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Articles on this Page
- 12/29/17--11:00: _Poor, tragic, brill...
- 01/01/18--23:00: _Valletta in Malta -...
- 01/05/18--11:00: _Acland St StKilda -...
- 01/08/18--23:00: _Muriel Matters: Aus...
- 01/12/18--11:00: _Acre/Akko - an arch...
- 01/15/18--23:00: _The true story of P...
- 01/17/18--23:00: _ Krakow Salt Works ...
- 01/20/18--21:10: _King Charles II: Ar...
- 01/23/18--07:00: _Gibraltar: Islamic,...
- 01/26/18--11:00: _Lady Lucan died rec...
- 01/29/18--23:00: _Petra - a Nabatean,...
- 02/02/18--11:00: _ London Silver Vaul...
- 02/05/18--23:00: _Burke and Hare: Edi...
- 02/09/18--11:00: _Canada's most speci...
- 02/12/18--23:00: _Prince Edward's Wor...
- 02/16/18--11:00: _Charles Dodgson and...
- 02/19/18--23:00: _Porto in Portugal -...
- 02/23/18--11:00: _Gun control in Aust...
- 02/26/18--23:00: _The Children's Crus...
- 03/02/18--11:00: _Danila Vassilieff -...
- 03/05/18--23:00: _Napoleon's last sta...
- 03/09/18--11:00: _Amazing and expensi...
- 03/13/18--00:00: _Modigliani revival ...
- 03/16/18--12:00: _Princes St Synagogu...
- 03/20/18--00:00: _Can a doctor be a m...
- 12/29/17--11:00: Poor, tragic, brilliant Franz Kafka
- 01/08/18--23:00: Muriel Matters: Australian-British women's rights heroine
- 01/15/18--23:00: The true story of Pocahontas - in Virginia and in England
- 01/17/18--23:00: Krakow Salt Works Museum, under- and over-ground
- 01/20/18--21:10: King Charles II: Art and Power at the Queen’s Gallery
- 01/23/18--07:00: Gibraltar: Islamic, Spanish, British and modern
- 01/26/18--11:00: Lady Lucan died recently, but where is Lord John Lucan???
- 01/29/18--23:00: Petra - a Nabatean, Roman and Byzantine sandstone city in Jordan
- 02/05/18--23:00: Burke and Hare: Edinburgh's grave snatchers or murderers?
- 02/09/18--11:00: Canada's most special provinces - the Maritimes
- 02/12/18--23:00: Prince Edward's World War 1 experiences and his pro-Fascist views
- 02/16/18--11:00: Charles Dodgson and Alice (Lidell) in Wonderland
- 02/19/18--23:00: Porto in Portugal - one of the loveliest cities in Western Europe
- 02/23/18--11:00: Gun control in Australia and the USA
- 02/26/18--23:00: The Children's Crusade 1212 - holy, passionate and fatal
- 03/05/18--23:00: Napoleon's last stand in 1815
- 03/13/18--00:00: Modigliani revival at the Tate Modern
- 03/20/18--00:00: Can a doctor be a mass murderer? Dr H.H.Holmes
When I met my Czech born boyfriend (now husband) in 1969, I thought I better read some Kafka, listen to Dvořák and Janáček, and eat palačinkas. It all worked well, except for the Kafka.
Now the German scholar Reiner Stach's excellen Biography of Franz Kafka (1883-1924) filled in a lot of gaps. Stach spent 20+ years working on Kafka’s life, translated into English. The biography started with Kafka’s childhood in the dying days of the Hapsburg empire in 1883: family life in the Prague flat, schooling, law studies at university and career as an insurance clerk. Alas young Franz’s relationship with his overbearing father was horrible. Hermann Kafka was a stocky, ambitious and successful merchant, while his only son was tall, thin and fragile. So they were physically, emotionally and intellectually opposed.
Biography of Franz Kafka: Vol. 1 The Early Years, Vol. 2 The Decisive Years and Vol. 3 The Years of Insight
Kafka knew himself well. He wrote “The way I am, I am as the outcome of your (father’s) upbringing and of my compliance.” He was reflective and introspective, and saw the way that confrontation sank into him. A crucial night occurred when his father locked the child outside and refused his pleas for water. The impact of this traumatic scene repeated itself through Kafka’s life.
For young Kafka, Yiddish was his family’s spoken language at home and German was his medium for school and written work. Yet Czech was the affectionate language used by his caregivers in childhood. So Stach emphasised that Kafka was a German-speaking Jew who matured in Prague at the end of the brilliant Austrian Empire. He noted the dress conventions of the Bohemian capital in Kafka’s writing and the cultured life of the coffee houses where writers/artists got together, using local Czech and elite German.
The divide between the two cultures of Prague was replicated in Kafka’s mind, even as the heart of old Prague was being reshaped. The medieval Jewish ghetto was replaced with smart avenues and smart architecture. But a crazed mob of German students late in 1897 targetted the Jews. They looted homes, shops and Kafka’s school. This in turn provoked a counter-surge of Czech nationalist riots targetting German shops, clubs and businesses in the capital.
For Kafka, the Prague Riots created something menacing in his city. The teenager was also increasingly fearful at school. For all his brilliance in high school, he feared examinations and assessments.
Even at university, Kafka was very intellectual but lacked confidence. He recognised that life trapped him yet he was certain that he could use his ideas to free himself. Kafka was a full-time Law student, writing on weekends at the Reading and Lecture Hall of German Students. It was here, in 1902, he met Max Brod.
Kafka was exempted from WW1 service at the front because of TB, yet he was witness to unspeakable misery. In fact the diagnosis of his TB and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire constituted a double shock for Kafka. He lost the financial security he had been counting on to survive as a writer. He began to pose broader existential questions, and his writing grew jagged and more reflective.
Kafka gave a vigorous nod to his literary models and heroes — Friedrich Hebbel, Thomas Mann, Charles Dickens and above all Gustave Flaubert, the cool writer who Kafka and Brod read together, in French! And although he had written several prose pieces since graduation, it was only with The Judgment, written in 1912, that Kafka felt he had made his breakthrough. Note that the story dealt with a young man who was condemned to death by his father!
Was Kafka unknown in his lifetime? No! Publishers printed his books and begged for more, and he belonged to an influential band of writers who met in Prague’s coffee shops. But he was difficult to socialise with. He suffered from:
total lack of confidence in his own skills,
disease and fear of disease,
very strange diets and exercise fads and
a particularly unskilled love life.
Brod introduced Kafka to his Prussian Jewish cousin Felice Bauer in 1912. She became the writer’s long-suffering fiancée, but when he contracted the TB that led to his death, Kafka broke off the engagement. When he eventually felt obliged to marry Felice, he did so in an 18-page letter that included a pathetic marriage proposal. Felice did recognise his miserable selfishness, and finally run away. Nonetheless she held onto Kafka’s 500 deepest confessional letters! Sometimes daily letters! Stach wrote tellingly of this strange literary friendship and its usefulness for Kafka.
How sad that Kafka finally met the right woman when he was 40 years old. Had he met Dora Diamant earlier, he might have finally been happily married.
Kafka was resting at a sanatorium on Lake Zurich, a time that became typical of the long stays he spent at health clinics across Central Europe. He died of consumption at 40, and was buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague.
Was Max Brod clever and insightful, or a mere hanger-on? Of one thing I am certain: Brod, who revered Kafka and adored his work, HAD to became the literary executor. Because very little of Kafka’s writing was published before his death in 1924, he luckily left his letters, diaries and early writings to Brod, instructing him to burn the documents unread.
If Brod had not refused Kafka’s direct instructions to destroy the unpublished manuscripts, we probably would not know Kafka’s name today. And not surprisingly it was Brod who wrote the first biography of his friend and prepared Kafka’s posthumous works for publication. Brod actually collated, edited and published Kafka’s writing, including The Trial and The Castle– now literary classics. When Brod fled Germany for Israel in 1939, he took the documents with him. The two men's friendship was more important for us than for Kafka.
"Kafka, The Early Years" was written by Rainer Stach, translated by Shelley Frisch and published by Princeton University Press in 2016. The other volumes were published separately.
