Le Printemps what a lovely season, the weather is getting warmer by the day, Friday should be 22 C. which is Summer weather. This coming weekend is also the first official Long Weekend of Summer, the signal to open the cottage and start up the bar-b-q.
I was looking up recent photos of Versailles which re-opens today after months of being shut to all due to the pandemic restrictions in France. During these longs months the restorers of the Palace did a lot of work in various areas of the vast Chateau. This included a deep clean of various rooms and the return of furniture from the central national warehouse of important historical furniture of France. One piece in particular was the work desk of Louis XV made up of 20 different types of precious woods and of a secret mechanism operated with one key to close and lock it. This desk stayed in the bureau of the King until the revolution. It is now back where it belong, a magnificent piece of furniture. The restoration of the desk was paid for by Caterpillar France and Rolex, the desk has a two face clock which allows the king and his visitor on the other side to see the time. This wonderful piece of furniture was made in 1769, a real marvel and the clock works perfectly.
Many other private rooms or intimate rooms used by the King or Queen or other members of the Royal family have also been restored recently including carpets and drapes, all reproduce in the original fabric. This work is made possible due to archives and detailed descriptions, drawings and paintings and some piece of fabric which survived. You can see these rooms by appointment with a guide only. The rooms contain unique original artifacts of the period, rare books and porcelain and you would not want someone to bump into something.
The caveat is that Versailles you see today, the inside of the Palace evolved and is not what Louis XIV or Louis XV or even Louis XVI would have known, the palace was transformed and redecorated with each king and time and fashion dictate. Then the Palace was closed at the revolution, the furniture sold in most part to British and other European collectors for a pittance. Some was saved by Napoleon and by the return of the Bourbon Kings in 1814 under Louis XVIII and his brother Charles X and then their cousin Louis-Philippe remodelled wings of the palace where the apartments of the various Princes of the Kingdom were located into great galleries for his painting collection. So when visiting it is important to keep that in mind. Same for the gardens and le Petit and Grand Trianon or even le Hameau de la Reine which lost all its original furniture and is now decorated with Empire style furniture belonging to Empress Marie-Louise the second wife of Napoleon.
What has been recently recreated is the Grille Royale, which was the inner golden gate of the Cour d’Honneur which separated the first inner courtyard from a more sacred area which brought the special visitor within the proximity of the King. This golden gate was taken down at the revolution and was only restored starting in 2007, the work based on original drawings took 2 years to complete, cost 5 million Euros, is 80 meters long and weighs 15 tons, some 100,000 sheets of gold leaf was use to cover the gate.
Reading and reading a lot about various historical sites and discoveries and history, renovations and reconstructions, archeology and discovering ancient artifacts shedding light on the past.
Here are paintings on the topic of Pompeii, a resort city of ancient Rome destroyed in 79 AD by the spectacular eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Here a young peasant woman from the area of Naples admiring the frescoes of ancient villas as the site is unearth. Much of the frescoes discovered were then removed and placed indoors in Museums both in Naples and in Rome. A highly romantic painting but nonetheless it gives an impression of what workers saw.
The book of Teresa Demauro entitled Restauri a Pompei 1748-1860 is presented by the Parco Archeologico a Pompei. In her doctoral thesis she narrates through her research the story of the discoveries of the archeological work in Pompeii from 1748 to 1860 the last period of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. pompeiisites.org/en/projects-and-research/publications/
Pompeii and Herculanum are two very rich sites, though it requires some knowledge of history before you go otherwise it won’t make much sense.
Italian Universities and international teams of archeologists publish on a regular basis studies of findings, it really never ends because what we know, though important and somewhat extensive, is not complete and so the research goes on.
Martin has also written a lot on the new Metro line C in Rome which has become one of the most expensive infrastructure project in the world. The Metro line C currently under construction crosses the Roman Forum one of the most rich archeological sites in the world. Metro Line C is also a decade behind schedule and no one is counting the cost overrun anymore in the billions of Euros. Eventually line A and B of the Rome Metro will connect to line C and everyone it is hope will be happy.
Other site I follow currently, The rebuilding of the Garnison Church in Potsdam built in 1735, blown up by the Communist regime of East Germany in 1968.
The Palace of Versailles multiple projects of rehabilitation, conservation and re-furnishing of various rooms, an unending process with dramatic results, not to mention the gardens and the rehabilitation of the numerous water fountains and sculptures.
The Berlin City Palace now Humboldt Forum built in 1445 and blown up in 1957 by the Communist regime of East Germany, rebuilt and re-opening on 17 December 2020.
