Sunday, August 23, 2009



In 2006 the Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg) Regional Museum, Russia has opened a museum in memory of the last Russia czar Nikolai the II, his family and Romanov dynasty. The permanent exhibition features documents and exhibits related to life and death of the last Russian Emperor Nikolai the II and his family.

The exposition with its unique documents unveils the murder of the tsar`s family and the circumstances surrounding this crime.

Visitors can also learn here about the history of the exploration of the development of the Ural region during the reign of the Romanov dynasty.

The initiator of the museum is Alexander Avdonin, the head of the foundation Obreteniye (“Discovery”). It was he with his friends who found the remains of the Emperor`s family in Ganina Yama (Ganina Pit) in 1978. Later Alexander Avdonin went on with his research about life and death of the last Russian Emperor and provided part of the displays of the new museum.


When it was decided to imprison the Romanov family in Ekaterinburg, the Bolsheviks chose a house located in the historical center of the city on Voznessenski Street to be used as a jail : Ipatiev house, after its owner's name, Nicholas Ipatiev. This man lived here with his family on the first floor of the house and used the ground floor rooms of his house as offices to his metallurgy business. It was a spacious (18 by 31 square meters), modern, and comfortable house with electricity, a telephone, and even a bathroom and lavatory. The house also had a terrace and a little garden with some trees and bushes like poplar, birch, and lime.

The house was built on ground with a double slope and part of the ground floor rooms on Voznessenski Street were almost in the basement.

The house was built in 1897 by a man named Andrei Redikortsev, who was an engineer in the iron mines. But Andrei Redikortsev was involved in corruption cases and was forced to sell his house to another man, IG Charaviev. This man also worked in platinum mines in the west of the Urals. Later, in 1908, IG Charaviev sold the house to Nicholas Ipatiev for 6000 rubles.


Ten years later, on Saturday, the 27th of April, the Bolsheviks asked Nicholas Ipatiev to leave his house with two days notice after having stored his belongings in a closed, small room on the ground floor. On the map, it's the little room next to the cellar room.

After Nicholas Ipatiev's departure, the Bolsheviks built a high wooden fence all round the Ipatiev house, transforming the house into a fortress. The house had become "the house of special purpose," ready to welcome the Romanov family...

On July, 17, 1918, shortly after midnight, Yakov Yurovsky, the head Bolshevik captor of the royal family awoke his prisoners and asked them to go down in the house basement to take shelter. He said that the white army were encircling the city and that battle was imminent.
Former Czar Nicholas II, his wife Aleksandra, their four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, Tsarevich Alexei, and their faithful: Doctor Botkin, lady-in-waiting Anna Demidova, cooker Kharitonof and footman Trupp quickly woke up.

After getting themselves ready, the prisoners went down in the house basement under Yurovsky's leadership to a cellar room where he asked them to wait so that he could prepare their departure towards a safer place.
Outside, the Romanovs could hear an engine noise. Yurovsky disappeared.
For the prisoners, the waiting was prolonged. Aleksandra asked for some chairs. Someone brought them two. Suddenly, Yurovsky entered the room with 10 militia, armed with rifles and pistols, who formed a killing rank...

'Execution du Tsar а Ekaterinenbourg le 17 juillet 1918'
by the french painter Sarmat.

Then, they reloaded the bodies on trucks (including the 4 which were chared) in order to bury them in another deeper pit mine located not far from there.
But after some miles, the Fiat truck got stuck in the mud. As they were near a level crossing, they took here wood planks so that the truck might get over the mud and decided to bury the bodies in this place, under the road.
They started to dig a hole, quickly put the bodies in it, recovered it with wood planks and left the place, expecting to finish the work later.
But events did not leave them the time to end their task because some days after, on 25 th July, Ekaterinburg felt to the advancing white army...

I would like to thank Royal Russia News and Romanovs Memorial for this material

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


By Caroline Copley, Reuters

A performer disguised as a currywurst sausage poses in between giant fries at the German Currywurst Museum in Berlin. The exhibition, thematising the history and preparation of the currywurst sausage, opened August 15, 2009 for visitors. The German speciality consists of a sausage in a sauce made of ketchup and curry powder.Photograph by: Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

BERLIN -- In the year that Berlin's best loved sausage, the Currywurst, celebrates its 60th Birthday a new museum showcasing the cult snack will open in the capital this weekend.
The Currywurst Museum, which claims to be Germany's first dedicated to the popular dish, opens its doors on August 15, welcoming visitors with the slogan, "Currywurst is more than just a sausage - it's one of life's experiences in Germany.
"No other national German dish inspires so much history and has so many well-known fans," said museum curator, Martin Loewer, who came up with the idea for the museum four years ago.
Of Germany's wide range of sausages, the currywurst is a national favorite, made from sliced pork sausage served with a sauce made of ketchup and curry powder.
Germans consume about 800 million currywursts annually -- 70 million are eaten in Berlin alone each year.
An array of interactive exhibits guide visitors along a 'sauce trail' through the history and variety of the beloved dish that has worldwide connoisseurs and even inspired a song by German musician, Herbert Groenemeyer.