Malta (pop c370,000) is in the mid Mediterranean Sea, half way between Europe and Africa; Spain and Israel. So the country’s strategic position attracted every expansionist nation to take over the tiny Maltese archipelago. The ancient Phoenicians settled around the natural Grand Harbour. But it was the Romans who governed these islands for centuries and first built the city of Medina.
Consider the 60 AD shipwreck of the Apostle St Paul. During his 3 months on Malta living in the Medina catacombs, he taught Christianity and nominated Malta’s first bishop. In St Paul's Church, the catacombs were for Christian burials and rock altars.
Malta gained from the expanding Mediterranean trade conducted by the rival commercial, maritime empires of Pisa, Genoa and Venice. Important sea lanes were secured for Christian shipping when Arab pirate ships were destroyed. And during the Crusades, the maritime cities organised the crusaders’ transport and their supplies to Jerusalem.
Because Malta had been Muslim, the Normans warmly encouraged the establishment of Christian communities in the islands. One small island was given to the Benedictines for a monastery in 1151. A Norman cathedral was built in Medina which was similar to the great Norman churches in Sicily. Soon Franciscans, Carmelites, Augustinians and Dominicans established themselves.
Nave of St John's Co-Cathedral , built in the 1570s
Frederick II Catholic Emperor of Germany had combined the Norman tradition of diversity and tolerance with patronage of Islamic arts and sciences. Only in 1250 did the repressive Aragon kingdom took over did the good times end.
The Order of the Hospital of St John militarily defended pilgrims in Jerusalem against Moslem attacks. But Saladin's forces eventually defeated them and they withdrew to Acre. In 1291 they moved their base to Cyprus. Then in 1306 they became The Knights of Rhodes. When Suleiman the Magnificent ruled in 1521, he expelled the Knightly Order and Emperor Charles V offered them Malta instead. From 1521-1798, they were the Knights of Malta.
Malta suffered frequent attacks by the dreaded Ottoman Turks so they built the star-shaped Fort of St Elmo, to fortify the harbour. By 1530 they’d reinforced the St Angelo stronghold. Fort St Angelo was held by the French during the Napoleonic wars, then by the British and is now a National War Museum. Eventually another massive fortress was needed on Grand Harbour’s southside - Fort Ricasoli.
The Ottoman Turkish invaders struck again in May 1565: the Great Siege of Malta was one of their most glorious, tragic moments. Tens of thousands of Turks fought a pitch battle, and although the Maltese knights under Grand Master Jean de la Valette were outnumbered, the Turks still couldn’t penetrate Grand Harbour for months. “Lifting the Great Siege” is still memorialised every Sept.
The Knights, devout, aristocratic and warlike, formed one of the most powerful and rich groups in Europe. But they lacked permanent HQs, and with increasingly frequent skirmishes against the Ottomans, protection was needed. Grand Master La Vallette started construction of a new walled city: Valletta. Pope Pius V and King Philip II of Spain both gave aid and the Pope sent a military engineer in 1566. 8,000 workers started building Valetta: Maltese, slaves and foreigners.
By 1571 the knights transferred their residence to the new capital. In order to preserve each’s identity, each Langue-language group paid for and built its own Auberge-residential inn. Each had a church attached. The knights needed city buildings, gardens, public festivals, moats, massive walls and 50 guns. The old capital, Medina, lost its population and importance.
St John's Co-Cathedral 1573-7 has an austere rectangular exterior, but inside is a blaze of Baroque: carving, gilt work, inlaid marble and knightly armorials. The massive barrel vault (1660s) shows episodes from St John the Baptist’s life. The nave is flanked by the 7 sumptuous Langues’ chapels and marble knightly tombs. The Cathedral Oratory has Caravaggio’s masterpiece Beheading of St John 1608 and his St Jerome is in a side chapel.
Valletta, rebuilt after WW2 bombing.
The monks needed a library, so in 1555 a HUGE building was erected next to the cathedral. It later became the National Library.
In the 1570s the Grand Master's Palace was built. Later Grand Masters enlarged the Palace, had their portraits and names honoured on palace walls and built the Chapel of Our Lady. When the British ruled Malta, the British Governor lived in the same palace. Appropriately it is now the seat of the Maltese Parliament.
Jesuit College, opened in 1592, was later empowered by Pope Gregory XIII to confer Masters and Doctorates of Divinity. With the 1675 plague, the Grand Master appointed a lecturer in Anatomy and Surgery at Sacra Infirmary and built a medical library. After the Jesuits were expelled in 1768, the Grand Master appropriated the Jesuits’ properties and established The University of Malta.
A lovely guest house of the Knights in Valletta was later used by the British fleet as their headquarters. Only in 1974 did it become the National Museum of Fine Arts, with C15th-18th Italian paintings.
When Napoleon's troops arrived in the 1790s, the Knights of Malta did not want to fight fellow Christians and fellow Frenchmen. So they voluntarily left Malta for good. The British took over Malta in 1814 and English was made the first official language of Malta. Malta was not granted self-government until 1921 but Valletta was already beautiful, steep, Baroque and water fronted.
Perfect timing! Valletta is hosting the title of European Capital of Culture in 2018. Thank you to Lonely Planet for the photos.
I have happily read the book Acland Street: The Grand Lady of St Kilda, written by Dr Judith Buckrich (Nov 2017). It explores the history of architecture on Acland St, starting from the 1850s and early settlement, through swamps, race courses, development of the Acland St village, Victorian prosperity and boarding house poverty.
Buckrich searched the archives and interviewed famous people from the Melbourne Jewish community who had a connection to Acland St. She recognised that the street was one of Melbourne's most important because it mirrored so much of the social change that occurred in Australian cities over 175 years. It encapsulated the social and cultural history of the city in a unique way, having been part of Melbourne’s entertainment scene for decades, as well as home to the wealthiest and poorest of its citizens.
The Melbourne suburb of St Kilda was named after Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 10th Baronet (1787–1871) of Killerton Manor in Devon, a British politician and land owner. He owned the cruiser yacht Lady of St Kilda from 1834-40, after which the area was named during one of the ship's visits to Melbourne in 1842. His wife Lady Lydia Hoare was the first English lady to set foot in St Kilda.
This land was once shrubland, lagoons and dunes. For its traditional owners, the Kulin Nation, the St Kilda Triangle was part of an area called Euroe Yroke. After European settlement, St Kilda became a bustling seaside suburb, and the Triangle site became a recreational space for decades.
Acland St StKilda 2017
Cars can no longer drive through. Trams must turn around at the end of the street.
St Kilda became a municipality in 1857, and in the same year a railwayline was built connecting it to Melbourne’s city centre. Regular train services resulted in increased visitors to St Kilda’s sea baths, jetty promenade, cricket, bowling clubs and the St Kilda Cup. By the mid-1860s, St Kilda had 15 residential hotels, including the famous George Hotel.
During the 1880s land boom, it became a densely populated district of large stone mansions and palatial hotels, mostly along the broad Fitzroy, Grey and Acland streets. From the 1890s, many mansions became boarding houses and brothels.
After WW1, the suburb was a magnet for European migrants and singles from less acceptable sub-cultures. There were artists, musicians, writers, the LGB community and anyone who was poor but wanted the joys of seaside life. This suburb of contrasts was, and is, impossible to pin down economically and socially.
After the opening of the cable tramway in 1891, the St Kilda Foreshore Committee was formed by the government to make their area into a Mediterranean seaside resort. Carlo Catani was contracted to prepare a masterplan for St Kilda’s beautification in 1906. Catani’s famous leisure precinct along the bay, as far as Point Ormond, included notable features like the Sea Baths (1910), Luna Park (1912), Palais de Danse I (1913), Palais de Danse II (1926) and Palais Theatre (1927).
European migrants and refugees were arriving by 1946, often taken there straight off the boat - they gave the street a totally cosmopolitan flavour! And Jews like my parents, who had been living in Carlton before the war, started to migrate south to St Kilda, Elwood and Caulfield. They too frequented the cafés, delicatessens and cake shops in Acland St.
