Monday 28 October 2013

St. Jude storm

Evening in Croatia
Do hope that my UK blogging friends and those in western Europe have not suffered any damage or problems during the St. Jude storm. When retiring last night we wondered what we might find when we opened the shutters this morning, but for some unkown reason the storm completely passed us by. Hope everything is well with you all. 

Thursday 24 October 2013

Diocletian's Palace - Split

all above images via
A collotype illustration by Robert Adam (1764) of the Peristyle known today as Peristile Square - In Hellenistic Greek and Roman architecture a peristyle is a columned porch or open colonnade in a building surrounding a court that may contain a garden.
Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace in Split at the end of the 3rd century AD ready for his retirement in 305 AD. It was so enormous that it now forms the ancient centre of modern day Split.
Diocletian was the 51st Emperor of the Roman Empire. Born to a family of low status in the Roman province of Dalmatia, he rose through the ranks of the military to become cavalry commander to the Emperor Carus whom he acceded on his death.
After the palace was abandoned by the Romans it remained empty for several centuries until during the 7th century nearby residents fled to the walled palace to escape invading barbarians. Since then the palace has been constantly occupied - within the walls wealthy families built themselves small renaissance palaces and others created homes wherever there was a space. Businesses and shops exist within the palace cellars, nestling in and around the original Roman arches. It is an extraordinary place to visit - the level of preservation along with the buildings of succeeding historical periods, stretching from Roman times onwards, is unique. 
The palace was built from very high quality marbleised limestone found on the island of Brač which I mentioned in a previous post.
The outside upper south wall showing the remains of the Imperial suite.
The palace is typically Roman in shape, being rectangular, each of the four surrounding walls having an entry gate in the middle. We entered the Palace cellars via the Brass Gate in the southern wall. People were selling handmade jewellery and art works - at the far end steps access Peristile Square. The Brass entrance gate originally led out to the Adriatic Sea and entry would have been by boat. 
Coming up to Peristil Square from the cellars, immediately behind you is the entrance to Diocletian's private quarters.
To the right of Peristile Square is the entrance to Diocletian's Mausoleum - now the Cathedral of St. Duje (also known as St. Domnius) which Bishop John of Ravenna converted during the 7th century. Not only is the cathedral the smallest in the world but it could also be considered the oldest being adapted from a 4th century Roman building.
At the side of the Cathedral it is still possible to recognise Diocletian's Mausoleum behind the bell tower. The tower was constructed in the year 1100 AD in the Romanesque style. Having climbed two high towers this year, I decided to give this one a miss.
At the foot of the Bell Tower and guarding the entrance to the Cathedral are two lions. 
Sphinx brought back from Egypt by Diocletian to decorate his palace dating back to 1500 BC. 
The entrance vestibule to the Emperor's living quarters was built to impress. Now resembling a mini Pantheon in Rome it was in fact built with a dome which was decorated with frescoes. It has perfect acoustics beloved of singers. I find it staggering just how sophisticated Roman architecture was when you consider that it was another 1100 years before Brunelleschi designed and built his dome in Florence.
Life as it is lived today within the palace walls.
A Renaissance palace of the patrician family of Karepić. The oldest parts of the palace indicate a Gothic rebuilding of a Romanesque house.
The inner courtyard of a late Gothic palace which belonged to a wealthy merchant. The oldest part of the palace is Romanesque, as confirmed by a fresco showing a peacock found on the second floor. Today it appears to be several homes plus a Travel Agency.
Outside the northern stretch of wall showing the Golden Gate entry. Of all the four entrances to the palace this one is architecturally the most elaborate and was probably the main entrance.
To the front of the Golden Gate is a statue of Gregory of Nin, a medieval Croatian bishop. He preached in the national language - previously services were only held in Latin which the common man could not understand. The statue is by local Croatian sculptor, Ivan Meštrović. He was also responsible for two important sculptures in America - The Spearman and The Bowman which stand as gatekeepers at the Congress Plaza, Chicago. 
Rubbing the foot is said to bring 'good luck', especially the big toe!!!
The west gate known as the Iron Gate is the principal link between the Palace and the 'new' medieval suburb.
The final gate in the east wall known as the Silver Gate leads out to a large open air market.
Outside the palace walls - a view of the waterfront at Split, and................
there are even a few Romans still lurking around the corners today!

Tuesday 22 October 2013

What is this plant called?

