Saturday, May 26, 2012

Images of The Norman Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily


Pictures, Images & Photos of the Norman Monreale Cathedral, Sicily.

Pictures, images & photos of the Great Norman Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily. The world Norman and Sicily do not sit naturally together for many people, yet The Normans did not only conquer England they help principalities all the way to and including Jerusalem. The Norman's were descendants of The Vikings (North Men). Their barbarity is legendary but what is often forgotten is that after converting to Christianity the Normans became fanatical Christian patrons founding greta Abbeys like Mont St Michele, Cathedrals like Durham Cathedral and sponsoring great works of art like that in Monreale Cathedral, Sicily.

The building of the Cathedral of Monreale was begun in 1174 by William II, and in 1182 the church, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Monreale is a political statement by William II who wanted to weaken the power of the Palermo cardinals by creating a great cathedral outside the city.

Like most Norman cathedrals this Norman Romanesque basilica was built on a massive scale in record breaking time. The inside is tiled with Byzantine style mosaics which cover a staggering 6,500 m² of its interior. The mosaics of Monreale depict scenes from the bible and over the altar is a huge Greek style Christ Pantocrator.

Next to the Cathedral are the cloisters of Monreale monastery. 126 white marble pillars support medieval craved capitals and arches of Monreale's spectacular cloisters. Every capital is carved with a different mythology of biblical scenes. Fantastic medieval animals entwine themselves around the pillar capitals and columns in an extraordinary demonstration of the exuberance of medieval art and proof, if one were needed, that the dark ages were not very dark at all.

To give real power to Monreale Cathedral, William II made it his and his families burial place, and there they lie in great medieval sarcophagi. The Normans are an underestimated cultural force of the medieval world. Their ruthless exploits have overshadowed the great building and works of art they bestowed.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pictures of The Dervish Dwellings of the Melvana Museum, Konya, Turkey


Pictures, Images & Photos of Konya Turkey.

Pictures, images and photos of Konya, Turkey. Konya is a holy Islamic city where the Persian Sufi poet & ascetic Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī known as Mevlana or Rumi lived and is buried. Mevlana was "not a prophet — but surely, he has brought a scripture". He believed in the use of music, poetry and dance as a path for reaching God which allowed devotees to focus their whole being on the divine. Dervishes are Sufi Muslim ascetics and the Mevlevi order of Dervishes in Konya developed under Melvana's teachings. It was Mevlanas belief in dance and music that created the whirling Dervish as a form of devotion. Following his death, his followers and his son Sultan Walad founded the Mevlevi Order, also known as the Order of the Whirling Dervishes, famous for its Sufi dance known as the Sama ceremony.

In the 1920's when the modern Turkish state was formed under the rule of Ataturk, Dervish's were banned as part of the Ataturks move to make Turkey a secular country. The Mausaloeum of Mevlana was made into a museum where his sarcophagus and those of his family are a major shrine for Islamic pilgrims.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Photos of The Acropolis & Parthenon, Athens, Greece


Pictures of The Acropolis of Athens.
Pictures of the Acropolis and its Parthenon temple & the icon statues of the Erechtheion. The Acropolis was the ancient citadel of Athens sitting on a rock with steep cliffs 150m above the city of Athens, Greece. The Acropolis was inhabited from Neolithic times and in Archaic times around the mid 6th cent BC a temple was built there.
During the Golden Age of Athens under Pericles, 460-430 BC, many major Greek Temples were built. During this period the Acropolis became the fortified treasury of the Delian League and its funds were used to build the Parthenon which was intended a symbol of the might of Athens. The Parthenon is considered to be the pinnacle of development of the Doric order. Greek architects used optical illusions to make the Parthenon look symmetrical. The columns bulge as they rise and lean slightly inwards. The west front is built slightly higher than the east front to increase perspective and counter the visual effect of curvature between two parallel lines of columns. The architects of the Parthenon used endless devices to bring the building close to the mathematical Golden Ratio, an algebraic equation used for geometric relationships by artists and architects, so creating and aesthetically pleasing proportion to the building and its art.
The sculpted friezes and statues of the Parthenon are also thought to be the pinnacle of Greek classical art. The sculptures from the Pediment of the Parthenon depicted scenes from the birth and life of the goddess Athena. The Metope panels depicted scenes of a battle between the Lapiths & Centaurs ( see these in our Elgin Marble picture gallery : http://bit.ly/I318LD ). The friezes depict the annual procession to the Parthenon to make sacrifice to Athena.
The other great icon of the Acropolis is the "Porch of the Maidens" on the Erechtheion temple. Built between 421 and 405 BC the temple was dedicated to the Greek hero Erichthonius. The sculptor and mason of the structure was Phidias, who was employed by Pericles to build both the Erechtheum and the Parthenon. The "Porch of the Maidens" uses caryatids which are female figures used as supports instead of columns.
Today attempts are being made to restore the Parthenon but it has been so abused over the centuries that little remains. When the Roman Empire converted to Christianity the Parthenon became a church. Its pagan artworks were damaged and cult images of Athena were taken to Constantinople. In 1456 Athens fell to the Ottomans are became part of the Ottoman Empire. The Parthenon then became a mosque with a minaret. In 1687 the Venetians attacked Athens. The Acropolis was fortified by the Ottomans and the Parthenon was used as an arsenal. A Venetian mortar made a direct hit on the Parthenon and the arsenal exploded destroying the internal building, the columns of the south side and damaging its sculptures. In 1801 the British Ambassador at Constantinople, Lord Elgin, obtained permission to make casts of what was left of the sculptures on the Acropolis and remove them. Controversy still runs high about this act today.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Photos of The Blue Mosque, Istanbul