Sundays mornings was standing-room only as Jewish men gathered on the street to sort out the politics of the day, eat latkes at Café Scheherazade, buy kugelhopf from Monarch and the latest novels from the Balberyszski Bookshop. Monarch opened in 1934 and was the first of the cake shops here. Two doors away was Scheherazade Coffee Lounge, founded in 1958 by Avram and Masha Zeleznikow who had migrated from Paris a few years earlier. Regulars ordered traditional fare like gefilte fish, chopped chicken liver, potato latkes and kreplach.
Modern visitors to the continental cake shops in Acland St find reminders of a dwindling European-Jewish ambience; alas (for me) the cultural shift has led to the departure of small, but important businesses. Today Balberszki book sellers, Wielunski milk bar, Berioska, Eilat and Carmel restaurants, the Budapest delicatessen, Eat-More Poultry are gone, while Chinese businesses such as Fairy Stork restaurant are going too. The cake shops that were bastions of yesteryear, are now part of a gradual shift from “remnant European” to a "more international beachside" culture.
More recently the Palais de Danse III opened on the Triangle site, and was later renamed Palace Entertainment Centre. Destroyed by fire in 2007, a masterplan was later approved by Council incorporating repairs to the Palais Theatre and a redevelopment of the Triangle site. Traders fear that Acland St will lose its distinctiveness. Nonetheless it is still a colourful street adorned with art on the footpath and an assortment of talented street performers. In Aug 2014, the Council and the community delivered a project for the St Kilda Triangle site.
In the book, Acland St's cake shops provided a link to St Kilda's European heritage, and to my childhood. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, my parents and their friends spent Sunday afternoons eating cheesecake and sour cream in East European restaurants, especially Scheherazade. The best year was 1956 when my father was integrally involved in the Melbourne Olympic Games. He arranged outings for the homesick Israeli team (all 3 athletes and some older managers) in Acland St.
Happily the fabulous Esplanade Market is still open every Sunday. There's also live entertainment, good food and an attractive atmosphere at famous local bar/restaurant, the Vineyard. And Luna Park of course.
The women’s suffrage movement in Britain had been fractured in 1903. This was when Emmeline Pankhurst led a breakaway group from the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, arguing that it had become too content waiting for male approval, rather than actively demanding women’s rights. The militant Women’s Social and Political Union, run by the Pankhursts, had begun disrupting political meetings attended by prominent MPs. The suffragettes’ tactics reawakened public interest in the issue, but the Pankhursts were often seen as overly autocratic.
Robert Wainwright* wrote of a young actress named Muriel Matters (1877-1969) who grew up in South Australia. The art of elocution back then required its exponents to weave a tale onstage, often set to music or poetry. Muriel trained with Lionel Logue, a family friend who later helped the stuttering King George VI.
From an Australian state where women got the vote in 1894, Muriel arrived in London with little money, some letters of introduction and dreams to become a West End star. At 28 Muriel was an intellectual, reinforced by other intellectuals who imbued her with socialist ideals. Two people were important in encouraging Muriel’s radical thinking – a] British journalist WT Stead and b] Peter Prince Kropotkin, exiled Russian revolutionary, who persuaded her to use her oratory skills “for the greater good”.
Muriel’s new direction emerged when she joined the Women's Freedom League/WFL. She led a campaign to protect young female actresses and stagehands from exploitation at the hands of low-paying, predatory agents and production companies. Her enthusiasm, eloquence and magical voice had to be used for the cause. Muriel’s magnetism, the WFL committee agreed, would be wasted if she was just speaking in town halls to the converted.
Instead she needed to do mobile recruitment, talking in regional areas. In 1908, Muriel travelled on a horse-drawn caravan from town to town, speaking in halls and fields, standing on town memorials to speak to hundreds of listeners. Unfortunately she had to be flanked by police, given the attendant male violence.
Womens’ Sunday was the first monster meeting to be organised by the Women's Social and Political Union. Specially chartered trains transported suffragettes from across Britain to march in processions through central London, rallying in Hyde Park. Platforms were erected for 80 speakers to address the crowds; 300,000-500,000 saw the delegates dressed in the suffragette tricolour and carrying embroidered banners.
How appropriate that another Australian, artist Dora Meeson, was an active member of the British Artists' Suffrage League. Dora designed and painted the banner used in the 1908 parade. It depicted a young woman personifying Australia, imploring a mature woman representing Britain.
Parliament became the focus of suffragist protest and the WFL were looking for a high-profile statement. They created a series of protests outside Parliament, to divert attention from the protesters inside; Muriel would be their non-violent champion and leader.
In Oct 1908 Muriel brought a chain into the House of Commons under her dress. Just as the MPs started debating a finance bill, Muriel locked herself to the iron grille in the ladies' gallery, used to obscure the women’s view of parliamentary debates. After her speech about women's rights and still attached to the grille, Muriel was charged with disorderly conduct and gaoled in Holloway.
In Feb 1909 Muriel Matters was hoisted into a wicker basket beneath an airship. The basket was loaded up with WFL leaflets, to be dropped over King Edward VII as his golden carriage moved down The Mall. But the wind conditions and the primitive balloon-motor ensured she never made it to Westminster. Nevertheless her exploit created headlines in newspapers everywhere.
In 1910 Muriel returned to Australia and lectured about feminism and socialism. With another Australian, Vida Goldstein, Muriel secured a resolution from the Australian Senate to the British prime minister, celebrating the enfranchisement of Australian women.
She returned to Britain and broadened her involvement from suffrage .. to impoverished families. For the next two years she lived in the grim slums of London’s Lambeth as a journalist, writing for a Christian newspaper. She continued making speeches and became involved in Ireland and Scotland’s industrial turmoil. She criticised sweat shops and advocated women's unions, equal divorce laws, equal pay and support for unmarried mothers.
So why was the remarkable Muriel Matters not hugely famous? Part of her problem in Australia was that white women in Australia already had the vote and had moved on. Plus we have to assume that the Australian press was largely conservative during Matters’ life here. Editors might have been offended by coverage of an unknown Australian woman’s attack on Mother Britain. We all know about the colonial cringe ☹
Even in Britain, Muriel Matters faced a few problems. Firstly she was from the colonies, not a real Brit. Secondly she was not one of the Pankhurst People. Thirdly she was against WW1, much to the horror of many suffragettes. Finally she married a divorced man who possibly left his wife for her. Scandal!
With WW1 in 1914, Muriel Matters became a prominent pacifist. This slim and vivacious woman with a mass of golden hair turned down marriage proposals from divorced Bostonian dentist Dr William Porter, then finally married him in London. Marriage did not divert her attention totally; she still organised a national conference of women in London to discuss peace and disarmament.
Muriel had to spend energy on early childhood education. In 1916 she attended a training course by Italian educationalist Dr Maria Montessori in Barcelona, and soon this new child free disciple opened an early British Montessori school.
At the behest of the prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, Ms Matters unsuccessfully stood as a Labour candidate for Hastings in 1924. Nonetheless full suffrage for British women was finally granted in 1928. After retirement Muriel moved to Hastings, until her death in 1969, at 92.
*This excellent book is Miss Muriel Matters: The Australian Actress Who Became One of London’s Most Famous Suffragists by Robert Wainwright (ABC Books, 2017). Or see an ABC 2015 docudrama called Muriel Matters!
Acre/Akko was conquered by Pharaoh Ramses II (1279-1213 BC), then by the Greeks, the Persians and the Syrian Seleucids. Herod the Great and Roman Emperor Vespasian (69-79 AD) used Akko and Caesarea for their campaign. The town prospered in Byzantine times and Ommayad times, when it was the port for their capital in Damascus.
The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099 and Akko in 1104. They renamed it St Jean d'Acre and made it the head quarters of the Knights of St John. The Italian port cities established trading posts in Acre, and made it a flourishing port. After Jerusalem fell in 1187, Acre became the large capital of the Crusader kingdom. In 1219 St Francis of Assisi visited the town and established a nunnery. In 1228 Emperor Frederick II landed here during his Crusade, as did Louis IX of France in 1250. Soon afterwards there was a bitter civil war, between the two Christian orders, The Knights Hospitallers of St John and The Templars. In 1290, the Crusaders slaughtered large numbers of Muslims. When the Mameluke Sultan arrived in 1291, the Crusader kingdom ended.