Guests can climb inside a currywurst van, slice and prepare their own computer generated offerings against the clock and watch Grace Lee's 22 minute documentary film, "Best of the Wurst" (2004).
A spice chamber scents the air with curry powder as guests relax on the giant 'sauce sofa', shaped like a squirt of ketchup while an eco-alley assesses the environmental impact of fast food.
Tickets cost between seven and 11 euros ($15.70) and the museum expects about 350,000visitors annually. Merchandise ranges from kitchenware to cuddly currywursts retailing at 29.90 euros.
Loewer said he expected the museum to be popular despite the current economic crisis.
"Precisely in times of crisis (the Currywurst) is an excellent ambassador for the experience of Berlin. If nothing else the currywurst was born out of a time of crisis."
According to the museum, the currywurst was concocted by Berliner Herta Heuwer in 1949 when rationing was still in place in West Berlin. She began experimenting with ingredients provided by British soldiers living in the capital.
Nowadays hungry punters at one of Berlin's 2,000 currywurst stands have the choice of with or without intestine.
"Both are very popular," said Wolfgang Klamt, 56, who works at Bier's snack bar at Friedrichstrasse train station. "But I prefer mine with intestine - that's the proper hearty Berlin sausage."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


If you are heading to the Vatican City this year, you might consider hopping on a guided tour. Of course, visitors are not required to be part of a tour but the Vatican Museums' outstanding art collection and the sheer size (stretching over 9 miles) of the Vatican Museums really does require a bit of guidance.

There is a plethora of options for touring but keep in mind that the quality of tours can vary immensely. The tour company you choose can make or break your trip so be sure to do your research in order to find the tour company that best fits your requirements.

A few suggestions on creating a memorable visit at the Vatican:

Ask about the content of the tour. The Vatican collection is one of the largest in the world so the itinerary of the tours could vary greatly depending on which company you tour with. In fact, the reason that 'Vatican Museums' is plural is because there are several mini-museums that make up the 'Vatican Musuems'. (To take a peek at the collection visit Sections of the Vatican Museums) . Most all tours will visit the Sistine Chapel but check to make sure that St. Peter's Basilica is included, an architectual masterpiece in itself.

Group Size.
Inquire about group size. If you would like the opportunity to ask questions throughout your tour or to converse with your guide it is a good idea to choose a company that specializes in small group tours. Many groups are 30 people or more which makes the visit a bit impersonal and difficult to follow....but you need to ask in advance to find out the specific company's maximum group size. Presto Tours and MyVaticanTour are two companies that specialize in small group tours and have had positive reviews on the travel forums)

Make sure your guide speaks great English (or your preferred language) with little to no accent. This can be a major deciding point in whether you enjoy your tour or not. Then again, just because your guide is a native English speaker doesn't mean they're a great guide. Inquire about guides' qualifications. Are they teachers, art historians, students, academics? Have they simply memorized a script? Do the guides have a broad education or is their knowledge limited to the Vatican in itself? Are they personable?

Find out if the company has tours that are catered to children or if the tour is recommended for children. (Sometimes you can even make a special request for a guide who is exceptional with small children)

Check to see what past guests have said about the tour company. Tripadvisor is a great place to start. Or, sometimes the tour company will provide you with references and you could call or write to their past guests.

Long lines.
Don't choose a tour company just because they skip the line. Quality is more important than the amount of time you spend in line. However, if you find a quality tour company and would like to avoid the long lines make sure that your company skips the line in an ethical way; the Vatican Museums has a limited number of travel agent partners who are preapproved for using their special entrance. Beware that there are also companies who claim to skip the line but merely cut in front of someone when you arrive--a bit unethical especially since other travelers sometimes stand up to 2 hours in the same line.

Wheelchair use.
If you or a member of your group has physical difficulty with stairs you may want to use a wheelchair (which are available for free use in the Vatican Museums lobby). Keep in mind that oftentimes wheelchairs are not welcome on group tours because the Vatican Museums' layout is such that one in a wheel chair would need to take a different path through the museums due to lack of elevators. Check in advance.

