history


22
Jan 19

We’re back and it is cold and frozen

So since everything, included the roads, are frozen here, still*, let’s talk about some place warmer. Here are a few pictures I took yesterday just before we left Savannah. (Truly, we toted our luggage inside.)

This is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It’s a lovely building, and it marks the local Catholic diocese.

The diocese was installed by Pope Pius IX in 1850. At the time, it covered all of Georgia and part of Florida, totaling about 5,500 Catholics. Another Pope Pius, the XII, split the territory in 1956. So now this covers south Georgia. Much of what was the original church at this location was destroyed in an 1898 fire. The outside walls and two spires were saved.

There was a big renovation project in the middle of the 20th century and a massive repair project in the 1980s put the high altar in the background. Then there was another round of renovation in the late Nineties. So the pews aren’t that old.

Indeed, much of everything here is new compared to some of the beautiful church buildings we have seen over the years, but this one is still lovely, and as impressive to me as the first time I saw it 14 years ago.

The stained glass windows went in around 1904:

Many, if not all of them, were removed, cleaned and re-leaded during the last restoration project.

I didn’t realize you had to do that to windows.

Now, about that organ …

The first recorded organ at the cathedral was installed in 1837. (They held a fundraiser in 1836.) That original organ is now on display, but not in use, at the First African Baptist Church a few blocks away. Organs came and went, one was rebuilt after a hurricane, but lost in the fire. At the turn of the century an organ builder in Delaware installed a new one. That one was removed after 1938, and some of the pipes wound up in local classrooms. During the reconstruction in the 1980s a Massachusetts firm, Noack Company, was selected to build the new organ. A protestant, a Lutheran even, helped bring the organ project to life. The cathedral’s website says that was a first. And that man’s church choir, from the local St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, was the first Protestant concert in the cathedral in 1991.

*The snow was Saturday. You could barely drive around downtown today for the ice in the roads. They have some kind of plan, I’m sure. You’d like to see it activated. You’d like to see warmer temperatures, too. They’ve got about 13 degrees on us today.


14
Sep 18

Welcome to the weekend

My online friend Susan Crowell is editor at Farm and Dairy. Today she shared a photo, and a story, of the unveiling of a new historic marker in Fredericktown, Ohio. That’s the home of the original FFA corduroy jacket. That famous blue item goes back to 1933, and it still means a lot to many of us.

There’s a mention that the jackets were uninsulated, which should bring forward a memorable shiver from anyone who has ever worn one someplace like Kansas City in November, or somewhere perhaps even colder.

This is the best part …

The two gentlemen that helped with the unveiling are now 99 years young. They wore some of the original corduroy jackets.

This picture isn’t of those guys, but some of my friends, in some of our last FFA jackets.

Last night‘s show from IUSTV:

Now in full on weekend mode, which is starting like this:

So you’ve seen the Twitter feed in this post. Be sure to check out Instagram as well. Tomorrow, a bike ride!


11
Sep 18

Sports as culture and 9/11

Showed part of this in class today.

Thought a lot about almost everyone on campus doesn’t have a clear personal memory of that day. And that’s both good and unfortunate. Maybe documentaries and all of the many media opportunities we have make it seem both far away and close at hand.

Fewer people, about quarter of America now, know of the hundreds or thousands of small personal moments like this:

The jets would be armed within an hour, but somebody had to fly now, weapons or no weapons.

“Lucky, you’re coming with me,” barked Col. Marc Sasseville.

They were gearing up in the pre-flight life-support area when Sasseville, struggling into his flight suit, met her eye.

“I’m going to go for the cockpit,” Sasseville said.

(Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney) replied without hesitating.

“I’ll take the tail.”

It was a plan. And a pact.

And there’s a full generation of people for whom the large, greater, moment onboard United 93 is only a piece of history. That’s the way of it. That’s the way of time. The way of moving on.

You wonder if it always happens that quickly. Did someone feel like this in December of 1958 when they read about another anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor? Did people have a similar reaction in the fall of 1934? Was it like this in the early 1880s? Of course news come so fast now that seemingly endless wars and almost-secret wars seldom get any attention at all. Of course pivot points in history are inevitably due to be swallowed up.

But through it all, Ray, there’s been baseball.

I should have played that in class, too.


15
May 18

Walking around in Firenze

In between the museums, we saw some of the sites around the town itself. Here are a few of the views we saw today.

This is Florence’s Cathedral, the Duomo. Construction started at the end of the 13th century under the architect Arnolfo di Cambio. His work can be seen all around Rome, the Vatican and here in Tuscany. The dome, which is an impressive feature unto itself, was almost-but-not-quite an afterthought. It was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and added in the 15th century. Brunelleschi, a founding father of the Renaissance and one of the first modern engineers. There’s an interesting book about his role there. (He also held one of the first modern patents for … a river transport boat.)

Sorta makes you wonder how primitive engineers built things.

Here’s a slightly closer look at one of the corners. The exterior is a mixture of pink, white and green marble.

The front of the church wasn’t finished until relatively recently — the 19th century, between 1871 and 1887 — hence the Gothic Revival look. Emilio De Fabris, an architect, designed it after the original 13th century plans were deemed to be outdated. They held a competition

It was, Leon Battista Alberti wrote, “a structure so immense, so steeply rising toward the sky, that it covers all tuscans with its shadow.”

I will quote Alberti any chance I get.

Outside the front door there are statues of Cambio and Brunelleschi, the two architects that designed the place.

One last look, because the sky was pretty:

This is the Palazzo Vecchio’s Arnolfo Tower. The Palazzo was where David was originally displayed. The clock has one hand, typical of the time, but the oldest mechanical timepiece in town still works. The building briefly housed the Italian parliament once upon a time, but is today the Firenze town hall. Cambio, the architect, was also involved in this project, which started in the 13th century. Ruins of a previous tower were used as a part of what we see today, so it is even older than that.