Visit the City
With its caravanserais, fortifications and Crusader buildings packed in the narrow alleyways, history-lovers will be very happy. Akko's incredible surviving walls around the Old City are the town's most distinctive fortifications. They were built in their present form by Ahmed el-Jazzar in the C18th. Climb up onto the ramparts and walk along the walls. The northeast corner is dominated by the massive tower that stands on the foundations of Richard the Lionheart’s tower. Further south is the Treasures in the Wall Museum, which has a collection of artefacts from C19th Jewish settlers in the area. Along the sea-side wall, inspect the Ottoman Tower of the Vine, built to defend against sea attacks.
Akko harbour was an important port from the classical age until the medieval period. During the Crusader era, it could be occupied by up to 80 ships. That port has now silted up, and all that is left is a small tranquil fishing harbour. From here the tourist boats sail out to give excellent views of Akko Old City.
In the underground Crusader Tunnel, the sea above is audible. The 350m passage originally connected the harbour with a Templar palace, providing a secret escape route to the sea during attacks.
On the Crusader cathedral site, Ahmed el-Jazzar Mosque was built in 1781. The mosque has its tall slender minaret, a fine example of Turkish rococo architecture with a mammoth interior decorated in ornate blue, brown and white. A small plain domed building to the right of the prayer hall entrance which had the mausoleum of Ahmed el-Jazzar (d1804) and of his successor Sulieman Pasha. The arcaded courtyard has a small rococo-style kiosk and accommodation spaces for pilgrims and Islamic scholars. On the east side of the gallery, a cistern dating from the Crusader era ran a water supply for the population, whenever the town was under siege.
Akko's finest church, St John's Church, was built in 1737 and occupies the site of a C12th Crusader church dedicated to St Andrew. Note the juxtaposition of its white walls and red bell tower surrounded by the crumbling stone walls.
An C18th hammam/Turkish Bath now houses the Hammam al-Pasha Museum with exhibits on the history and culture of Turkish baths. This preserved hammam has colourful tiles walls enclosing the space where important men bathed and women held parties in a separate enclosure.
Underneath Ahmed el-Jazzar's citadel is a series of gothic vaulted halls, which were once head-quarters for the Crusader armies. See their Knights Hall and the Dining Hall, a series of narrow subterranean tunnels and a crypt. The grand bulk of Ahmed el-Jazzar's C18th citadel sits just inside the Old City walls.
During the British Mandate, the Citadel was used as a prison; today it houses the Museum of Underground Prisoners. This museum commemorates the Jewish fighters who were imprisoned or executed here by the British authorities.
Lohamei Hageta'ot Kibbutz was founded in 1949 by Polish and Lithuanian Jews. Now is home to a moving museum dedicated to the Jewish resistance against the Nazis and the Holocaust. On the ground floor are displays illustrating the history of Jewish Vilnius until 1940. There is material on the early days of Jewish nationalism at the end of the C19th, the everyday life of Polish Jews and an exhibit of art works by concentration camp prisoners.
Just north of Akko, the lovely gardens of Bahje Baha'i Centre contain the shrine of Bahu Ullah, founder of Baha'i faith. He was exiled to Akko in 1868 and spent the later life in the red-roofed house in the gardens. Just like the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa.
English King James I granted a charter to the Virginia Co. to form a North America settlement in 1606. The Virginia Co. was to search for local riches and a sea trade route to the Pacific Ocean. 100 colonists left England on three ships and landed on a narrow peninsula in the James River. Captain John Smith chose the inland location to hide them from Spanish ships and to provide protection from any Native American enemies.
John Smith and the English colonists stayed near the Powhatan on nearby Jamestown Island, but later began to explore out-lying areas.
In the meantime Smith terrorised Native people when he put guns to heads of village chiefs, demanding food and supplies. In fact the early 1600s were a horrible time for all local tribes. Young children were targets of rape, so the Native women offered themselves to men, to keep their children safe. The Powhatan people were in an unwinnable situation since the English government offered them no protection.
The true story of Matoaka (later Pocahontas c1596-1616) has been gathered from years of extensive research of the written records and oral histories from her descendants and tribal peoples of Virginia. Read Vincent Schilling who tells a tale of tragedy and heartbreak about a young Native girl Matoaka who was kidnapped, raped and perhaps murdered by those who were supposed to keep her safe.
Matoaka’s mother was Pocahontas (who died giving birth) and her father was Wahunsenaca, the tribal chief. Little Matoaka was raised by the Mattaponi women, along with her many siblings.
Matoaka was c10 when John Smith and English colonists arrived. Since Pocahontas was living with her father Chief Powhatan Wahunsenaca, she seemed to be protected. In winter 1607, the colonists and Smith met with Powhatan warriors and Smith was captured by the chief’s younger brother. Later Wahunsenaca grew to like Smith, offering him the position of werowance/colonists’ leader, plus land with great access to game and seafood.
In 1608-09, Smith’s role as the colonists’ werowance had failed. The colonists made inadequate attempts to plant crops to harvest, and Smith violently demanded supplies from surrounding villages. Pocahontas’ father was disgusted.
When Matoaka turned 14, she choose a new name after her mother, Pocahontas. During a ceremony she danced a courtship dance with Kocoum, younger brother of Potowomac Chief Japazaw. She married the young warrior and soon became pregnant. It was at this time rumours surfaced that colonists planned to kidnap Pocahontas.
An English colonist Captain Samuel Argall was particularly keen to find her, thinking that a captured daughter of the chief would prevent Native attacks. Argall came to the village and demanded Chief Japazaw, Pocahontas’ brother-in-law, to give up Pocahontas or suffer violence against his village. So he relented in the ridiculous hope that she would only be gone temporarily. Before Argall left the village, he gave Chief Japazaw a copper pot as a “trade” for her.
Pocahontas had to give her baby, Kocoum, to the women of the village. She was trapped onboard an English ship and her husband was killed by the colonists. The tribal chiefs of the Powhatan never retaliated for the kidnapping of Pocahontas, fearing they would suffer!
Pocahontas’ anxiety was so severe that her English captors allowed sister Mattachanna and brother-in-law Uttamattamakin to help. In The True Story of Pocahontas, The Other Side of History, Linwood Custalow wrote that when Mattachanna and Uttamattamakin arrived at Jamestown, Pocahontas confided she had been brutally raped.
By the time John Rolfe arrived in Virginia in May 1610, 600 colonists had been reduced to 70 by famine, disease and clashes. Mattaponi history is clear that Pocahontas and Rolfe had a son out of wedlock, Thomas. Eventually Pocahontas was converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca.
During her captivity, the English colony of Jamestown was failing. John Rolfe was under a 1616 deadline to become profitable or lose financial support from home. Rolfe sought to learn tobacco-curing techniques from the Powhatan, but curing tobacco was a sacred Native practice. Realising the value of aligning himself with the tribe, he eventually married Pocahontas.
Only then did the Powhatan spiritual leaders and family share the curing practice with Rolfe. And soon Rolfe’s tobacco was a sensation; he saved the colony of Jamestown!
The Powhatan tribal lands were now highly sought after for the tobacco trade and the tribe suffered badly of greedy tobacco farmers. Rumours of the colonists’ desire to take Pocahontas made its way to the Powhatan, who feared for her well-being. They thought of rescuing her, but once again Wahunsenaca did nothing because he feared his daughter might “be harmed”.
Rebecca Pocahontas Rolfe travelled to England in 1616 with John Rolfe, son Thomas Rolfe, John Argall and some Native tribal members. The bringing of Pocahontas to England was to show friendship with Native nations; it was a key to continued financial support for the struggling colonists.
According to Mattachanna’s record, Pocahontas realised that she was being used and desperately desired to return home. According to Jane Dismore, Pocahontas carried herself with great dignity. The Bishop wrote he ‘accustomed her selfe to civilitie’ and ‘still carried her selfe as the Daughter of a King, and was accordingly respected [by] persons of Honor, in their hopefull zeale by her to advance Christianitie’. Clearly she was very popular in King James’ court, and did not want to go home.
Plans were made to return to Virginia in 1617 when Pocahontas was in good health. Yet at only 20 she died (of TB?) in March 1617 and was buried in St George’s Church Gravesend.