Pictures of The Blue Mosque Istanbul, Turkey.

Pictures, images & photos of the iconic Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii ) or Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey. Built from 1609 to 1616 commissioned by Sultan Ahmed I when he was 19. the Blue Mosque draws the inspiration for its design from Hagia Sophia that stands opposite it. The design of the Blue Mosque is a high point of the classical period being a fusion of Ottoman & Byzantine elements. It was designed by Mehmet Aga, its second architect as the first was executed because his skills were found wanting.

Normally mosques have a maximum of 4 minarets, the exception being the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the focal point of the Islamic world. It shows grand designs of Sultan Ahmet that the Blue Mosque was controversially designed with 6 minarets also. The sixth minaret of the Blue Mosque though was built when Sultan Ahmet built a seventh minaret on the mosque in Mecca. The high central dome of the Mosque is surrounded by 8 smaller domes creating cascading tiers running down to a central courtyard, the biggest of any Ottoman mosque.

The interior of the mosque is lined with 20,000 Iznik tiles with more than 50 tulip designs as well as fruit, flowers & cypresses. Over 250 stained glass windows with intricate designs light the interior.

Sultan Ahmet lived long enough to see the splendour of the Blue Mosque and his Mausoleum is just outside the walls.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Photos of The Byzantine Rock City of Monemvasia, Greece


Pictures, Images & Photos of The Monemvasia, Greece.

Pictures, images & photos of Monemvasia (Μονεμβασία) nicknamed the Gibraltar of the East or The Rock. The island of Monemvasia is linked to the east coast of the Peloponnese by a bridge built in 1971. It is 300 m wide and 1 km long with steep cliffs rising to a plateau 100 meters above the sea. Ancient walls ring the plateau making a powerful medieval fortification.

In 583 when the Slavs & Avars invaded northern Greece refugees founded a settlement at Monemvasia. Its natural defences and harbour meant that by by the 10th century Monemvasia was an important trading town for the Peloponnese. Its defences held against the Arab and Norman invasions until 12 48 when it fell after a 3 year siege to William II of Villehardouin. When William was captured at the Battle of Pelegonia by the Byzantines in 1259, Monemvasia retroceded to Michael VIII Palaiologos as part of William's ransom.

Apart from its natural fortifications the strength of Monemvasia lay in field that grew corn on the plateau making it very hard to take by siege. Monemvasia also made Malmsey wine. It remained part of the Byzantine empire until 1460, becoming the seat of an Imperial governor, a landing place for Imperial operations against the Franks and the main port of shipment for Malmsey wine.

Monemvasia held out against the Ottomans becoming the only domain of the Despot of Morea, Thomas Palaiologos and one of the last towns of the Eastern Byzantine Empire. Thomas Palaiologos had no forces to defend Monemvasia and finally sold it to the Pope who in turn was unable to defend the island so allowed it to be garrisoned by the Venetians.

Although Monemvasia was a prosperous town for a while as the Ottomans took the Peloponnese it lost its source of wine and food and in 1540 when a treaty between the Ottomans and the Venetians saw Monemvasia come under Ottoman rule. The Venetians recovered Monemvasia in 1690, then again from 1715 to 1821. On July 23, 1821 the town was liberated from Ottoman rule by Tzannetakis Grigorakis during the Greek War of Independence.

The commercial importance of Monemvasia had declined and the buildings on the plateau fell into ruins leaving a medieval fishing village at the foot of the cliffs. Its picturesque medieval houses and Byzantine churches became its saviour and today it is an important and thriving tourist destination with boutique hotels and tiny squares with cafes.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Photos of the Assyrian Sculpture Panels of The British Museum


Pictures of Assyrian Sculptures.