This is not one of my flower quizzes - I do not know the name of the flower below which I spotted growing wild in the pine forests of Croatia. It was not difficult to see as it grows very tall - it is sturdy and statuesque, the biggest being about 5 feet in height. The plant has a very thick strong stem at the base, rather like the stem on Brussel sprouts, which gradually tapers to the top.
We saw several of them growing under the trees, the only plant that they bore any resemblance to was the garden Delphinium.
STOP PRESS - the answer is found. Inge suggested a Campanula, and I have searched all the many varieties of which there are over 500 species. I found the answer on a website here photographed in the exact same pine forest on the Makarska Riviera, Croatia as mine. It is called a Campanula PYRAMIDALIS
On this photo it is possible to see how thick the stem is even towards the top of the plant.
At the top of the plant the stem becomes quite slender.
I have done this 'mock up' of a brussel sprout stem. Hopefully it will give some indication as to the size and robustness of the stem at its base which I neglected to photograph .

Saturday 19 October 2013

Tucepi, Makarska Riviera, Croatia

We came one Spring, the scent of wildflowers filled the air.  We saw rare wild orchids hiding under trees along the forest paths hugging the coast. The Biokovo mountains soared up to clear blue skies behind the villa, perfect for H to climb, Villa Kastelet itself a gem - we made a promise that we would return one day. 
Previously we visited beautiful Dubrovnik
and took a boat to the Island of Brač
famed for its marbled Dolomitic limestone which has built many landmark buildings around the world.
There were places that we did not have time to visit, and so we returned for an Autumn sojourn. 
Villa Kastelet means 'little castle' and was built in 1766 as a summer residence for Abbot Grubišić - it was a place where he could entertain many famous and scholarly people. Now it is a charming small hotel with a stone barrel vaulted ceiling to the entrance lobby, an atrium/courtyard to sit and relax with a coffee, and a restaurant serving traditional Croatian food. The Adriatic sea laps the beach just 10 metres from the villas entrance.
We have returned home feeling fitter, following our long daily walks, refreshed, and relaxed - our faces and limbs kissed by the sun.
Thank you for your lovely comments and very kind wishes on the previous post.

Tuesday 8 October 2013


We are off to a land of a thousand islands and a lovely coastline. Rustic villages and UNESCO protected cities - may be we shall find some late summer sun.
Back soon

Monday 7 October 2013


Today so many of us are shocked and greatly saddened to learn that our dear blogging friend Madelief has lost her lovely husband, Jan. Our thoughts and love are with her and her beautiful daughters. 
"To live in hearts we leave behind
is not to die."

Sunday 6 October 2013

Tewkesbury and it's Abbey

The Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Tewkesbury was a former Benedictine monastery but is now the second largest parish church in England. The Chronicle of Tewkesbury records that the first Christian worship was brought to the area by Theoc, a missionary from Northumbria, who built his cell in the mid 7th century near a gravel spit where the Rivers Severn and Avon join together. The cell was succeeded by a monastery in 715 but no evidence of it has ever been found. In 1087, William the Conqueror gave the manor of Tewkesbury to his cousin who founded the present abbey in 1092. Building the present Abbey church did not start until 1102 and is built of Caen stone imported from Normandy and floated up the River Severn.
It is one of the finest Norman buildings in the country; below the western twin towers is this very tall unique Norman arch which houses a 17th century stained glass window. In the High Middle Ages, Tewkesbury became one of the richest abbeys in the country. After the Battle of Tewkesbury in the Wars of the Roses on 4th May 1471, some of the defeated Lancastrians sought sanctuary in the abbey, but the victorious Yorkists, led by King Edward lV, forced their way into the abbey, and the resulting bloodshed caused the building to be closed for a month until it could be purified and re-consecrated. The only reason the abbey was saved from destruction during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, was because the people of Tewkesbury insisted that it was their parish church which they had a right to keep safe. They bought it from King Henry Vlll for the value of its bells and lead roof which the king would have had salvaged and melted down, leaving the structure to become a roofless ruin. The price paid to the king was £453 - £257,470 as of 2013.
This tower is also considered to be unique being the largest Romanesque crossing tower in Europe
The nave
There are 14 massive Norman pillars in the nave which date from the initial construction. Beautiful, elegant and unadorned they too are unique being the largest in the UK; each is over 9 m tall and 1.8 m in diameter. As with most ancient churches these plain pillars would once have been elaborately painted.
The north porch entrance

A peaceful green oasis in the Abbey grounds
where we enjoyed our evening picnic sitting on these benches before heading off to the theatre.
The medieval town of Tewkesbury wears its historical past along many of it's streets.

The date on the wooden shield in the top righthand corner reads 1664
Charles Dickens referred to The Royal Hop Pole in the Pickwick Papers
Touching Souls is the name of this sculpture at the front of the Abbey. It is an exact replica of the same sculpture in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. Created by sculptor Mico Kaufman, it is cast in bronze and shows four children - native-American, European-American, African-American and Asian-American, sitting on the ground, legs outstretched, with the soles of their shoes touching. It is one of many links that bind the two places together.