Reconstruction work in Dresden old city centre which is almost complete and re-creates the city centre as it once was prior to its destruction by fire bombing on 14 and 15 February 1945.
Potsdam old city centre of the 17th and 18th Century and the palace complex and gardens around Sans Souci and the Neues Palais.
What is fascinating about all this is the number of stone cutters and sculptors, artists and artisans employed for this work using original techniques and finding inspiration in paintings, drawings and old photograph and archival records for their work.
I have studied history almost all my life, I enjoy reading on specific topics, I am not one for generalities in history or the facile comment or anecdotes to explain an event. I think that it is worth knowing exactly what happened or what was said from reliable sources who did their own research. I also love archeology and spent a lot of time studying ancient ruins to discover their secrets.
Last year a new book on Emperor Nero was published by Professor John F. Drinkwater, in his 457 page book he presents a very different picture of Nero who was Emperor of Rome for 14 years. He took every myth about Nero and goes about deconstructing it and presenting a narrative that throws doubt on what we have been told. It is fascinating reading,
Drinkwater shows that after the death of Nero who had fled Rome taking Via Nomentana, a street I know well since I lived just off it, he failed to kill himself and ask his servant to please help him out as the pretorian guards were closing in. Nera was the last of the Julio-Claudian line who were the first emperors of Rome the dynasty that succeeded him, the Flavians had good reasons to paint a black picture of him and went to great lenghts to do so, thus the awful dark image we have. To make things worse the Christian Church decided for propaganda purposes to make him out as the devil personified despite the fact that he did not persecute Christians as it as always been claimed.
Knowing historical facts is important to help us understand the world we live in and how we got here. There are numerous other events and historical figures who have suffered at the hands of popular history.
One woman who suffered to this day, is in fact a Hollywood favourite in movies and several movies have been made of her in the last 20 years. I speak of Queen Marie-Antoinette born Imperial Princess of Austria and who at the age of 14 was engaged to marry the Dauphin of France, Louis.
When she arrives in Versailles in 1770 after having travelled from Vienna in a great escort befitting her rank with many stops on the way, she had left behind her mother Empress Maria-Theresa and her family, she comes from a relatively relaxed Imperial Court to the most archaic and stultifying strict and arcane protocol laden Court of France. She is 14 years old, she is naive but also bold and thinks nothing of asking for what she wants to the horror of the Minister of King Louis XV, grandfather of the future Louis XVI.
At the Palace of Versailles she is given a room, her entire apartment is ONE ROOM which can be seen today after years of meticulously correct restoration. The room is a State Bedchamber and it is also the room where every morning all the ladies of the Court will gather to wake her up and dress her up following a complicated protocol she is quite unfamiliar with.
The decor of Versailles and her room, (she only has one room to live in), is the same since 1715 some 60 years previously and is faded and old reminiscent of the era of the Sun King Louis XIV. Being a precocious 14 year old she did not hesitate to ask the superintendant du Palais to redecorate and modernize her room. The royal architect was brought in and what followed was a lot of effort to try to twart her plans. The women around her who were ladies in waiting where much older than her and many were ancient, they had no patience with the young women, she was constantly criticized for not accepting French ways at Court. Her life was extremely boring and her fiancé Louis was not really interested in her and more in study of sciences and in build locks of all kinds. Their marriage would be for political alliance and military reasons. Madame du Barry the mistress of King Louis XV did not like her and she had her group around her who opposed the new alliance of France with Austria. However Marie-Antoinette was very popular with the common people.
Marie Antoinette portrait of 1771, age 15, said to be the favourite of her Mother Empress Maria-Theresa.
In May 1774 King Louis XV dies suddenly and she becomes Queen and with her accession to the throne she receives the Petit Trianon in the Park at Versailles from her husband King Louis XVI, where she will spend most of her time. The period 1774 to 1778 is problematic since this is the period of the greatest extravagance and spending on hundreds of dresses, jewels, etc all at enormous expense to the Treasury. Her husband doubles her annual budget to 280,000 French Pounds (Livres) which is a great sum. But all this stops suddenly in 1778 when she becomes a mother with the birth of her first child Marie-Therese Charlotte known as Madame Royale (1778-1851). Even her taste for dresses change into a new fashion from London, she also abandons jewellery and becomes a doting mother. She will have one other daughter Princesse Sophie who dies in 1787 and the ill-fated Louis XVII who will die under mysterious circumstances and disappear at age 10 in a dark jail cell in 1795. He had another brother Louis-Joseph who dies as an infant just before the revolution in June 1789.
