31 Dec 2016

Our Christmas

Hello.  I hope that you had a good Christmas. I'm posting today with some random photos of our Christmas. After going to the midnight service with our younger daughter and children on Christmas Eve the rest of our days over the holidays have been spent enjoying time with our family. Our other daughter is still with us for a few more days and one of the highlights of Christmas was that her son, our oldest grandson, came for a surprise visit on Christmas Day and stayed over at our local daughter's home. This meant we could have another family meal at our house and then the following day our son and family also spent the day with us all. 

We had many lovely gifts given to us, one of them being a hamper of goodies.

Our granddaughter made a gingerbread house whilst our older daughter made a delicious Christmas cake and brought a limoncello panettone with her as well as other homemade food from her sons who couldn't join us because they were working over Christmas and are also working during the New Year, one being in the hospitality trade in London. 

My husband took us out to one of our regular places that we like to go to especially at this time of the year.  I've written about Castleton in Derbyshire many times before as it's a pretty village in the High Peaks and is always well decorated for the season.  It's also a good place to go to buy gifts and after Christmas some of the small gift shops have sales so you can get some bargains - my kind of sale and much more pleasant than being in the crowded city.

We had lunch of tomato and basil soup and a baguette roll at one of the pubs. My husband had a spicy chicken baguette with salad and chipped potatoes. We were just about to take photos outside the pub when a passer-by kindly offered to take a photo of the three of us.

We went in St. Edmund's church which usually has a Christmas tree festival before Christmas in aid of charity and although the specially decorated trees by different organisations had been removed the church was still beautifully decorated. By the time we left it was getting dark and the Christmas trees outside each little shop along the main street had been turned on.

Tonight we shall be stopping in and there will be a glass of Prosecco and a slice of panettone to enjoy as we watch the count down to the New Year on the live television broadcast from the River Thames Embankment in London.  We'll enjoy the firework display from the comfort of our armchair and give thanks for the many blessings that have come our way in the last year. Thank you once more, my friends, for your continued support and visits to my blog.  Looking forward to meeting up with you once more in the New Year and catching up with your news. Tomorrow we continue hosting as we are joined by our local daughter and her two children for another family meal tomorrow evening. 

21 Dec 2016

Season's Greetings

Sheffield Anglican Cathedral is a beautiful place of worship. Last week by the time one of the group meetings I go to in an afternoon had finished it was dusk and the atmosphere in the various areas of the church was even more inspiring as the evening lights came on.

The new St. George's Chapel with the Holy Spirit Chapel
 and the Crypt beyond (accessed via a flight of steps).

This Advent five prayer spaces in different areas of the cathedral have been set up including a Prayer Labyrinth drawn on the floor of the old St. George's Chapel. (Prayer labyrinths were used in medieval cathedrals. Unlike a maze they have only one path, the inward journey to the centre and the outward path back. There are no dead ends). On the four pillars surrounding the labyrinth there are thought-provoking words or scriptures to inspire the visitor as he/she walks slowly around. The prayer spaces have a piece of creative visual art installed there. Each one was inspired by the Advent Antiphons that are sung in churches in the days before Christmas describing God's saving work in Christ and although it's not known when or by whom they were composed they were in use by the 8th century.   

The High Altar

The Shrewsbury Chapel

detail from the stained glass window in St. Katherine's Chapel 

This will be my last blog post before Christmas Day as our daughter is coming to stay tomorrow and we shall be enjoying her company and also getting together with our other daughter, our son and their families. Thank you for your friendship and support especially during the health challenges I've experienced during the last six months. I wish you a happy Christmas, Hanukkah Shalom to those who celebrate this festival and, above all, a peaceful time during the holidays for everyone.  

19 Dec 2016

The joy of receiving greetings cards and the Christmas card swap

One of the joys of blogging is the friendships that develop with other bloggers around the world. This year I joined the Christmas Card Swap organised by Amy at Love Made My Home blog and received a card from Chel at Sweetbriar Dreams.  Chel is a great photographer and shares many wonderful photos on her blog and the card she sent is a lovely snowy scene with iconic buildings in London in the background.  Receiving greetings cards from near and far is one of the pleasures of the season and as well as displaying some on the mantelshelf and on cabinet shelves many are tucked into a special folder fixed to a wall.  Thank you dear blog friends who have sent cards as well as gifts through the post and thank you Amy for organising the card swap. The link is here.

