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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Our Lady Chapel detail in the Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder Amsterdan BW

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Our Lady chapel detail in the Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic), a 17th-century canal house in the city center of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The canal house on the 14th century canal Oudezijds Voorburgwal, currently on number 40, was built in 1630. Between 1661 and 1663 the top three floors of the house were changed into a house church. The building was renovated in the 18th and 19th century.

The Catholic Church was built on the top three floors of the canal house during the 1660s. It is an important example of a “schuilkerk”, or “clandestine church” in which Catholics and other religious dissenters from the seventeenth century Dutch Reformed Church, unable to worship in public, held services.

Since there is no room for an altar to Mary in the Attic Church, the area behind the main altar has been set up as a chapel to Our Lady. Immediately alongside the altar, there is a multi-coloured limewood statue of Maria (circa 1690) thought to originate from the Attic Church. She carries Jesus under her arm and is standing on the crescent moon. She has a snake caught under her feet, a symbol of all evil.

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An empty cell in Old Cork City Gaol BW

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Cork City Gaol is a former prison located in Cork City, Ireland.

In 1806 an Act of Parliament was passed to allow the building of a new Cork City Gaol to replace the old Gaol at the Northgate Bridge (the old Gaol which was nearly 100 years was on a confined site and was overcrowded & unhygienic).

A site on Sunday’s Well was eventually chosen, its altitude being seen as an advantage for containing “Gaol fever” (typhus). The site, its approach roads and perimeters was commenced in 1816 and the building of the prison proper started in 1818. The building was designed by William Robertson of Kilkenny and built by the Deane family.

The new Cork City Gaol opened in 1824 & was reported as being “the finest in 3 kingdoms”. In 1870 the west wing was remodelled into a double sided cell wing.

When the prison opened in the 1820s it housed both male and female prisoners, whose crimes were committed within the city boundary. Anyone committing a crime outside that boundary were committed to the County Gaol, across the river from the City Gaol near University College Cork. The Fenian Brian Dillon was remanded at Cork City Gaol when he was arrested in September 1865.

The 1878 General Prisons Act reorganised the prisons in Cork. The Cork City Gaol became a Women’s Gaol (for Cork City and Cork County) and the Cork County Gaol near UCC became the men’s gaol (for Cork City and Cork County). On the day the change came into effect male prisoners were marched out of the Sunday’s Well Prison and over to the Western Road Gaol, while the women were marched in the opposite direction.

Nineteenth Century.
Many of the prisoners in the late 19th Century were repeat offenders locked up for what would not today be imprisonable offences; for example, a woman named Mary Tucker from Rathmore in County Cork was imprisoned at least three times between 1849 and 1908, sometimes for offences such as ‘Obscene Language’ or ‘Drunkenness’.

Twentieth Century.
During the Irish War of Independence Republican women prisoners were imprisoned in the Gaol. In October 1919, Constance Markievicz, the first woman to be elected to the British Parliament, was imprisoned at Cork Gaol for making a seditious speech. In January 1919, another member of Cumann na mBan, Mary Bowles, was imprisoned for arms offences. Later that month a Republican prisoner named Dolly Burke escaped from the prison.

In 1922 and 1923, the prison was opened to male and female Republican (anti-treaty) prisoners of the Irish Civil War. One of those imprisoned at the time was the writer Frank O’Connor.

A spectacular escape was made from the Gaol in November 1923. The escapees were high-value prisoners who had been sent to the Gaol as it was “the safest place to hold them”.

The Gaol closed in August 1923 with all remaining prisoners either released or transferred to other prisons.

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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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A tombstone in Sligo Abbey

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

A tombstone with inscription in Sligo Abbey, Ireland.

The inscription says:

“IHS
The prayers of the Fairhfull are
Requested for the reposo of the
Soul of Elenor Murphy alias
O Connor who departed his life the 16
of Janry 1827 aged 69 years.
This tomb was Erected by her
Husband John Murphy of Sligo”.

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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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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Gothic clock on the ceiling of Sint Laurenskerk in Alkmaar

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Gothic clock on the ceiling of Sint Laurenskerk (St. Lawrence church) in Alkmaar, Netherlands.

Alkmaar is a municipality and a city in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. Alkmaar is well known for its traditional cheese market.

Grote or Sint-Laurenskerk (English: Great, or St. Lawrence church) is a landmark Protestant church in Alkmaar, Netherlands. The building is located on the Koorstraat, named for its choir. The two organs are world-famous.

The Grote Kerk (1470-1498), dedicated to St Lawrence, is a handsome building and contains the tomb of Floris V, Count of Holland (d. 1296), a brass of 1546, and some paintings (1507). Anna Visscher is buried in this church. The church was built by Anthonius Keldermans (c. 1440-1512), from a church building family from Mechelen.

The earliest mention of the name Alkmaar is in a 10th-century document. As the village grew into a town, it was granted city rights in 1254. The oldest part of Alkmaar lies on an ancient sand bank that afforded some protection from inundation during medieval times. Even so, it is only a couple of metres above the surrounding region, which consists of some of the oldest polders in existence.

In 1573 the city underwent a siege by Spanish forces under the leadership of Don Fadrique, son of the Duke of Alva. The citizens sent urgent messages for help to the Prince of Orange; he responded by promising to open the floodgates of the dykes and flood the region if the need arose, which despite the protestations of the peasantry, fearful for their harvest, he proceeded to do. Some of his dispatches fell into the hands of Don Fadrique, and, with the waters beginning to rise, the Spaniards raised the siege and fled. It was a turning point in the Eighty Years War and gave rise to the expression Bij Alkmaar begint de victorie (“Victory begins at Alkmaar”). The event is still celebrated every year in Alkmaar on 8 October, the day the siege ended.

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