This and That

Random bits of my life

Posts Tagged ‘church’

Strahov Monastery

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 31, 2013


The Strahov Monastery, founded in 1149, is a magnificent Premonstatensian abbey located a short walk from the Prague castle complex. If I had done more research on this site, I would have booked a tour that allows one full access to its famous libraries. I did get a few photos from the doorway (in another posting). I visited it twice, once very quickly with Ivan, a photo guide, and another time with my husband. These photos were taken on two different days. The view above was taken from the path leading down to the castle.

Facade of the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady (Baroque reconstruction from 1742). It was open the first day but I didn’t have time to go in.


It was closed the second day, so this photo of the basilica was taken through the window of the locked door.


Gilded iron fence surrounding the basilica:


Facade of the library building.


Vineyards behind the moanstery, looking towards St. Vitus Cathedral.


St. Vitus Cathedral on the left, Vitava River on the right:


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St. George’s Basilica, Prague Castle

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 11, 2013


St. George’s Basilica is the oldest church in the Prague castle complex. Although it was founded in 920, most of the present building was constructed in 1142 after a major fire. The 17th century facade of the basilica is early Baroque, so I expected a dark interior with twisted columns, lots of little chapels. I certainly wasn’t expecting a Romanesque interior.


The nave is often described as austere and monumental. The tomb with the rose belongs to a member of the Přemyslovci (Premyslid) family. The Přemyslovci were the first royal Czech dynasty, ruling the Czech principality and parts of Poland and Hungary until the early 1300s.




The Gothic chapel of St. Ludmila of Bohemia (first Czech martyr and the grandmother of Wenceslas) is not accessible to the public but I managed to get a shot of the entrance and grillwork from the main nave.


The crypt is 12th century, with a black statue of Brigitte. She is portrayed with a decaying girl’s body, representing human frailty and mortality. The Přemyslovci rulers were buried in this crypt, before St. Vitus cathedral was built.


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Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2013


Above: Polychrome decorated choir in the south transcept. The vaulting is much less elaborate than in the nave.

Below: Wohlmut’s choir (organ gallery) on the north transcept.


Carved wooden map of Prague, dated 1620.


Tomb of St. John of Nepomuch (1345-93), a national Czech saint and considered the first martyr of the seal of the confessional. This monument is cast silver and silver gilt, designed by the Austrian sculptor Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach  (1656-1723).


Altarpiece of Lady Chapel with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. The main section depicts the Visitation.


Polychrome Gothic altar. I don’t recall which chapel.


Altarpiece of the St. Anne chapel. The neoclassical style of the figures is unusual because most of the altarpieces in the cathedral seem to be gothic (I admit I didn’t do a survey and I’m relying on my memory).


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St. Vitus Cathedral

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2013


St. Vitus Cathedral, located in the Prague Castle complex, could be called the Altneu cathedral. Although it was founded in 1344, much of the building was constructed later. The neo-gothic facade (above) was designed around the turn of the 20th century by Josef Mocker and finished in the 1950s. Construction was rather slow for 600 years. The St. Wenceslas Jubilee in 1929 provided the final push in the 1920s. The entire western half (i.e., the entrance, above) of the cathedral is neo-Gothic (Victorian period), but the elements blend together well. The cathedral is the largest church in the country (124 x 60 meters) and contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. The photo above doesn’t really do it justice. The courtyard in front of the cathedral is rather small, so I had to use a wide angle lens and stand directly in front.

View of the nave, looking towards the west. The rose window, which doesn’t show up very well in this photo, was designed by Frantisek Kysela in 1925-27.


View towards the eastern end of the nave, taken in the transcept.


Peter Parler’s splendid net vaults were possibly inspired by English Gothic architecture. Parler was the master builder who took over construction in 1352, when he was only 23 years old. The vault style is characterized by the doubled diagonal ribs and are not merely decorative. They provide additional support for the ceiling. (I took this photo with a wide angle lens in the transcept, looking straight up. That always makes me a bit dizzy.)


Southern portal, also called the Golden Gate, because of the gold mosaic of the Last Judgment.


South portal,  showing the Last Judgement mosaic, below the windows of the St. Wenceslas chapel. Kings entered through this doorway for coronation in the chapel.


Last Judgment mosaic


Gilded ironwork on south side.