However despite all the crisis leading to the revolution the biggest problem was one of the Kingdom’s budget and the ballooning deficit caused by 2 wars which ruined the French treasury and bad harvests causing famine. The first war with a deficit of 2.5 million pounds was the Seven year war between France/Austria against England/Prussia 1756-1763 and then the American War of Independence 1776-1783 creating another deficit of 1.7 million pounds for France, though this war was wildly popular in France and Lafayette was a National Hero. If these deficits did not exist many political problems would have been avoided.
Probably the greatest cause of the unpopularity of Marie-Antoinette was her resistance to any idea of change or political modernization proposed by the leaders of the various parties at the time. Since she had been brought up in a system of Absolute Monarchy, she could not imagine any other system of government, despite was she saw in America and in England with the Constitutional Monarchy with a Parliament. She also adopted the same strict religious Catholic attitude of the religious bigots at Court. This did not help her at all and her glacial austere attitude towards the revolutionaries made her a marked woman.
In the end her name was blackened by the revolutionaries who really had no case against her, the trial was a farce with trumped up charges. After the death of her husband in January 1793 the revolution had achieved their goal. So a case had to be made and political events in Europe with foreign armies massing on the French border from Prussia, Austria and England was enough to convince the population that she was the author of their misery. However on the day of her execution instead of taking her directly to her place of execution, the revolutionaries thought they could parade her around in the street to rouse public anger. They soon realize this was a big mistake politically speaking, the people in the street were silent, many kneeling in prayer for the Queen and men taking their hats off. For the people she was a mother and public opinion was not in favour of killing a woman who had children. She died age 37.
Marie-Antoinette lived in the age of Enlightenment, in England Queen Charlotte was a close personal friend. In Prussia, Frederick II the Great ruled, in Russia Catherine the Great was Tsarina. The age of Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau. Napoleon Bonaparte was still an unknown Corsican.
Here is some music composed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Le devin du Village which would have been familiar to Queen Marie-Antoinette, she may have seen a production of this operette.royal
Friends groups exist everywhere and they are useful to raise funds and promote a site. Friends of Museums, Opera Houses, Theatres, Palaces, Gardens, etc. All have in common raising funds and promoting a place and attracting others to their project.
The Palace of Versailles was built between 1631 and 1715. Then after 1792 when it was closed by the Revolutionary government, it’s furniture and all its fixtures where sold off to foreign collectors. The Wallace Collection in London has an incredible array of furniture and objects from the Palace and it is all beautifully presented at Hertford House in Manchester Square, the former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford. It is named after Sir Richard Wallace, who built the extensive collection, along with the Marquesses of Hertford.
During the 19th century the Palace was remodelled to accommodate the French Senate and Legislative assembly. Great painting galleries were built from the former apartments of the Great Princes. Other buildings like Trianon and Le Hameau de la Reine were left to decay, this including the fountains and the extensive gardens and statuary.
When I first visited Versailles in 1969 with my parents, the palace looked a little sad and neglected. Yes, you could see the great rooms of the palace like la gallerie des glaces and the royal bedrooms, but they were empty of furniture, no candelabras or curtains on the windows. It was difficult to imagine how the King lived in such a place surrounded by a large number of Courtisans. The guided tours only gave the most perfunctory information mostly the major dates and details well known to all. My father remarked that the way the tour was given you had the impression that everything had been sent out for cleaning but would be back next week.
Les Amis du Chateau de Versailles is more than 100 year old association. In 1998 a group of wealthy Americans formed what is known as the American Friends of Versailles. Their goal was simple, raise funds to promote and support major restoration projects for the Palace and gardens and to support the French group of Les Amis, promoting friendship between France and the USA.
It goes without saying that any restoration work at Versailles requires experts in many fields, including archeologists, artists, historians and scholars plus artisan builders. The cost is always in the millions of Euros and the French Government and the European Union participate financially. Versailles is a UNESCO site.
In the last few years restoration projects were done or are under way at Le Hameau de la Reine, which is this little farm built for Marie-Antoinette so she could play the Bergère and pretend she lived a simple life. The Royal Gate was rebuilt in front of the Chateau, it had been torn down at the Revolution, the roof top of the entire palace was re-gilded in gold leaf as it was in the 18th century. Major fountains in the park were totally restored. Now the Royal Chapel completed in 1715 is being restored and repaired, this multi-year project should be completed in the Spring of 2021. It is the first major restoration of the Chapel since its construction. The roof with its giant wood beams and slate roof had not been touched in 300 years.
