Albi Cathedral Nave

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia (French: Basilique Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d’Albi), also known as Albi Cathedral, is the most important Catholic building in Albi, France, and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Albi (in full, Albi-Castres-Lavaur). First built as a fortress in the aftermath of the Albigensian Crusade; begun in 1282 and under construction for 200 years, it is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world. In 2010 the cathedral was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The present cathedral was preceded by other buildings. The first dated from the fourth century and in 666 was destroyed by fire. The second is recorded in 920 by the name of Saint Cecilia, the present-day patroness of musicians. It was replaced in the thirteenth century by a Romanesque cathedral in stone.

The Brick Gothic cathedral was constructed in brick between 1287 and 1480 in the wake of the Cathar Church, a Christian non-trinitarian dualist movement with an episcopal see at Albi around 1165 AD. Pope Innocent III initiated a brutal crusade (“Cathar Crusade”, 1209–1229) to extinguish Catharism in southern France, with great loss of life to area residents. In the aftermath of the bloodshed, the cathedral’s dominant presence and fortress-like exterior were intended to convey the power and authority of the trinitarian Roman Catholic Church. The instigator of the cathedral’s construction was Bernard de Castanet, Roman Catholic Bishop of Albi and Inquisitor of Languedoc. Work on the nave was completed about 1330.

The cathedral is built in the Southern Gothic Style. As suitable building stone is not found locally, the structure is built almost entirely of brick. Notable architectural features include the bell-tower (added in 1492), which stands 78 metres (256 ft) tall, and the doorway by Dominique de Florence (added circa 1392). The nave is the widest Gothic example in France at 60 feet (18 m). The interior lacks aisles which are replaced by rows of small chapels between brick internal buttresses, making Albi a hall church. Compared with regular Gothic, the buttreses are almost entirely submerged in the mass of the church. The principal entry is on the south side through an elaborate porch entered by a fortified stair, rather than through the west front, as is traditional in France.

The side chapels in the nave received overhead galleries in the 15th century, diminishing their impact.

The elaborate interior stands in stark contrast to the cathedral’s military exterior. The central chœur, reserved for members of the religious order, is surrounded by a roodscreen with detailed filigree stone work and a group of polychrome statues.

Below the organ, a fresco of the Last Judgement, attributed to unknown Flemish painters, originally covered nearly 200 m² (the central area was later removed).

In the middle register of the painting, angels blow trumpets announcing the resurrection and the judgement. The dead rise up from their tombs.

The composition marks the rupture between Christ and the condemned, separated by a gloomy, greenish sky. The dead all carry around their necks the book of their good and bad actions, indicating that each shall be judged by their deeds on earth and that holy mercy alone does not suffice to assure salvation.

Hell appears as an underground world of despair, far from God. Disorder and chaos constitute its fundamental structure: swarming promiscuous masses, pandemonium, foetid, nauseating odours and an infernal din. Monsters proliferate; hideous clawed, flabby skinned demons arouse fear and loathing. Some have the heads of goats; putrid, diabolical creatures, symbolising lust.

An immense garden of torment, hell is represented as a furnace. Streaks of colour show the omnipresence of the fire burning, but not consuming, the damned. Other tortures are represented, the breaking wheel, forced feeding, boiling in giant cauldrons and impalement.

In this terrible world physical suffering (we see mouths pathetically screaming in horror) is accompanied by moral suffering which goes with the eternal separation from God.

Hell is organised into seven sectors, the same as the number of deadly sins. The first, at the left, corresponds to pride, which led Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge and to fall into lust, which, with its accompanying punishment, features at the far right.

Between the two we see successively the punishments meted out to the envious, the wrathful, the slothful and the greedy. The lazy and their punishment were lost in the 17th century.

The frescoes on the enormous vaulted ceiling comprise the largest and oldest ensemble of Italian Renaissance painting in France.

The origin of the classic organ whose actual case remains, is attributed to Christophe Moucherel (1736). This gigantic organ (width : 16.2 m) has been restored by Francois & Jean-Francois Lepine (1747), Joseph Isnard (1779), Antoine Peyroulous (1824).

It was then transformed into a romantic organ by Claude brothers (1840), Thibault Maucourt (1865), Puget Co. (1904).

After the study of the Historic Organ Committee in 1960s, they confirmed a restauration to a classic instrument by Schwenkedel in 1971 and by Bartholomeo Formentelli in 1977 who restored it in 1981.
(Description from Wikipedia and mypipeorganhobby.blogspot).

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A Scene In Oude Kerk Amsterdam

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Two works of the exhibition “Once in a lifetime” (12 May – 28 August 2016) in Oude Kerk (Old church), Amsterdam, Netherlands.