Since first writing about art stolen by the Nazis during WW2 and hidden in various underground salt mines in Germany and Austria, I have read everything I could on The Monument Men. When the Nazis found the Altaussee Salt Mines in Alpine Bavaria, for example, they were delighted to ship their 6500 stolen art treasures into this salt-heavy, pastoral hideout. Today, ever since the film Monument Men appeared in our cinemas, tourists have flocked to the Altaussee Mines.
When I heard of the Krakow Salt Mines Museum of Art on tv, I assumed it was another amazing memorial to art stolen by the Nazis during WW2. Wrong! Nonetheless it is fascinating.
The Krakow Salt Works Museum is a large exhibition space in the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Southern Poland, established after WW2. The mine, which continuously produced table salt from the Middle Ages on, now consists of Two Worlds, A] an underground with a large exhibit in the salt mine 135m below and B] an aboveground in the Salt Works Castle.
A] The Underground World is located in 17 historic mine workings, designed out in the 19th and early C20th. The museum has a rich collection of mining technology, including a collection of treadmills for horses, an early form of lifting gear which is displayed in its original environment.
The tourist route takes up only 2% of the mine’s total length. The large Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland, with walls carved to replicate chapels from the earlier centuries, has chandeliers made from rock salt which have a glassy appearance, and religious sculpture. Plus there are historic and modern statues eg Copernicus, Goethe, Chopin.
Wide salt stairs, from which one can admire St Kinga's Chapel (started in 1896) in its full splendour, lead inside. Opposite the entrance to the chapel is the main altar with a statue of St Kinga, carved by Józef Markowski. The chapel walls are adorned with salt reliefs featuring various scenes from the New Testament and decorated by the Wieliczka miner sculptors. It is here that the only existing underground salt-carved monument of Polish Pope John Paul II.
Many shafts were dug throughout the time the mine was operating. See the preserved mining equipment, small under-ground brine lakes, and salt-hewn spaces. The underground exhibition features a unique collection of horse powered extracting treadmills of three different types: Polish, Saxon and Hungarian, and machines to haul the salt to the top of the surface.
There is wide range of exhibits: specimens of beautiful salt crystals, ancient utensils for salt production, documents and maps, paintings and sculptures from the non-existent underground chapels, ceremonial mining weapons, a Miner’s Union Horn, a collection of mining lamps and tools illustrating the various historical stages of salt production locally.
B] The Aboveground World is located in Żupny Castle, built on the hillside above Wieliczka, started under the C14th reign of Casimir III the Great and completed in the C16th reign of Sigismund I the Old. It was built in a square formation, including living quarters outside the castle walls. Until 1945, this defensive castle was the administrative and business headquarters of the salt mine.
C] World War Two
The complex of Kraków-Płaszów concentration camps was located nearby and slave labour was readily available. So the mine shafts were used by the Germans to create war industries here, doubly suitable because the underground spaces were safe from Allied bombing raids. How ironic that thousands of Jews were trucked from the slave labour camps in Plaszow and Mielec to the Wieliczka mine; ever since the laws of Polish king Sigimund August (mid C16th), Jewish settlement in Wieliczka was banned until 1867.
As soon as the Soviets were about to liberate the area, the German war industry was disassembled and transported to Liebenau slave labour camp in the Sudetes mountains. The Jewish labourers were trucked to camps in the Czech Republic and Austria.
In 1978, was placed on UNESCO World Heritage Site because The Wieliczka salt mine reflects all the historic stages of development in mining techniques from the 13th to the C20th, while the preserved devices and tools document the old systems of working the deposits, drainage, lighting and ventilation of the mine in a unique manner by world standards. In 2010 a sister mine 28ks apart, historic Bochnia Salt Mine, was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. In 2013 Żupny Castle was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
After over a decade of austere Cromwellian rule, the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 led to a resurgence of the arts in England. The court of King Charles II ((1630-85) became the centre for the patronage of leading artists and the collecting of great works of art, which served a) as decoration for the royal apartments and b) to glorify the restored monarchy and reinforce Charles’ position as the rightful king. Now an exhibition called Charles II: Art and Power at the Queen’s Gallery is on at Buckingham Palace, until 13th May 2018.
In May 1660 Charles II made his triumphant return to the thrones of England and Ireland, ending a decade of republican Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. After 14 years in exile, Charles II was keenly aware of the importance of princely tradition and magnificent display in enforcing his right to the throne and his position as Head of the Church.
He ordered royal regalia and crown jewels to replace those sold off or melted down by the Parliamentarians, and his coronation in April 1661 was the most extravagant since that of Elizabeth I. See the stunning altar plate in Westminster Abbey, including the silver-gilt alms dish by Henry Greenway, a metre in diameter, and a solid-gold chalice and gold paten.
Charles planned to regain legitimacy, amongst other ways, by re-claiming his father’s fabulous art collection. Although the royal residences had survived the Civil War largely undisturbed, the Commonwealth government had sold off much of their contents. Parliament commanded that all persons holding goods formerly belonging to Charles I, Queen Henrietta Maria or the new king were to return them with immediate effect. This order was later made legally binding through the 1660 Act of Indemnity and Oblivion.
by John Michael Wright in c1661
282 × 239 cm
Charles II had placed an order for a large group of paintings from the dealer who had sold works to his father in the 1630s. Among these were Pieter Bruegel the Elder's The Massacre of the Innocents c1565–67 and Georges de la Tour's St Jerome c1621–3. In the same year the King was presented with great paintings, sculpture and furniture by the States of Holland and West Friesland. And, to strengthen the alliance between the two countries and to discourage Charles II from agreeing to a treaty with his cousin Louis XIV, they sent Paolo Veronese's Mystic Marriage of St Catherine of Alexandria c1562–69 and Titian’s Madonna and Child in a Landscape with Tobias and the Angel c1535–40.
Having grown up surrounded by his father’s art collection, Charles II knew that paintings promoted pleasure and decoration, and also promoted the king’s power. Soon after his return to England, he appointed the portraitist Sir Peter Lely as official Limner and Picture Drawer. Lely was seen as the natural successor to Van Dyck, the first holder of the post established by Charles I. The miniaturist Samuel Cooper became Royal Picture Maker in 1672. In 1674 Italian Antonio Verrio, who had assisted the artist Charles Le Brun at Versailles, was commissioned to decorate the newly built State Apartments at Windsor Castle.
Charles II's new court style was influenced by the luxurious French fashions he had seen at Louis XIV’s court when his exile started. His royal apartments at Whitehall Palace were filled with elaborate decorative arts, including tapestries woven in Parisian workshops and silver furniture in the French taste. The royal palaces were the setting for lavish masques and balls attended by poets, writers, scientists, actors and beautiful women, several of whom were painted by Sir Peter Lely in a series of Windsor Beauties, including portraits of the King's mistress Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine and Cleveland.
An image of the restored monarchy was painted by John Michael Wright in c1661. The King wore St Edward’s crown and parliamentary robes over the Garter costume, and he carried an orb and sceptre which were made specially for the. as the earlier regalia had been destroyed during the Interregnum. The King is seated in front of a tapestry apparently representing the Judgment of Solomon, which may allude to the king’s wisdom.
The gallery is displaying artefacts from the King’s Touch Ceremony in which each monarch touched tens of thousands of members of the public suffering from scrofula. God would cure the unsightly swelling disease VIA the Royal touch. The weekly ritual had become so popular that the palace was compelled to issue tokens to tens of thousands of scrofula sufferers, proving they had been blessed by the King’s hand. See the 1662 “Proclamation for the better ordering of those who repair to the Court for their Cure of the Disease called the Kings-Evil”.
The book Charles II: Art & Power by Martin Clayton and Rufus Bird was published by Royal Collection Trust in Dec 2017. It includes glittering silver-gilt plate from the high-altar of Westminster Abbey during the King's coronation, old master paintings, tapestries and spectacular furniture i.e the rich material world of Charles II's court.
The Rock of Gibraltar is a narrow sandy isthmus off the Iberian Peninsula. Being limestone, the 6sq km Rock is riddled with 140+ caves. Off the eastern cliffs of the rock a flat, sandy plain stretched out towards the Mediterranean.
