Venice can can get overwhelming: the sun, the crowds, the art, the beauty…how much of stuff like this scene above can you take? Sometimes you just have to flee the city.
Fortunately, The Lagoon beckons. Within it, are several islands: Murano for the glass manufacturers; the cemetery; Burano, a small island community of brightly painted houses; and Torcello, about a thirty-minute boat ride a way. It’s a rather forlorn, marshy place, and practically no one lives there any longer, but it was the place where the people of the Veneto first sought refuge from the Hun invaders. It grew into a city, but poor resource management led to the silting of their lagoon, bringing mosquitos and malaria, and bad fishing. They up and left for what became the city of Venice. The citizens of the new city, practical to the core, looted Torcello for its stone, we would say recycled, so only a few buildings remain.
Not quite the Grand Canal of Venice, but at the end of the walk, there is a nice surprise.
I am not talking about Cipriani’s, the tony restaurant outpost of the ‘famous’ Harry’s Bar that is right down the path from Santa Maria Assunta, but the mosaics inside that church, seen in the left of the photo below. The structure on the right is the Fosca Basilica, and it is quite plain inside.
The counter-façade of Santa Maria, i.e. the wall inside of the main facade, is covered with a Byzantine-style mosaic of The Last Judgment that is incredible. (The photos are not mine.) The one below shows the final trumpet raising some of the dead, including a few that met their ends in the jaws of large fish.
The dead do not have it easy in these scenes of judgment.
Better make sure that you are on the right side of the scale used to weigh souls!
Reading a book about Victorian photography,Francis Frith in Egypt and Palestine, I came across these statements about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) painter William Holman Hunt and his picture, The Scapegoat:
” …with its elimination of aerial perspective, its aggressive placement of the goat in the foreground picture plane (even Ruskin could not abide its proximity) and its hallucinogenic detail and color…”
“The Jewish sacrifice of the goat, bearing away the town’s moral iniquities, was for Hunt a clear Old Testatment prefiguration of Christ…”
This called to mind those bizarre images from Ken Russell’s Altered States. As usual with Russell, there’s a lot more going on in his weirdness than a shallow desire to shock and be outlandish.
At the Occupy Wall Street site yesterday, I saw some people wearing a small enamel lapel pin with this design. I searched in vain for the man who was giving them away – I want one! It beautifully expresses the facts of income and social inequality in a clean, concise, and compelling graphic. Bravo to the designer!
Occupy Wall Street + Walter Benjamin +Pauline Christianity = Anaphoric Solidarity. Whaa? One of the strangest amalgams of intellectual systems I’ve come across, represented at OWS by two young men at a small table in the center of Zucotti Park.
Yep, that’s what the article was called! Click on the link to read it!
Once again, I have to ask, “Who were they?” These cave paintings of bison at Niaux are as good as it gets with freehand drawings. Done by torchlight, in the back of a long dangerous cave passage, with primitive brushes no less…about 15,000 years ago. The large domed chamber near these images has an excellent echo, and the guide suggested it may have been a hangout for shamans. The cave is not easy to get to, and the view from the entrance of the glacial valley is impressive. I wonder what the artists thought of it.
Meanwhile, back in the near present, i.e. about 800 years ago, this land was the Pays du Cathar, a region where a heretical sect, a sort of Manichean twist on Christianity, held sway along with the local language, langue d’oc. (Up north, ‘yes’ was oui, but down here it was said oc, thus the language of ‘oc)’. Although closely related to Catalan, it didn’t survive as well. The northern French, with the agreement of the Pope and the creation of a special French Inquisition, launched an internal crusade, known as the Albigensian Crusade after the city of Albi that was a political center of the heresy, and successfully stamped it out with great brutality. The castle at Foix, located in a stunning valley, is one of the many strong points that couldn’t hold back the tide of the north.