10 Dec 2016

Basilica di S. Prassede, Rome

Our time in Italy in November continued...
Not far from the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline Hill and up a narrow side-street off the Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore is the Basilica di Santa Prassede.  I had the opportunity to visit the church on the day we travelled back to the UK as it's only a short walk from the main train station where we take a break before taking a second train to get to the airport.  Churches are open at an early hour for a service and morning prayer which means that visitors and those working in the city can enter to spend a time of quiet contemplation.  I arrived just after 9 o'clock and already the dim interior was punctuated by the lights of votive candles and spot lighting. The mosaics decorating the walls surrounding the High Altar, the sanctuary and the side chapels gleamed and glittered whilst the frescoes in the nave were lit by the natural light coming in from the windows above.  

This 9th century church is dedicated to S. Prassede. It was built on a site where there was a 2nd century oratory and where, according to legend, a holy woman sheltered Christians on the run from persecution, collected the remains of those who had been martyred and placed them in a well for safe-keeping.  A red porphyry disc in the floor of the nave marks the spot where the well was located and where S. Prassede was buried.  It was thought that she was the daughter of a Roman senator, Pudens, who had been converted to Christianity.  Another church in the area is dedicated to her sister, Pudenziana, who also cared for victims of persecution and according to legend is the site where Pudens and his family lived. There is little evidence to confirm these stories although these smaller churches certainly received the remains of  some of the early Christians from the catacombs in later times.
Furthermore, the basilica is also well-known because it is decorated with the 9th century mosaics done by artists who came from Byzantium under the patronage of Pope Paschal I (817-824) who was later interred in the church. The small Chapel of St Zeno is the only chapel in Rome entirely covered in such mosaic decoration.  It was built as a future mausoleum for Pope Paschal's mother, Theodora. It contains the relics of St. Zeno, martyr, taken from one of the catacombs on the Appian Way. 
It was quite an experience to enter this small box-like room (a cubiculum) based on ones to be found in the catacombs. It was in darkness except for light coming in from a window in the ceiling. It's possible to put a coin in a machine before going into it. The chapel is then lit up for five minutes. I didn't do this and as I was concentrating mainly on the cross vaulted ceiling I missed much of the detail on the walls. (Flash photography is not allowed in the church). However, the iconography I saw was very meaningful as the light from the window focused on Christ Pantocrator ("all powerful"). On the walls are angels, figures such as John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, St. James and Andrew. 

a side chapel

the High Altar

Mosaics inside the apse show Christ among the clouds being blessed by the hand of God the Father. SS Peter and Paul have their arms around the shoulders of SS Prassede and Pudenziana as they are being presented to God. They are shown as Byzantine ladies, be-jewelled, dressed in cloth-of-gold and wearing red shoes indicating their status as heavenly princesses. On the far left one figure with the church building in his hands is Pope Paschal I. He has a square halo (a nimbus) which indicates that he was living at the time the mosaics were done. 
The theme of the Triumphal Arch mosaics high above the sanctuary is the Second Coming of Christ and the End of Time based on the description in St. John the Apostle's Book of Revelation.

        Archangel Gabriel (left) and  St. Matthew (right)            

The Chapel of St. Zeno

Next to the side entrance, which is the usual one for visitors to enter and leave the church, is a 13th century icon, the Madonna della Salute.

Going back out into the streets and the world of the 21st century was a strange experience although I needed to get back to my husband who was waiting with the hand luggage in the Termini train station. There were wonderful buildings to see along the way such as the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore which I featured on a blog post in April.  The high security presence of police vans, soldiers, check-in tents with x-ray machines outside for visitors who wished to visit the basilica was still there.

a detail of the fountain at the base of 
 the Column of Peace, in Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore

the back of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the Piazza dell'Esquilino

The granite obelisk in the piazza was taken from the entrance to the Mausoleum of Augustus.

Hotels and shops were getting ready for Christmas with their decorations.