These are only some of the numerous projects underway at Versailles. The last time I visited was 1989 for the sad anniversary of the so called French Revolution which now is called a Civil War by historians, at that time some furniture had returned and some restoration had been done.
In recent YouTube videos you can see the work being done on the Palace. It is nothing short of breathtaking. There is also an active program to recover some of the original furniture of the Palace, however the Wallace Collection in London is not parting with any of its royal furniture.
Back in 1989 in Cairo, Egypt, I started to collect David Roberts work. At the time I did not know much about Roberts and I liked what I saw because it was an historical recollection of what Egypt was like as an old Kingdom then under Ottoman rule and as seen by tourists on the Grand Tour.
David Roberts was a Scottish painter, born in Stockbridge which is part of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1796 and died in London in 1864. Stockbridge is an elegant neighbourhood filled with Georgian and Victorian terraced houses.
Roberts is especially known for The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, and Nubia, a prolific series of detailed lithograph prints of Egypt and the Near East that he produced from sketches he made during long sojourn in the region.
Roberts was a member of the Royal Academy.
Apprenticed for seven years to be a house painter and decorator. During this time he studied art in the evenings. After his apprenticeship was complete, Roberts’s first paid job came in the summer of 1815, when he moved to Perth to serve as foreman for the redecoration of Scone Palace, where Scottish Kings were crowned until 1296.
His next job was to paint scenery for James Bannister’s circus on North College Street. This was the beginning of his career as a painter and designer of stage scenery.
In 1822 the Coburg Theatre, now the Old Vic in London, offered Roberts a job as a scenic designer and stage painter. He sailed from Leith with his wife Margaret and their six-month-old daughter Christine and settled in London. After working for a while at the Coburg Theatre, Roberts moved to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane to create dioramas and panoramas.
While he built his reputation as a fine artist, Roberts’s stage work had also been commercially successful. Commissions from Covent garden for opera stage sets came regularly.
The painter J.M. William Turner persuaded Roberts to abandon scene painting and devote himself to becoming a full-time artist. Roberts set sail for Egypt on 31 August 1838. His intent was to produce drawings that he could later use as the basis for the paintings and lithographs to sell to the public. Egypt was much in vogue at this time, and travellers, collectors and lovers of antiquities were keen to buy works inspired by the East or depicting the great monuments of ancient Egypt.
Roberts made a long tour in Egypt, Nubia, the Sinai, the Holy Land, Jordan and Lebanon. Throughout, he produced a vast collection of drawings and watercolour sketches.
Muhammad Ali Pasha received Roberts in Alexandria on 16 May 1839, shortly before his return to the UK.
The scenery and monuments of Egypt and Holy Land were fashionable but had hitherto been hardly touched by British artists, and so Roberts quickly accumulated 400 subscription commitments, with Queen Victoria being subscriber No. 1. Her complete set is still in the Royal Collection. The timing of publication just before photographs of the sites became available proved fortuitous.
I bought my first Roberts in an old shop just off Tahrir Square in Cairo and near J. Groppi pastry shop on Talat Harb Sq.. The first one, Plate 238 entitled Cairo from the Gate of the Citizenib, looking towards the desert of Suez. Published in London 1 Dec 1856 by Day & Son, 17 Gate Street, London. I did learn that Roberts did give some fancy names to sites when he was not sure what the actual name was as in this case it is the Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and gate. Also because he belonged to the Orientalist school of painters, romanticize views to make them more attractive to his European viewers and clients. Many of his paintings and lithographs were made as advertisement to promote the Grand Tour to wealthy people who could travel in style for 3 months to a year. The London Illustrated News used a lot of his work to promote areas of the British Empire one could safely visit.
When I was posted to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan I started to look for lithographs of the Holy Land to add to my collection. One is entitled Jerusalem, from the Mount of Olives. By today’s standard it would be difficult to see this view given that old Jerusalem is surrounded not by modern suburbs.
From Jordan, I have views of Petra and of the roman city of Jerash. In all 10 lithographs. It is interesting to see them and examine them, so you get a view of the world some 180 years ago and how it appeared to people like Roberts.
It was announced that on Wednesday 1 July Canada Day, Canadians will be allowed to travel to Europe for the first time since all international air travel for touristic purposes was stopped in mid-March. Already Air Canada and other airlines are flogging seats and tempting people with European vacations. On Friday the Confederation Bridge linking over 12 Km this Island to the mainland of Canada will also re-open for travel restricted to people living in the Maritime Provinces. People are already salivating for the opportunity to go to Moncton to shop at Costco, really people? You must be joking but hey so is life. A Costco run will cost $47. Canadian dollars to cross the fabled bridge and you can return same day the distance between Charlottetown and Moncton being only a total of 2 hours by car. I won’t be going, no Sir not me.
