A look at stone buildings

Although I lived in Shewsbury for two years at the beginning of the millennium, and relocated to south Shropshire from Surrey in 2011 I have not written much about the county town. I do have rather a large number of photos though taken over several years from various visits and since it has quite an interesting history, including buildings of various designs and styles built over a thousand years, I thought it time to set this right.

The first written evidence that refers to Shrewsbury dates back to 901. It refers to Shrewsbury as ‘Scrobbesbyrig’ which indicates that it was then a fortified settlement with ‘Scrobbes’ most likely referring to a scrub covered hill, and ‘bryig’ suggesting the presence of fortifications. Shrewsbury is a stunning historic town with over 660 listed buildings and some very strange street names – Dogpole and Mardol, Gullet Passage and Grope Lane. And there is still disagreement as to whether the modern-day name is pronounced Shrewsbury, or Shrowsbury.

Shropshire is England’s largest inland county with Shrewsbury as the county town. Curled up within a horseshoe bend of the River Severn (Great Britain’s longest river), it narrowly escapes being an island.

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A thriving Saxon town it had a mint by the early 900s and following the Norman Conquest, a castle and a monastery. By the 1380s Shrewsbury was the third largest centre after London and York. The town’s heart still remains within the embrace of the river, protected and rich in ancient streets and historic buildings. Continue reading Scrobbesbyrig/Shrewsbury: A look at stone buildings