Walking Tour or Bus Tour?
Some tour companies advertise their tours without mentioning that the first half of the tour will be spent on a bus and that the actual time spent admiring the Vatican's treasures will be very limited--an hour or less. Once you reach the Vatican City, no buses are allowed entry-all tours will be walking tours. Be sure to get the facts straight. Rome is very small so hotel pick-up is rather a nuisance if it means losing 1 or 2 hours of indulging in art, when, in reality, you could get to the Vatican on your own just as easily using public transport.

Related Reading.
Prepare yourself before you leave for your trip to Italy, read a book that is related to the Vatican's history, its artists, its Popes, and its religion. That way, you will be able to engage in the tour and pose questions to your expert guide.

Tour Cost.
Compare prices and find the best deal for a quality tour. Just because the price is high does not mean the quality is high.
Extras. In addition to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica there are also some lesser known attractions of the Vatican City: the Vatican Gardens, the Scavi Tour, the Papal Audience, the Pope's tombs, Michelangelo's Dome (which you can climb until the late afternoon), and the Vatican Historical Museum. Give yourself plenty of time to explore and book in advance to ensure you get to see all of these areas as the crowds tend to fill up spots very quickly.

The Creation of Adam. Michelangelo. 1508-1512.

Learning while traveling is a real joy so hopefully you will choose to reap the benefits of joining a guided tour. Whatever your decision, have a wonderul visit, remember the dress code in the warm months (women must cover knees and shoulders and men must wear long pants-no shorts or tank tops allowed), relax, and delight in the Vatican City State!

Monday, August 10, 2009



The walls are divided into three main tiers. The lower is decorated with frescoed wall hangings in silver and gold. The central tier of the walls has two cycles of paintings, which complement each other, The Life of Moses and The Life of Christ. They were commissioned in 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV and executed by Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Perugino, and Cosimo Roselli and their workshops. The upper tier is divided into two zones. At the lower level of the windows is a Gallery of Popes painted at the same time as the Lives. Around the arched tops of the windows are areas known as the lunettes which contain the Ancestors of Christ, painted by Michelangelo as part of the scheme for the ceiling.

Pope Julius II ordering Bramante, Michelangelo and Raphael to construct the Vatican and St. Peters, 1827, a painting by Horace Vernet.

The ceiling, commissioned by Pope Julius II and painted by Michelangelo between 1508 to 1511, has a series of nine paintings showing God's Creation of the World, God's Relationship with Mankind, and Mankind's Fall from God's Grace. On the large pendentives that support the vault are painted twelve Biblical and Classical men and women who prophesied that God would send Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind.

In 1515, Raphael was commissioned by Pope Leo X to design a series of ten tapestries to hang around the lower tier of the walls. Leo intended the works to hang beneath a series of 15th century frescos that had been commissioned by Sixtus IV. Raphael was at the time twenty-five and an established artist in Florence, with a number of wealthy patrons, yet he was ambitious, and keen to make an entry into the patronage of the papacy. Raphael was attracted by the ambition and energy of Rome.

Raphael saw the commission as an opportunity to be compared with Michelangelo, while Leo saw hangings as his answer to the ceiling of Julius. The subjects he chose were based on the text of the Acts of the Apostles. Work began in mid-1515. Due to their large size, manufacture of the hangings was carried out in Brussels, and took four years under the hands of the weavers in the shop of Pieter van Aelst.

Although Michelangelo's complex design for the ceiling was not quite what his patron, Pope Julius II, had in mind when he commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Twelve Apostles, the scheme displayed a consistent iconographical pattern. However, this was disrupted by a further commission to Michelangelo to decorate the wall above the altar with The Last Judgement, 1537-1541. The painting of this scene necessitated the obliteration of two episodes from the Lives, several of the Popes and two sets of Ancestors. Two of the windows were blocked and two of Raphael's tapestries became redundant.


The wall paintings were executed by the most respected painters of the 15th century: Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli and their respective workshops, which included Pinturicchio, Piero di Cosimo and Bartolomeo della Gatta. The subjects were historical religious themes, selected and divided according to the medieval concept of the partition of world history into three epochs: before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, between Moses and Christ's birth, and the Christian era thereafter. They underline the continuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, or the transition from the Mosaic law to the Christian religion.

The walls were painted over a relatively short period of time, barely eleven months between July 1481 and May 1482. The painters were each required first to execute a sample fresco; these were to be officially examined and evaluated in January, 1482. However, it was so evident at such an early stage that the frescoes would be satisfactory that by October 1481, the artists were given the commission to execute the remaining ten stories.