Pictures, images & photos of ancient Assyrian relief sculptures. The Assyrians existed as an independent state fro 2400 B.C to the end of the 7th cent. B.C in Mesopotamia, present day Iraq The Assyrians became a power rich empire that showed its great conquests in exquisitely intricate relief sculptures on its palace walls. Assyrian art was designed to overwhelm the viewer. Huge mythical beasts stood either side of its palace and city gates pronouncing the wealth and prestige of the Assyrian rulers.

The detail in the relief sculptures is sumptuous and gives a very clear understanding of the intricately woven cloth that made up the nobilities clothes. Scenes of hunting are popular with the rulers killing lions with bow & arrow and spears from their chariots. These hunting scene are not for the faint hearted with lions shown graphically dying or dead. The relief sculptures of the rulers great victories are equally revealing. The victorious Assyrians humble the defeated and scenes of refugees and executions show the fate of many from the ancient world.

The scale and craftsmanship of Assyrian sculpture is compelling and the narrative content is still quite understandable to the modern eye giving a clear view of the ancient world of the Assyrian rulers.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pictures of the Byzantine Meteora Monasteries Greece


Pictures, Images & Photos of the Meteora Monasteries, Greece.

Meteora Monasteries Greece pictures, images fotos & photos of the Orthodox monasteries on top of their pillars of rock. Buy stock pictures, photoart prints & cards of Meteora Mountains famous Cliff top Monasteries.

In the sixteenth century there were 24 monasteries but today only 6 remain. Each monastery has a winch house with a rope net that is lowered to haul up provisions. Originally pilgrims had to climb up precarious rope ladders to make their devotions in the monastery churches. Today a visit is less hazardous as steps have been cut into the cliffs that snake up to the monasteries.

In 420 Simeon, a Syrian Christian Monk, decided to escape the world and become a Hermit. He built a 15.2m (50ft) high pillar and somehow lived on the top, exposed to the elements, until his death. This inspired Christians for centuries like the hermits that originally inhabited the caves in the lower pillars of the Pindos Mountains from the 10 century.

In the fourteenth century monastery building started in earnest when a monk from Mount Athos, Athanasios Koinovitis, climbed a pinnacle known as the Plathy Lithos because of its wide plateau on top. Here, with a group of followers, he built the first buildings of the Metéoron monastery. In 1388 Thessaly was ruled by a Serbian King and his son, Loasaf, became a pupil of Athanasios at the Metéoron. The King extended the monastery which became an important center of learning with many fine illuminated codecs and important Byzantine frescos in its church.

23 more monasteries were built over the next 2 centuries and precious relics and icons found safety in the impregnable monasteries such as the finger of St John and the shoulder blade of St Andrew in the monastery of Varlaám. It is a marvel that 600 years ago men could build such wonderful buildings at the top of high isolated rock pillars without cranes or mechanical aides.

Since the building of a paved road into the mountains in the 1960s, tourists have been able to visit the Meteora Monasteries and marvel at beauty and serenity of the captivating Byzantine buildings set against the dramatic backdrop of the Pindos Mountains. UNESCO added the Meteora to its world heritage list and from 1972 the 6 remaining monasteries have been under renovation repairing damage from neglect and earthquakes. The Meteora Monasteries are one of the most extraordinary sights in the world and are a reminder of how religious devotion can drive men to great feats of architecture and art in search of salvation.

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Pictures of the Wooden Churches of Maramures, Translyvanis


Pictures, Images & Photos of The Wooden Churches of Maramures, Romania.

Pictures, images & photos of Maramures, Northern Transylvania, Romania. Maramureș is a region in north eastern Romania hemmed in by the Ukraine border to the north and mountains to the south, west & east that are inaccessible in the winter. Many of the valleys within Maramures have small villages with wooden houses & churches that are linked together by dirt roads as they have been for millennia.

The Maramures is a remote and atmospheric area with villages that modernity still has not reached, The horse & cart is still the main form of transport and families go daily to their fields with scythes to cut hay to keep their animal alive through extremely cold winters.

The remoteness of Maramures has created a community that sits between the Orthodox Christianity of the East & The Roman Church of the West. Add to this the underlying pagan traditions that have survived in such a remote area and you are left with a rich folk and religious art that has a place for all the beliefs. Wooden churches are a political statement of independent beliefs as the Austro Hungarian rulers allowed only Roman Catholic Churches to be built out of stone. As the people of Maramures are predominately Orthodox, Greco Catholics or Uniate, this meant that they could only build what were seen as temporary churches out of wood. Today over 150 survive in various states of repair and the best 8 are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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