Continuing my interest in Urban renewal in Germany and in Russia, I have been following since the mid-1990’s the rebuilding of cities like Dresden and Potsdam, both heavily bombed by the Allies in the dying days of the Second World War. These old historical cities were targeted because of the art and culture centre they were. Dresden especially, being the old Capital of Saxony and a centre for porcelain Meissen and for the arts with its beautiful museum collections. Potsdam was known as the Secret Capital of Prussia, the Kings since 1701 lived in Potsdam and administered the Kingdom from this location. Berlin was the ceremonial Capital for Official Acts, receptions and the seat of Government and the Parliament. Think of Potsdam like we think of Windsor.
I first visited Potsdam which is 30 minutes by train from Berlin centre about 1997, the old market or Alt Markt was nothing more than ruins and craters full of weeds. Here and there a few University buildings built by the Communist regime in the brutalist style of the 1970’s and in the former gardens of the City Palace a 16 floor Hotel Mercure which was suppose to symbolize according to Socialist thinking modernity in the Communist State. The 3 Star Mercure chain in Europe and in other third world countries 63 in all, was then owned by France who used the brand to further French diplomacy and its agenda. Lobbies full of prostitutes often on government payroll and French wines. Marriott owns the chain today under Accor management.
The main attraction of Potsdam was the Royal Park with the palaces and other architectural gems. Sans Souci being the most important one and the Neues Palais being the other. Under Communism both had suffered from neglect and minimal maintenance and wholesale theft by the Red Army of 18th century fine furniture and works of Art. Some of which was returned by the Russians after 1989. I was happy to visit Potsdam for its history and many sites but it would get better in the years after 2000.
What is interesting about any urban renewal scheme in former East German towns is the influence of former Communist politicians who sometime sit still on City Councils and will resist any move to renew cities and get rid of the old decrepit architecture and infrastructure built between 1950-1989. Given the constant lack of funds and building materials, buildings were quickly and cheaply built and decayed rapidly due to lack of maintenance.
Since 2000 the City Council in Potsdam has developed with private developers a plan to rebuilt the old Market Square (city centre) of Potsdam. The Square was before 1945 flanked by the St-Nicholas church, the City Hall, the Barberini Palace and the City Palace Residence of the King of Prussia. After the war only the City hall and the St-Nicholas church remained though is a ruined state. The other palaces had being bombed out of existence.
Potsdam City Palace in 1945. It was rebuilt completely in the last 5 years and is now the Parliament of the State of Brandenburg.
Since 2000 a vast plan to re-build the historical streets, water canals of the city centre, historical bridges and churches is underway. The Finance Faculty of the University which was built in the 1960’s has been demolished and on this site the former buildings with historical facade will be rebuilt with modern interior for today’s use as businesses, apartments etc. Rebringing the baroque charm of Potsdam.
The City Palace today.
Across the street at the moment is a very large vacant lot where the Financial Faculty building was, as of next year the area will be redeveloped with buildings along what was there previously.
This view shows 3 yellow squares of what was once the Faculty buildings, they were demolished a few years ago. The green dome is St-Nicholas church, the City Palace is in front. Behind the Palace is the Hotel Mercure with the former gardens of the Palace. It is hoped that this modern hotel will be demolished and the area returned to what it was once a garden space and parade grounds for the Grenadiers of the King.
Here are some views of the proposed new buildings in keeping with historical street scape.
More of the same idea has been developed in Dresden where the entire old city centre was rebuilt.
I remember the old Financial Faculty on this site and how ugly it was and out of place with the historical buildings. Though this kind of re-building may be seen by some critics as Disneyesque, the will and vision for the future is to allow Potsdam to re-claim its former baroque charm with its canals as the Venice of Prussia.
Here is a photo showing the entire area rebuild, green roof is the Palace, the colonnade connects the Palace to the former stables. By 2023 this should be done. The understanding being that though all buildings are historical renditions the inside are modern and adapted to the plans of each owner. It is very costly to rebuild in this fashion, many artisans and stone masons are required many of whom work on the nearly completed City Palace in Berlin and on many other sites in Germany.
If you wondered what the East German Finance Faculty looked like before it was demolished, here is a picture
Our washing machine died with a clunk and a whine last Thursday, we were able to secure a new washing machine almost within one hour. The drawback delivery takes 7 days, oh my! So the clothing has been piling up as well as sheets and towels. We are really dependent on this machine, now we know. But the delivery will be made by Friday so patience and no panic.
