Sacred Sunday: 12th Century Mosaics in the Cappella Palatina, Palermo, Italy (1140-70)

Palermo

Located within the Palazzo dei Normanni (Palace of the Normans), the Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel) is the finest example of Arab-Norman art in Palermo. Together the palace and its chapel are the greatest attractions of Palermo and the only must-see sight for visitors with limited time.

The Cappella Palatina was built by Roger II, king of Sicily. It was the second important church erected at the initiative of the king, its construction began in 1132, a year after the laying of the cornerstone of Cefalù’s cathedral. It was consecrated in 1140, and the execution of the extensive mosaic decor, covering the entire interior, began after that date.

The palace chapel is a blend of Roman and Greek building types. To the east of its three-aisle nave is a sanctuary consisting of a central space topped by a cupola, two transepts, a main apse with a preceding bay, and two secondary apses. This eastern section is wholly in conformity with middle Byzantine sacred architecture. Only this portion has vaulting; the three aisle of the nave have richly structured and painted wooden ceilings. The mosaic decor, which was completed only during the reign of Roger II’s successors, William I and William II, completely covers the upper portions of the walls.

Like the architecture, the pictorial program in the chapel’s sanctuary is essentially Byzantine in character. The chapel’s oldest mosaics, and the ones of highest quality both artistically and in terms of technique, are the ones in the cupola and its drum. According to an inscription, these must have been completed in 1143. The central motif in the cupola is a Christ Pantocrator, surrounded by eight angels.

While the pictorial program in the sanctuary is essentially Byzantine in character, this is not the case in the nave, whose mosaic decor consists of two pictorial cycles. The Old Testament cycle, which runs along the side walls of the center aisle in two registers, follows in the tradition of Roman church decoration. It begins on the south wall, next to the crossing, with the story of the Creation, and ends on the north wall with scenes from the life of Jacob. The second cycle extends across both of the side-aisle walls: the stories of apostles Peter and Paul are related in fourteen panels, some of them containing two scenes.

Sanctuary, view of the main apse 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, view of the main apse
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The picture above shows a view of the crossing and main apse of the sanctuary. In the spandrels of the crossing arcades, a cycle on the life of Christ begins on the east side with the Annunciation. (The cycle is continued in the south side arm of the sanctuary.) In the vaulting a depiction of the Pentecost miracle together with another image of the Pantocrator form the conclusion to this sequence.

The enthroned Virgin in the middle of the apse wall is a wholly postmedieval creation.

Sanctuary, view of the crossing and nave 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, view of the crossing and nave
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The above picture shows a view of the crossing and nave of the sanctuary from the east. The Presentation in the Temple on the west crossing arcade belongs to the cycle on the life of Christ.

Sanctuary, view of the crossing and main apse 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, view of the crossing and main apse
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The picture shows the crossing, main apse and side arms with side apses in the sanctuary. The mosaics in the cupola and its drum are the oldest in the chapel, completed in 1143. They are of highest quality both artistically and in terms of technique.

Sanctuary, view of the crossing and side arms 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, view of the crossing and side arms
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, main apse calotte (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, main apse calotte (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

In addition to the Christ Pantocrator in the cupola, another image of the Pantocrator, much of it repaired, can be found in the main apse calotte.

Sanctuary, west wall 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, west wall
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

On the west wall of the chapel Christ in Majesty between Sts Peter and Paul is depicted. This mosaic above the throne tribune is indebted to Roman iconography.

Sanctuary, south wall 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, south wall
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The picture shows the crossing and the south wall of the sanctuary. The cycle on the life of Christ, begun on the east side with the Annunciation, is continued here with Joseph’s Dream, the Flight into Egypt, the Transfiguration, the Awakening of Lazarus, and Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem.

Sanctuary, south wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Joseph’s Dream and the Flight into Egypt are depicted on the south wall of the sanctuary.

Sanctuary, south wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem is depicted on the south wall of the sanctuary.

Sanctuary, south side arm, east wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, south side arm, east wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

This representation of the Pantocrator is on the east wall of the south side arm in the sanctuary. This image was directly patterned after the monumental Pantocrator in the apse of Cefalù’s cathedral.

Sanctuary, south side arm, east wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Sanctuary, south side arm, east wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

On the east wall of the south side arm in the sanctuary the cycle on the life of Christ is continued with the Nativity and Adoration of the Kings. Below a depiction of St Paul can be seen.

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The picture shows a detail of the south wall of the center aisle of the nave, with a view into the south side aisle. On the south wall, scenes from the Old Testament cycle can be seen: creation of heaven and earth, and of light, creation of the firmament and division of the waters, creation of dry land and plants; Noah’s Ark, unloading the Ark, St Julian. In the south side aisle scenes belonging to the Peter and Paul cycle are depicted.

Nave, south side aisle (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, south side aisle (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The detail of the south side aisle of the nave depicts the baptism of Paul.

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The detail of the south wall of the centre aisle in the nave represents the creation of the firmament and division of the waters.

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The detail of the south wall of the centre aisle in the nave represents the drunkenness of Noah.

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The detail of the south wall of the centre aisle in the nave represents the building the Tower of Babel.

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The picture shows a detail of the south wall of the centre aisle of the nave, with a view into the south side aisle. On the south wall, scenes from the Old Testament cycle can be seen: creation of the stars, creation of fish and birds, creation of land animals, creation of Adam; drunkenness of Noah, building the Tower of Babel; St Cataldus, St Leo the Great. In the south side aisle scenes belonging to the Peter and Paul cycle are depicted.

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The detail of the south wall of the center aisle in the nave represents the creation of fish and birds.

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, south wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The picture shows a detail of the south wall of the centre aisle of the nave, with a view into the south side aisle. On the south wall, scenes from the Old Testament cycle can be seen: God resting on the seventh day, God forbids Adam from eating from the Tree of Knowledge, creation of Eve; Abraham hosts the three angels at the Oak of Mamre, Lot provides shelter for two angels; St Athanasius. In the south side aisle scenes belonging to the Peter and Paul cycle are depicted.

Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The picture shows a detail of the north wall of the centre aisle of the nave, with a view into the north side aisle. On the north wall, scenes from the Old Testament cycle can be seen: the Fall, God calls Adam and Eve to account, expulsion from the Paradise, hardships of the first parents; destruction of Sodom, sacrifice of Isaac, Rebecca at the well; St Blasius. In the north side aisle scenes belonging to the Peter and Paul cycle are depicted.

Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The detail of the north wall of the centre aisle in the nave represents the Fall.

Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, centre aisle, north wall (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The picture shows a detail of the north wall of the centre aisle of the nave, with a view into the north side aisle. On the north wall, scenes from the Old Testament cycle can be seen: hardships of the first parents, Cain and Abel’s offerings, Cain kills Abel and is punished, Lamech and his two wives; Rebecca at the well and Rebecca’s journey, Isaac blesses Jacob; St Augustine, St Ambrose. In the north side aisle scenes belonging to the Peter and Paul cycle are depicted.

