Snapshot Saturday: an unusual and holy kitchen appliance

As far as blogging goes, I’m still in Barcelona: though in reality I’m snuggled in a cosy jumper looking upwards as a grey sky turns greyer.

In Barcelona, we visited the Monasterio de Pedralbes.  It’s not actually a monastery, because no monk has ever lived there.  It’s a priory, built in 1326 by King James of Aragon for his wife Elisenda de Montcada, who wished to found a community of Poor Clares there.  Poor Clares?  These are nuns who devote themselves to a life of simplicity and prayer, and in Elisenda’s time were almost always drawn from the ranks of the aristocracy.  She herself never became a nun, but she was very real presence in the life of this community.

And what a fine place it is.  A graceful three-storied cloister surrounds a peaceful garden.  Here is a fountain, topped off with a rather cheeky looking angel.  This is where the nuns would wash their hands before dining in silence in the refectory, while devotional works were read to them from a pulpit.

But it’s the kitchen I’d like to show you.   In its day, this was a state-of-the-art workroom. Who wouldn’t like to cook at this unusual kitchen range, supervised by Saint Anthony?  Look at these fine sinks, dating from about 1520.  There are bread ovens, tiled worktops, and it was here that the simple diet of the nuns was prepared: fresh and salted fish, pulses, rice, vegetables and fruit.  Meat was reserved for festivities.

Saint Anthony’s range cooker.

 

A double drainer kitchen sink, without constant running hot water.

This is another of Barcelona’s hardly-discovered treasures.  Just a couple of school parties there, and once they’d gone, we had the place almost to ourselves.  Put this on your must-visit list too.

This post is my response to this week’s WordPress photo challenge: ‘unusual’.

 

A hospital, a community, a work of art.

I promised to tell you the story of the Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau Barcelona, which we visited the other day.
A view of some of the site, glimpsed through one of the windows.
 It’s a story that goes back to the 15th century, when Barcelona already had six hospitals.  In 1401 these merged onto a new site in Raval, to offer improved care to the sick.
 
By the 19th century, these facilities were too small, too outdated, no longer really fit for purpose. A Catalan Banker, Pau Gil, put up the money to fund a truly enormous and visionary project: a whole community of buildings offering state-of-the-art care to the poor of the city.  The plan was for facilities of the highest quality, designed in cutting-edge modernist style by cutting-edge Modernista architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
 
Modernism?  Think of it as Art Nouveau, Catalan style. You’ll recognise it in the works of Antoni Gaudi. Montaner found inspiration from Moorish architecture. Playful looking mosaics and the light-flooded areas are the special feature of his buildings.  What we noticed straight away was bold colour, bold decoration: rich-hued tiled roofs: and within, tiles and mosaics in sunny yellow, grass green, sky blue.  
 

Sun, grass, sky.  Why not remind the sick inmates of a cheerful world outside the hospital?  Why not have light, airy, high-ceilinged rooms, tiled throughout for ease of cleaning, and because they would never become dingy and faded?  Why not build underground tunnels, tiled in cream, so that patients could be moved round the site without being exposed to the elements? Why not build a decent well-lit operating theatre, well-stocked libraries for doctors to consult, and set all these buildings among gardens which patients and staff alike could enjoy?

Underground walkways between the hospital buildings.
This was a Christian foundation.  Nuns provided nursing care until the 1990s, as they had done since the hospital’s earliest years  Mosaics in the building told stories from the Christian tradition, such as that of Saint George slaying the dragon.  Other carvings and statues relied on ancient legends.  This frog nursing a baby frog, for example, is an old symbol of caring love.
 
Originally, men and women were separated, but later, the hospital was organised by specialism.  Now, although research continues here, modern buildings behind continue the work of the hospital.
A women’s ward in the hospital, 1920s.

The foundation stone was laid in 1902, and facilities were developed until about 1930.  Large parts of the site were never built at all, from lack of funds.  This isn’t surprising.  There is nothing of the workhouse about this place.  It’s a beautiful, special site, fully deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage status, acquired in 1997.  It only opened its doors to visitors a few years ago, and it’s not yet truly on the tourist trail, despite being just up the road from then Sagrada Familia which is always surrounded by hordes of tourists.  Visit it now, while it’s still an oasis of calm.  It’ll be somewhere you’ll remember forever.

 I’d intended to go into the story of this place in more detail.  But a fellow blogger, Restless Jo, whom I ‘met’ only recently, introduced me to a series of posts by a blogging friend of hers, Jude.  Here’s a link to the first one, from which you can reach all the rest.  She tells and illustrates the history of this place so well that, quite simply, I don’t have to.

