23 Dec 2015

Christmas greetings

Christmastide in Sheffield Anglican Cathedral

The Nativity, Sheffield Anglican Cathedral

Sending greetings from our home to yours and wishing you a happy Christmas blessed with moments of hope, joy, peace and love.


18 Dec 2015

Rome: the historic centre (3)

With less than a week to go before Christmas I'm finishing my walk around some of Rome's historic centre with a look inside the Pantheon which is not far from Piazza Venezia and Il Vittoriano or the Victor Emmanuel II Monument (below) - an unmistakable landmark.  A lift that was installed a few years ago takes visitors to the top of this impressive monument and the views must be amazing.

the X marks the lift shaft of the Victor Emmanuel II Monument in this photo

The Victor Emmanuel II Monument

Piazza Venezia

Piazza della Minerva
The church in this piazza was built on the ruins of a temple.  The obelisk was found in the monastery garden of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and was mounted on the back of  the elephant, designed by Bernini and sculpted by Ercole Ferrata.

In the same area is Piazza della Rotonda (below) and the Pantheon.  By the time we arrived there it was early afternoon and the area was so crowded it was difficult to take photos of the exterior of this impressive building although the light was better than it had been earlier in the day.

a vintage postcard shows the Pantheon's facade with its immense portico, columns of granite
 and the piazza with the fountain and obelisk

On entering the building we found that it was also full of visitors. 

The Pantheon, the Roman temple dedicated to 'all the gods', is a marvel of Roman engineering.  Designed by the Emperor Hadrian (AD 118-125) it replaced an earlier temple built by Marcus Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus.  The rotunda's height and diameter are equal 43.3 m (142 ft).  The dome was cast by pouring concrete mixed with tufa and pumice over a temporary wooden framework.  Brick arches embedded in the structure of the wall act as internal buttresses, distributing the weight of the dome.   The hole at the top, the oculus, provides the only light.
In the Middle Ages the Pantheon became a church. The great Master painter and architect, Raphael, is buried here and the tombs of the kings of modern Italy can also be seen.  

The Annunciation  (Melozzo da Forli)

St. Joseph and the Holy Child

The high altar

Bust of Raphael

The Tomb of Raphael (Raffaello da Urbino)  1483-1520

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Francesco Cozza)
The Adoration of the Magi (Francesco Cozza)

Wishing you a good weekend!

8 Dec 2015

Rome: the historic centre (2)

Continuing with the walk around Rome's historic centre we made our way from the Quirinal area to the Forums.  The Via dei Fori Imperiali is a long one with Roman ruins on either side of this main street and the Colosseum looms large at the end of it.

The above photo was taken a few years ago and it has reminded me that work on the Colosseum to stabilise this most famous buildings of Rome's Imperial past has been going on for many years.  At the moment there's a major construction work taking place in the Metro near the Colosseum and some areas of the main Forum are closed for repairs to some of the monuments.  I noticed metal bands had been clamped around columns in the Forum presumably to strengthen them.   On the right as you walk towards the Colosseum there's a high fence surrounding the building site. However, a visitor can take a tour and the ticket can be purchased and used to enter both sites.

The Colosseum was commissioned by the Emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and it's an amazing building
because of its design and engineering features.  Eighty arched entrances allowed easy access to 55,000 spectators who came to the amphitheatre.  It was built in the form of an ellipse with tiers of seats around the arena that had a wooden floor covered in sand.  The 19th century excavations exposed the network of underground passages and rooms.


Above is a view of the walk leading up into the Imperial Forum with the Arch of Titus and colonnades of a temple built in AD 121 by the Emperor Hadrian (The Temple of Venus and Rome) and behind that is the church of Santa Francesca Romana. In the 15th century Francesca cared for the city's poor and after her canonisation this ancient church, originally called Santa Maria Nova, was renamed.

The Arch of Constantine is next to the Colosseum.
This triumphal arch was built to mark the victory of  Emperor Constantine over his co-emperor Maxentius. Some of the statues and reliefs that decorate this huge construction were taken from Trajan's Forum. These were probably by the artist who worked on Trajan's Column at the other end of Via dei Fori Imperiali.

It would be tempting to take a ride along the road from the Colosseum to Piazza Venezia, but there's plenty to see on foot.

Reliefs on the Temple of Minerva in the Forum of  Nerva.   A frieze of young girls shows some learning to sew and weave. Excavations have been going on for some time and Renaissance shops and taverns have been found.