Nave, north side aisle (detail) 1140-70 Mosaic Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Nave, north side aisle (detail)
1140-70
Mosaic
Cappella Palatina, Palermo

The detail of the north side aisle of the nave depicts Peter and Paul disputing with Simon Magus before Emperor Nero.

History

The palace was originally built for the Arab emirs and their harems in the 9th century, on a site earlier occupied by Roman and Punic fortresses.

Eventually abandoned by the Arabs, the palace was fully restored by the conquering Normans. The Palatine Chapel was completed by the Norman king Roger II in 1140.

After the Normans left, the palace fell into serious decay until it was discovered by Spanish viceroys. In 1555, they began to restore it and it became a royal residence once again. Today, the Palazzo dei Normanni is the seat of Sicily’s semi-autonomous regional government.

What to See

The Palatine Chapel is comprised of a nave and two aisles divided by tall oval arches (whose pillars are made of granite shipped from the East) and covered with a cupola. The astonishing interior is completely covered in glittering 12th-century mosaics.

The mosaics depict a variety of saints and biblical scenes, some interpreted in unique ways – Adam and Eve are shown with the forbidden fruit in their mouths, already reaching for a second piece. Christ Pantocrator is the central focus, appearing in the apse and the cupola.

The colors of the mosaics have an extraordinary depth and vividness (the effect sometimes achieved by gold-backed tesserae and silver mosaic tiles) and the subjects have a realistic style. The overall effect recalls that of the magnificent Monreale Duomo.

The mosaiced interior is capped by a splendid 10th-century Arab honeycomb stalactite wooden ceiling, painted with biblical stories as well as scenes of Arab and Norman court life – including animal hunts, dances and even a picnic in a harem.

Among notable furnishings are a huge royal throne covered in mosaics near the entrance to the nave, and a 12th-century Paschal candelabrum carved with figures, wild animals, and acanthus leaves.

Quick Facts on Cappella Palatina

Site Information
Names: Cappella Palatina; Cappella Palatina, Palermo; Palatine Chapel
City: Palermo
State: Sicily
Country: Italy
Categories: Royal Chapels; Churches
Faiths: Christianity; Catholic
Feat: Byzantine Mosaics; Arab Influences
Styles: Byzantine; Romanesque
Dates: 1140
Status: museum
Visitor and Contact Information
Address: Piazza Indipendenza, Albergheria, Palermo, Italy
Coordinates: 38.110900° N, 13.353600° E  (view on Google Maps)
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 8:30am-noon and 2-5pm; Sun 8:30am-12:30pm
Cost: €6
Phone: 091/7051111

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Banos de Aqua Santa, Ecuador: The Swing at the End of the World

swing1

It’s a long way from the tire swing your dad hung from a backyard tree when you were a kid.

In the Ring of Fire, a breath away from the active Tungurahua volcano in Banos de Agua Santa, Ecuador, you’ll find the Swing at the End of the World.

It hangs from La Casa del Arbol (The Treehouse), an area where lookouts observe the volcano for possible activity, according to National Geographic.

The swing appears to be made from no more than a wooden plank and sturdy ropes, but anyone with enough guts is welcome to hop on and enjoy the view from more than 1-and-a-half miles high.

Despite the height, it’s a ride you won’t want to miss. The region is known for numerous waterfalls and hot springs.

swing2

The Swing at the End of the World. (Image: Bureau of Educational & Cultural Exchanges/U.S. State Dept./Flickr)

swing3

A closer look shows La Casa del Arbol (the Treehouse) that overlooks the Tungurahua volcano in Banos.

swing6

A view into Banos, Ecuador from the east. (Image: Eddy!/Wikipedia)

swing4 swing5 Crash

 

Friday 29 Nov: The Latest on Comet ISON

Researchers are still trying to sort out how much of Comet ISON survived its close passage around the Sun. The comet’s head dwindled out, but after perihelion a headless ghost of the comet continued on its way, even seeming to brighten…
Dust swarm or not, what's left of ISON has grown a tail that's sweeping around the way it was supposed to. The times and dates in all spacecraft images are Universal Time; subtract 5 hours to get Eastern Standard Time. SOHO's LASCO C3 coronagraph took this image 19 hours after perihelion.  NASA / SOHO Consortium

Dust swarm or not, what’s left of ISON has grown a tail that’s sweeping around the way it was supposed to. The times and dates in all spacecraft images are Universal Time; subtract 5 hours to get Eastern Standard Time. SOHO’s LASCO C3 coronagraph took this image 19 hours after perihelion.
NASA / SOHO Consortium

The comet swung close around the Sun at perihelion on Thursday November 28th. At first it seemed to fade and dissipate completely at perihelion, but in the hours following, a diffuse trail of debris emerged from the encounter. Then it seemed to become brighter and more coherent. The “Ghost of ISON,” some are calling it.

UPDATES:

November 29, 3:30 p.m. EST: A bold forecast.

Here are some things I garner from the 12:30 UT image taken today by the SOHO LASCO C3 camera.

1. Since yesterday’s ‘resurrection,’ the comet’s overall dust output has clearly increased dramatically as compared with its pre-perihelion situation.

2. Likewise, early yesterday the dust production appeared to consist almost exclusively of ‘very heavy’ dust particles. My impression this morning from the latest SOHO and STEREO images is that the comet is now experiencing a huge and ongoing dust release in a broad range particle sizes. If this continues, it is a very hopeful sign for visual observers in days to come.

3. I’ve mentioned several times that 1962’s Comet Seki-Lines is the one other modern, dynamically ‘new,’ truly sunskirting comet whose photometric behavior is known in some detail. It likewise experienced a strange ‘disappearance’ right about the time of an anticipated brightness surge at perihelion, which had been expected to bring it to naked-eye daylight visibility at around magnitude –7.

4. A quick glance at ISON’s appearance in the 12:30 UT SOHO image jogged my memory that it looks very much like another comet photo I saw long ago . . . of none other than Comet Seki-Lines! One of the earliest post-perihelion photos of Seki-Lines was one taken by, I believe, the great comet photographer of the 1960s and 70s, Alan McClure. It showed a strangely wedge-shaped, large, brilliant coma forming the beginnings of a huge, broad, tail created by an obviously wide range in dust-particle sizes. Sound familiar?

5. Although ISON’s overall magnitude and degree of coma condensation appear reduced from last week, it still looks like a rather bright object that could well put a nice, if likely rather truncated, display between December 1st and 15th for visual and imaging folks alike. If (still a big if this early) ISON continues to exhibit intense dust production and retains sufficient ices to drive activity for a short time (perhaps less than a week could suffice), a broad tail of considerable size may quickly develop.

As with 2011-12’s sungrazing Comet Lovejoy, it would be impressive mainly from dark-sky observing sites due to rapidly diminishing surface brightness as the object withdraws from the Sun. The comet’s ‘head’ will probably be tiny in comparison with the tail and might even be difficult to define with the unaided eye.”

