Pompey's Pillar is a Roman triumphal column in Alexandria, Egypt, and the largest of its type constructed outside the imperial capitals of Rome and Constantinople. The only known free-standing column in Roman Egypt which was not composed of drums, it is one of the largest ancient monoliths and one of the largest monolithic columns ever erected. The monolithic column shaft measures 67 feet (20.46 meters) in height with a diameter of almost 8 feet (2.71 meters) at its base. The weight of this single piece of red Aswan granite is estimated at 285 tons. When you include the base and capital, it is 88 feet (26.85) tall, just over half the width of a football field or 12 stories high. In the middle ages the Crusaders mistakenly believed that the ashes, or the remains, of the great Roman general Pompey were in a pot at the top of the column. Thus today it is called “Pompey's Pillar”. Erroneously dated to the time of Pompey, the Corinthian column was actually built in 297 CE, commemorating the victory of Roman emperor Diocletian over an Alexandrian revolt. The size and weight of the column (it is really huge up close) is probably the reason it has been preserved from antiquity.
We visited Reims last summer to visit the cathedral and to just look around. Unfortunately I never got around to posting the pictures so I thought I would do it now. Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. The outstanding handling of new architectural techniques in the 13th century, and the harmonious marriage of sculptural decoration with architecture, has made Notre-Dame in Reims one of the masterpieces of Gothic art. The former abbey still has its beautiful 9th-century nave, in which lie the remains of Archbishop St Rémi (440–533), who instituted the Holy Anointing of the kings of France. The former archiepiscopal palace known as the Tau Palace, which played an important role in religious ceremonies, was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century.
The Pena palace stands on the top of a hill, on a rocky outcropping, above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. The palace’s history started in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena was built on the top of the hill above Sintra. According to tradition, the construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The original building, once occupied by the Jerónimos monks, dates from 1503. In the 18th century the monastery was severely damaged by lightning. However, it was the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, occurring shortly afterwards, that took the heaviest toll on the monastery, reducing it to ruins. Palácio da Pena originated in 1839, when the king consort Fernando II acquired the ‘Our Lady of Pena Monastery’ ruins to adapt it to a palace. The Pena palace is one of the best examples of 19th-century Romantic revivalism in Portugal.
The name Waltham derives from weald or wald “forest” and ham “homestead” or “enclosure”. The name of the ancient parish as a whole is Waltham Holy Cross, but the use of the name Waltham Abbey for the town seems to have originated in the 16th century. Waltham Abbey is one of those towns whose history is interwoven with that of its most important building, the Abbey itself. The riverside site of the town together with the well drained gravel terrain attracted early settlers. There are traces of prehistoric and Roman settlement in the town. Ermine Street lies only 5 km west and the causeway across the River Lea from Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire may be a Roman construction. Radiocarbon dating places a church and one grave from the 7th century.
Gargoyles, sometimes called grotesques, are thought to date back to the 12th century. You will find them all over Europe on Gothic buildings as a means of directing water away from the building – water spouts. During the Middle Ages gargoyles became the popular form of these water spouts as I have shown in my previous post on Notre Dame Paris. The ones shown above are apparently “just for fun” and have at least three explanations. The stone masons were bored and looking for things to do, they are there to ward off evil and/or they were set on the churches to encourage pagans (who often believed in animal gods) to join the church. Gargoyles were used as a representation of evil. It is also thought that they were used to scare people into coming to church, reminding them that the end of days is near. It is thought that their presence symbolically assured congregants that evil is kept outside of the church’s walls.