The Strait of Gibraltar is the narrow neck separating Europe from Africa, the only link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Since the Prophet died in Medina in 632 AD, the progress of Islam’s armies was rapid. Berber Tarik-ibn-Zeyad landed in 710 AD and from 742 on, the Moors defended their rock with a fort.
In 1068, the Arab Governor on Gibraltar ordered that a stronger Moorish Castle be built to watch events across the Strait. The castle had the largest keep and the tallest towers in all the Iberian Peninsula, plus buildings, gates and fortified walls. In 1160 the Caliph of Morocco commissioned a fully fortified city. The Rock remained in Arab hands until an unexpected Spanish attack between 1309-33, then it reverted to Arab control. The Moors’ City Walls surrounded the city, later strengthened by other nations.
In the Battle of Trafalgar 1805, Napoleon was allied with Spain in planning an invasion of Britain. The British fleet was commanded by Horacio Nelson and the combined Franco-Spanish fleet was commanded by Gen Villenueve. For two years, the fleets chased each other around the Atlantic and Mediterranean, before finally clashing at the Battle of Trafalgar where Nelson died.
Given Gibraltar's historical military role, it was not till the early C19th that the military governor focused on civilians’ social needs. By 1815 the governor created the Grand Parade, where locals could walk out of the extreme heat. Grand Parade became a hub of ceremonial military events.
In 1817 the Exchange and Commercial Library was founded for civilians. Soon after, a Charter of Justice was granted, civilian magistracy established and civil rights were given to citizens. A Supreme Court was created, with a chief justice and jury system. In 1830, responsibility for local affairs was transferred from the War Office to the Colonial Office, and the status of Gibraltar was changed from the “Garrison of Gibraltar in the Kingdom of Spain”, to the “Crown Colony of Gibraltar”. A local Police Force arrived in 1830.
At their peak in 1865, Gibraltar's fortifications housed 681 guns mounted in 110 batteries, guarding all land and sea approaches to Gibraltar. Lord Airey's Batteries were completed in 1891 and are located at the highest point on Gibraltar. The Military Heritage Centre is housed in one of the many batteries still found today.
In WW1 Spain remained neutral and was not a danger to Gibraltar. But Germany’s growing power led the British Government to expand its Navy. This heightened Gibraltar's role as major naval base, to keep the Straits clear of enemy shipping. The Bay developed modern dockyards, harbour and repair facilities for Allied warships.
The civilian population was evacuated to Britain and Jamaica, and 230 years of political gains under British rule seemed lost. However read how this isthmus played a role in defeating Hitler: Defending The Rock, Nicholas Rankin, Faber & Faber, 2017. In any case, the post-war years saw a growing demand for greater self-government, plus progress in medical, educational and housing services.
Perched on the peak of the Rock is the Top Station of The Cable Car 1966. There are great views across the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa, to Spain and the Mediterranean. This Cable Car was constructed by the Swiss, but within the Top Station complex there is an “English” pub and shop.
Surrounded by sea, Gibraltar has 5 beaches: Catalan Bay, Camp Bay, Eastern Beach, Sandy Bay and Little Bay. Catalan Bay beach has the charm of a fishing village with attractive pubs and marinas.
In 1963 Gibraltar's status came before the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation. A 1967 referendum asked Gibraltans whether they wanted to remain British or become Spanish. 12,000+ people voted for Britain while 44 chose Spain!! Nonetheless Spain caused the complete closure of the border in 1969. Gen Franco had besieged the territory and cut it off, by telephone, land and by sea.
Barbary Apes' Den
Gibraltar (pop 34,000) was granted a new Constitution by Britain and their House of Assembly was established. The New Constitution of May 1969 stated that Gibraltar would never be handed to Spain without an Act of Parliament and without the people's consent. Gibraltar gained control over its own civil service, and power now lay in a democratically elected government under a Chief Minister. In 1973 Gibraltar joined the EU.
Franco’s death in 1975 led to an agreement which declared that both UK and Spain were committed to solve all differences; Spain would lift the restrictions. The election of a socialist government in Madrid oversighted the full opening of the border in 1984. Today Gibraltar is a British Territory that is self-governing except for foreign policy, which is controlled by Britain.
A former building for Franciscan friars, The Convent was named in 1531 by a wealthy Spaniard. Today it is the residence of Gibraltar’s Governor, the Queen's representative in Gibraltar. The red brick Jacobean style frontage is perfect for the weekly Changing of the Guard.
These days Cathedral Cave makes a unique crystalline auditorium for music, ballets and dramas. The mosque once built in the city centre for the Muslims was later converted by the Spanish into a Catholic church, now Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned.
By 1991 Alameda Gardens were converted into the Gibraltar Botanical Gardens, a paradise for wildlife. At the Barbary Apes' Den see apes up close, and see the whales and dolphins in the Bay below.
John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan (1934 - ?) was the older son of George Bingham, 6th Earl of Lucan, an Anglo-Irish peer. John’s mother went into full time care when he was a toddler and he was raised by a maid. After WW2, this good-looking but cold aristocrat served with the Coldstream Guards in Germany and later worked as a merchant banker.
But in his 20s he became a member of the very classy Clermont Club, spent a fortune on racing power boats and drove a very flashy car. In 1963 he married Veronica Duncan, a woman he did not like but felt obligated to marry because of their advancing ages (nearly 30). They quickly had three children.
Veronica had been beaten by her husband throughout their marriage with a cane and lash; then he had sex with her bleeding body straight afterwards! He was gambling full time and inevitably lost everything. John moved out of the Belgravia family home and a bitter custody battle ensued. He began to spy on his wife, intending to regain custody of their children, but he had spent all his money on gambling. Until his father died, this unemployed, very angry aristocrat would have no money to support himself or the children. As it happened, George Lord Lucan 6th died in Jan 1964.
On 7th Nov 1974, Lucan went to the five-storey family home at 46 Lower Belgrave St London. In the dark basement kitchen, he met the children's nanny Sandra Rivett who’d gone downstairs to make tea for Lady Lucan. In the dark basement Lucan bludgeoned the nanny to death with lead piping, apparently mistaking the nanny for his wife.
Lady Lucan went downstairs for the cup of tea. There she met Lord Lucan, who attacked her on top of the basement stairs, hitting her over the head with the piping. After grabbing his testicles, Veronica managed to escape. And covered in blood, she ran for help at the local pub.
In the meantime Lord Lucan drove for an hour to the home of Susan Maxwell-Scott, a Sussex friend. The friend didn’t call the police because she didn’t know about the murder. Yet Lucan said he had spotted a man attacking his wife while passing the family home, and “intervened to save his wife”.
On the 8th Nov, Lucan was seen driving from the Maxwell-Scott home. On the 10th, the car was found dumped in the port town of Newhaven, lead piping in the boot.
As Scotland Yard and Fleet St struggled to find Lucan, they met patronising attitudes from the upper-crust regulars of John Aspinall’s Mayfair Clermont Club casino. The Detective Chief Superintendent believed that gambler Michael Stoop’s car (a Ford Corsair) had been left in Newhaven as a decoy and Lucan had quietly slipped out to South Africa.
The Clermont Set did everything to protect their colleague. His friends warned him that, given the murder, Lady Lucan would get custody of the children and the family-trust money. But if he were to disappear, probate could not legally be granted on his estate for 7 years. In 7 years, his children would be just old enough to control the trust money. So, they agreed, Lord Lucan needed to vanish. But how? Not by fleeing abroad.
When artist Dominic Elwes told what he knew about the murder to the press, he found himself blackballed by other Clermont Club members. In 1975 Elwes suicided at 44, probably hounded to death by some of Lucan’s more vicious gambling mates.
When confronted by sightings in exotic locations abroad, Lady Lucan always dismissed them as nonsense. Her husband was not the sort of Englishman to cope abroad; he liked England; he couldn’t speak foreign languages; and he preferred English food. She believed that Lord Lucan was indeed an expert powerboat racer, so he could bravely throw himself under a cross-Channel ferry. The ferry’s propellers would have chopped him up.