Last Judgement by Michelangelo

The pictorial programme for the chapel was composed of a cycle each from the Old and New Testament of scenes from the lives of Moses and Christ. The narratives began at the altar wall - the frescoes painted there yielding to Michelangelo's Last Judgment a mere thirty years later - continued along the long walls of the chapel, and ended at the entrance wall. A gallery of papal portraits was painted above these depictions, and the latter were completed underneath by representations of painted curtains. The individual scenes from the two cycles contain typological references to one another. The Old and New Testaments are understood as constituting a whole, with Moses appearing as the prefiguration of Christ.

The typological positioning of the Moses and Christ cycles has a political dimension going beyond a mere illustrating of the correspondences between Old and New Testament. Sixtus IV was employing a precisely conceived program to illustrate through the entire cycle the legitimacy of papal authority, running from Moses, via Christ, to Peter, whose ultimate authority, conferred by Christ, ultimately to the Pope of present. The portraits of the latter above the narrative depictions served emphatically to illustrate the ancestral lineage of their God-given authority.

The two most important scenes from the fresco cycle, Perugino's Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter and Botticelli's The Punishment of Korah, both contain in the background the triumphal arch of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, who gave the Pope temporal power over the Roman western world. The triumphal arch makes reference to the imperial grant of papal power of the Pope. Sixtus IV was, thereby, not only illustrating his position in a line of succession starting in the Old Testament and continuing through the New Testament up to contemporary times but simultaneously restating the view of the papacy as the legitimate successor to the Roman Empire.

Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter

Among Perugino's frescoes in the Chapel, the Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter is stylistically the most instructive. This scene is a reference to Matthew 16 in which the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" are given to St.Peter. These keys represent the power to forgive and to share the word of God thereby giving them the power to allow others into heaven. The main figures are organized in a frieze in two tightly compressed rows close to the surface of the picture and well below the horizon. The principal group, showing Christ handing the silver and gold keys to the kneeling St. Peter, is surrounded by the other Apostles, including Judas (fifth figure to the left of Christ), all with halos, together with portraits of contemporaries, including one said to be a self-portrait (fifth from the right edge). The flat, open square is divided by coloured stones into large foreshortened rectangles, although they are not used in defining the spatial organization. Nor is the relationship between the figures and the felicitous invention of the porticoed Temple of Solomon that dominates the picture effectively resolved. The triumphal arches at the extremities appear as superfluous antiquarian references, suitable for a Roman audience. Scattered in the middle distance are two secondary scenes from the life of Christ, including the Tribute Money on the left and the Stoning of Christ on the right.

The style of the figures is inspired by Andrea del Verrocchio. The active drapery, with its massive complexity, and the figures, particularly several apostles, including St. John the Evangelist, with beautiful features, long flowing hair, elegant demeanour, and refinement recall St Thomas from Verrocchio's bronze group in Orsanmichele. The poses of the actors fall into a small number of basic attitudes that are consistently repeated, usually in reverse from one side to the other, signifying the use of the same cartoon. They are graceful and elegant figures who tend to stand firmly on the earth. Their heads are smallish in proportion to the rest of their bodies, and their features are delicately distilled with considerable attention to minor detail.

The octagonal temple of Jerusalem and its porches that dominates the central axis must have had behind it a project created by an architect, but Perugino's treatment is like the rendering of a wooden model, painted with exactitude. The building with its arches serves as a backdrop in front of which the action unfolds. Perugino has made a significant contribution in rendering the landscape. The sense of an infinite world that stretches across the horizon is stronger than in almost any other work of his contemporaries, and the feathery trees against the cloud-filled sky with the bluish-gray hills in the distance represent a solution that later painters would find instructive, especially Raphael.

The fresco was believed to be a good omen in papal conclaves: superstition held that the cardinal who (as selected by lot) was housed in the cell beneath the fresco was likely to be elected. Contemporary records indicate at least three popes were housed beneath the fresco during the conclaves that elected them: Pope Clement VII, Pope Julius II, and Pope Paul III.




The Chapel is a high rectangular brick building, its exterior unadorned by architectural or decorative details, as common in many Medieval and Renaissance churches in Italy. It has no exterior facade or exterior processional doorways, as the ingress has always been from internal rooms within the Papal Palace, and the exterior can be seen only from nearby windows and light-wells in the palace. The internal spaces are divided into three stories of which the lowest is huge, with a robustly vaulted basement with several utilitarian windows and a doorway giving onto the exterior court.

Above is the main space, the Chapel, the internal measurements of which are 40.9 metres (134 ft) long by 13.4 metres (44 ft) wide—the dimensions of the Temple of Solomon, as given in the Old Testament The vaulted ceiling rises to 20.7 metres (68 ft). The building had six tall arched windows down each side and two at either end. Several of these have been blocked, but the chapel is still accessible. Above the vault rises a third story with wardrooms for guards. At this level, an open projecting gangway was constructed, which encircled the building supported on an arcade springing from the walls. The gangway has been roofed as it was a continual source of water leaking in to the vault of the Chapel.

