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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Quote of Eisenhower in Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

6 June, anniversary of the D-Day, the allied invasion of Normandie in 1944.

“The eyes of the world are upon you… I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle”. 
– General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander

This inscription is in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, that honors American soldiers who died in Europe during World War II.

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The Louvre Palace and the Pyramid at night

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

The Musee du Louvre (in English, the Louvre Museum or simply The Louvre) is one of the world’s largest museums, and a historic monument. It is in Paris, France. 
The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation’s masterpieces. 
The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Today, nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet). With more than 8 million visitors each year, the Louvre is the world’s most visited museum. 
In 1983, French President Francois Mitterrand proposed, as one of his Grands Projets, the Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building and relocate the Finance Ministry, allowing displays throughout the building. Architect I. M. Pei was awarded the project and proposed a glass pyramid to stand over a new entrance in the main court, the Cour Napoleon. The pyramid and its underground lobby were inaugurated on 15 October 1988; the pyramid was completed in 1989. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, La Pyramide Inversee (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993. 

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Saint-Malo from Dinard.

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Saint-Malo is a walled port city in Brittany in northwestern France on the English Channel. It is a sub-prefecture of the Ille-et-Vilaine.

Traditionally with an independent streak, Saint-Malo was in the past notorious for piracy.

Saint-Malo during the Middle Ages was a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance River, controlling not only the estuary but the open sea beyond. The promontory fort of Aleth, south of the modern centre in what is now the Saint-Servan district, commanded approaches to the Rance even before the Romans, but modern Saint-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by Saint Aaron and Saint Brendan early in the 6th century. Its name is derived from a man said to have been a follower of Brendan, Saint Malo or Maclou.

St. Malo is the setting of Marie de France’s poem “Laustic”, an 11th-century love story. Saint-Malo had a tradition of asserting its autonomy in dealings with the French authorities and even with the local Breton authorities. From 1590–1593, Saint-Malo declared itself to be an independent republic, taking the motto “not French, not Breton, but Malouins”.

Saint-Malo became notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and sometimes pirates. In the 19th century this “piratical” notoriety was portrayed in Jean Richepin’s play Le flibustier and in César Cui’s eponymous opera. The corsairs of Saint-Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute, but also brought wealth from further afield. Jacques Cartier, who sailed the Saint Lawrence River and visited the sites of Quebec City and Montreal – and is thus credited as the discoverer of Canada, lived in and sailed from Saint-Malo, as did the first colonists to settle the Falklands – hence the islands’ French name Îles Malouines, which gave rise to the Spanish name Islas Malvinas.

In 1758 the Raid on St Malo saw a British expedition land intending to capture the town. However the British made no attempt on St Malo, and instead occupied the nearby town of St Servan where they destroyed 30 privateers before departing.

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Through The Stained Glass Window

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

View through a stained glass window of the castle of Fougeres, a commune and a sub-prefecture of the Ille-et-Vilaine department in Brittany in northwestern France.
In the background, Saint-Leonard Church.

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A Cell In La Conciergerie De Paris

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Photo chosen by ‘Enda Markey Presents  to use as part of the scenic design for the Asia Pacific tour of the production “Do You Hear The People Sing?”, a concert celebrating the work of Boublil & Schönberg (the creators of Les Misérables, Miss Saigon and others).

© RicardMN Photography

Poster ‘Do You Hear The People Sing?’ in Shanghai Grand Theatre. 27 November – 1 December 2013

This image is for the song called ‘Au Petit Matin’ and it’s from Boublil & Schonberg’s first musical, “La Révolution Française” (which preceded “Les Misérables”) and is sung in the original musical by Marie Antoinette as she was imprisoned at La Conciergerie de Paris.

Marie Zamora singing 'Au Petit Matin'

Marie Zamora singing ‘Au Petit Matin’ in “Do You Hear The People Sing” Concert in Shanghai Grand Theatre 11/27/2013. Image on the background by RicardMN Photography

– The first show was in Shanghai Grand Theatre, China, from 27 November to 1 December 2013, starring Michael Ball, Lea Salonga, David Harris, Amanda Harrison and Marie Zamora.  Featuring the Shanghai Opera Orchestra and Choir.

– Special performance of “Do You Hear The People Sing?” at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Manila on 29 & 30 January, headlined by Lea Salonga, David Harris and Marie Zamora, in support of the Yolanda Rebuilding Progam. These concerts raised AU$600,000 to assist with the rebuilding of 200 homes devastated by Typhoon Yolanda through Habitat for Humanity Philippines, through ‘Habitat for Humanity Philippines‘.

– 29 March 2014 the show is in the TICC (Taipei International Convention Center), Taipei, Taiwan, starring Michael Ball, David Harris, Amanda Harrison, Ana Marina and Jennifer Paz.

– Several other dates around Asia, Australia and New Zealand are currently in development.

La Conciergerie is a former royal palace and prison in Paris, France, located on the west of the Ile de la Cite (literally island of the city), near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It is part of the larger complex known as the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial purposes. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from La Conciergerie to be executed on the guillotine at a number of locations around Paris.

© RicardMN Photography

Poster ‘Do You Hear The People Sing?’ in Newport Performing Arts Theatre, Manila, 29/30 January 2014

The Conciergerie prison, also known as the “antechamber to the guillotine”, became the central penitentiary of a network of prisons throughout Paris, and was the final stop of over 2,700 people who were summarily executed by guillotine. The dank dungeons were a stark contrast to the beautiful architecture of the palace above. The quality of life of the prisoners was based mainly on their personal wealth, and the whims of the jailers who watched over them.

The revolutionary period continued the prison’s tradition of interning prisoners based on wealth, where the wealthier prisoners could rent a bed for 27 livres 12 sous for the first month, then down to 22 livres 10 sous for the subsequent months. Even when the price was lowered to 15 livres, the commanders of the prison made a fortune: as the Terror escalated, a prisoner could pay for a bed and be executed a few days later, opening the bed for a new inmate who would pay in turn. One memoirist called the Conciergerie “the most lucrative furnished lodgings in Paris”. Only celebrity prisoners got cells to themselves. Most of the pistole inmates were stuffed into a single room which abutted a local hospital, making disease an inevitability. The cramped cells were infested with rats, and the stench of urine permeated every room.

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