Monday, October 19, 2015

Frieze Masters

Oh boy, do I ever love art fairs! A few years ago I went to Art Basel in Miami Beach, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. SO MUCH ART. Well, last week I met with my class again at one of London's main art fairs: Frieze Masters. Like Art Basel, Frieze is a giant international art fair that brings galleries from around the world to sell their collections to the public. You can see anything and everything at Frieze, so it doesn't take long to find something that interests you. You might even be tempted to ask what the price is for some of the artworks. Word of advice: don't. It will only upset you that you do not have the bank account to buy a Picasso.

So, why did my class go to Frieze Masters? Was there a cathedral on sale? No. We came to see this:

This extremely large drawing is a plan for a tower at Rouen Cathedral. A PhD student is writing her dissertation on this drawing, and she was able to find out that it was a design presented by the master mason (and possibly the master carpenter) to the clergymen of the cathedral in 1516 for the new tower. Apparently, the proposal didn't go well, because the design was never picked. 

As you can see, the drawing is massive and it comprises of four sheets of vellum that were attached together. Unfortunately, the image at the bottom doesn't show the amount of details that went in to this composition. But you can make out the windows, arches, and pointed spires. 

Just so you can see the context of what this cathedral looks like, I've added a picture of Rouen above. It's close, but not the same design. Actually, the majority of that central tower are much later additions. But they did eventually achieve a ridiculously tall tower, which stands at 495 feet. 

After our discussion, I had the chance to look around at the other exhibitors and pretend that I have the funds to be "in the market" for something to go in the foyer. 

I had a slight freak out when I saw this. Sally Mann is my favorite photographer, and I had not seen her photographs in person before. If I was to walk away with any of the items that were on sale at Frieze, this would have been it. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Day in Ely

I know, it's been a little quiet on this blog lately. I've spent most of my time this past week studying at the library (actually, multiple libraries), which isn't interesting enough to report.

My highlight of the week was taking a short day trip with my class. I, along with five other classmates, met our tutor in Ely to begin our first of many excursions that we will be taking throughout England and France this year. We spent hours in and around Ely Cathedral talking about the development of its design during the medieval period and speculating what the original layout of the cathedral might have been.

This was also my first taste at having class outside of a classroom. The main appeal of my graduate program was the fact that many of our discussions and seminars actually take place on site of whatever we are learning. This week, it was Ely Cathedral.

As you will see from the pictures, this cathedral is HUGE. It is practically impossible to take a full length picture of the fa├žades or the interior space. Regardless, I tried. Also, the interior pictures are a little grainy. I apologize.

Exterior views (from the top): looking at the West crossing from the South, two views of the West porch entrance, and then two views of the East end. 

Interior views (from the top): the nave from inside the West entrance, the North transept, and choir screen looking towards the East.

This view (which the picture does not do it any justice in showing how amazingly detailed the structure is) is underneath the octagonal crossing tower. It is actually the second tower that was built in this same spot, because the first one had collapsed. This tower, which was built in 1320s, is made out of wood to mimic the stone structure of the cathedral.  

Looking from the high altar to the choir, these choir stalls would have been where the monks sat during services. Also made out of wood. 

And now looking at the high altar in the East end. Behind that is the retro-choir, which allows access to the other chapels that sit at the far end of the church. 

Finally, here are some images of the Lady Chapel, which is attached to the North East end of the cathedral. By the way, those carvings are all in stone. STONE! They are so incredibly detailed it almost seems impossible to believe that this was all done by hand. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Battersea Park

I truly love living in Battersea. And I especially love living close to Battersea Park, which is a sizeable green haven for dog walkers, runners, small children on scooters (with their parents running after them), and all types of recreational activities. I've been taking advantage of the beautiful weather and clear skies by staying outside most of the day, and there isn't a better way to do that than at one of London's amazing parks.

For those who don't know, Battersea Park is a Victorian creation located along the south bank of the river Thames. It is filled with ample green spaces, tennis courts, a bandstand, water gardens, a zoo, a lake, and so much more.

Because the lighting was so wonderful, I couldn't help but take a few pictures after my run on Sunday.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Since I spend most of my week commuting to the center of London for school, I'm determined to spend my weekends outside of city. I am fortunate enough to live incredibly close (right across the street) to a train station, so I can easily purchase a ticket and just hop on a train.  Well, that's what I did yesterday. I closed my eyes, put my finger on a map, and decided to go wherever my finger landed.

Just kidding. I've actually had a list of places in the UK that I want to visit stashed away on my computer. The list is incredibly long, and there is no way that I will complete it by the time I leave. The town of Winchester just so happens to be not too far from London, and the train fare was pretty cheap.

It turns out that Winchester was a great choice! And once again, I was lucky to have such beautiful weather while enjoying this little excursion.

Fair warning, this post is a photo dump.

So, I started off the morning with a quick tour around the Great Hall. This 13th century structure was originally part of the Winchester Castle (the ruins you see above) and was built during the rule of William the Conqueror.

It is also home to the "Round Table" from the legend of King Arthur. The Table, which is mounted on the wall (see above), is about 800 years old and was originally made of 121 separate pieces of English oak. **Shout out to the Hampshire County Council for their incredibly informative and detailed brochure - it saves me from switching my computer screen back and forth to Wikipedia.**

 Just outside the Great Hall is Queen Eleanor's Garden, which is named after both Queen Eleanor of Provence and Queen Eleanor of Castile. 

And then I made my way through the main street, which had plenty of shops and a little market. 

Finally, I made my way to what I really came to Winchester for: Winchester Cathedral!

Why, yes! This is the English Perpendicular Style that was common during the 13th century. Well spotted!

I spent four hours at the cathedral listening to three separate tours of the space. The first was a tour of the crypt below the cathedral, which dates back to the 11th century. Then I took an extensive tour of the cathedral, and I got to hear more about the history of the building phases and the countless political and religious forces that played a central part to the development of the cathedral. And then finally, I took a tour of the bell tower, which gave me a glimpse of the rafters above the roof and the intricate pulley system that is used to operate the bells. 

This cathedral is also the final resting place for Jane Austen!

The rafters above the ceiling.

Halfway through our journey to the very top of the tower.

No Quasimodo, unfortunately. Apparently, pulling one of the bell ropes is not part of the tour (or any tour). Trust me, I asked.

Low lighting = grainy photos. We were in here when the bells rang at 3:00pm. Incredibly LOUD!

The best part was being able to see these AMAZING views of Winchester and the surrounding countryside from the top of the bell tower. 

If you haven't figured it out by now, I study medieval architecture. I can assure you that this blog will frequently post stuff about medieval cathedrals throughout the next year.


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