Subsidence and cracking of masonry such as must also have affected the Cappella Maggiore has necessitated the building of very large buttresses to brace the exterior walls. The accretion of other buildings has further altered the exterior appearance of the Chapel.


As with most buildings measured internally, absolute measurement is hard to ascertain. However, the general proportions of the chapel are clear to within a few centimetres. The length is the measurement and has been divided by three to get the width and by two to get the height. Maintaining the ratio, there were six windows down each side and two at either end. The screen that divides the chapel was originally placed halfway from the altar wall, but this has changed. Clearly-defined proportions were a feature of Renaissance architecture and reflected the growing interest in the Classical heritage of Rome.

The ceiling of the chapel is a flattened barrel vault springing from a course that encircles the walls at the level of the springing of the window arches. This barrel vault is cut transversely by smaller vaults over each window, which divide the barrel vault at its lowest level into a series of large pendentives rising from shallow pilasters between each window. The barrel vault was originally painted brilliant-blue and dotted with gold stars, to the design of Piermatteo Lauro de' Manfredi da Amelia. The pavement is in opus alexandrinum, a decorative style using marble and coloured stone in a pattern that reflects the earlier proportion in the division of the interior and also marks the processional way form the main door, used by the Pope on important occasions such as Palm Sunday.

The screen or transenna in marble by Mino da Fiesole, Andrea Bregno, and Giovanni Dalmata divides the chapel into two parts. Originally these made equal space for the members of the Papal Chapel within the sanctuary near the altar and the pilgrims and townsfolk without. However, with growth in the number of those attending the Pope, the screen was moved giving a reduced area for the faithful laity. The transenna is surmounted by a row of ornate candlesticks, once gilt, and has a wooden door, where once there was an ornate door of gilded wrought iron. The sculptors of the transenna also provided the cantoria or projecting choir gallery.


During occasional ceremonies of particular importance, the side walls are covered with a series of tapestries originally designed for the chapel from Raphael, but looted a few years later in the 1527 Sack of Rome and either burnt for their precious metal content or scattered around Europe. The tapestries depict events from the Life of St. Peter and the Life of St. Paul as described in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. In the late 20th century, a set was reassembled (several further sets had been made) and displayed again in the Sistine Chapel in 1983. The full-size preparatory cartoons for seven of the ten tapestries are known as the Raphael Cartoons and are in London.


Today we will have on-run-look (indeed! otherwise we are at risk to stuck here forever!) at the famous Sistine Chapel, pontifical home and the place where hundreds of masterpieces were born.

Papal chapel in the Vatican Palace, Rome, constructed 1473 – 81 by Giovanni dei Dolci for Pope Sixtus IV (for whom it is named). It is the site of the principal papal ceremonies. Its exterior is drab and unadorned, but its interior walls and ceiling are decorated with frescoes by Florentine Renaissance masters, including Perugino, Pinturicchio, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Luca Signorelli. Portions of the walls were once covered with tapestries designed by Raphael (1515 – 19). The most important works are the frescoes by Michelangelo on the ceiling and the western wall behind the altar, considered among the greatest achievements of Western painting. The ceiling frescoes, depicting Old Testament scenes, were commissioned by Pope Julius II and painted 1508 – 12; the Last Judgment fresco on the western wall was painted 1536 – 41 for Pope Paul III. A controversial 10-year cleaning and restoration of the ceiling was completed in 1989, and of the western wall in 1994.

Sistine Chapel (Italian: Cappella Sistina) is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. Its fame rests on its architecture, evocative of Solomon's Temple of the Old Testament and on its decoration which has been frescoed throughout by the greatest Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, and Sandro Botticelli. Under the patronage of Pope Julius II, Michelangelo painted 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) of the chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512. He resented the commission, and believed his work only served the Pope's need for grandeur. However, today the ceiling, and especially The Last Judgement, are widely believed to be Michelangelo's crowning achievements in painting.


The Sistine Chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored the old Cappella Magna between 1477 and 1480. During this period a team of painters that included Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio created a series of frescoed panels depicting the life of Moses and the life of Christ, offset by papal portraits above and trompe l’oeil drapery below. These paintings were completed in 1482, and on August 15, 1483, Sixtus IV consecrated the first mass in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption.

Since the time of Sixtus IV, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new Pope is selected.