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Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 23, 2012

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte in Florence is situated on one of the highest points of the city, above Piazzale de Michelangelo. San Miniato has been called one of the most beautiful churches in Italy and one of the finest Romanesque structures in Tuscany. I reached the church about 15 minutes before closing time, so these photos really don’t do it justice! I didn’t get to the crypt or the famous “Cardinal of Portugal” chapel.

The earliest parts of the building date to 1018, although the upper parts of the facade were finished in the twelfth century or later.

The trussed ceiling of the nave (below) was decorated in 1322. The vivid colours, however, are a legacy of the restoration carried out in 1860-61.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Below, a view of the central nave with the tabernacle at the bottom of the photo. The gold altar panels, begun by Agnolo Gaddi in 1394, represent Saint John Gualberto and Saint Minias, the martyr to whose memory the basilica is dedicated (he is said to have been beheaded by the Romans and to have picked up his head, crossed the Arno River, and walked up to his hermitage).

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Below is a detail of the Romanesque marble pulpit (1209), decorated with an eagle, a monk, and a lion. The pulpit and the rood screen (decorated wall below) were constructed at the same time.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

The Christos Pantocrator mosaic in the apse is in the Byzantine style, artist unknown (ca. 1260).

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

These frescoes, in the sacristy, depict the life of Saint Benedict and are attributed to Spinello Aretino (1387 -1388). For a panoramic view of the sacristy, go to this site.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Side altar and frescoes at the end of the right aisle.

San Miniato al Monte, Florence

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Photowalk at the Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 27, 2010

I signed up for a photowalk that was advertised in the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) bulletin, let by photographer Douglas Guthrie. I had never done a photowalk before and it sounded interesting. I think there were seven of us, not including the large group of Greek pilgrims that preceded us.

The Monastery of the Valley of the Cross is located in the Rehavia neighbourhood of Jerusalem, not far from Gan Sacher and the Israel Museum. The current building complex dates from the eleventh century, and was built on the spot where the tree believed to have been used in the cross of Jesus had grown. An earlier monastery was constructed in the fourth or fifth century, but very little remains from that period. Most of the current site dates from the crusader period, with some nineteenth century additions and renovations. It’s constructed like a fortress, with a small, low doorway to keep out invaders and high, smooth walls. The monastery is open to the public (15 shekels).

This photo taken in the courtyard shows the ornate style of the top floor, a later addition to the crusader-era building.

Courtyard, Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

A small museum houses a collection of vestments, chalice veils, carvings, cooking implements, and icons. This photograph is a detail of the gears of the old clock mechanism that was in the tower.


Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

I was the only one who brought a tripod. I thought it would be overkill but it turned out to be essential for the photographing the church and the museum. The interiors were very dark. The beam of sunlight below was not photoshopped but I did underexpose the shot slightly to emphasize the light.

Angels in the Light

Just to give you an idea of the dark interior and difficult lighting, here’s a view of the right side of the nave taken with a single exposure.

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

The photo below  is a HDR image of the church. The flattening of the three exposures shows many more details of the frescoes. The frescoes themselves are not in very good shape. They are faded and badly damaged.

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

Iconostas photographed using ambient light and tripod:

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

The eye in the triangle represents the eye of God and the Greek letters mean “the eternal one” — ‘o ων, if I remember correctly. It’s been a long time since I had to use my knowledge of iconography or Greek.

Eye of God

Fresco above doorway depicts Jesus flanked by his mother Mary (the Theotokos) and John the Baptist (the Prodromos).

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

Lamps hanging over the right aisle:

Monastery of the Valley of the Cross

The photowalk itself was an interesting experience, although I don’t think I took very good photos. On the one hand, it was a good opportunity to set up a tripod and take lots of photos without feeling conspicuous. The safety-in-numbers aspect was definitely a positive factor. Those who wanted advice on technique were able to get help from Douglas, who was a patient teacher.

But I found that I did a lot less thinking than I normally do when shooting by myself. Afterwards, as I went through the photos, I kept thinking, “Oh, why didn’t I use this particular lens? Why didn’t I try to get a detail of that interesting object?” I think my photos were competent but not particular inspiring from an artistic standpoint. If I go on another photowalk, I’ll have to try not to get distracted by people around me and to think more about what I’m doing.

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