I really miss good conversation with friends face to face and the laughs and gossip. Zoom is NOT the same thing.
Scaffolding coming down this week at the main gate portal of the City Palace. Friday is the capping off of the building which can be followed on webcam. Starting at 6 am Berlin time, weather permitting.
For the last few postings I have been writing about the City Palace in Berlin and its final phase of re-construction. You may have wondered why so much interest in this one building. In fact I have been following several other projects in Europe.
One such projects is Buckingham Palace in London, the Official Residence of the Queen. There is little info on what is going on, but it is a major refit of the place from plumbing to electrical system to cleaning and painting and general repairs. Rooms have been dismantled and furniture and paintings removed for safe keeping. The Queen left London because of the pandemic but also because her London Residence was under repair and not fit to live in due to all the noise and workmen etc… Windsor is her real home, private and comfy. She and her husband only live in a suite of rooms in one wing of the Castle and not in the entire place as you might see it from the outside, still it is pretty grand. Many other people live at Windsor in what is term Grace and Favour apartments. The Queen also has other relatives live in London at Kensington Palace and St-James Palace again in apartments, all are at the pleasure of Her Majesty.
Another project is the Alexander Palace built in 1793 in an Italian/Palladian style in Tsarkoye Selo outside St-Petersburg, the work is now reaching completion after many years of complete reconstruction of what was essentially a ruined building. The last private home of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife and children before their arrest and deportation in 1917. This has been a massive work of research and archeology, restoration of furniture, original fabrics, flooring, tiling, etc. all this made possible because of voluminous archives kept on the building. This site has a huge following in Russia and around the world.
The Roman Forum is another place I love to explore and read about, about 95 years ago it became the pet project of Benito Mussolini who poured financial resources and had the best academic work on unearthing this area of what was ancient Rome. To this day several Universities and team of archeologist work for years and sometimes a life time on one area. Even now with the building of the new Metro Line crossing the Forum under Via Dei Fori Imperiali more treasures are discovered. I had the good fortune to visit some of those sites being under study and excavation, it is a real marvel.
While in Beijing, I visited various sites around the former Imperial Capital, temples, palaces and the Forbidden City compound. I lived there about 3 years prior to the Olympics. The City itself was under massive construction and re-building. Entire neighbourhoods of 3 million people each would be vacated in a matter of 48 hours with the help of the Police and Army. The Temple of Heaven and the great park around it was a favourite site. The Communist Party with the increase in tourism re-discovered the roots of Chinese culture and its historical past. So recreation was the name of the game, unfortunately so much had been lost between 1967-1976 under Mao ills advised but politically convenient cultural revolution, that doing studies and repairing the damage proved difficult, so the repairs were done very quickly and often of poor quality. What really mattered to the Communist party was money from Western tourists and pushing a re-written history of China always glorifying the Party and the leadership.
In Jordan, I would visit just outside Amman about 35 km away the antic city of Jerash or Gerasa in the Bible. Built by the Romans and prospering as an important commercial link and military city, the Jordanian Government had archeologists work at restoring the extensive ruined city, its temples and theatres. There was a lot of archeological material artefacts just lying on the ground forgotten by time.
Istanbul and the Topkapi Palace grounds is also well worth exploring and how well preserve it is, including the treasury with its incredible amounts of precious stones. If you take a look in the once private areas you will discover a Polo Pavilion and grounds enjoyed by the Sultan, the entire place as a very Oriental feel. The Turkish people migrated from Central Asia one thousand years ago, keeping their Oriental culture.
I am endlessly fascinated by architecture, archeology and factual history. It has always been a hobby of mine.
I read the new entry in the blog Sailstrait of Harry Holman, who for years was the PEI Chief Archivist. Harry knows his stuff and he knows it in detail, he wrote the history of the house were we live currently. I knew that it was the Duncan family home and the Hon. James Duncan was a shipbuilder in PEI. However there was lots of details I did not know and was very surprised to read it all in Harry’s entry. Suddenly I do not look at the building in the same way now nor the land surrounding the house and the incredible physical changes that have occurred in the last 200 years.
Here is the story of our house on Water Street.
Between the Steam Navigation Wharf (which had carried the names of Reddin’s Wharf and Pope’s Wharf) and the Ferry Wharf at the end of Prince Street lies a property of some significance to the history of Prince Edward Island. Here the foreshore stood at the foot of a high embankment and the waters were relatively […]
As I have written previously I follow reconstruction projects in Europe of various gardens and palaces and churches mostly destroyed between 1939-1945. Army of artisans, fresco painters and stonemasons work on such projects for years to bring back to life beautiful buildings lost in the madness of war.