November 29, 11 a.m. EST: “Reports of my death are exaggerated.” After the comet seemed to vanish at perihelion yesterday, no one expected to be looking at a picture today like the one above!

It sure looks like a comet from here. The big question: is that bright thing just a cloud of dust and very fine rubble, soon to disperse? Or will it hold together, traveling along along the comet’s orbit, long enough to be seen when it gets far enough from the Sun to be viewed from Earth? And do chunks remain within it that can keep shedding stuff to make a coma and tail in proper comet fashion?

Many around the globe have been trying to detect this “ghost of ISON” in the bright sky near the Sun. I’ve heard no positive report so far. The comet is moving north of the Sun. Put the Sun safely behind the edge of a building or something; don’t endanger your vision, especially not with binoculars or a telescope. As a rough brightness comparison, the bright star at lower left in this image is 1st-magnitude Antares.

Where to try looking for Comet ISON very low in bright dawn on the morning of December 1st. Mercury, Saturn, and the Moon will be much brighter; start with them to find the spot to examine for the comet with binoculars. The comet symbol is exaggerated. Good luck. For scale, these scenes are two or three times as wide as your fist held at arm's length.

Where to try looking for Comet ISON very low in bright dawn on the morning of December 1st. Mercury, Saturn, and the Moon will be much brighter; start with them to find the spot to examine for the comet with binoculars. The comet symbol is exaggerated. Good luck.
For scale, these scenes are two or three times as wide as your fist held at arm’s length.

What a puzzle for comet scientists! ISON has defied predictions every step of the way.

Watch this blog for developments.

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November 1942: Thanksgiving Honors “Operation Torch” Participants

Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr., eats Thanksgiving dinner with the crew of USS New Jersey (BB 62), Nov. 30. 1944. Photo courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command

Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr., eats Thanksgiving dinner with the crew of USS New Jersey (BB 62), Nov. 30. 1944.
Photo courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command

When it comes to the three “Cs” on Thanksgiving menus over the years, one might think corn, cranberries and collard greens. But in 1907, it was cigarettes, cigars and cider (no mention as to whether that was hard or regular) for the crew of USS Kentucky.

Navy commanding officers knew then what they know today, NOTHING sinks morale faster than bad food or raises it like good food. So during the holidays, when most Americans enjoy spending time with their families and when many Sailors of America’s globally deployed Navy are often serving on the opposite side of the planet from their loved ones, it’s especially important to serve great chow and to make meal time as enjoyable as possible.

The actual food items have remained fairly constant throughout the years, no matter whether on ship or shore. While the menus still featured turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and a smattering a vegetables, mess officers took creative liberty in how they fancied up the names.

For example, USS Augusta, which was the flagship of the Commander Amphibious Force on Nov. 26, 1942, appeared to have special names for almost every food item. They had just come through the Naval Battle of Casablanca during Operation Torch, and it was also the opening night of a little Humphrey Bogart movie called Casablanca.

The Casablanca (battle, not the movie) engagement pitted American allies against the French Vichy government, which had surrendered almost immediately to the Germans. The Vichy regime controlled Morocco (just as the movie depicts….like Austria in Sound of Music without the nuns and music). The three-day naval battle saw 174 Americans casualties, while the Vichy French lost 462 and a Nazi submarine.

It doesn’t take much imagination to figure the relief and blessings felt by the survivors of the battle when Thanksgiving rolled around a couple weeks later.

So let’s round up the usual suspects on the naming of this Thanksgiving menu: There’s little to wonder about Cream of Tomato Soup a la Casablanca. But what better way to honor Rear Adm. Henry Hewitt, Commander Amphibious Force onboard his flagship than to name the main dish after him: Chicken and Turkey en Casserole a la Hewitt.

It was probably with a tweak at the Vichy French they named that mystery meat entrée the delightful Baked Spiced Spam a la Capitaine de Vaisseau, gussied-up with the rank of a French navy ship captain. The buttered Asparagus Tips a la Fedala makes reference to a city on the west coast of Morocco, home to a large oil refinery and the buttered June Peas de Safi was another city in French Morocco that was part of Operation Torch.

Chantilly Potatoes a la Patton gives a tip of the cover to the Army commander Gen. George Patton, while hot Parkerhouse Rolls du Lyautey is likely a reference to the Marechal Layautey, the resident-general of Morocco.

The Vichy French Navy commander also got a piece of the menu pie – literally. Apple pie a la Michelier was named for Vice Adm. Francois-Felix dit Frix Michelier.

With yet another tongue-in-cheek poke at the French, the menu offered Mixed Nuts du Jean Bart, a reference to the unfinished French battleship that was harbored in Morocco during Operation Torch but still used her five operational guns. Although she fired off one shot that nearly hit Augusta, USS Ranger bombers sank her right after.

One wonders if they played “As Time Goes By” as they sipped their Café (coffee) Noir and smoked their cigars and cigarettes.

Menu: Cream of Tomato Soup a la Casablanca, Fruit Cocktail, Saltines, Chicken and Turkey en Casserole a la Hewitt, Baked Spiced Spam a la Capitaine de Vaisseau, Giblet Gravy, Cherry Dressing, Buttered Asparagus Tips a la Fedala, Chantilly Potatoes a la Patton, Buttered June Peas de Safi, Scalloped Tomatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Hot Parkerhouse Rolls du Lyautey, Butter, Jam, Apple Pie a la Michelier, Strawberry Ice Cream, Mixed Nuts du Jean Bart, Sweet Pickles, Ripe Olives, Cigars, Cigarettes, Cafe Noir. Menu Message (not shown): It is fitting that this Thanksgiving Day should come at the conclusion of a series of hard fought naval engagements and a victorious return to port. To every officer and man on the Augusta this holiday means more than “good chow” and a day off. In its five engagements, one against a shore battery and four against enemy naval forces, the ship rendered a good account of itself and contributed in a large degree to the final defeat of the opposing forces and the establishing of a second front in North Africa. In the course of each engagement the ship was subjected to accurate and heavy fire by the opposing forces. And yet, although bracketed many times by the projectiles of the enemy, the ship miraculously ascaped without damage in herself or injury to the crew. It should be apparent to all that consistent escape from harm was due not alone to skill, or to good luck, but unquestionably to the intervention of divine providence. Therefore it is with especial gratitude this Thanksgiving Day that the officers and crew of the Augusta join in this traditional celebration.