The Forum of Augustus can be viewed from wooden platforms with seating along this stretch of the road. It's a good place to take a rest and appreciate what has been uncovered during the excavations of the site.

The Trajan Markets

Trajan's Column

There's a complete set of casts of the scenes that are depicted in relief on the column in one of the Museums of Roman Antiquity.

Small windows can be seen as there's a spiral staircase inside the column although this is not usually open to the public.

On the other side of Via Fori Imperiali is the Forum of Julius Caesar.
The church on the left of the photo with the pink walls is San Giuseppe dei Falegnami (St. Joseph of the Carpenters). Underneath the church visitors can go down into a dungeon which was part of the Mamertine Prison also known as the Tullianum. This was an old cistern with access to the city's main sewer.  I visited the church many years ago as the dungeon is the cell where St. Peter was imprisoned according to Christian tradition.  The two chains (vincoli) that were used to shackle him, again according to legend, were taken to Constantinople.  In the 5th century the Empress Eudoxia had one placed in a church in Constantinople and the other was sent to her daughter in Rome.  The daughter gave them to Pope Leo who built the church of San Pietro in Vincoli to house it. Later the other chain was returned to Rome and both chains can be seen together below the high altar of this church. I will continue with our walk from Piazza Venezia to Piazza della Rotonda where we visited the Pantheon another time.

I'm thinking of all those whose homes and business premises have been damaged due to unprecedented heavy rainfall which led to flooding in Cumbria and elsewhere over the weekend. My sister-in-law phoned from Italy as the news must have been featured on the national news and the family were anxious to know if we were well.  Thankfully we are fine, but we feel sorry for those who are not. Communities and the search and rescue services work together at such times, but it's a distressing time nevertheless for those who have been affected and are homeless once again.

1 Dec 2015

November news and looking forward

On Sunday, which was the first Sunday of the Advent season in the church calendar, the first candle on the Advent Wreath was lit in church in the morning and in the evening we lit the Advent Candle in our home. This year I did not prepare an Advent Wreath, but instead we have a single candle which will be lit every evening up until Christmas Eve.  It's a tangible way of remembering the reason for celebrating Christmas during the days leading up to the festival. The flame dispels the darkness and is a positive and comforting symbol of  hope.
November also was a time of remembrance and reflection and was not an easy month as we had a bereavement of a close relative.  It was unexpected although we knew my uncle was seriously ill. My uncle, my mother's youngest brother, emigrated to Australia with his wife and young children. He was only 15 years and a few months older than me and as we lived with my grandmother during the first years of my life we formed a strong bond.  He was a kind and gentle person, a talented singer and pianist who taught me to play the piano.  I'm glad that my husband also knew him, his wife and her family and two of the three children before they emigrated.  We continued to keep in contact through letter writing and two cousins came to visit us in England. Distance can be difficult at such times, but I'm thankful that these days we can keep in touch with family members through the Internet and there are opportunities for those of the younger generation who can travel to see each other.    As for me I enjoy writing and receiving letters and notes and I'm sure that will continue, at least between the older members of the family.

                                              The roses are still blooming in the garden.

Due to the wet and windy weather I haven't been out walking and taking photos suitable to share and I'm still sorting out my Rome photos so I won't be posting those yet.
I've been to my usual group meetings where we've been planning events for fellow seniors in our church fellowship and I've also been to the cinema with daughter and granddaughter to see Suffragette which was well-acted and worth seeing. In fact, it was recommended to our granddaughter by her college tutor.  She went to London last month with other students on her course and stayed overnight so that they could visit University College and the Houses of Parliament. The group also went to the theatre to see the musical Mamma Mia!
We've seen more of our oldest grandson since he moved from the south of England to York where his other grandparents live. He's just done his annual climb of a mountain with his friends - this time Ben Nevis - to raise money for 'Save the Children'.  His two brothers still live at home and continue to enjoy their work in horticulture and hotel catering. The youngest works in a well-known London city centre hotel and last month was one of the 15 finalist of the 2015 British Culinary Federation's Young Chef of the Year competition which was quite an achievement for his first time competing against other talented young chefs.  We certainly enjoy his cooking although these days travelling into the capital and work duties take up much of his time and when he's off duty he likes to relax by going camping and fishing in a local lake.