There are projects like la Chapelle Royale at Versailles which has been undergoing a complete reconstruction of its roof, no maintenance or work had been done since it was built in 1710. The design was presented to the king by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1699. It is fascinating to see the work done on the wood skeleton of the roof and on the slate tiles and decorative elements of the roof. The funding for such projects comes from the public, Friends associations and the Government.
Other projects one in London is the complete refurbishment of Buckingham Palace, plumbing, mechanical and electrical needs to be redone. This is paid for by the Queen and the Government. The Palace is largely used for ceremonial and representational purposes. For all intent and purposes the Queen lives at Windsor or on her Estate at Sandringham or Balmoral. Many family members live at Kensington Palace, the Heir Prince Charles lives on the Mall at Clarence House and others have apartments at St-James Palace. It should be remembered that the size of their living quarters depends entirely on the rank at Court, the larger the living quarters the more important you are. Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall have after the Queen the largest living quarters in London and several other homes across the UK.
Other projects I have been following for years are the refurbishment and reconstruction of the City Palace in Berlin (1445), The FrauenKirche (1726) in Dresden and the rebuilding of the historical centre of Dresden.
Potsdam city centre was destroyed in April 1945, 2 weeks before then end of the second World War. When I first saw Potsdam in 1998 the centre was still a field of ruins except for the Church of St-Nicholas which had been repaired by the Lutheran Church. A strange sight amongst empty fields in what was before 1944 a royal city. Potsdam is often called the secret capital of Germany. It was preferred by the rulers to Berlin, a Venice of the North with its beautiful Italianate buildings, parks and canals.
The City centre of Potsdam has been restored and so are the numerous palaces and parks. There is a sense of esthetics to recreate what was in the original.
Now in Potsdam the Garnison Kirche is being rebuilt.
The Garnison Church (full name: Court and Garnison Church Potsdam, German: Hof- und Garnisonkirche Potsdam) is a protestant Baroque church. It was a parish church of the Hohenzollern royal family until 1918. Originally built as a Calvinist church for Prussian monarchs, it became a United Protestant church with both Clavinist and Lutheran participation after the 1817.
The architect Philipp Gerlach was commissioned by king Friedrich Wilhelm I to build the church for members of the court and for the soldiers garrisoned in Potsdam. It was consecrated on August 17, 1732 and was soon well-attended by both the civilian and military communities. Friedrich Wilhelm I was buried at his request in the crypt of the church in 1740. In 1786 his son, Frederick the Great, was buried there, against his will. He is now buried at his palace of Sans Souci with his dogs as he wished.
Both Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon visited Frederick II’s grave. It was here that the first freely-elected Potsdam City Parliament met and the Lutheran and Reformed Churches celebrated their union. In 1933 Adolf Hitler used the church for his Day of Potsdam, and this is what caused the controversy to this day about this church.
The nave and bell tower were destroyed by fire during an air raid in the night from April 14 to April 15, 1945. Only the outside walls remained standing. In 1950 the Holy Cross Chapel was built within the cruciform walls of the bell tower. A new congregation met there for services until on a summer Sunday in 1968, the GDR head of state Walter Ulbricht and his Communist government ignored widespread protests and ordered the remaining walls left standing to be torn down. In its place in 1971 an ugly Computing Center was built, now derelict
Since 2004 the Garnisonkirche belongs to the International Community of the Cross of Nails (founded in Dresden, Germany in February 1991).
In 2004 a group of citizens formed the Promotion Committee for the Reconstruction of the Garnison Church, a non-profit organization. In June 2008 followed the Garnisonkirche Potsdam foundation. Both organizations work together for the reconstruction of the Garnison church not only as a parish church for its citizens but also as a reminder that future German-European cooperation is possible and essential. In 2013 the German National Committee for Cultural and Media Affairs named the Garnison church Potsdam an important cultural monument and offered 12 million Euro towards the funding of its reconstruction. Reconstruction work began in 2017 with the aim to complete the tower first.
Photo from the German Federal Archives, 1928 the stables behind the Garnison church. Partial view of the side wall of the Garnison Church. Today only the facade we see here of the Stables remains.
The tower and its musical carillon are now under construction. The tower once completed will be 89 meters high or 292 feet. In the background of this 18 century painting, you can see the Royal City Palace rebuilt recently and now housing the Parliament of Brandenburg province.
Currently the base of the tower is progressing rapidly. The building behind on the left known as the old computing building will be demolished. In the background the facade of the old Stables with its baroque architecture.