Menu: Cream of Tomato Soup a la Casablanca, Fruit Cocktail, Saltines, Chicken and Turkey en Casserole a la Hewitt, Baked Spiced Spam a la Capitaine de Vaisseau, Giblet Gravy, Cherry Dressing, Buttered Asparagus Tips a la Fedala, Chantilly Potatoes a la Patton, Buttered June Peas de Safi, Scalloped Tomatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Hot Parkerhouse Rolls du Lyautey, Butter, Jam, Apple Pie a la Michelier, Strawberry Ice Cream, Mixed Nuts du Jean Bart, Sweet Pickles, Ripe Olives, Cigars, Cigarettes, Cafe Noir.
Menu Message (not shown): It is fitting that this Thanksgiving Day should come at the conclusion of a series of hard fought naval engagements and a victorious return to port. To every officer and man on the Augusta this holiday means more than “good chow” and a day off.
In its five engagements, one against a shore battery and four against enemy naval forces, the ship rendered a good account of itself and contributed in a large degree to the final defeat of the opposing forces and the establishing of a second front in North Africa.
In the course of each engagement the ship was subjected to accurate and heavy fire by the opposing forces. And yet, although bracketed many times by the projectiles of the enemy, the ship miraculously ascaped without damage in herself or injury to the crew. It should be apparent to all that consistent escape from harm was due not alone to skill, or to good luck, but unquestionably to the intervention of divine providence.
Therefore it is with especial gratitude this Thanksgiving Day that the officers and crew of the Augusta join in this traditional celebration.

Crash

Gone with the Wind meets NCIS: Scarlett O’Hara and Agent Gibbs (Part 1)

Vivien Leigh Scarlett O'Hara Gone with the Wind 1939

Prologue: In lieu of CBS not airing its usual NCIS episode on Tuesday – opting for holiday programming and with AMC airing the Gone With The Wind marathon all day and all night Wednesday, I decided to combine both, and develop the story to see where it leads.

Scarlett O’Hara tried everything to get justice. Scalawags and carpetbaggers were roaming Tara in search of the latest quick-buck, money-making scams. Local law enforcement was non-existent and forget about assistance from the Georgia militia or even Confederate soldiers. There was one man who Scarlett had meet years ago while on a shopping excursion to Baltimore by way of Charleston, at that time a US Marine. She started making contacts, putting out feelers to find that man. As it turns out, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs had many indirect run-ins with Scarlett via Rhett Butler because of his blockade running days. O’Hara eventually found out that Gibbs was running an investigative operation after the Confederate sinking of the USS Water Witch, near Savannah. It had been over 15 years since they last saw one another, so they almost had to re-introduce themselves all over again, since that’s what people do to as a way to open the doors to catch up on things – and each other.

Agent Gibbs, after being sent word to come to Tara immediately, shows up at the door with Agents Tony and McGee.

The door is answered by a large black woman. “Yesum, can I helps you?”

gibbsGibbs flashes his creds and badge: “Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS – agent Anthony DiNozzo, agent Timothy McGee. May we come in?”

MammyThe woman stands in the doorway and cocks her head to the side. “NCIS? Why do the people from the feed and seed need to carry shiny badges?”

Tony speaks up this time. “We’re federal agents, ma’am. We understand you’ve been having problems with the locals, no help from the local LEOs.”

The woman glares at Tony and smirks. “Iza Scorpio, Mr. Bossy.”

Anthony-DinozzoDiNozzo, steps back with a frown, looking at Gibbs.

Gibbs: “Is Ms. O’Hara around? She made the original call to ask if we could investigate a problem, Miss -?

The woman broke in – “Ain’t no Miss-nothing. Folks just calls me Mammy.”

Gibbs: “DiNozzo, McGee, go around, take pictures.”

DiNozzo and McGee in unison: “On it Boss!” and rush off the porch.

Gibbs: “Okay, Mammy. I need to see Scarlett. Now.”

Without a word, Mammy steps back from the threshold to allow Gibbs in and heads upstairs to get Scarlett.

Meanwhile, as Tony and McGee look around the property and take notes, do interviews and shoot photos, Gibbs walks into a large study off the main foyer, his attention on a large framed portrait above the mantle – Scarlett in an off-the-shoulder green dress. He hears fast-paced footsteps descending from the grand staircase. He turns around to find Scarlett standing in the doorway of the study, long red dress, smoldering eyes, pouting lips.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with The Wind (1939).3“That was painted before all this wretched non-sense about war.” she said staring at the painting Gibbs was almost directly under.

“It’s been mad, crazy. People are stealing my chickens, killing my cows and getting their nasty Yankee hands on all the silver. Papa is turning over in his grave with all the Yankees coming through Tara!”

She looks at Gibbs, who’s made his way in front of her now.

“I’m sorry for your troubles, but I’m here – we’re here, to end this, now.”

“You took your sweet time getting here” she exclaimed as she started to slap Gibbs in the face.

Gibbs grabbed her wrist. “We’ll have none of that. You want my help or not? You put out word that you needed my help, so I’m standing in front of you. Tell me what happened.”

Scarlett, surprised at Gibbs’ quick reflexes, looks down at the floor and starts crying. “We’ve lost everything and just when I thought we couldn’t lose anything else, we keep losing more.”

“I understand that. Got any names of the people doing all of this?”

“Damn Yankees! All of them, DAMN YANKEES!” She says, while drying her eyes with a lace-trimmed handkerchief.

Gibbs gives her that stare and nods it off with a look around the room. “Looks like quite a mess.” Looks back at Scarlett. “But fixable.”

Gibbs’ phone rings. “Yeah, Gibbs…..no, working on it. I’ll let you know.”

Scarlett frowns. “WHAT was that?”

“It’s a cell phone, Katie Scarlett. Sit down and give me something to go on.” Gibbs said, again with that stare.

Scarlett picks up her dress and walks to a red velvet sofa and begins to tell Gibbs about the war, the treachery of the thieves who want her land, how livestock has been killed or stolen. She admits some could be Yankees, others could be locals. She gives him a list of people she has seen, those she has caught in the act.

“I think they want to kill me, too, Gibbs.” She says while looking up into his eyes.

Gibbs does that head twitch to the side as his phone rings again.

“There’s that noise again!  What the hell is that?” she presses.

“Yeah, Gibbs. Okay, Tony, we’re on our way.” Gibbs looks at at Scarlett. “Tony’s found something. Let’s go.”

Gibbs and Scarlett meet Tony some feet behind the house.

gibbs and tonyTony, who was crouching close to the ground with his camera, speaks first, “Tread marks, Boss. Looks like it was carrying quite a load when it left the scene.”

Scarlett: “What’s a tread mark?”

mediumMcGee speaks up, “I’ve sent a picture to Abby so she can ID it – make, model, the whole bit. I’ve got molds drying on a couple of tire prints as well as footprints.”

Scarlett: “What is a tread mark?”

Tony starts to answer – but is interrupted by Gibbs – “Tony help McGee with the molds.”

Gibbs turns to Scarlett. “That’s a good lead. Now that Abby has photos of those impressions at the lab, she can figure out what kind of vehicle was used.  We need to dust for prints everywhere and find out what’s missing. This whole property is now an active crime scene, which means we need to get you somewhere, safe.”

“I’m NOT leaving Tara!” Scarlett said, this time with her own version of that stare.