Lucan’s friend James Wilson agreed. When Lord Lucan realised he had killed the nanny by mistake, remorse and honour demanded suicide. He must have parked his car at Newhaven where he had a boat, weighed himself down and jumped over the side.
Since 1974 Lord Lucan sightings have popped up across the world, none more important than Australia. On Christmas Eve 1974, just months after the disappearance, Australian police arrested a man in Melbourne thinking they’d caught Lord Lucan. British police and newspaper reporters quickly arrived in Melbourne. So close!! In fact, they had caught 48 year old John Stonehouse, the former British government minister with a posh British accent. Two years earlier Stonehouse had faked his own death on a Florida beach.
Months later he was seen in Cherbourg and St Malo, France. Fingerprints from a beer glass in Cape Town were located next. Then a Scotland Yard detective claimed that Lord Lucan had lived as a hippy in Goa India until his death in 1996. Or he was in the rural town of Marton in New Zealand. Others saw him backpacking on Mount Etna, waiting on tables in San Francisco, being treated in a private hospital in Johannesburg in 1995, in Greece or in Botswana. Later Lucan was seen working on a sheep station in the Australian outback.
Throughout her later life Veronica called herself Dowager to make her widowhood clear. Eventually Lord Lucan’s death certificate was issued by the High Court to his son, allowing George Bingham to become the 8th Earl Lucan. At her own death in 2017, Lady Lucan had been estranged from her own children for 40 years. Nor had she ever met her 5 grandchildren.
The medical records of one of the UK's most eminent Harley St plastic surgeons, Dr John Watson, remained hidden since the nanny's murder and Lord Lucan's disappearance. The records, which showed that Dr Watson did facial surgery on the Earl of Lucan after a speedboat accident, were found by daughter Carolyn Watson Allen (in Queensland) and shared with the BBC in 2013.
The Nabataean Kingdom once stretched from Damascus and included parts of the Sinai. Located amid rugged desert canyons and mountains in what is now the SW corner of Jordan, Petra was once a thriving trading centre and the capital of this kingdom from 400 BC–106 AD. I have spent only 1.5 days of my entire long life there, well worth the tour from Amman or Jerusalem.
The Nabateans were Arabic-speaking nomads who selected the best oases to settle in. And they used the inaccessible mountains to protect themselves from bandits and highway robbers.
But these people were a desert people, so they had no architectural heritage of their own. The Petra style was therefore a jumble of influences absorbed along the trading routes: Egyptian, Assyrian, Hellenistic, Mesopotamian and Roman imagery.
By the C2nd BC, Petra was already internationally famous for its natural and architectural beauty, for its wealth and its pink colours. Petra had c30,000 people who used their knowledge of the desert to become a junction of the main caravan routes; spices came from the east to Egypt and the Mediterranean, all of it taxed in Petra.
Apart from the large, carved funerary monuments, ordinary facilities were also built eg baths, houses, theatres, water pipes, cisterns, temples. The vast tracts of the Nabataean Empire can be seen in the remains of their innovative networks of water capture, storage, transport and irrigation systems, showing how survival in this desert landscape flourished.
To get in, the visitor had to go via 1.5 ks of a narrow siq-gorge, surrounded by staggering 100m cliffs made of sheer pink sandstone. The siq’s entrance used to be marked by a Roman archway, but now only the vertical ruins are visible.
Enter the city via this pink sandstone sik/gorge
Petra’s siq first opens onto the vast façade of the C3rd BC Treasury and its towers, precisely and deeply carved into the soft sandstone mountainside. Built as a royal tomb, there was a constant belief that the giant urn carved into the centre of the second tier contained vast, hidden gold. But while the grand edifice was a statement of their wealth, the building was actually just a hall.
There are dozens of tombs and other built structures within Petra. The space from the Treasury to Qasr al-Bint is Petra’s main central business district, with the outlying hills further away. Though the weather-worn rockface is still peppered with ancient dwellings and sepulchres, many are more modest and some are unfinished.
Alas for Petra, its increasing influence and prosperity was seen as a threat to Rome; in 106 AD, Emperor Trajan annexed the Nabataeans into the Roman province of Arabia, with Petra as the capital. Once Romans took control of the trade routes, diverting them towards Bosra, Petra's decline was inevitable. This decline was worsened by early C6th earth quakes.
There was a second building resurgence during the later C6th AD, this time under Byzantine rule when Christianity arrived. Many buildings were converted to churches.
Which might explain why the tomb/hall was called a monastery. Following the route walked by the faithful, the Monastery was later re-purposed by the Crusaders as a temple. Crosses etched into the walls inside the building showed the Byzantines’ priority. But, still, why did religious pilgrims come to Petra?
Petra had been the location of many Biblical events. Moses struck a rock here, in order to give water to his people en route from Egypt to Israel. And the altar where Abraham intended to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac was also here. Lastly note a small white mosque called Jebel Haroun, the biblical mountain tomb in Mount Hor where Moses’ brother Aaron was buried. Aaron was sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Note the smallish platform known as the High Place of Sacrifice. The altar was a sacrificial site where priests cut the throats of beasts, in front of the pilgrims.
Ampitheatre with 8,000 seats
Next to the Treasury is the C1st AD Ampitheatre, dug out of the mountainside. Apparently there were surrounding buildings, but the Romans pulled them down because they spoilt the site’s acoustics. The 33 concentric tiers of seating could hold 8000 people in the audience!! People packed in for poetry reading, pantomimes and especially Roman gladiatorial contests.
So Petra is a place that has borne witness to the rise and fall of one civilisation after another. Yet the city remained hidden from the West since the time of the Crusades because local Bedouin tribes feared an influx of greedy treasure hunters.
In 1809, Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt moved to Aleppo, as part of his work with a British association seeing the source of the Niger River. He mastered Arabic, converted to Islam, wore a full beard and took the name Sheikh Ibrahim bin Abdullah. En route to Cairo, he heard rumour of ruins hidden in the Wadi Musa mountains!! But the locals need not have worried - the treasure Burckhardt sought was scientific not profiteering.
Map of Jordan and Israel, marking Amman, Petra, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
Burckhardt’s plan in 1812 worked. When he entered Petra, he was the first outsider to do so for centuries. He was amazed by countless tombs and the great amphitheatre carved into the rock. Having surprised his guide with his incursions, Burckhardt was hurried to the city’s parched core, the Colonnaded St and Qasr al-Bint. Burckhardt dared venture no further; his exploration of Petra was soon over. Luckily he had secretly made notes and sketches in his diary. Burckhardt sent a letter back to his colleagues excitedly reporting his discovery, but he hardly had time to enjoy his fame. He died in 1817, at 32.
With no surviving written sources, Petra’s built environment provides academics’ most valuable resource. Scholars know the Nabataeans were in Petra since 312 BC, yet no one has found any archaeological evidence from back then. Clearly most of the city is still underground. Now modern archaeological research is continuing by Jordanian, Israeli and foreign teams. In 1985, Petra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The date and maker’s-name symbols were required marks to add to silver objects in Britain from the late C15th on. Each piece, as it was presented for assay/content analysis, was therefore fully identifiable. Faking was possible, but improbable. Thus for hundreds of years, British silver has had the oldest quality-control standards in the world.
My personal passion for silver art started in 1685 with the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in Catholic France. The king declared Protestantism illegal, beginning an intense persecution programme of Huguenots. All Protestants could convert to Catholicism, leave France or have their children removed. Some 400,000 Huguenots did flee France, taking their silver art and silk making skills with them to Britain, Germany, Netherlands or other safe Protestant havens.
I wanted to specialise in Huguenot silver art made in Britain from 1685 on. I introduced myself to every French silversmith, his master, wife, children and church in Britain, until 1725. By that time, the Huguenots' uniqueness had disappeared and British-born artists were creating similar work.
So once financial reality set in, the next task was to go to The London Silver Vaults which began when The Chancery Lane Safe Deposit Co. first opened its doors in the mid-1880s. Since my 1994 visit might be out of date, I have relied on Londonist for any up-to-date information.
An advertisement for the vaults that appeared in The London Illustrated News of 1884 shows elegant Victorian men and ladies passing through a massive, arched entrance at 61-62 Chancery Lane. It said “The vaults are built on columns, and are entirely isolated, having patrols or corridors around, over and under them, making it utterly impossible for anyone to approach unobserved. Night watchmen are armed with revolvers”.
