Painted History in Padua

This week I'll continue a description of fantastic art in Italy. In the city of Padua, near Venice,  we toured a small chapel that was built in 1305 called the Chapel of Scrovegni. This chapel is famous because the entire interior walls were painted by Giotto di Bondone. The paintings tell the Biblical story from the Virgin Mary to Jesus' birth to His death and resurrection.

Since the art is more than 700 years old, the visits to the chapel are very limited. In order to see the chapel, our time slot had to be reserved online, weeks ahead of time. Then when it was our turn to visit the chapel we only had fifteen minutes inside the chapel. Before entering the space, we viewed a video about the chapel during which the temperature of the viewers was stabilized to equal the temperature inside.

When we finally got our chance to view the chapel, we used the entire fifteen minutes taking in the beautiful scenes. At first, I was impressed with the blue painted ceiling overhead. I don&…

The Beauty of Ravenna Mosaics

While we were in Italy, we stayed for two days in Ravenna where we saw the most beautiful mosaics in the world. These amazing mosaic pictures and ceilings were built 1400 years ago.

There were five buildings, constructed in the 400s and 500s, that displayed the amazing mosaics. Of course, the pictures, constructed entirely of mosaic tiles, depicted Christian religious history since the buildings were two basilicas, a mausoleum, a baptistry, and a museum that was formerly a cathedral.

The mosaics were still as clear to see as if the tiles had been attached to the walls only a few years ago. The one mosaic pattern that I thought was most beautiful was the blue ceiling pictured above. This was located in a mausoleum built to hold the body of Galla Placidia, the daughter of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. Not surprisingly, the building is very small.

On the other hand, the Basilica di San Vitale is very spacious and beautiful. The entire chancel is covered in detailed mosaic pictures tel…

Postcard from Italy

During the last two weeks, we traveled in Italy seeing many memorable sites. I'll share a few with you.

Italy has many faces. From mosaic filled ancient churches to breath-taking beauty in the mountains. We enjoyed it all. The towns, built on the slopes of mountains with "streets" that were literally only steps, were unbelievable. These towns were built more than 700 years ago and are still home to many Italians today. The residents have to be in fantastic shape to maneuver these steps, just to walk uptown without getting winded.

While we were in Ravenna, we walked through a Christmas market where line dancing was demonstrated with country western music. The cowboy boot-wearing dancers, donned with Santa Claus hats, were trying to teach the locals how to line dance. I would have joined in, but I couldn't understand the instructions since they were in Italian.

The churches in Ravenna are known for the beauty of their mosaics. They were marvelous to see, knowing that …

Happy New Year!!

c Новым годом

Merry Christmas from Russia!

Painting "Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerrit van Honthorst (1622) - public domain.

Repurposed Cathedral

One of the most beautiful cathedrals in St. Petersburg was built for a different purpose than it is used now. Smolny Cathedral, near the banks of the Neva River, was built by Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, as part of a convent that she was going to live in.

When Elizabeth found out that she was disallowed for succession to her father's throne, she decided to build a convent to live out her life with other nuns. However, when her nephew was overthrown in a coup in 1741, she gave up the monastic idea and ascended to the throne as Empress of Russia.

 The large cathedral in the center of the convent wasn't finished until after Elizabeth's death in 1764. The buildings around the cathedral were used to house a girls' school instead of a convent after the Empress no longer needed it for herself. Currently, the buildings are part of the Saint Petersburg State University.

During Soviet rule, the cathedral sat empty and was allowed to decay. It has been restored, an…

I Just Can't Get Used to This

I have to share my day with you to explain my topic this week. I had a meeting this morning at 9:30, so I was part of the morning rush hour here. First of all, I think that most people start work about 9:30 or 10:00 in Russia. That's when the metros and buses are the most crowded. There's no early morning for most workers - I don't think.

Anyway, I was part of the morning commute and left the house at 8:15. That's late by US standards, but this morning it was still as dark as 2 AM - as you can see by the photo on the left.

There were people scurrying on the sidewalks toward the metro station or toward their offices after riding the metro, so it was a normal commuting morning. The bus stop had the usual commuters also waiting for their bus, but total darkness. I waited at the stop until the arrival of my bus at 8:30 - still total darkness.

After a thirty minute ride (9:00), I exited the bus to find that a hint of light was appearing in the sky. I knew that the day would…