“Scarlett, pack your bags. You’re leaving Tara in an hour.” It was Gibbs’ turn to stare her down.

Jethro_GibbsShe marched toward the house, leaving Gibbs to watch as Tony and McGee finished with the print molds.

“DiNozzo!” Gibbs called out and motioned him to follow as he was heading back into the large antebellum mansion.

“On your six, Boss!” replied Tony

“Scarlett needs to be taken to the safehouse in Savannah. I need you to work with her on the sketch software to see if we can come up with a description. McGee and I will finish up gathering evidence here to send to Abby.” Gibbs said, while holding one of the molds from the tire print.

“But Boss”, Tony quickly interjected, “shouldn’t McGeek do that since he’s so -” His voice drops off just as quickly since he knew the look he was being given. It was pointless to debate. “On it Boss!”

Gibbs called out to McGee from Tara’s back porch, “How much longer, McGee?”

“Just about done, Boss. The cast is almost drying and got plenty of photos.”

From inside the house, there was a scream. Gibbs ran inside and found Scarlett with a dazed look, sitting on the floor in her room with the suitcase she was packing with Mammy. By the door, stood DiNozzo.

The body of a US Navy sailor lay propped up inside a full size credenza; a kitchen knife buried in his chest.

Gibbs looked at the room with his gun drawn. “DiNozzo, get Ducky down here. Get Ziva down here, too. This changes everything.”

1450257_10151742772811937_213643959_nPart 2 – next week.

Crash

Keeping Up With The Joneses

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“Keep up with the Joneses” originated at this abandoned (and allegedly haunted) mansion

Wyndcliffe is the ruin of a historic mansion near Rhinebeck in Dutchess County, New York. The records at the Library of Congress state that the brick mansion was originally named Rhinecliff and Constructed in 1853 in the Norman style. The design is attributed to local architect George Veitch. The master mason, John Byrd, executed the highly varied ornamental brickwork using only rectangular and few molded bricks. The mansion was used a weekend and summer residence by its first owner, Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones of New York City.

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The adjacent hamlet to the north of Wyndcliffe was originally platted as “Kipsbergen” (1686); the hamlet was later renamed as “Rhinecliff” after the Jones-Schemerhorn estate of the same name. Writer Edith Wharton was a frequent childhood visitor. The phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” is thought to originate from the Wyndcliffe estate.

From Wikipedia – Keeping up with the Joneses:

An alternative explanation is that the Joneses of the saying refer to the wealthy family of Edith Wharton‘s father, the Joneses. The Jones were a prominent New York family with substantial interests in Chemical Bank as a result of marrying the daughters of the bank’s founder, John Mason.[5]The Jones and other rich New Yorkers began to build country villas in the Hudson Valley around Rhinecliff and Rhinebeck, which had belonged to the Livingstons, another prominent New York family to which the Jones were related. The houses became grander and grander. In 1853 Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones built a 24 room gothic villa called Wyndcliffe described by Henry Winthrop Sargent in 1859 as being very fine in the style of a Scottish castle, but by Edith Wharton, Elizabeth’s niece, as a gloomy monstrosity.[6] Reputedly the villa spurred more building, including a house by William B. Astor (married to a Jones cousin), a phenomenon described as “keeping up with the Joneses”. The phrase is also associated with another of Edith Wharton’s aunts, Mary Mason Jones, who built a large mansion at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, then undeveloped. Wharton portrays her affectionately in The Age of Innocence as Mrs Manson Mingott, “calmly waiting for fashion to flow north”.
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Wyndcliffe was later known as Linden Hall or Finck Castle, for subsequent owners. The mansion was abandoned sometime around 1950. Originally situated on 80 acres including waterfront access to the Hudson River, the property was eventually reduced to 2.5 acres.

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Portions of the mansion have collapsed after many years of abandonment. In 2003 the mansion was purchased and the owner hopes to restore the mansion. As of 2012, the structure has continued to deteriorate.

Wyndclyffe Ruins
Mill Road
Rhinebeck, NY US

On the Web: Wyndclyffe web site

Crash

Dinosaur Tales: Utah’s Killer Dino Preceded T. rex

Credit: Chicago Field Museum

Credit: Chicago Field Museum

Allosaurus cousin was top predator 98 million years ago

Scientists have discovered a killer dinosaur that roamed in what is now Utah some 100 million years ago. Experts say the discovery provides insight into the top predators in North America before T. rex showed up.

The two-legged beast was more than 30 feet long and weighed more than 4 tons. It helps fill a gap in the fossil record of North American big predators before the arrival of the group including T. rex. It wasn’t related to that famous beast.

Researchers from the Field Museum in Chicago and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh announced the finding Friday in the journal Nature Communications. They named the beast “Siats meekerorum,” after a legend of Utah’s Ute tribe and a family that has donated to the Field Museum.

Tyrannosaurs reign as the most famous of all meat-eating dinosaurs. But they didn’t always dominate, suggests the newly discovered bones of a massive carnivorous dinosaur that lived 98 million years ago.

Named Siats meekerorum (pronounced “See-atch”), the dinosaur discovered in eastern Utah by paleontologists was a previously unknown “apex,” or top, predator that ruled long before North America’s tyrannosaurs came to power.

In the Nature Communications study published November 22nd, Lindsay Zanno of North Carolina State University and Peter Makovicky of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History add to our knowledge of gigantic dinosaur predators prior to the days of Tyrannosaurus rex, which lived some 67 million years ago.

At full size, the two-legged carnivore may have weighed more than four tons and stretched nearly the length of a school bus.

The discoverers report that the dinosaur’s first (or genus) name is a tribute to its predatory prowess. In the legends of Utah’s native Ute tribe, “Siats” is the name of a voracious monster.

Black Bone Discovery

Zanno knew she had discovered a significant dinosaur as soon as she happened across a collection of black bone fragments sitting on the surface of eastern Utah’s Cedar Mountain Formation.

Remains of large carnivorous dinosaurs are rare in these rocks. “We had no idea how much would be in the ground,” Zanno says, “but we were stoked because we knew immediately we had a larger theropod and that it was going to fill in a huge gap in our understanding of theropod evolution on the continent.”

The discovery team recovered a partial skeleton including vertebrae, parts of the hip, the lower leg, and toes.

At first, Zanno says, she expected that Siats would be something like the huge, sail-backed carnivore Acrocanthosaurus, but the new dinosaur turned out to be something else. Distinctive anatomic features on the bones mark Siats as a newly recognized type of predator called a neovenatorid, cousins of the earlier, well-known Allosaurus.

Similar to a previously discovered dinosaur called Neovenator, Siatswould have sported a pointier, less blocky head than the big tyrannosaurs, and had relatively long, three-clawed arms, rather than short ones like those made famous by T. rex.

Incomplete Skeleton

Since the newly discovered dinosaur’s known skeleton is incomplete and is from a juvenile, Siats‘ exact size at adulthood isn’t entirely clear.