Artist rendition of the area with the park that once existed behind the church.
In a few years when the carillon at the top of the church tower in re-installed we will be able to hear this piece from the Magic Flute by Mozart which historically played in the old church.
Moncton is one of the largest cities in New Brunswick (NeuBraunschweig) pop 149,000. The City is in fact three, Dieppe, Riverview and Moncton with 3 mayors and 3 municipal administrations, talk of overkill in terms of bureaucracy. A large river Petitcodiac or chocolat crosses Moncton and has daily tides or bore on which you can surf the 6 feet waves. What is surprising is the fact that the water surge comes from the Bay of Fundy quite a distance away.
The city is named after British General Robert Monckton, an aristocrat who was a soldier, colonial administrator and politician in Canada and New England and later a Member of Parliament in London. He is considered by historians as a contemptible figures of the colonial era in British North America. He and his commanding officer Governor Charles Lawrence (Nova Scotia and Massachusetts) engineered the ethnic cleansing of Acadians in 1755. His military career appears to have been about putting down rebellions in Europe, Scotland, New England and in Canada, an enforcer in other words. Other war criminals of the time and colleagues of Monckton where General Charles Cornwallis, Earl of Brome and Field Marshal Jefferey, Baron Amherst who served as Governor General of British North America from 1760. All are dubiously honoured with names of streets and towns. Though Cornwallis who founded Halifax had his statue taken down recently after much campaigning by Natives, Acadians and Scots in Nova Scotia.
The Maritime Provinces have lots of places named after towns and Princes from Hanover and Lower Saxony in today’s Germany. The reason being that the Royal Family in the UK where German Princes and King George III was also King of Hanover, a title which will be held until 1917 when King George V decided on the advice of his ministers to change the family name to a more British sounding one and abandon any claims in Germany.
So we went to Moncton on Monday, an easy 2 hours drive from Charlottetown via the Confederation Sea Bridge across the Strait of Northumberland. On the road in New Brunswick as you cross marshland and forests signs warning you to keep a look out for Moose especially at dusk and at night when these giant creatures weighing more than a ton will suddenly cross the highway. A quiet drive, a little boring, the excitement comes as you cross the 12 Km bridge over the sea, in winter it can be quite windy and there can be restrictions due to gale force winds. On the way back the wind was quite strong and I could not drive more than 60Km per hour, the limit at all times is 80 Km. Upon arriving on the Island I noticed the flashing red sign stopping all on coming traffic due to the wind, so we just made it. Usually such restrictions can last a few hours or a few days depending on the weather. It is an experience and a marvel of engineering when you see all the ice below passing under the bridge, the view is spectacular.
Moncton has a city is largely a place of work and study with 2 universities. Lots of shopping malls and a Costco. It also has a large diverse ethnic population and many West Africans live in Moncton. For shopping Moncton offers variety and choice not found in PEI, it is also a bilingual city with its large Acadian population. Acadian French has a different inflection and accent than French spoken in Quebec. I find it more melodious and with clearer pronunciation.
We went to Moncton to see Ballet Atlantic which is the ballet company of Atlantic Canada. The dancers all have a European training and the choreographer is Russian. The company was founded in 2001 and Capitol Theatre is its home.
The Capitol Theatre or Théâtre Capitol in downtown Moncton is an 800-seat, restored 1920s-era vaudeville house on Main Street that serves as the centre for cultural entertainment for the city. Designed by René-Arthur Fréchet in 1920, it was rebuilt by Fréchet in 1926 after it burned. Having been converted to a cinema early in its history, the theatre was purchased by the City of Moncton in 1991, restored to its original look commencing in 1992, and was officially reopened as a performance space in 1993. It hosts the productions of Theatre New Brunswick and The Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, as well as symphony orchestra.
Moncton has 2 good hotels, the Marriott and the Delta both next to each other. There are lots of good restaurants, that is about it for Moncton and if you want to see art well you will have to come to Charlottetown or go to Fredericton, the Capital of the Province to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery which has a beautiful art collection and a new wing. Sir Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook) began planning the construction of an art gallery in New Brunswick early in the twentieth century. After considering a number of locations, Lord Beaverbrook settled upon the city of Fredericton. The Beaverbrook Art Gallery was gifted to the people of New Brunswick by Lord Beaverbrook and officially opened to the public on September 16, 1959.
So this was our 48 hour getaway, we went South-East, LOL! In April we hope to go to Halifax which also has a wonderful art gallery, museums, good restaurants and an IKEA.
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown