Downside Abbey – March 2016

I’ve not long returned from a short retreat at Downside Abbey. The community couldn’t have been more kind and welcoming, and there’s nothing like a bit of Gothic Revival.

I only went for a couple of days, as I hadn’t been sure how I would react to being ‘off-line’ and bound by the daily offices. As it turned out, I wish I’d had a longer time there.

I’m still processing the experience, but I’m sure it’s something I’ll do again (if they’ll have me).

Canterbury January 2016 – The Cathedral

Saturday found us in Canterbury on a lovely, clear day. The Boy had never been to the cathedral, so we popped in to have a look. You can find lots and lots of amazing snaps online, so here are just a few things that caught my eye.

I’ve always loved this figure of Christ on the gatehouse to the cathedral precinct.

I’m not sure what these creatures are on one of the cathedral doorways, but I like them.

This candle burns on the spot where St Thomas a Becket’s shrine was, until it was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII., who also ‘unsainted’ him for good measure.

I was rather taken by the altar front…

…and restored painting.

Intrigued by this weekly service...

…and left wondering how many memorials record death by ‘an assassin’?

France August 2015 – Tonnerre

My blogging seems to have grown to a halt of late. I think it’s partly down to putting lots of stuff on Facebook, and partly because all my photos are on my elderly MacBook which is now going incredibly slowly. I need to find some way round it. 
Here are some photos from the summer.

We see Tonnerre from a distance when we travel down to Moulins-Engilbert. This August we finally made our way there. This is Hôtel-Dieu Notre-Dame des Fontenilles…this fabulous old hospital building, founded in 1293, is now a museum and art space.

Photos really can’t capture the amazing space.

It was a shame about the art exhibition, which was uniformly dire.

On the floor is this lovely eighteenth-century sundial, the elongated figure of eight. It used to be marked out in copper, but that was stolen during the French revolution.

At the back of the main hall, down some steps, is this beautiful entombment of Christ, which dates from 1454.

Tonnerre is also home to the Fosse Dionne, which is a natural deep water source, used from Roman times. It’s last incarnation was a public washhouse.

Sadly, when we were there, the water level was quite low.

It was easy to imagine a creature lurking in the depths.

France August 2015 – St-Père-sous-Vézelay

When we first started visiting Burgundy about 15 years ago this church was in a very poor state.

There’s been a lot of restoration work in the last few years…

…but there’s still a lot to do.

I’m glad it’s happening…

…as it’s such a beautiful church.

Despite there being a car park, tourists park all over the place. I love that this householder has put cones out, but made them look pretty.

Milan 2015 – The Duomo

Milan cathedral

…has a very strict dress code…

…and a beautiful floor.

At the moment it’s home to an exhibition by the sculptor Tony Cragg

This is St Bartholomew who was flayed alive. A number of people were taking selfies in front of him…each to their own I guess.

Up on the roof we were able to see this lady…

…this beast and his pal.

The boy fits in quite well!

The stone work is absolutely lovely…

…so delicate…

…and clearly takes a lot of upkeep.

I found these steps rather scary.

The majority of the exhibition was up on the cathedral terraces.

Watching them being installed must be quite something!

It really is quite magical up there.

Milan 2015 – Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio

The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio was first built between 379-386. It’s undergone various rebuilds and restorations…

…and the current structure is 12thC.

Even the anti-burgler devices are stylish.

As ever, I was drawn to the stone carvings. This friar…

…a centaur…

…a green man…

…weird creatures…

…weird creatures with big teeth.

This is the ‘devil’s column’. The legend is that the holes were made by the devil when he got stuck by the horns when fighting St Ambrose. It’s said that if you put your ear to it, you can hear the sounds of hell. I did, and I didn’t.

Burgundy 2014 (Le Retour) – Mont-Saint-Vincent

After our inadvertent detour we made it to the hilltop town of Mont-Saint-Vincent.

It’s a beautiful, little place…

…and the main attraction is the Cluniac church…

…built in the late 11thC and early 12thC.

…which lost its steeple during the French revolution.

The Cluniac monks left the church in 1506…

…after having a community there for over 500 years.

There were more of my favourite capitals.

It was nice to wander around the village…

…there were lots of lovely little details…

…including door furniture…

…hanging signs…

…chickens…

…and doves.

Burgundy 2014 (Le Retour) – Gourdon

We decided to take a trip to the beautiful chapel at Berzé-la-Ville. On the way, we noticed that the church at Mont-Saint-Vincent, was marked with two stars on the Michelin map. On the spur of the moment, we decided to take a detour to look at it. We turned off the road to early, and discovered an absolute jewel of an Romanesque church in Gourdon.

We realised that the church must be worth looking at when we saw signs for a coach park.

We wandered around in silence…

…staring in wonder at the wonderful paintings.

It just shows how many wonderful churches there are in this part of the world, the Gourdon wasn’t marked as an attraction on the map.

I thought the chaps at the back were rather fun.

I assume that they’re bishops…

…the hats were especially good.

The remains of this painting seemed to be slightly newer.

However, my favourite, as ever, were the capitals.

These weren’t the most sophisticated we’ve seen…

…but they had a real strength.

Burgundy 2014 (Le Retour) – Bourges

Another new place for us this trip, was to Bourges, out of the Nièvre into the Cher…

…it’s twined with Peterborough, who have the best of it methinks.

I loved this sundial…

…I wasn’t quite sure how to read it.

The cathedral is very impressive…

…it’s the earliest example of High Gothic in the 13th C.

The main phase of construction was contemporaneous with Chartes.

I loved all the intricate details…

…especially this wooden door.

There was vaulting…

nice doorways…

…and lovely, lovely stained glass.

This hell mouth was rather fun…

…and I loved these jaunty devils.

The astronomical clock was restored with funds provided by EDF…

 …when André was on the donations committee.

This is the door to the Sacristy.

Sadly, the Boy wasn’t feeling very well, so we didn’t have much more time in the city. However, we did see this lovely post office.

That’s more like it, isn’t it Virginia?