Thursday, 27 December 2012

Favourite photos

These are some of my favourite photographs of places I have visited over the years

The first is the dome of the 15th-century Gur Emir, the tomb of the great conquerer Tamerlane, as seen from our hotel in Samarkand. The old local saying was; "If the sky should fall, the dome of the Gur Emir could replace it".

At the other end of the Islamic world we have the Alhambra in Granada, the last great flowering of Moslem architecture in Spain. Moslem forces overran almost all of Spain in the 8th century, and established a separate Caliphate at Cordoba. The Christian reconquest began in the 11th century, and Granada was the last city to fall, in 1492, to the armies of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

Next are two landscape pictures, the first being a sunset over Corfu. I think the sky colour is worthy of a Claude Lorrain painting; though Claude would have included in the foreground some very tiny figures acting out a Biblical or Classical scene.

This one is the view down from Dracula's castle in Romania. When I looked down into this deep, mist-shrouded valley, I was not surprised that Bram Stoker thought the place was haunted. However, it turned out he never ventured anywhere near, but got all his information from guide-books!

Next are two pictures from France. The first is the great Renaissance staircase in the chateau of Blois, on the Loire. It was in the upstairs room here that in 1588 the Duc de Guise, leader of the Catholic League, was stabbed to death on the orders of King Henry III. The King did not enjoy his triumph for long, being himself assassinated by a Catholic fanatic the next year.

Less than a century later, this is the first of the great baroque chateaux: Vaux-le-Vicomte. It was built in the 1650s for Nicholas Fouquet, the minister of finance early in the reign of Louis XIV. The King was invited to the grand opening in 1661. Nineteen days later Fouquet was arrested, charged with embezzlement, and sentenced to imprisonment for life; and his architects, decorators and garden designers were taken to work on the new royal palace at Versailles. (Some people have suggested that Fouquet in prison was the original "man in the iron mask", but this seems to be incorrect)

Finally two pictures of religious sites. The first is Delphi, known to the ancient Greeks as "the navel of the world". Here we are at the top row of the theatre; the building immediately below being the great Temple of Apollo, where for centuries the priestesses would transmit oracles from the god. The road to the temple snakes up from the gulf below, and in ancient  times would have been lined with shrines and monuments. Up above us is the Stadium; the setting for one of the four great Games festivals of Ancient Greece; of which the one held at Olympia is, of course, the most famous.

The last picture is St Peter's cathedral in Rome. You need a high vantage-point to really appreciate the great dome, so this is taken from the Castel San Angelo; the ancient tomb of Hadrian which was adapted to be the fortress of the Renaissance Popes. In 1527 Pope Clement VII barely escaped with his life to the Castel as the armies of the Emperor Charles V stormed into Rome, and one can imagine him looking across at his still-unfinished cathedral while down below the Imperial soldiers sacked and pillaged the city. The Papacy was never again as powerful as it had been before this disaster.

I hope to show more pictures later.

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