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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Monastic Churches of Göreme

Cappadocia became a monastic center of Christianity between 300—1200 AD when numerous churches were carved into the soft volcanic rock of the region.  Just a kilometer outside of the town of Göreme is the Göreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the most visited of these monastic communities.  Within this small area more than 30 churches and chapels can be found hidden within the rock spires.  Many are simply painted but others are richly decorated with vividly colored frescoes which date to the 9th to 11th centuries.  If you look carefully at the frescoes you notice that many have the faces scratched out, especially those at ground level.  This was done by later Muslims as the Koran forbids human images of holy people.  A pretty spectacular place.

A collapsed section of a church.....the next few photos are from the deeper recesses of this church.

a nice banquet table....

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Goreme and the Kismet Cave House Hotel

Goreme caravanserai filled with carpets

 The breakfast terrace at Kismet Cave Hotel

a door that used to be green.

(Are you lusting after carpets yet?)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cappadocia Morning, Turkey

More tales from the crypts...

The second major pilgrimage site in Assissi, the red and white striped 13th century church of Santa Chiara, is dedicated to Saint Clare.  St. Clare was one of St. Francis's most fervent followers (after running away from home to avoid an arranged marriage).  She founded an order of nuns based on the same principles as the Franciscans -- the order was eventually renamed "The Order of Poor Clares".

Under the church, in the crypt (these pics) her body lies, essentially in state, as streams of pilgrims go I'm looking at her and thinking she doesn't look quite real although the body is clearly life-sized and fully dressed in her nun's habit.  I later discover on wikipedia that her remains were moved to this newly constructed crypt in 1872 but that the Catholic church no longer considers her body to be incorrupt --- I'm thinking, huh? then read "incorruptibility is a Roman Catholic belief that supernatural intervention allows some human bodies to avoid the normal process of decomposition after death."  Interesting wiki page, some creepy pics (check out St. Virginia).....however, poor Clare was apparently not incorruptible enough and her lifelike appearance is due to wax face and hands.  (I think this also explains a bizarre looking dead pope in a glass coffin I was perplexed by at the Vatican a few years ago.)

And one last fun fact about Clare--- in 1958 the Vatican designated her the patron saint of television, on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room. 

also found nearby....

the gelato crypt...

and the candy crypt...

And not far away in Perugia, more cool modern use of old space...

 Museum security room

 the museum gift shop

and a red backlit curtain funking up a gothic window.

(the magical mystery tour continues in Turkey tomorrow.....)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Acorn inspiration?

A fifteenth century fabric in the Basilica museum....the inspiration for Acorn (1879)?  Did Morris ever visit Assissi on his travels through Italy?  Tony?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Assissi -- Tales from the Crypt

 Basilica of St. Francis

The town of Assissi in Umbria, the destination of millions of pilgrims every year, is the burial place of Italy's patron saint, St. Francis.  In a country that revers its saints, Francis is top dog, an irony that I'm sure would not be lost on this humble man who devoted his life to poverty, helping others, and celebrating Earth's environment.  Construction on the basilica above was begun two years after St. Francis's death in 1226 and was finished within years.  There are two churches, a lower Romanesque cathedral that was built first and then a Gothic upper church that sits on top of the first that was built fifty years later.

I was only able to visit the lower basilica as the top was closed for a private religious function for the day.  The lower church is dimly lit by candles with all the walls and ceilings painted by Giotti and his colleagues.  The body of St. Francis is in a crypt below the main altar through which a constant stream of people wends. 

 I've always loved these midnight blue ceilings with the gold stars painted on them (stars barely visible here).  A friend did this in his formal victorian dining room and it looks fantastic.

It must have been visits to places like this that inspired Morris to go home and paint his ceilings and walls.

Main altar with its rustic painted wooden cross.