From estimates based on comparisons with more complete skeletons of other dinosaurs, Zanno says that “a juvenile Siats would have been, at minimum, about 30 feet long and around 9,000 pounds.”

That’s an impressive size that “still puts juvenile Siats as the third largest predator ever discovered in North America,” Zanno says. The fact that the animal was not yet fully mature raises the likelihood that the adults were even bigger.

“Future material may reveal Siats grew up to be one of the biggest predators known around the globe,” Zanno says.

Keeping Tyrannosaurs Down

The size of Siats is only part of the dinosaur’s significance. “In the rock beds that contain the colossal bones of Siats, we also find the teeth of relatively tiny tyrannosaurs about the size of a large dog,” Zanno says.

Early tyrannosaurs lived in the shadow of gigantic allosaurid carnivores like Siats. It was only after dinosaurs such as Siats disappeared, Zanno says, “that tyrannosaurs were free to evolve into the giant predators we know and love today.”

University of Oxford paleontologist Roger Benson, who first recognized neovenatorids with colleagues in a 2010 study, agrees that Siats helps fill in a missing chapter in predatory dinosaur history.

Until now, there were “25 million years of missing data,” Benson says, between allosaurid giants like Acrocanthosaurus and North America’s huge tyrannosaurs.

With Siats at 98 million years old, he adds, the dinosaur “shows us that allosaurids stayed on top for at least another 10 million years.” Exactly when and why dinosaurs like Siats gave way to the tyrannosaurs, however, relies on future Cretaceous finds from this final era of the Age of Dinosaurs.

Crash

“Heavens to Murgatroyd”

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Meaning

An exclamation of surprise.

Origin

‘Heavens to Murgatroyd’ is American in origin and dates from the mid 20th century. The expression was popularized by the cartoon character Snagglepuss – a regular on the Yogi Bear Show in the 1960s, and is a variant of the earlier ‘heavens to Betsy‘.

wizard-of-oz-lion-bert-lahrThe first use of the phrase wasn’t by Snagglepuss but comes from the 1944 film Meet the People. It was spoken by Bert Lahr, best remembered for his role as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Snagglepuss’s voice was patterned on Lahr’s, along with the ‘heavens to Murgatroyd’ line. Daws Butler’s vocal portrayal of the character was so accurate that when the cartoon was used to promote Kellogg Cereals, Lahr sued and made the company distance him from the campaign by giving a prominent credit to Butler.

As with Betsy, I have no idea who Murgatroyd was. The various spellings of the name – as Murgatroid, Mergatroyd or Mergatroid tend to suggest that it wasn’t an actual surname.

While it is doubtful that the writers of Meet The People (Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy) were referring to an actual person, they must have got the name from somewhere.

No fewer than ten of the characters in Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operaRuddigore, 1887, are baronets surnamed “Murgatroyd”, eight of whom (or is that which?) are ghosts. Herzig and Saidy were well versed in the works of the musical theatre and that plethora of Murgatroyds would have been known to them.

Where then did the librettist Sir William Gilbert get the name? It seems that Murgatroyd has a long history as a family name in the English aristocracy. In his genealogy The Murgatroyds of Murgatroyd, Bill Murgatroyd states that, in 1371, a constable was appointed for the district of Warley in Yorkshire. He adopted the name of Johanus de Morgateroyde – literally John of Moor Gate Royde or ‘the district leading to the moor’.

Whether the Murgatroyd name took that route from Yorkshire to Jellystone Park we can’t be certain. Unless there’s a Betsy Murgatroyd hiding in the archives, that’s as close as I’m likely to get to a derivation.

Crash

Sacred Sunday: Early 12th Century Romanesque Mural Paintings, Part 2

Master of Santa Maria de Taüll 1123 fresco transferred to canvas Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain)

Master of Santa Maria de Taüll
1123
fresco transferred to canvas
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya,
Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain)

This is the second and final part of early 12th Century Romanesque Mural Painting.  You can read part 1 here: http://bit.ly/1aPxqq6

Romanesque was the prevailing artistic style in Western Europe and certain countries of Eastern Europe from the tenth through 12th centuries. (In some regions the style continued into the 13th century.) The Romanesque period was one of the most important stages in the development of medieval European art. The term “Romanesque” was introduced in the early 19th century.

The Romanesque style absorbed many elements of Early Christian art, Merovingian art, and the art of the Carolingian Renaissance. It was also influenced by ancient Greek and Roman art, the art of the era of great migrations, Byzantine art, and the art of the Muslim Near East. In contrast to earlier, local currents in medieval art, the Romanesque style was the first artistic system of the Middle Ages embraced by most European countries. The style, however, was given a great variety of forms by different local schools, owing to feudal fragmentation.

The bases for stylistic unity throughout Europe were the well-developed feudal relationships and the international character of the Catholic Church, which at that time was the major ideological force in society and, owing to the absence of strong secular centralized authority, had fundamental economic and political influence. In most states the chief patrons of the arts were the monastic orders, and the builders, laborers, painters, and manuscript copiers and illustrators were monks. It was only late in the 11th century that itinerant artels of lay stonemasons and sculptors appeared.

Christ on the White Horse c. 1150 Fresco Cathedral, Auxerre

Christ on the White Horse
c. 1150
Fresco
Cathedral, Auxerre

In the crypt vault of the cathedral of Auxerre there is an extremely rare but highly remarkable variation of the subject of Christ in Majesty. Set at the point of intersection of a cross, Christ is depicted on horseback, holding a sceptre in his right hand and raising his left hand in a gesture of blessing.

Crusaders 12th century Mural Chapel of the Templars, Cressac

Crusaders
12th century
Mural
Chapel of the Templars, Cressac

The Crusades were a series of several military campaigns – usually sanctioned by the Papacy – that took place during the 11th through 13th centuries. Originally, they were Roman Catholic endeavors to re-capture the Holy Land from the Muslims. The order called Templars was founded in 1118 or 1119 by nine Christian knights, the original object of the organization being to maintain free passage for the pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. Baldwin II King of Jerusalem gave them part of his palace, and they kept their arms in the Temple, hence their name of Templars.

Christ in Majesty c. 1120 Fresco St Peter und Paul, Reichenau-Niederzell

Christ in Majesty
c. 1120
Fresco
St Peter und Paul, Reichenau-Niederzell

In this composition the figures are represented in strict isolation which is further enhanced by painted arcading.

The Virgin Enthroned c. 1120 Fresco Maria zur Höhe, Soest

The Virgin Enthroned
c. 1120
Fresco
Maria zur Höhe, Soest

In the dome of the church of Maria zur Höhe in Soest the Virgin Enthroned is depicted. Mary is not given a central position in the dome, but merely a place along the lower segment of the circle, effectively placing her above the altar. She could therefore be characterized as a kind of devotional image of the altar.