The Sistine Chapel is best known for being the location of Papal conclaves; it is, however, the physical chapel of the Papal Chapel. At the time of Pope Sixtus IV in the late 15th century, this corporate body comprised about 200 people, including clerics, officials of the Vatican and distinguished laity. There were 50 occasions during the year on which it was prescribed by the Papal Calendar that the whole Papal Chapel should meet. Of these 50 occasions, 35 were masses, of which 8 were held in Basilicas, in general St. Peters, and were attended by large congregations. These included the Christmas Day and Easter masses, at which the Pope himself was the celebrant. The other 27 masses could be held in a smaller, less public space, for which the Cappella Maggiore was used before it was rebuilt on the same site as the Sistine Chapel.

The Cappella Maggiore derived its name, the Greater Chapel, from the fact that there was another chapel also in use by the Pope and his retinue for daily worship. At the time of Pope Sixtus IV, this was the Chapel of Pope Nicholas V, which had been decorated by Fra Angelico. The Cappella Maggiore is recorded as existing in 1368. According to a communication from Andreas of Trebizond to Pope Sixtus IV, by the time of its demolition to make way for the present chapel, the Cappella Maggiore was in a ruinous state with its walls leaning.

The present chapel, on the site of the Cappella Maggiore, was designed by Baccio Pontelli for Pope Sixtus IV, for whom it is named, and built under the supervision of Giovannino de Dolci between 1473 and 1481. The proportions of the present chapel appear to closely follow those of the original. After its completion, the chapel was decorated with frescoes by a number of the most famous artists of the High Renaissance, including Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino, and Michelangelo.

The first mass in the Sistine Chapel was celebrated on August 9, 1483, the Feast of the Assumption, at which ceremony the chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The Sistine Chapel has maintained its function to the present day, and continues to host the important services of the Papal Calendar, unless the Pope is travelling. There is a permanent choir for whom much original music has been written, the most famous piece being Allegri's Miserere.

Papal Conclave

One of the primary functions of the Sistine Chapel is as a venue for the election of each successive pope in a conclave of the College of Cardinals. On the occasion of a conclave, a chimney is installed in the roof of the chapel, from which smoke arises as a signal. If white smoke appears, created by burning the ballots of the election and some chemical additives, a new Pope has been elected. If a candidate receives less than a two-thirds majority, the cardinals send up black smoke—created by burning the ballots along with wet straw or chemical additives—it means that no successful election has yet occurred.

The conclave also provides for the cardinals a space in which they can hear mass, and in which they can eat, sleep, and pass time abetted by servants. From 1455, conclaves have been held in the Vatican; until the Great Schism, they were held in the Dominican convent of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Canopies for each cardinal-elector were once used during conclaves—a sign of equal dignity. After the new Pope accepts his election, he would give his new name; at this time, the other Cardinals would tug on a rope attached to their seats to lower their canopies. Until reforms instituted by Saint Pius X, the canopies were of different colours to designate which Cardinals had been appointed by which Pope. Paul VI abolished the canopies altogether, since, under his papacy, the population of the College of Cardinals had increased so much to the point that they would need to be seated in rows of two against the walls, making the canopies obstruct the view of the cardinals in the back row.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Cologne Cathedral (German: Kölner Dom, officially Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria) is a church in Cologne, Germany. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne (currently Cardinal Joachim Meisner), and is under the administration of the archdiocese of Cologne.

It is renowned as a monument of Christianity, of German Catholicism in particular, of Gothic architecture and of the continuing faith and perseverance of the people of the city in which it stands. It is dedicated to Saint Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The cathedral is a World Heritage Site, one of the best-known architectural monuments in Germany, and Cologne's most famous landmark, described by UNESCO as an "exceptional work of human creative genius"

Construction of Cologne Cathedral began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, until 1880 to complete – a period of over 600 years. It is 144.5 metres long, 86.5 m wide and its two towers are 157 m tall. The cathedral is one of the world's largest churches and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. For four years, 1880-84, it was the tallest structure in the world, until the completion of the Washington Monument. It has the second-tallest church spires, only surpassed by the single spire of Ulm Cathedral, completed 10 years later in 1890. Because of its enormous twin spires, it also presents the largest façade of any church in the world. The choir of the cathedral, measured between the piers, also holds the distinction of having the largest height to width ratio of any Medieval church, 3.6:1, exceeding even Beauvais Cathedral which has a slightly higher vault.

Cologne's medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit its role as a place of worship of the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, Cologne Cathedral eventually became unified as "a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value" and "a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe".

Ancient site

When the present Cologne Cathedral was commenced in 1248, the site had been occupied by several previous structures, the earliest of which may have been a grain store, perhaps succeeded by a Roman temple built by Mercurius Augustus. From the 4th century the site was occupied by Christian buildings including a square edifice known as the "oldest cathedral" and commissioned by Maternus, the first Christian bishop of Cologne. A second church, the so-called "Old Cathedral", was completed in 818. This burned down on April 30, 1248.