1.- In the work ‘Heritage’ by Folkert de Jong (NL, 1972), and older man and child are sitting on a stack of pallets. Downcast and timid they stare straight ahead. In the monumental church they seem particularly vulnerable and lonely. Where do they come from? What are they waiting for? What is making them so dejected? By calling the work Heritage, Folkert de Jong is alluding to the fact that we are not only responsible for our behaviour in the present, but are responsible for the behaviour of our predecessors in the past as well. Typical of Folkert de Jong’s work is his use of coloured styrofoam and polyurethane foam. These materials are not intended to last for eternity and are not environmentally friendly whatsoever. It is this disturbing property that intrigues the artist. In his sculptures he often refers to dark events in the past, which he then relates to contemporary events with an ironic twist, connecting the history of art with the present day.

2.- The work ‘Celebration (you only live once)(you only die once)’ that Job Koelewijn (NL, 1962) has created especially for the exhibition consists of an installation of vases with colourful, fragrant flowers. The vases are placed carefully on the church’s tombstone floor, in memory of the dead who were buried here many centuries ago. Flowers are used at many moments in life as an expression of joy, but they are also used at moments that are coupled with sorrow, as an expression of love and solace for the bereaved. In the church the flower arrangements leave a solemn, serene and at the same time slightly absurd impression. Who are we commemorating here and for whom do the flowers provide solace? Job Koelewijn’s work is often conceptual in character, but is at the same time strongly sensual and always alludes to reality. The subjects of ‘time’ and ‘timelessness’ play an important part in his work, which ranges from photos and films to small objects and space-filling installations. Koelewijn often uses materials that appeal to our sense of touch and smell, that possess a great fragility and ‘purity’.

The 800-year-old Oude Kerk (“old church”) is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest parish church, founded ca. 1213 and consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht with Saint Nicolas as its patron saint. After the Reformation in 1578 it became a Calvinist church, which it remains today. It stands in De Wallen, now Amsterdam’s main red-light district. The square surrounding the church is the Oudekerksplein.

Today, the Oude Kerk is a centre for both religious and cultural activities and can be rented for presentations, receptions and dinner parties. Among the events hosted is the prestigious annual World Press Photo awards ceremony. The venue hosts many concerts with performers including the BBC Singers and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

The plaque at the pillar is dedicated to Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621), a Dutch composer, organist, and pedagogue whose work straddled the end of the Renaissance and beginning of the Baroque eras. He was among the first major keyboard composers of Europe, and his work as a teacher helped establish the north German organ tradition.
(Description from oudekerk.nl and Wikipedia)

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Saint Hieronymus façade and bell tower of Calahorra Cathedral

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© RicardMN Photography

The Cathedral of Santa María is a catholic cathedral located in Calahorra, La Rioja, Spain.

Calahorra’s Cathedral is located outside the city, in its lowest part, close to the Cidacos’s riverbank. Its main façade is baroque. The tower is furnished with six bodies. Saint Hieronymus front, fusing both gothic and renaissance styles, breaks the austerity of the northern façade. Built in dressed stone, the style of the Cathedral is mainly Gothic, though the chancel displays certain influence from the Renaissance. Within the interior of the temple there are sixteen chapels contaning important pieces of art, among which their altarpieces, accomplished between the 16th and 18th century, can be highlighted.

The front of Saint Hieronymus breaks the artistic austerity of the northern façade by displaying a combination of great artistic quality fusing Gothic and Renaissance styles, including its Plateresque and Mannierist phases.

The front consists of two bodies which correspond to two different styles and periods, the upper one being the most ancient (gothic, 1520), while the lower one is of Renaissance style (year 1559).

The tympanum presides the door with a scene of the Coronation of the Virgin shielded by the images of Saint Emeterius and Saint Celedonius.

The door is also called “Graveyard Door”, for it gave entrance to the cemetery of the Cathedral in previous times. This explains the two Angels playing the trumpet which are there represented announcing the Resurrection of the Dead.

The second body, the oldest, is furnished with a series of slightly pointed archs which act as four archivolts shielding the tympanum and which lay directly over the entablature capping the first body. A rich decoration in relief is arranged between the archivolts and the tympanum, though the iconographic program of the front is mainly gathered in the figures of the exterior archivolt and the tympanum.

In the tympanum, over a neutral background, there is a ronde-bosse group forming a single scene (as was characteristic in hte last period of the Gothic) related to the Glory of the Virgin, who has the Martyr Saints, Emeterius and Celedonius, on Her side. The figures, simetrically ordered, are adapted to the gothic architecture of the frame. The Virgin, in the centre, being of greater size than the images of the Saints, stands out among the rest, thus emphasising She is the most important figure. This sculptoric convention was still a clear medieval reminiscence which influenced the lay-out of the composition.