 

 

Snapshot Saturday: From World Heritage to heritage at home.

Fountain’s Abbey seen from a hillside walk last Autumn.

In 1132, thirteen Benedictine monks from York fetched up in a wild and isolated place we now know as the manicured and lovely parkland setting of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.  The Archbishop of York had offered them the land so they could establish a pious community based on silence, prayer and simplicity.

Over the years – over the next four centuries – they built a community with all the trappings of a large village: sleeping, living and working quarters, an infirmary, guest accommodation, a mill, a tannery, quarrying, as well as the daily focus of their lives, the Abbey church itself, where they worshipped eight times a day.

Huby’s Tower at Fountain’s Abbey, built not many years before the Dissolution of the Monasteries

Their principal source of income was from sheep, whose wool came to be valued at home and abroad.  Merchants from all over Europe to buy and trade.

The Abbey site could not sustain enough sheep for this thriving business. Lay brothers (the manual workers of the monastic world) were sent further and further afield to establish small working sheep farms – granges.  During the 15th century they came here, and built the house in which we now live.

The first floor was once the lay brothers’ dormitory. Now it’s our flat. I bet those monks didn’t look out over this lovely walled garden.

It’s changed a bit of course.  Who knows how much of the house is truly original, though the stone-built walls are a traditional, sturdy and strong build?  We no longer live in an upstairs dormitory, as the lay brothers did.

The Victorians divided the place into rooms for the servants of the country house which was built and attached to the grange in the 18th century.  The animals and working quarters are no longer downstairs, though the old, spacious and business like kitchen hearth still exists.

As I make the eight mile journey from here to Fountains Abbey I like to think of the heritage our home shares with this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage site.  Aren’t we lucky?

The Old Grange is attached to the fine 18th century house next door. We seem to have access to their wisteria.

This post is in response to the WordPress weekly photo challenge: ‘Heritage’

To Eyre is Human

Just round the corner from us, on a back road into Ripon, is a fine old manor house, Norton Conyers. It was in such ruinous condition that it was closed for several years while its owners, Sir James and Lady Graham, oversaw its restoration.

Last year, one one of its few open days, we paid a visit, and I failed to blog about our wonderful afternoon out. But now I don’t have to.

Ann Stephenson, in her wonderfully varied blog ‘Travels and Tomes’ not only recounts something of the house and its history, but lets us all into a secret. Norton Conyers, with its secret attic and resident madwoman may have provided the inspiration for Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’. How exciting is that?

You can read all about it here. Thanks Ann, for letting me share this story.

Travels and Tomes: One Expat's Amblings and Ramblings

norton cony attic room Getty Images The secret attic room at Norton Conyers.

While we are on the topic of the Bronte sisters (or, at least, we were two weeks ago), there’s one more thing I should mention– an especially juicy tidbit.  Are you listening?  Jane Eyre may be inspired by a true story.

Norton Conyers

This isn’t news in North Yorkshire and the cozy city of Ripon that I once called home.   Just around the corner from Ripon, roughly two or three miles from the roundabout at the edge of town, lies a beautiful old manor house by the name Norton Conyers.   It is a handsome medieval squire’s home, dating back to the 1600’s, which has remained in the possession of one family (the Grahams) for nearly 400 years.  That’s an achievement!

However, the house had fallen into disrepair of colossal proportions: rain poured in, wood-boring beetles swarmed, and very little of the grand house was heated.  Thankfully, Sir James and…

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‘Please don’t feed the deer’.

Knole seen from across the deer park

We went to Knole on Sunday: I was with Tom, Sarah and William.  Here is a house with 500 years of history set into a mediaeval deer park of 1000 acres.

The house turned out to be off-limits.  Only when we got home did we find out that with an over-booked Children’s Book Festival in full swing, other visitors were being urged to stay away.

It didn’t matter.  A 1000 acre deer park simply never gets crowded, and the weather was sunny and bright. William rushed about the unending open space and we all helped him spot distant deer.

What we didn’t expect was that the deer were rather more interested in spotting us, and not staying at a distance at all.  They’d developed a formula which goes something like this: ‘people = rucksacks = picnics = free food’.

Deer on a food recce.

We knew it wasn’t a good idea.  We know that deer are wild creatures, sometimes unpredictable and that they can host ticks and other unwelcome creepy-crawlies.  It was a treat to be able to see them grazing nearby.

A spot of grooming.