This is an early 2nd century marble sculpture. It’s under a roof, but outdoors. It has been in Firenze since 1787, after being on display for a few hundred years in Rome.

That statue of the Sabine woman is really in the background of a picture of this sculpture:

That’s Heracles battling the centaur, Nessus. Heracles’ ribs and the veins in Nessus’ legs are a real treat of the 16th century workmanship. This is all carved from one block of stone. Here’s the view from the other side. In the myth, the centaur’s blood ultimately also kills Hercules. So this is all a very bittersweet open air display, really:

Heracles is a bit different than Hercules. The latter being the Roman version of the Greek story. There are differences.

There’s art everywhere here, by the way, even in the most prosaic of utilitarian features. Need to tie up your horse?

Finally, a random street scene.

And now, after a full day and three posts, it is time for bed. We have an awfully early morning tomorrow.


15
May 18

Accademia Gallery in Florence

Maybe no one really knows Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni anymore. It’s been so long, his works and his fame have outlasted the man and his contemporaries and maybe the not-quite hagiography has outpaced the historiography. (They called him the divine one, after all.) Painting, sculpture, architecture, his are among the most famous and enduring the works in the world. He was, perhaps the greatest living artist of his time, and carries a legacy that surpasses so many that have come after. He’s the archetype Renaissance Man.

But he was a solitary man, an uncouth man. He lived simply, slept in his clothes and apparently didn’t like people. Two biographies were published while Michelangelo was still alive, one by an apprentice and another by a man named Paolo Giovio. Giovio said Michelangelo’s “nature was so rough and uncouth that his domestic habits were incredibly squalid, and deprived posterity of any pupils who might have followed him.”

So then you stand before him and wonder. And this is as close as we can get. We can read the biographies and see his works and learn this and that, but then we see something that’s almost the real man. This bust was made by Daniele di Volterra, and it was made from Michelangelo’s death mask. There are three Volterra originals, and this one just came back on display from a restoration a few months ago.

He sits at the door before the Hall of Prisoners, named after the four large sculptures begun by Michelangelo for a project for the tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere which was to have more than 40 statues. Money woes killed most of the project, and after the pope died the project changed altogether, but these were meant to be part of something that depicted the Old and New Testaments, and the Prisoners were to be an allegory of the Soul imprisoned in the Flesh, slave to human weaknesses.

After the artist died, these four Prisoners were found in his studio and his nephew donated them to the Medici family, and over the years they’ve come to us. Read a bit more about each of them.

Hey! Look! It’s David …

The artists gather:

And do their studies:

The right hand is interesting. It’s larger than it should be. The question is open as to whether that was a perspective decision or a metaphor for the action to be, or the action that was done, when David slung the stone.

Now, for his Prisoners, Michelangelo is said to have spent months in quarries looking for the right stones. There’s the famous line about him not carving a figure, but releasing what was inside. If that was the process, you can imagine this man shuffling around, studying the topography, peering into it, through it, for characters. He spent months doing that for the Prisoners.

The marble that held David, this hunk of stone that had perhaps the world’s most famous and important sculpture inside, was an abandoned chunk in a Florence courtyard. Michelangelo got permission from the Opera del Duomo to work it in 1501.

David was originally placed in the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza Signoria, where it stayed and endured and was threatened and damaged and admired for a good long while.

In 1873 the statue was moved here, to the Tribune of the Galleria. A marble copy was installed back in the Palazzo in 1908. There’s also a prominent copper copy on display elsewhere in Florence. The city has long enjoyed the statue as both a mascot — tiny Florence fending off bigger foes — and, of course, a prominent tourist attraction.

Of course, the problem with David is his ankles:

These are plaster models on display. The models were part of the process of building a 19th century marble monument to Julie Clary Bonaparte. She was the queen consort of Naples and, later, Spain. (Her brother-in-law was Napoleon.)

Very neo-classical, no?

It’s funny how, today, even the practice works art works of art. It must have had some meaning beyond it’s original intention in the 1840s, since it was preserved and has survived. This one is “the genius of death crying over the urn,” and is a plaster study for a monument to Louis de Cambray-Digny, an architect and politician. It was created by Lorenzo Bartolini, who is famous for his giant Napoleon bust and a sculpture of Machiavelli.

A 24-year-old Cesare Mussini painted this oil on canvas. It is of Leonardo da Vinci dying. It basically won him a scholarship, and Mussini, a German-Italian, would become a professor, stay a painter and worked a lot in Florence and Russia.

The Tree of Life was a 14th century panel put in a Florence convent. It was inspired by Giovanni di Fidanza, Saint Bonaventure’s poem by the same name.

In the poem, the Tree of Life yields 12 harvests a year, providing man with gifts from God. Jesus is crucified on a tree of 12 branches, symbolizing those gifts. Moses, Saint Francis, Saint Clare and Saint John the Evangelist are on the panel. The medallions on the branches represent images of Jesus’ life. Stories from Genesis make an appearance in Pacino di Buonaguido’s painting. It’s believed to be a di Buonaguido. Not much is known about the man, and there’s only surviving work that he signed. But scholars rescued him from obscurity, starting in the 1930s or so, and have assigned about 50 other pieces to him, including this one. He is now considered the inventor of miniaturism. And this particular panel falls into the category of Florentine gothic.

The gothic style started in Northern France in the 12th century, an outgrowth of Romanesque art and a compliment of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, and much of the southern and central parts of the continent. But it didn’t see much success in Italy. They already had their style, much of which we’ve seen today. It was neat, today, to see where the two styles bumped into one all come together, and where the one style yielded to what it could not surpass.