The Christ from the Vision of Ezekiel c. 1130 Mural painting Convent Frauenwörth, Frauenchiemsee

The Christ from the Vision of Ezekiel
c. 1130
Mural painting
Convent Frauenwörth, Frauenchiemsee

The convent on an island in Lake Chiemsee (Upper Bavaria) was founded in the mid-ninth century. Fragments of Romanesque murals came to light in 1954. All that survives are rudimentary paintings on both side walls of the sanctuary on north and south.

Wooden ceiling (detail) 1130s Painted wood St Martin, Zillis

Wooden ceiling (detail)
1130s
Painted wood
St Martin, Zillis

This is the only surviving example of a Romanesque painted wooden ceiling apart from that in Hildesheim. However, neither in form nor in subject-matter does this have any similarity to St Michael’s in Hildesheim.

Wooden ceiling (detail) 1130s Painted wood St Martin, Zillis

Wooden ceiling (detail)
1130s
Painted wood
St Martin, Zillis

Detail of the only surviving example of a Romanesque painted wooden ceiling at St. Martin apart from that in Hildesheim.

Stoning of St Stephen 12th century Fresco Monastery Church of St John, Müstair

Stoning of St Stephen
12th century
Fresco
Monastery Church of St John, Müstair

The Convent of Saint John is an ancient Benedictine monastery in Müstair, Switzerland, and, by reason of its exceptionally well-preserved heritage of Carolingian art, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. Its twelfth-century frescoes are closely connected to paintings in southern Tyrol.

Both individual Romanesque buildings and church, monastery, and castle complexes were often built in a rural setting. Situated on a hill or elevated riverbank, the structures dominate the surrounding area as an earthly image of the “City of God” or as a striking symbol of the might of a suzerain. Romanesque buildings are well integrated into their natural surroundings. Their compact forms and clear silhouettes echo and enrich the natural relief, and the local stone used in construction blends in with the soil and greenery. The impression created by the exteriors of Romanesque structures—one of calm and austere strength—is achieved to a great extent by the towers, which are essential elements of Romanesque architecture, and by the massive walls, whose weightiness and thickness are emphasized by narrow window slits and recessed portals.

The Romanesque building represents a system of simple solids—cubes, parallelepipeds, prisms, and cylinders—whose surface is divided by bays, blind arches, and galleries, which impart rhythm to the wall without violating its monolithic integrity. Romanesque churches developed the basilican and radial plans inherited from Early Christian architecture. A skylight or tower was usually placed at the crossing. Each of the main parts of the church represents a distinct spatial unit, clearly separated from the others both within and without. Such an approach resulted to a large extent from the demands of the church hierarchy: for example, the choir had to be inaccessible to the congregation, who occupied the nave.

Inside the church there are arcades, which separate the aisles, and buttressed arches, which are situated at considerable distances from each other. The slow, measured rhythms of the arcades and arches pierce the stone mass of the vaulted ceiling, creating a sensation of the unshakable solidity of the divine order of the world. This impression was enhanced by the vaults themselves, which replaced the flat wooden ceilings that formerly were used over the side aisles. The various types of vaulting characteristic of Romanesque churches included barrel vaults, groin vaults, rib vaults, and—less frequently—domical vaults.

During the early Romanesque the principal form of ornamentation was the mural painting. By the late 11th and early 12th centuries, when the vaults and walls became more complex in configuration, carved relief was the most popular form of church decoration. Carved reliefs were used to embellish interior columns, the portals, and—often—the entire facade. In the mature Romanesque style low relief was replaced by increasingly high relief, rich in chiaroscuro effects but never losing its organic connection with the wall. The relief always seems to thrust into or grow out of the wall’s solid mass.

The Romanesque period was marked by the flourishing of manuscript illumination, which was distinguished as a whole by monumentality of size and composition. A number of minor arts also developed, such as casting, engraving, ivory carving, enameling, weaving, carpet-making, and jewelry design.

The central themes in Romanesque painting and sculpture are associated with the concept of the unlimited and awesome power of god. In strictly symmetrical compositions dealing with such themes as Christ in majesty and the Last Judgment, the figure of Christ considerably exceeds the other figures in size and dominates absolutely. Freer and more dynamic are the narrative cycles based on Old Testament, New Testament, hagiographic, and, occasionally, historical subjects.

Romanesque painting and sculpture is characterized by numerous divergences from realism: heads are disproportionately large, clothing is treated ornamentally, and bodies are subordinated to abstract patterns. As a result, the human image often makes exaggeratedly expressive gestures or even becomes part of the decoration. At the same time the figure often retains an intense spiritual expressiveness. In all genres of Romanesque art an important role is played by patterns, which may be geometric, floral, or zoomorphic. Romanesque animal motifs derive from the animal style and directly reflect Europe’s pagan past. The overall system of imagery, which at its mature stage tended toward a universal artistic embodiment of the medieval picture of the world, paved the way for the Gothic conception of the cathedral as a “spiritual encyclopedia.”

The earliest forms of the Romanesque style appeared in French architecture in the late tenth century. Particularly common was a three-aisled basilican church with a barrel vault over the nave and groin vaults over the side aisles. Also common was the pilgrimage church, whose choir is surrounded by an ambulatory with radiating chapels (for example, the church of St. Sernin in Toulouse, c. 1080 to the 12th century).

The local schools of French Romanesque architecture showed great variety. The Burgundian school, exemplified by the Cluny III Church (1088 to the 12th century), is noted for a special monumentality of composition. The school of Poitou favored sumptuous sculptural ornament, as seen in the Church of Notre Dame la Grande in Poitiers (12th century). The Romanesque churches of Provence, such as the cathedral of St. Tro-phime in Arles (eighth to 15th centuries), are distinguished by their richly embellished main portal, which has one or three arches and probably derives from the ancient Roman triumphal arch. Norman churches, with their austere decoration and clarity of spatial articulation, prepared the way for the Gothic style. A typical Norman Romanesque church is Sainte-Trinité in Caen (1059–66).

French Romanesque secular architecture is represented by a type of fortress-castle having a donjon. The finest achievement of the French Romanesque in the plastic arts was the powerfully expressive sculpture of the tympana of Burgundian and Languedocian churches, for example, those in Vézelay, Autun, and Moissac. Also noteworthy are many mural cycles, miniatures, and objects of applied art (including the Limoges enamels).

The Saxon school was the principal representative of German Romanesque architecture. Saxon churches have symmetrical eastern and western choirs and, sometimes, two transepts. A front facade is absent, as seen in the church of St. Michael in Hildesheim (1001–33). The mature Romanesque is represented by the great cathedrals of the Rhineland, which were built from the 11th to 13th centuries in such cities as Spey-er, Mainz, and Worms. Wide use was made of the alternate-support system, by which two supports of the side aisles corresponded to each support of the nave.

