Friday, 20 April 2018

Fritillaria meleagris

I always look forward to the arrival of the delightful Snakeshead fritillaries in our garden where they can now be seen in great abundance. Knowing how rarely they are seen in the wild these days makes me feel particularly protective of this precious lily. Checking on them today revealled four naughty red lily beetles who had already sought them out, but they were promptly vanquished. In a matter of days four could become many and then they would all start descending on my newly emerging June lilies. I had thought that the cold winter might have killed the beetle's lavae, but I was mistaken.
The pretty Erythroniums have also arrived on the scene in yellow, white, and pink, they too are members of the lily family - this one is called pagoda, but luckily they are not preyed on by the lily beetle
Judging by the blossom I am anticipating delicious plum jam, plum pies, and plum crumble this coming summer.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Croeso i Ganol Cymru - Welcome to Mid Wales

We stayed at a lovely Victorian spa hotel in Llandrindod Wells which has been owned by the same family for the past 120 years. 

Llandrindod Wells is close to the English border, and just a few miles away from the beautiful Elan Valley known as the Welsh Lake District.
 A majestic landscape of rivers and lakes, set within the Cambrian Mountains, and a perfect recreational area for walking, water sports, cycling, or for simply appreciating being at one with nature.
The Elan Valley has 5 reservoirs which principally supply water to the city of Birmingham and its surrounding area.
The mighty roar and the power of the rushing water over the various dams was indicative of the winter weather recently experienced, and it appears that there should be no water shortages during the forthcoming summer even in the unlikely event of a heatwave!!!

After a brisk walk by the river, and a wander along several of the reservoir parapets we looked forward to relaxing back at the hotel before having a much anticipated evening meal.
The countryside is my classroom  
The wisest and noblest teacher is nature itself
Leonardo da Vinci 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A Mosaic of Garden Flowers

Having just returned home from a short Spring break, I was keen to see what flowers had opened in our absence. It was lovely to discover that both the pink and the cream Snakeshead fritillaries had finally opened. Having checked my images from last year they are now only one week later than in previous years - it appears that spring may be finally catching up with herself. 

Friday, 6 April 2018

The Pugin Floor Tile

There was a tangible golden ambience in Stanbrook Abbey chapel created by morning sunlight streaming through the windows, bouncing off the woodwork, and dancing across the floor tiles.
These exquisite floor tiles made by Mintons were designed by Edward Welby Pugin, the eldest son of eminent architect/designer, Augustus Welby Pugin.
The design of this tile captured our attention. It was used in the floor area separating the Eastern Chapel from the main body of the chapel known as The Choir

Originally the Eastern chapel had an elaborate metal screen which afforded privacy to The Choir area. A visiting priest could give his sermon from behind the screen unseen by the nuns sitting in The Choir. When the nuns stopped being an enclosed order during the early 1970s the screen had been removed.

   I found the design intriguing - what did it represent?

What was the bird - a Raven or a Crow

What did it carry in it's beak and was it of any significance?  
After exploring several blind alleys, I considered the fact that the nuns belonged to a Benedictine Order,
  and happily discovered that I was finally travelling along the right road.

 St. Benedict lived as a hermit, in spiritual isolation in a cave. Upon the death of an abbot in a nearby monastery, St. Benedict, who was known for his sanctity, was asked to become the new abbot. However, the strict discipline and obedience that he demanded so angered the other monks that they added poison to his bread. Each morning St. Benedict would feed pieces of his bread to a raven, but detecting the poison Benedict taught the bird to fly away with the deadly bread to a place where it could do no harm. St. Benedict decided to leave the monastery and returned to live in the wilderness that he loved. 

courtesy wiki
Saint Benedict of Nursia 480-543 Detail from a fresco by Fra Angelico (c. 1400-1455) in the Friary of San Marco, Florence
Nursia has now been renamed Norcia. It is a remote Italian town surrounded by the Apennines in Umbria. Norcia was at the epicentre of the Italian earthquake 18 months ago. Norcia is reknowned in Italy for its wild boar hams and sausages, along with its much sought after black truffles. We travelled there many years ago, but did not realise the significance of St. Benedict to the town at that time

Friday, 30 March 2018

Religious Symbols and their Meanings

courtesy wiki
Christ on the Cross by Albrecht Altdorfer
Easter is a good time to show some of the religious symbols I came across hidden within the carved pews in the Chapel at Stanbrook Abbey. The symbols are all connected with what is liturgically known as 'Christ's Passion' as set out by the Roman Catholic Church. 
I have long had an interest in signs and symbols found in art, and endeavour to understand and interpret their meaning. Some works of art carry hidden messages whilst others are more obvious. Two very good examples of paintings with hidden messages are The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein, and The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck.
The pews at Stanbrook Abbey, which were used only by the nuns, are in an area of the chapel called 'The Choir'. They are carved with various exotic mythical beasts at their ends then topped with exuberant flourishes of acanthus leaves.
In Christianity mythical beasts can be representative of both the powers of good and evil, the virtues and vices of human nature, and the temptations into which humans fall. The acanthus leaves in Christianity represent pain, sin and punishment. Whilst I was admiring the acanthus leaves, I noticed that some had symbols hidden within the carving.
The ladder is one of the instruments connected with the Passion, and is often present in scenes showing the descent (deposition) of Christ from the cross after the crucifixion - as per the painting at the start of this post.
 Three nails that held Christ on the cross - three being the Trinity.
The seamless robe of Christ was said to have been worn shortly before the Crucifixion. According to medieval traditions the robe is now kept in Trier Cathedral, Germany. We visited the cathedral in 2012 and I wrote a post featuring the robe here. 
The dice represent the soldiers casting lots
"then the soldiers, took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top throughout, so they said to one another, let us not tear it, but let us cast lots to decide whose it should be" John.19, 23-24 
The first dice showing 'one' has several meanings; oneness of nature in God; one divine person in Christ; one true Church founded by Christ; one mortal life, one baptism, one death, and after death one judgement before eternity.
The second dice showing 'five' recounts the five wounds - two in Christ's hands, two in his feet, and one in his side.
The last dice showing 'four' represents the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels; and the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. 
I believe the object holding the dice represents a torch. A torch is one of the instruments of the Passion. Flaming torches were carried by the arresting Roman soldiers at the time of Christ's betrayal by Judas. The sun in the background is representative of the eclipse that occurred at the time of the Crucifixion.
The crown of thorns.
"when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee and mocked him, saying Hail, King of the Jews!' Mark 15.17
 Lance and Sponge
The lance was used by a Roman soldier to inflict the last of the five wounds into Christ's side.
A reeded sponge soaked in gall (myrrh) and vinegar was offered to Christ to quench his thirst and dull his pain, but he refused.
The whip used for the 39 lashes, the hammer drove the nails into Christ's hands and feet, and the pincers were used to remove the nails following the cruxifiction
The pillar used for the Flagellation of Christ, 
The rope being a symbol of the betrayal of Christ by Judas when he was arrested and bound.
and finally the 30 pieces of silver - the price of Judas' betrayal. They have been counted and are all there.