Local Heart, Global Soul

May 28, 2013

It’s Hard to Tear Myself Away, But Finally Through All The Detail, …I Find The Door

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It’s not only stained glass that sets my artistic senses humming… there are carved  plaques, massive wooden doors,  carved cherubs and acanthus leaves, both in wood and stone.

Here in Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) in Mechelen, Belgium, there are grand columns with exquisite trailing vines twined around them,  a statue of the Virgin Mary with amazing  painted detail on her gown… or the font, also in carved  and embellished in red, blue/green and gold paint.

The acanthus leaves continue around the top of the central columns, or on the base of a plinth holding a very large candlestick.  It’s a detail fanatics heaven and this detail fanatic is in her element.

Of course these photos are not only here for me to drool over and to share with you, they are also part of my  artistic “inspiration file”…

…where better to study flowing drapery and beautiful forms than from the examples of skilled artisans who preceded us through centuries past. It’s a lesson on how to get things right. It’s a history lesson and an art lesson all rolled into one. I can only hope that the spirits of these people somehow know that they continue to inspire people centuries after they have gone.  This is my last post about the inside of Sint-Romboutskathedraal, but it’s certainly not the last time I intend visiting here.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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acanthus and patterns 1j (Small)

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acanthus and patterns 1q (Small)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 27, 2013

Glorious Coloured Light….

Today I bring you one of my last posts from Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) in Mechelen, Belgium. Naturally there is more stained glass here than I can manage to document in one visit… here’s an overview of some of the stunning windows.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 26, 2013

Almost Three Hundred Years of Speaking Out from This Amazing Platform…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You know you are looking at the skill of accomplished craftsmen when you cast your eyes on this pulpit.

Crafted in 1723  it’s an amazing piece of wood carving (not to mention also exceptionally large).  Even here in the Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) in Mechelen, Belgium, which is by no means a small building, this piece of woodwork is imposing.

There is an information plague close by that tells me: “Pulpit (1723) by Michiel Vervoort, originally made for the chapel of the Norbertine sisters. At the top of the right side: the fall of man, at the left : the salvation. At the bottom St. Norbert (1080-1134) is flung from his horse, whereupon he has been converted.”

I love the idea that for the past two hundred and ninety years people who have visited and worshiped in this cathedral have been able to admire this beautiful piece of wood carving.  I ask myself what piece of wood carving made anywhere in the world this year would still be in such good shape in almost 300 years from now?

More information tells me:

Chapel of Our-Lady-of-Sorrows, Former chapel of the grocer’s guild. After the First World War it was dedicated to our Lady of Sorrows in memory of the priests of the archdiocese killed during the war. Wooden sculpture “Christ in the grave”(Thomas Hasaert, 16th Century).

Painting (1775) with scenes of the legend of St. Rombout. Statues (the Martyrs of Gorcum) of an altar destroyed in 1914.

There’s a plaque as well about the box-shaped shrine in the far corner:

“Engraving by H.F. Diamaer of the Saint Rumbold shrine of 1631. The silver of the shrine was smelted in 1797 by the French in the Mint in Brussels. The reliquary on display in this chapel is its remaining timber framework.

In 1802 after the concordat it was covered in red velvet, braids, embroidery and silver-paper decorations so that it once again could be used to keep the bones of Saint Rumbold. With this simple decoration it was brought back into use “(…?) The Dutch in the last part of the text is very vague and I was unable to make sense of it.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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May 25, 2013

The Artform of Longevity…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The next parts of  Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) in Mechelen, Belgium to catch my attention are the details of a crypt,  the main altar area, a fixture that I assume might be a confessional, beautiful candelabra  candle lamp and several massive triptych paintings.

I have no idea who the man is who is buried in this black ornamented tomb, (possibly someone of more modern times?) but the book at the end of it is striking for it’s bold single branch motif, timeless in it’s simplicity and design.

The altar is located in the Chancel section of the cathedral. Unfortunately renovations in this area meant that getting closer for more detailed photographs was an impossibility so I put my zoom lens to work to capture what I could.

Information boards tell me that the triptych paintings are done by Jan Snellinck (1544-1638) and Michiel Coxcie (1499-1592) respectively and to be honest what grabbed my attention even more than these enormous paintings, was the fact that  each of these artists had an amazing long lifespan: 94 and 93 years of age respectively.

We tend to think that most people in the Middle Ages had an exceptionally short lifespan by today’s standards, but here are two artists with paintings in the same cathedral and each well past 90 years of age… was longevity underreported in those days? or were perhaps these gentlemen blessed by good genes, luck and a less hazardous occupation than most? (artists in general usually did not age well in historical times because paints often contained toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead, mercury and sulfides). Luckily these men appear to be exceptions…

Jan Snellinck (1544-1638)  Triptych “Christ resurrected, with St. Peter and St. Paul”(oil on wood, 1601) Side panels: “Annunciation to the Holy Virgin” and “ Nativity surrounded by angels with tools of torture”. Painted for the Merchants Guild.

Michiel Coxcie (1499-1592) Triptych “The Martyrdom of Saint George” (oil on wood, 1588).Side panels: “The trial of Saint George”and “The Beheading of Saint George”. Painting for the old Crossbowman’s Guild”. Back in the South Aisle there is a candelabra  with detailed fretwork and the wood carvings of the choir are also ornate.

There’s a place that I think must be the confessional… where I note that the space where the parishioner sits appears to be considerably less comfortable and private than the space of the priest. Double punishment for the sinners?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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May 24, 2013

Scroll Down For Amazing Scrollwork… In Glass!

The stained glass of  Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) in Mechelen, Belgium has drawn me back like a magnet. This time the window I’m in awe of  is full of what I will call “ribbons”… flowing scrollworks that often contain text and are beautifully arranged into the design. These photographs are also here because they are part of my “art inspiration file” . I think I will let this post speak for itself…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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May 23, 2013

The World’s Population Grows… But are Our Hands-On Skills Getting Less and Less?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m still in Belgium, in Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) and in this post am busy admiring the large statues on the inside of the columns that line the Nave of the church (the long bottom section of  a “t” shaped church).

Not only are these statues large, they are also very detailed, some have additional supporting ornamentation such as birds, books, a staff,  a chalice etc.

Each of the statues stands on a supporting plinth that protrudes out from the main column and each of the plinths in turn are decorated by individual markers.

The markers depict shells, scroll work,  angelic cherubs, acanthus leaves, fruit (especially pomegranate) and cornucopia.The statues depict Saints (There were at least 12 and maybe 14 of them (I forgot to count and because the cathedral is so big, do not have  photograph that captures them all) and they are situated in opposing pairs on the columns that separate the Nave from the North and South Aisles.

Due to the presence of the crane doing renovations in the middle of one section of the Nave I couldn’t get close enough to photograph all of them, or to the statues at the tower end of the Nave.

It’s certainly a time when I wished I had a zoom lens that zoomed in further (but at the same time on the plus side am also very pleased that I’ve upgraded from the little pocket camera).

Next my attention is captivated by what looks like a very large monument in the South Aisle… more angels and ornamentation…

…and then, in this amazingly ornate church, it’s back to the tower end of the South Aisle where  a winged male angel is appearing with what looks like a torch before a kneeling man in flowing robes (possibly a reference to the Angel of the Lord appearing to Moses in a flame? or the angel that appeared to Joseph, husband of Mary)

I love stonework and if I had a tripod, better light and a whole day here, would be most happy taking photographs of every detail in every nook and cranny.  I deeply admire the work of the sculptors and stone masons and muse to myself that although we probably count ourselves to be “more advanced”  these days in the 21st Century, reality probably is that despite the population of the world having grown three or  fourfold since these statues were crafted,  that there are far fewer people in the world today who would be able to execute a carving of this size and detail. We have gained expertise in so many technical fields, but are apparently losing them in some important ones too.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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May 22, 2013

Whole Sections Are Closed to The Public, But I Still Have The Feeling I’m Being Watched…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Old buildings  are invariably  money pits when it come to keeping up with the renovations.

Family Kiwidutch live in a 1930’s home that was untouched for years before we bought it and know only too well how the funds we set aside each month in the “house fund” seemingly melt away like water into a sponge when the roof need repairing, the heating needs upgrading and the electrics need redoing.

I can’t begin to imagine the repair bills for a medieval building that’s a zillion times bigger than our apartment  or the scale of the work considering that everything has to be meticulously kept in the style and  a large group of specialists need to be involved.

Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) in Mechelen, Belgium was undergoing major repairs whilst I was there so major sections of the north and south Transepts and the Apse (or in other words: the top part of the “t” shape of the church) were closed off to the public.

There’s a sectioned off area in the Nave too, where the tower meets the church and a bright red mini crane was inside, although not actually working when I was inside.

In the apse there were massive chunks of stonework being taken out of the floor, probably in order to strengthen the foundations or the crypts below and I’m yet again stunned at the size of the masonry bits being moved and seriously in awe of how the people who built this place got them into place  in the first place concidering the technology available in the 12th Century.

It’s hard to take beautiful serene photographs when construction equipment is in the way, so I zoomed in instead on some of the detailed pieces of stonework that surround me in all the cathedral’s nooks and crannies.

Often the zoom lens belies the fact that there are barriers and construction equipment just fractionally out of shot,  so I’ll leave you guessing which of the photos were heavily cropped for this very reason. I also suddenly realise that in this particular cathedral someone had an intense fascination with angels.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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May 21, 2013

They Probably Situate Glass Like This High Up So You Can’t Drool On It…

Place: Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) in Mechelen, Belgium. Date: a few days after Easter 2013, Weather: atrocious, Time: limited.

Sigh, I’m back to drooling over stained glass. I only managed the lower reaches of this magnificent window, but the detail, swoon… the detail… If I believed in reincarnation (sadly I don’t; as one wit stated it better than I can: “that’s carrying recycling a little too far“) but if I did, I think I may have been maker of stained glass windows in a former life… or a stonemason, or a maker of fine iron tracery… or all of the above.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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May 20, 2013

I Wanted So Badly To Break All The Rules And Jump Over The Barrier…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sometimes as an amatur photographer in a public place, you come across something you really really want to photograph but are severely limited by the location, available space and light.

Such was the case when I saw these amazing heraldic shields inside the south transept of  Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) in Mechelen.

The skies were leaden and outside it was bucketing down with rain so the light quality was probably about as bad as it could get, but even so I could see the  quality of the detail in these shields.

My next obstacle was that the entire alcove that contained these was roped off and so I was forced to try and photograph these at a distance and at strange angles.

It’s frustrating to be completely captivated by the thought of how good these images could look, but to be so restricted to trying to achieve them.

Wikipedia’s only note on the shields is that they are “small heraldic shields dating from the Thirty Knights of the Golden Fleece chapter meetings presided in the church by young Philip the Handsome while his Burgundian inheritance was still under guardianship of his father” and my general searching in the Dutch language only kept turning up repeated images of the heraldic images pertaining to the city of Machelen itself.

Since these are some of the oldest items in cathedral and date before 1566, I am dismayed to not find out more about their history, but I suspect that there might possibly be some separate local dialect Vlaamse (Flemish) search terms that I don’t know and this might be why my searches have been unsuccessful so far.

My first photograph gives you a fairly good idea of the kind of light conditions I was facing, and reality can not be more stark than it is here: the human eye picks up a hundred times more detail than the camera lens ever can and these,  even in low light and bad angles I can guarantee that these contain masses more detail than I managed to capture with the camera.

I also use the phrase “jump over the barrier” in a figurative manner… as you can guess, a lady two years on crutches after an accident is probably in quite enough trouble already, and the phrase “if you are in a hole, …stop digging” was a phrase that sprang to mind. (expect I wasn’t “springing” either).

On the “fair weather” visit we made a few weeks afterwards, I simply didn’t have time to go back inside the cathedral, but if we manage a third visit here then I will make a point of trying to do so… and will pray too that the weather will be on my side next time round.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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May 19, 2013

Enlightened About a Black Madonna, Surrounded by Angels…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Just a little further down the south aisle of Sint-Romboutskathedraal (St. Rumbold’s Cathedral) is a Blank Madonna. From Wikipedia (link below) I learn:

“There are about 450–500 Black Madonnas in Europe, depending on how they are classified.

A Black Madonna (or Black Virgin)  is a statue or painting of Mary in which she is depicted with dark skin, especially those created in Europe in the medieval period or earlier.

The Black Madonnas are generally found in Catholic areas. The term refers to a type of Marian statue or painting of mainly medieval origin (12C-15C), with dark or black features whose exact origins are not always easy to determine.

The statues are mostly wooden but occasionally stone, often painted and up to 75 cm tall. They fall into two main groups: free-standing upright figures and seated figures on a throne. The pictures are usually icons which are Byzantine in style, often made in 13th or 14th century Italy.

 There are at least 180 Vierges Noires in France, and there are hundreds of non-medieval copies as well. Some are in museums, but most are in churches or shrines and are venerated by devotees. A few are associated with miracles and attract substantial numbers of pilgrims.

 The first notable study of the origin and meaning of the so-called Black Madonnas in English appears to have been presented by Leonard Moss at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Dec. 28, 1952.

Moss broke the images into three categories: 1) dark brown or black madonnas with physiognomy and skin pigmentation matching that of the indigenous population; 2) various art forms that have turned black as a result of certain physical factors such as: deterioration of lead-based pigments; accumulated smoke from the use of votive candles; and accumulation of grime over the ages, and 3) residual category with no ready explanation.”

I took quite a few photographs of the Sint-Romboutskathedraal’s Black Madonna, the icon sits raised above a marble table or altar, on which in turn sit four large candles and a flowering plant. I didn’t feel that it would be appropriate to move the items on the table in order to take better photos so tried to do my best around them.

The metalwork embellished frame that surrounds the Black Madonna depicts stylized rose bushes and leaves and beautiful angels and four saints (or apostles?) in the corners. The Madonna herself is so dark (I think also additionally so with age) that it was really hard to get a photo with decent detail so I concentrated more on the beautiful panels in the frame.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Rumbold’s_Cathedral

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Madonna

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