The German Romanesque was characterized by the celebration of the grandeur of imperial power, which is expressed most vividly in the architecture of imperial palaces. During the Ottoman Romanesque period, which extended from the second half of the tenth century through the first half of the 11th century, manuscript illumination flourished, with its most important centers at the abbeys of Reichenau and Trier. There were also notable achievements in metal casting, as seen in the bronze doors of the cathedral in Hildesheim (1015). German stone sculpture and stuccowork grew in importance during the mature Romanesque.

In Italy, Romanesque elements first appeared in the work of the Lombard school, which developed an architectural style called the First Romanesque in the ninth or tenth century. The architecture is distinguished by stone roofs, the regular positioning of walls and supports, and the tectonic articulation of the exterior walls. However, there did not yet exist any obvious relationship between the elements of spatial composition. Italian Romanesque architecture is predominantly urban in character and reflects influences from Arabic architecture and the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome (mainly in southern Italy and Sicily). The Romanesque architecture of Tuscany, where the incrustation style was developed, is closely related to that of Germany and France. An outstanding example of Tuscan Romanesque architecture is the cathedral complex in Pisa (11th through 14th centuries).

In Spain, partly in connection with the Reconquest, fortress-castles and city fortifications appeared in larger numbers than anywhere else in Europe. Spanish church architecture was often based on the French pilgrimage church (for example, the cathedral in Salamanca), but as a whole it displayed relatively simple compositional solutions. Some works of Spanish Romanesque sculpture anticipated the complex imagery of the Gothic style. Many Romanesque frescoes have been preserved in Spain, mainly in Catalonia. The frescoes are distinguished by precise line and extremely intense color.

The Romanesque style spread to England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The traditions of local wooden architecture were combined with elements of the Norman Romanesque. Particularly noteworthy were English paintings and book illuminations from this period, which were marked by lavish floral ornamentation.

In the Scandinavian countries most large urban cathedrals were based on German Romanesque models, whereas small parish and rural churches were marked by distinctive local features. The Romanesque style also developed in Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary.

In the 12th and 13th centuries the Crusaders built Romanesque castles in Palestine and Syria (for example, the Krac des Chevaliers in Syria, 12th and 13th centuries).

Certain features of the Romanesque style appeared in the art of ancient Rus’, for example, in the architecture and sculpture of the Vladimir-Suzdal’ school. These features resulted not so much from direct influences as from similarities in ideological and artistic aims.

Next week on Sacred Sunday, I’ll take you on a journey over 800 years old to the cathedral of Monreale, above Palermo, Italy.

Here’s a sample:

Sanctuary with main apse 1180s Mosaic Cathedral, Monreale

Sanctuary with main apse
1180s
Mosaic
Cathedral, Monreale

Crash

Ghost Hunting and Drugs Destroy a Louisiana Historical Site

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As if paranormal investigators didn’t have a hard enough time already, what with never being able to prove the existence of ghosts on any of their tv shows, now a group of them have destroyed a rich piece of Louisiana history by setting fire to a 160 year old plantation.

The suspects told authorities that they snuck into the Lebeau Plantation in order to investigate claims that the building was haunted. Unfortunately for everyone, many news outlets reported that these ghost hunters had more in common with Shaggy and Scooby than with Fred and Velma, because instead of actually solving any mysteries they just got high and accidentally set fire to the building.

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The 1854 plantation house was a hotel and gambling establishment in the mid 20th century, and has long been vacant. The property was owned by Joseph Meraux and in his will was left to Arlene Soper Meraux after a court battle to prove a common law marriage. After her death, months prior to Hurricane Katrina, she left this plantation and several other properties to a commission made of several St. Bernard Parish politicians. Before the storm, a committee had planned on making large and pricey renovations to Le Beau hoping to bring more tourism into the area.

There was always still a chance that the old LeBeau house, just south of New Orleans, could have been saved, but there’s no question that time was running out for the historic building.  It is one of only two Arabi plantation homes to make it to the 21st century and was once the largest plantation south of New Orleans.

Although the building has had no human inhabitants since the 1980’s, there’s a possibility that it may have at least one resident of the supernatural variety.  For years, local residents have reported seeing a light go off and on in the house’s cupola, where no light should be, since there’s no electricity connected.
LP2 The land on which the house stands – for years now, in the shadow of the Domino Sugar Refinery – was first granted in 1721.  Various plantations used the property for a hundred years or so; then, for the next thirty years, it was used as a brickyard.  In 1851, Franciose Barthelemy LeBeau purchased the property and started construction of the house pictured on this page.  The LeBeau home has sixteen rooms, but only one interior staircase.  When officials told LeBeau he would be taxed on the number of interior stairwells, he took down the ones already completed and moved them to the outside of the house – not an uncommon occurrence in those days.  Mr. LeBeau died in 1854, only a few months after the house was completed, but it remained in the LeBeau family until 1905.

  It was purchased at that time by Friscoville Realty and, for the next twenty years, the old home was the site of the Friscoville Hotel.  In 1928, Jai Alai Realty bought the house, re-named it the Cardone Hotel and used it as an illegal gambling casino, known to locals as the Jai Alai Casino.  To this day, gun turrets built into the closets can be found from it’s Prohibition days as a wild and woolly gambling house.

 Between 1938-1967, it had several owners.  In 1967, Joseph Meraux purchased the house and it’s deteriorated badly since then.  An attempt was made in the 1980’s to include the property in an Historic District, but the project was blocked.  In 1986, a fire severely damaged the interior and roof of the building.  There were some restoration efforts undertaken in the next few years, but each time, they were eventually aborted.
LP4 Finally, in 2003, much needed stabilization work was done on the house.  Full-scale restoration plans were in the works when Hurricane Katrina came through in 2005 and decimated St. Bernard Parish.

The Lebeau plantation house had been infamous for being the most haunted house in that area, every old-timer and kid alike knew the stories well. About 150 years ago, the Lebeau plantation had been the sight of cruel mistreatment of slaves by the Lebeaus. They would beat their slaves, sometimes to death, and then order the other slaves to bury the dead off in the fields beside the house. This murderous behavior continued until it seems that the spirits of the dead began to haunt the Lebeau family and one by one drove them all to insanity. Eventually, each of the Lebeaus committed suicide in turn (at least two of them were hangings on the 2nd floor).

Many more stories surrounding the Lebeau plantation house continued over the next century and a half. Among the most recent of them, was the story of the house having been rented in the 1970s, where a little girl was thrown from the fourth floor cupola window (evidently not thrown by a person). Needless to say, the house was never again rented after that.

Even though the property was bought for commercial use, the house itself was left intact. Because of the historical value of the Lebeau house, it is considered a protected monument and cannot be condemned. Even so, the new owners found plenty of good use for the rest of the property to store sugar tankards, flatbed trailers and other such things.

After they first acquired the Lebeau property, they put guard dogs out to patrol at night but each morning, employees would come to find that the dogs had mysteriously died during the night. They repeated this several times before giving up on the idea of having guard dogs because each time they put dogs out to patrol, the dogs would not make it through the night alive.

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