Friday, April 18, 2014

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is a church founded by St. Helena in AD 320. She was the mother of Emperor Constantine (the first Christian emperor) and had just returned from the Holy Land. While there, she discovered relics from Christ's crucifixion. She built the church in her private palace (which was then on the outskirts of town). It soon became a place of pilgrimage.

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome

The relics include some of the wood from the cross (croce means cross), one of the nails, two thorns from the crown of thorns, and Pontius Pilate's sign declaring Jesus's crime, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." The sign is often abbreviated on crosses and crucifixes as INRI, which are the initials of the Latin version, Iesus Nazarensus, Rex Iudaeorum). Photography is not allowed in the church but they did have this holy card showing the reliquary of the piece of the True Cross.

Reliquary of the fragment of the True Cross

I guess I should have checked the back and found one in English!

One chapel has a photographic, life-size reproduction of the Shroud of Turin on the wall. In the corner is a crucifix showing the wounded body of Christ as He appears on the shroud. At first, we were reluctant to let either Jacob or Lucy see it since it might have been disturbing for them. Jacob asked insistently to see it, so we let him. He was fine. Lucy was not interested and was probably too young (four and a half to Jacob's six years old). Jacob kept chatting about it and how Lucy might have had nightmares if she had seen it.

In the crypt is a statue of St. Helena, which was originally a statue of the Roman goddess Juno. The second artist replaced the head and arms and added a cross to make Constantine's mom.

In the vestibule outside they had a Christmas tree (along with their "no photography" sign).

Christmas tree!

Too bad this sign wasn't in English

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, Rome

For the end of Holy Week, we present some churches from Rome each day, up to and including Easter Sunday!

Sant'Ignazio di Loyola is a 17th century church built to honor the founder of the Jesuit order, St. Ignatius of Loyola. He was a leading figure in the Counter Reformation and the church reflects the exuberance and zeal of Catholicism in that time.

Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, Rome

The interior is full of paintings and sculptures and frescoes. Just walking in is breath-taking.


Ceiling fresco (click to enlarge)

Jesuit preacher

Amazing side altar of the Annunciation

The church was supposed to have a dome but it was never built, so a forced perspective painting achieves the proper effect as visitors enter.

View of the "dome" as you enter

The "dome" from directly below

The main altar has the Baroque exuberance of the 17th century.

Main altar

Frecso above the altar

Several monuments are in the church as well, including a fantastic one to Pope Gregory XV who commissioned the church.

Pope Gregory XV memorial

St. Robert Bellarmine

A large model in a side chapel depicts various church fascades from around the world. Jacob and Lucy were naturally fascinated by this as well as the small nativity in the church (we visited around New Years 2014).

Model of churches

Detail from model

Nativity with magi approaching

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Green Man Cottage, Redmile, England

We wanted to rent a house that was near Leicester and found one in the small town of Redmile, England. The house is the Green Man Cottage, which appealed to us since the description included a playground and a pub nearby.

Green Man Cottage, Redmile

The house is very comfortable and fit the four of us perfectly. We loved the wood stove in the living room even if it wasn't strictly necessary in March.

Living room

Even better was the little care package for new arrivals including plenty of stuff for breakfast: a loaf of bread, some jams, tea, coffee, local porridge, and fresh eggs from the chickens next door (can't get more local than that!).

A delightful surprise!

The house had plenty of Green Men decorating it too, like the fellow looming over the food.

One green man

Another green man (who's really green-colored!)

No one really knows how the tradition of decorating a building (secular or ecclesiastical) with faces surrounded by leaves (if not made from leaves) started, but green men are popular in many different cultures. They seem more dominant here in England. People think the symbolism represents rebirth or fertility or springtime. After a very cloudy, damp, and dark winter I can see the joy in celebrating the coming of springtime.

In the back garden, we were surprised to see a more famous icon of British culture, though we did not see the inhabitant wandering around.


View from the back garden of the house

The nearby church has both a graveyard and a playground next to it. We chose to visit the playground, which may have been Jacob's favorite part of the trip. He liked playing basketball with a hoop his size and climbing the rope ladder not attached to the ground (it looked very difficult). Lucy loved riding the camel. Jacob and Lucy rode the camel at one point and sang the Wise Men song "Riding on a Camel" from their Nativity play last Christmas.