The deer had other ideas.  They found a neighbouring toddler’s empty push chair and nuzzled around it for treats.  Then they spotted William.  He had an apple.  The young sika deer thought that William’s apple might make a nice change from grazing for young grass.

Apple core thief.

It was treat for William of course, to get so close to these wild creatures. And it was a treat for us too. But we were wary, and did what we could to discourage our marauder.  Once he ‘d snaffled the apple core, we made our excuses and left.

We’ll go back to Knole of course, to explore the house.  But we may leave our picnic at home.

Time travelling to the past in Nidderdale.

If you come for your holidays to Nidderdale in the Yorkshire Dales – and my goodness, I do recommend it – you’ll want to have an afternoon pottering around Pateley Bridge.  It’s just won Britain’s Best Village High Street 2016 award.

Pateley Bridge High Street (geograph.co.uk via Wikimedia Commons)

And if you come to Pateley Bridge, you jolly well ought to visit Nidderdale Museum.  Tucked behind the High Street near the Primary School and the Parish Church on the site of the former Workhouse,  it’s a little treasure trove.

A photo in the museum collection of Pateley Bridge High Street in the very early twentieth century.

This little museum is entirely staffed by volunteers who cherish each donation and display as many as they possibly can in an engaging and informative way.  You’ll punctuate your visit with delighted cries of ‘I remember that!  My granny had one!’  Or ‘Oooh, I never knew the railway went there.  I wonder where the station was?’. You’ll have an animated discussion with a fellow-visitor about being an ink-monitor at school, or about the mangle that was hauled out on washdays when you were a small child.

You’ll also see things that were not part of your own heritage, but which were an important part of Nidderdale’s past. You’ll discover that this pleasant rural area was once an industrial power-house, with textile workers by the score and lead mines dotted over the landscape. You’ll be reminded how very tough day-to-day life was on a Daleside small holding or farm.

Here’s a very quick tour:

We had a Ewbank carpet sweeper at home … and this splendid bed-warmer, simply heated by a light bulb … and a cream-maker.

We had inkwells like this at school, and I spent many painful hours in the company of copy books like these.

But look at this parlour:

I don't quite remember a room like this.
I don’t quite remember a room like this.

And this wholly intact cobbler’s shop, transferred to the Museum in its entirety.

I definitely remember a cobbler's shop like this.
I definitely remember a cobbler’s shop like this.

And here’s a glimpse of life on the farm, before labour-saving machinery came along.

Tools both heavy and huge in use on the farm.
Tools both heavy and huge in use on the farm.

We’ll be going again and again.  So much to see, to reminisce over, to learn from.  This engaging museum is a treasure in its own right.

My visit was one of the perks of being a National Trust volunteer. Brimham Rocks is Fountains Abbey’s nearest neighbour, and staff there organised this trip – thank you!  The museum is open at weekends until mid-March, then daily during summer months.  

Snapshot Saturday: A Korean cultural heritage – against the odds

palace11592 was a terrible year for Korea.  The Japanese invaded.  They raged through the land destroying all they saw.  They burnt ancient temples and state-of-the-art palaces as well as ordinary homes.  Little was left.

Imagine an England in which every cultural icon was destroyed in WWII – Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, York Minster, Salisbury Cathedral, Chatsworth….. that’s the kind of morale-destroying disaster Korea faced in 1592.

Rather than accept these losses, Koreans rolled up their sleeves and built everything again, on the same site, and to the same design.  Not just once, but in some cases several times, as a consequence of later invasions and revolts.  Unlike our own historic buildings, these structures are made not from stone or brick, but from the wood from monumental long-lived trees with statuesque trunks and mighty branches.  These palaces and places of worship are carved to traditional patterns and painted in an accepted range of colours with time-honoured designs and images.  To our eyes, these palaces and temples look fairly similar.  But once we overheard a group talking – ‘Look, anyone can see that’s twelfth century: not a bit like the 15th century style we were looking at earlier’.

Here’s Seoul’s Changdeokgung Palace.  It was first built in 1408 for the Joseon royal dynasty and designed with an extensive natural garden in harmony with the topography of its surroundings.  The Japanese burnt it down in 1592.  It was rebuilt in 1608, burnt down during a political revolt in 1628, and again by the Chinese Manchu-Qing.  Each time it was faithfully restored to its original design.  The long Japanese occupation of Korea from 1911 to 1945 saw it heavily damaged yet again: once again it’s been restored, though only about 30% of the original buildings remain.

Against the odds,  this palace and its grounds together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognised as a fine example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design in harmony with their natural setting. This is a fine and tranquil place.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is ‘Against the odds’.