Medieval beginning

In 1164, the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel had acquired relics of the Three Kings which had been taken from Milan, Italy by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa. The relics had great religious significance and could be counted upon to draw pilgrims from all over Christendom. It was important that they were properly housed. The loss of the old five-aisled cathedral prompted a building program in the new style of Gothic architecture based in particular on the French Cathedral of Amiens.

The foundation stone was laid on August 15, 1248, by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden. The eastern arm was completed under the direction of Master Gerhard, was consecrated in 1322 and sealed off by a temporary wall so it could be in use as the work proceeded. Eighty four misericords in the choir date from this building phase. In the mid 14th century work on the west front commenced under Master Michael. This work halted in 1473 leaving the south tower complete up to the belfry level and crowned with a huge crane which was destined to remain in place, and the landmark of Cologne for 400 years.

Some work proceeded intermittently on the structure of the nave between the west front and the eastern arm but during the 16th century, this ceased.

With the 19th century romantic enthusiasm for the Middle Ages and spurred on by the lucky discovery of the original plan for the facade, it was decided, with the commitment of the Prussian Court, to complete the cathedral. It was achieved by civic effort, the Central-Dombauverein, founded in 1842, raised two-thirds of the enormous costs (over US$ 1 billion in today's money), while the Prussian state supplied the remaining third.

Work resumed in 1842 to the original design of the surviving medieval plans and drawings, but utilising more modern construction techniques including iron roof girders. The nave was completed and the towers were added. The bells were installed in the 1870s.

The completion of Germany's largest cathedral was celebrated as a national event in 1880, 632 years after construction had begun. The celebration was attended by Emperor Wilhelm I.

World War II and post-war history

The cathedral suffered seventy hits by aerial bombs during World War II. It did not collapse, but stood tall in an otherwise flattened city. In June 1945, the cathedral was supposedly abused as a rifle range by American troops. The repairs to the building were completed in 1956. In the northwest tower's base, an emergency repair carried out in 1944 with bad-quality brick taken from a nearby war ruin remained visible until the late 1990s as a reminder of the War, but then it was decided to reconstruct this section according to the original appearance. The brick-filling can be seen in the image on the left.

Stained glass window by Gerhard Richter, 20 meters tallSome repair and maintenance work is constantly being carried out in some section of the building, which is almost never completely free of scaffolding, since wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones. The Dombauhütte, which was established to build the cathedral and repair the cathedral, is said to employ the best stonemasons of the Rhineland. There is a common joke in Cologne that the leader of the Dombauhütte, the Dombaumeister (master builder of the cathedral), has to be Catholic and free from giddiness. The current Dombaumeisterin is Barbara Schock-Werner. Half of the costs of repair and maintenance are still borne by the Dombauverein.


On August 25, 2007, the cathedral received a new stained glass in the south transept window. With 113 square metres of glass, the window was created by the German artist Gerhard Richter. It is composed of 11,500 identically sized pieces of coloured glass resembling pixels, randomly arranged by computer, which create a colorful "carpet". Since the loss of the original window in World War II, the space had been temporarily filled with plain glass. The archbishop of the cathedral, Joachim Cardinal Meisner, who had preferred a figurative depiction of 20th-century Catholic martyrs for the window, did not attend the unveiling.

The most celebrated work of art in the cathedral is the Shrine of the Three Kings, a large gilded sarcophagus dating from the 13th century, and the largest reliquary in the Western world. It is traditionally believed to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men, whose bones and 2,000-year-old clothes were discovered at the opening of the shrine in 1864.


Near the sacristy is the Gero-Kreuz, a large crucifix carved in oak and with traces of paint and gilding. Believed to have been commissioned around 960 for Archbishop Gero, it is the oldest large crucifix north of the Alps and the earliest-known large free-standing Northern sculpture of the medieval period.

In the Sacrament Chapel is the Mailänder Madonna ("Milan Madonna"), dating from around 1290, a wooden sculpture depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. The altar of the patron saints of Cologne with an altar piece by the International Gothic painter, Stephan Lochner is in the Marienkapelle ("St. Mary's Chapel"). Other works of art are to be found in the Cathedral Treasury.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Zagreb's numerous museums reflect the history, art and culture not only of Zagreb and Croatia, but also of Europe and the world. Around thirty collections in museums and galleries comprise more than 3.6 million various exhibits, excluding church and private collections.


Archeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum (19 Nikola Šubić Zrinski Square) collections, today consisting of nearly 400,000 varied artifacts and monuments, have been gathered over the years from many different sources. These holdings include evidence of Croatian presence in the area. The most famous are the Egyptian collection, the Zagreb mummy and bandages with the oldest Etruscan inscription in the world (Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis), as well as the numismatic collection.

Croatian Natural History Museum

The Croatian Natural History Museum (1 Demetrova Street) holds one of the world's most important collection of Neanderthal remains found at one site. These are the remains, stone weapons and tools of prehistoric Krapina man. The holdings of the Croatian Natural History Museum comprise more than 250,000 specimens distributed among various different collections.

Museum of Technology

The Museum of Technology (18 Savska Street) was founded in 1954 and it maintains the oldest preserved machine in the area, dating from 1830, which is still operational. The museum exhibits numerous historic aircraft, cars, machinery and equipment. There are some distinct sections in the museum: the Planetarium, the Apisarium, the Mine (model of mines for coal, iron and non-ferrous metals, about 300 m (980 ft) long), and the Nikola Tesla study.

Museum of the City of Zagreb

The Museum of the City of Zagreb (20 Opatička Street) was established in 1907 by the Association of the Braća Hrvatskog Zmaja. It is located in a restored monumental complex (Popov toranj, the Observatory, Zakmardi Granary) of the former Convent of the Poor Clares, of 1650. The Museum deals with topics from the cultural, artistic, economic and political history of the city spanning from Roman finds to the modern period. The holdings comprise 75,000 items arranged systematically into collections of artistic and mundane objects characteristic of the city and its history.

Arts and Crafts Museum

The Arts and Crafts Museum (10 Marshal Tito Square) was founded in 1880 with the intention of preserving the works of art and craft against the new predominance of industrial products. With its 160,000 exhibits, the Arts and Crafts Museum is a national-level museum for artistic production and the history of material culture in Croatia.

Ethnographic Museum

The Ethnographic Museum (14 Ivan Mažuranić Square) was founded in 1919. It lies in the fine Secession building of the one-time Trades Hall of 1903. The ample holdings of about 80,000 items cover the ethnographic heritage of Croatia, classified in the three cultural zones: the Pannonian, Dinaric and Adriatic.

Mimara Museum


The museum called the "Art Collection of Ante and Wiltrud Topić Mimara" or, for short, the Mimara Museum (5 Roosevelt Square), was founded with a donation from Ante "Mimara" Topić and opened to the public in 1987. It is located in a late 19th century neo-Renaissance palace. The holdings comprise 3,750 works of art of various techniques and materials, and different cultures and civilizations.

Croatian Naïve Art Museum

The Croatian Naïve Art Museum (works by Croatian primitivists at 3 Ćirilometodska Street) is considered to be the first museum of naïve art in the world.[citation needed] The museum keeps works of Croatian naïve expression of the 20th century. It is located in the 18th century Raffay Palace in the Gornji Grad. The museum holdings consist of 1500 works of art - paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, mainly by Croatians but also by other well-known world artists. From time to time, the museum organizes topics and retrospective exhibitions by naïve artists, expert meetings and educational workshops and playrooms.

Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art was founded in 1954 and a rich collection of Croatian and foreign contemporary visual art has been collected throughout the decades. The Museum (2 St. Catherine's Square) is located in a space within the Kulmer Palace in the Gornji Grad. A new Museum building in Novi Zagreb has been under construction since 2003. The Museum's permanent art collection will be presented to the public when it moves into its new building planned for 2007.

Valuable historical collections are also found in the Croatian School Museum, the Croatian Hunting Museum, the Croatian Sports Museum, the Croatian Post and Telecommunications Museum, the HAZU (Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts) Glyptotheque (collection of monuments), and the HAZU Graphics Cabinet.


The Strossmayer's Old Masters Gallery (11 Zrinski Square) offers permanent holdings presenting European paintings from the 14th to 19th centuries, and the Ivan Meštrović Studio, (8 Mletačka Street) with sculptures, drawings, lithography portfolios and other items, was a donation of this great artist to his homeland The Museum and Gallery Center (4 Jesuit Square) introduces on various occasions the Croatian and foreign cultural and artistic heritage. The Art Pavilion (22 King Tomislav Square) by Viennese architects Hellmer and Fellmer who were the most famous designers of theaters in Central Europe is a neo-classical exhibition complex and one of the landmarks of the downtown. The exhibitions are also held in the impressive Meštrović building on Žrtava Fašizma Square — the Home of Croatian Fine Artists. The World Center "Wonder of Croatian Naïve Art" (12 Ban Jelačić Square) exhibits masterpieces of Croatian naïve art as well as the works of a new generation of artists. The Modern Gallery (1 Hebrangova Street) comprises all relevant fine artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.