The Virgin is sitting on Her throne, with the Child over Her left knee and an open book on the right, which She also holds with one hand, while the Child points at it with one of His fingers. Both images direct Their gazestowards the book. The Virgin is crowned by two adolescent angels whose tunics indicate their flying posture.

A scallop shell of Renaissance fashion, serving both as canony and as base for the music angel, is placed over the Virgin, thus reinforcing the idea of Glory conveyed by the group.

In the pointing keystone of the arch, just in the central axe of the composition, rests the image representing the Resurrection of Christ, who is standing, superimposed to the two archivolts in a radial direction, in front of the shrine. Apart from this figure, and as decreed by the canons of traditional gothic, there are six further Saints in the direction marked by the archs, three on each side of Christ, alternating with an equal number of angels.

The Saints are, from bottom to top and from left to right, Marguerite of Antioch, Catherine of Alexandria, Lucy, Elizabeth of Hungary, Perpetua and Felicity. (Description from catedralcalahorra.org).

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Sligo Abbey interior

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Sligo Abbey (Irish: Mainistir Shligigh), a ruined abbey in Sligo, Ireland, (officially called the Dominican Friary of Sligo) was originally built in 1253 by the order of Maurice Fitzgerald, Baron of Offaly. It was destroyed in 1414 by a fire, ravaged during the Nine Years’ War in 1595 and once more in 1641 during the Ulster Uprising. The friars moved out in the 18th century, but Lord Palmerston restored the Abbey in the 1850s.

Known locally as the Abbey, the site contains a great wealth of carvings including Gothic and Renaissance tomb sculpture, well preserved cloister and the only sculptured 15th century high altar to survive in any Irish monastic church.

It appears in two short stories by William Butler Yeats: “The Crucifixion of the Outcast”, set in the Middle Ages, and “The Curse of the Fires and of the Shadows” describing its destruction in 1641.

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The Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam

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© RicardMN Photography

The Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, Netherlands, from the port.

The Erasmus Bridge (Dutch: Erasmusbrug) is a combined cable-stayed and bascule bridge in the centre of Rotterdam, connecting the north and south parts of this city, second largest in the Netherlands. The bridge was named after Desiderius Erasmus also known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, a prominent Christian renaissance humanist.

The 802-metre-long (2,631 ft) bridge across the New Meuse was designed by Ben van Berkel and completed in 1996. The cable-stayed bridge section has a single 139-metre-high (456 ft) asymmetrical pale blue pylon with a prominent horizontal base, earning the bridge its nickname “The Swan”.

The southernmost span of the bridge has an 89-metre-long (292 ft) bascule bridge for ships that cannot pass under the bridge. The bascule bridge is the largest and heaviest in Western Europe and has the largest panel of its type in the world.

After costing more than 165 million Euros to construct, the bridge was officially opened by Queen Beatrix on September 6, 1996. Shortly after the bridge opened to traffic in October 1996, it was discovered the bridge would swing under particularly strong wind conditions. To reduce the trembling, stronger shock dampers were installed.

The bridge featured in the 1998 Jackie Chan film “Who Am I?”. In 2005, several planes flew underneath the bridge as part of the “Red Bull Air Race”. The bridge is also part of The World Port Days in Rotterdam.

In 2005, the bridge served as the backdrop for a performance by DJ Tiesto titled “Tiesto @ The Bridge, Rotterdam”. The performance featured fire-fighting ships spraying jets of water into the air in front of the bridge, a fireworks barge launching fireworks beside the bridge, and multi colored spot/search lights attached to the bridge itself.

The bridge was crossed during the prologue and the opening stage of the 2010 Tour de France.

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Anteroom

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Anteroom of Misericordia Church in Porto, Portugal.

The Igreja da Misericórdia is located on the Northern area of Rua das Flores Street, on the beautiful city of Porto.

This monumental church has a architectonic style dating back to the 16th century and it was designed by the Baroque architect Nicolau Nasoni.

Rua das Flores is one of Oporto’s most attractive streets. Venture down this 16th century street from across São Bento Station to find tall and narrow houses with characteristic windows and iron balconies. Some of them have the coats of arms and shields of the city’s noble and bourgeois families, recalling the illustrious past of the streets’ inhabitants.

At number 15 is a 16th century church that was given a new richly decorated Baroque façade in the 18th century.

Over the doorway is an imposing royal arms, while the interior has a sober Mannerist style, while also featuring Neoclassical woodcarvings and 17th century blue and white tiles.

The church includes a museum, including a remarkable 15th century Flemish Fons Vitae. This major work of sacred art depicts King Manuel I with his wife Leonor and their children kneeling before Christ in the cross.

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