The playground

More of the playground

Jacob's basketball skills in use

Jacob makes the tough ascent

Lucy on a camel

Sadly, the local pub was closed. Fitting in with the nativity theme, there was no room at the inn!

The Peacock Inn, ready for new management

No rooms at the Inn!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Random Bits of Leicester, England

Here's some more of Leicester!

The car park where King Richard III's bones were found is undergoing massive renovations (as is quite a bit of the surrounding area). We visited in March 2014 and the place will probably be a lot more impressive in a year or two (perhaps right now if you are reading long after I write it).

Richard III's burial ground

We wandered around to see other sites. In the pedestrianized downtown area is the clock tower, providing vital information and a fun spot to rendezvous if people get separated.

Clock tower

Over near the castle grounds is St. Mary de Castro, the church where Geoffrey Chaucer got married in 1336. It looked like it wasn't open so we just took a picture from afar.

Trees and scaffolding do not a good picture make

Near the church is the Magazine Gateway, so called because it was the main gunpowder and weapon depot for the town during the English Civil War. Prior to the war, it was known as the Newarke Gate, an entrance into the city from the neighborhood of Newarke. The sign says that Richard III's body was probably carried through this gate after his death on Bosworth Field.

Magazine Gateway

We had lunch in town at a local pub which was rather unremarkable, except for Lucy's enormous hot dog.

Lucy was very gleeful

Plenty of shops line the streets of Leicester, but two in particular caught my eye. The Very Bazaar is just a cool name for a store; Shakespeares Head sounds a bit threatening, as if local Richard III supporters want some payback for centuries of Tudor propaganda passing itself off as great art.

The Very Bazaar

Shakespeares Head--maybe it's just a public toilet he used?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Newarke Houses Museum, Leicester, England

Newarke Houses Museum is a fun museum about 20th century Leicester spread over two 16th century mansions (houses on Newarke Street, hence the name). The building has a good variety of exhibits appealing to most every age and taste.

The entrance

Side view of the museum

The first room has displays of the industrial history of Leicester, including an old time clock for workers.

Clock for clocking in to work

An old grocer's store

Jacob and Lucy were much more interested in the toy exhibit, which has some items for playing. Lucy's favorite was a horse-stick. Jacob played most with a plastic bowling ball and pins.

Jacob looks at some classic toys

20th century toys!

Ride 'em, Lucy!

Also downstairs is the Paneled Room, which recreates the 1645 conditions of the locals. The family was fairly affluent as can be seen from the decor.

Paneled Room

Downstairs also has a recreation inspired by 1950s-era Wharf Street in Leicester.

1950's street

Jolly Angler pub

The grocer's store (different from the one above!)

The top floor of the museum is dedicated to the military. The history of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment is described along with many mementos both serious and fun.

History of Royal Leicestershire Regiment

Some weapons

Tiger-head snuff box!

The museum has a recreation of a World War I trench with sounds and lights flashing. The kids weren't too scared to go through.

In the trench

A small room with bunks

A machine gun

Soldiers often adopted stray dogs as companions and to help with the rat problem. This dog (who was named "Rats") was so popular that he was stuffed for display.

Rats the dog

World War II items include the usual variety of gear along with a display on the Women's Land Army. Young women who didn't join the military forces could go and work on farms to keep the local production of food as high as possible.

Women's Land Army display

The museum also has a Morrison Shelter. It's a steel table with metal legs and mesh on the sides. If people couldn't make it to an air raid shelter, they could hide under the table during an air raid. Otherwise, it functioned as a kitchen table. 500,000 were distributed by 1941 and it is named after Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary in charge of air raid precautions.

Morrison Shelter

The museum also features a treasure hunt trail for children, looking for family crests and other nice decorations sprinkled throughout the museum. Jacob and Lucy weren't particularly interested in doing it but I did find some nice items.

A family coat-of-arms

Even fancier coat-of-arms display

An eagle!

Some random paneling