The rooms were used by the local wealthy upper classes and rich merchants to store their valuables, whenever the owners travelled to their country estates or where going abroad. The vaults, protected by armed guards at 53-54 Chancery Lane, were also used as a safety deposit stronghold for anxious Londoners who were aware of the crime waves affecting Victorian London. These subterranean vaults in the centre of London succeeded because the 1.2 metres thick walls were lined with steel – no thief could get through.
Additionally the Chancery Lane location was ideally suited to the needs of merchants in nearby Hatton Garden. And for the solicitors and barristers of the Inns of Court, who needed a safe place for their legal documents. Victorians clearly paid to leave their priceless items in this high-security repository. A 1890 press report, five years after its opening, described 6,000+ safes and 3,000 customers. Some of the valuable State papers were in connection with the historic enquiry called the Parnell Commission.
The vaults were badly bombed during WW2. They were revived in the 1940s by renting space at The Chancery Lane Safe Deposit Co. and invited American officers and members of the diplomatic service down to their vault, to buy silver. These were the first retail customers in WW2 and as word spread to other dealers, London Silver Vaults began their second incarnation.
Did they remind citizens of the vaults' previous life as Britain's first safe deposit site? In 1953, several jewellery and silver dealers who had used the vaults for storage moved their operations to 53-54 Chancery Lane and opened shops there. Clearly the vaults retained their secure reputation! Downstairs, inside the London Silver Vaults, each of the c30 shops is in a small cell, each protected by a sturdy iron door off a long, prison-like corridor.
Today the shops are very often run by the grandchildren of the original owners, handed down through the generations.
The silverware in William Walter Antiques is predominantly Georgian eg a pair of Georgian openwork sweetmeat baskets ($480) and a pair of George III wine coasters ($1,200). William Walter also boasts a large soup tureen with a gadroon border, made by Paul Storr ($19,200) and a pair of Queen Anne sugar casters made by Charles Adam in 1713 ($2,220). The oldest objects are a set of Tudor spoons that cost tens of thousands and one Charles I seal-top spoon dating from 1628 ($595)
Anthony Green has specialised in antique pocket watches for 30 years, some of them Georgian timepieces. Nearby Clerkenwell was, after all, a world centre of watch-making. Belmont Jewellers stocks modern jewellery while Wolfe Jewellery specialises in antique items.
The London Silver Vaults are open till 5.30pm, after which you will need good food and wine. NY Times recommended two Chancery Lane eateries i.e Hodgson's Restaurant built in 1863, and Chez Gerard.
The Judgement of Death Act 1823 saw the number of crimes punishable by death in Britain drop. And since medical and anatomical schools were only legally allowed to dissect the cadavers of those who had been condemned to death by a court, this led to an extreme shortage of available bodies for students. Inevitably medical schools paid some criminals to find more bodies via grave-robbing.
Relatives were known to guard the recently dug graves of their dearly departed and watch-towers were installed in cemeteries. The fresher the body, the more money it was worth, thus it didn’t take long before grave-robbing graduated to anatomy murder, done for monetary reward. The most infamous were in Edinburgh in 1827–8 whose university was noted for top quality medical sciences.
They liked the money that they made on Old Donald; alas the money didn’t last. Burke and Hare could have become true grave robbers but digging up corpses would have involved too much effort. When Joseph, another of Hare's lodgers, became a bit ill, Burke and Hare decided to end Joseph’s suffering. They plied him with whisky and smothered him. This became their favoured method of execution as it left the body undamaged for the students who would later dissect the cadavers.
Without any other ill tenants, the pair decided to entice poor victims to the lodging house, selectively at first and then they regarded almost anyone who breathed as a potential victim. If desperate, the men would have even contemplated killing and selling their own partners, Helen and Margaret.
A prostitute, Janet Brown, was lucky to survive when she and a teenage prostitute friend, Mary Paterson, were invited to stay with Burke. Janet returned one evening to find her friend missing and was told Mary and Burke had stepped out. Actually Mary was lying dead in the next room, her body ready to be taken to Prof Knox!
Elizabeth Halden made the terrible mistake of calling at Hare’s lodging-house. After hearing she was last seen with Hare, Halden’s daughter Peggy called at the lodgings looking for her. Both women ended up dead and were delivered to Prof Knox for £10 each.
Burke and Hare reached a new low when they brought in a well loved, handicapped children’s entertainer called Daft James Wilson. How careless of them! James had a deformed foot and was instantly recognised by paying students at Prof Knox's anatomy class.
On Halloween 1828 Burke and Hare’s 16th and last victim, an old Irish woman called Marjory Docherty, was invited to stay with Burke and Helen. Burke’s other lodgers, a couple called James and Ann Gray, were invited to stay a night at Hare’s boarding house that evening so the murder could take place. On their return to Burke’s lodgings the following day, the Grays were told that Marjory had been asked to leave because she had been flirtatious with Burke. But they later discovered Marjory’s dead body hidden under the bed, in straw. The Grays challenged Helen over their discovery and she offered them a bribe of £10 a week to stay silence. The Grays reported the murder to the Police anyhow and the game was up.
In total, Burke and Hare are said to have murdered at least 16 people for £7-10 each, although the real total was possibly higher. The murders had all taken place within one year, Nov 1827-Oct 1828. The criminals were all arrested, interviewed separately and gave conflicting accounts. However after a month of interviewing, the Police had little hard evidence. Eventually the Lord Advocate, Sir William Rae, offered Hare immunity in return for testifying against Burke and Helen. Done deal!
The trial began on Christmas Eve 1828 when Burke and Helen were both charged with Marjory Docherty’s murder. Burke was also charged with the murder of Mary Paterson and James Wilson. While Helen’s complicity in Marjory’s murder was not proven under Scottish Law and she was set free, Burke was sentenced to death by hanging.
Hare was released in Feb 1829 and spent his days as a beggar in London. Helen and Margaret also fled Edinburgh, with Helen then leaving for Australia and Margaret to Ireland. Prof Knox was never called to court, thus escaping prosecution altogether (good grief!!!). But Knox did have to move to London, to resurrect his medical career.
The Burke and Hare murders led to the Anatomy Act 1832 which allowed doctors, anatomy lecturers and medical students greater access to cadavers and allowed for the legal donation of bodies to medical science. The illegal body-snatcher trade could end.
Thanks to Nell Darby in All About History, Issue 57.
I had been to family reunions in Canada, from Toronto to Vancouver, and especially in Winnipeg. Only in 1994 did we made the first trip to the easternmost Maritimes.
Susan Skelly (The Australian, 11th Nov 2017) wrote: in the Canadian Maritimes provinces notice their scents - pine resin, wood smoke, seawater, forest, tobacco, fish and peat. In unforgiving eastern Canada, the Maritimes provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have the Gulf of St Lawrence, Bay of Fundy and Atlantic Ocean to contend with.
This has been a strategic hub that has historically underpinned wars, immigration and trade. Nova Scotia’s coast has one of the highest concentrations of shipwrecks in North America, c25,000. But the forests of the Maritimes are more accommodating. They are an elegant, tight-knit community of conifers, maples and poplars, scarlet in autumn.
To understand why Edward the Prince of Wales (1894-1972) turned towards Fascism before WW2 and turned away his parents’ moral values, I will be citing the writing of Dr Heather Jones. Her journal article “Edward in the trenches” lays the blame firmly on his terrible war experiences.
So let us first canvas WW1. When Britain found itself under threat during WW1, Edward (20) had become the Prince of Wales three years earlier. Edward could easily have stayed at home in safety and inspected military training camps but he was desperate to serve on the Western Front. The Secretary of State for War naturally forbade the first in-line-to-the-throne to die in the trenches so Edward took a commission in the Grenadier Guards and accepted a junior officer role in France, far behind the front lines.
As soon as he could, Edward wanted a compromise. Although not directly involved in fighting, he was assigned to staff work on logistics. Thus Edward could go on frequent morale-boosting visits to the trenches, visit advanced positions, see the dead bodies lying unburied in the fields and smell the shell fire. The visits made him very popular with the men.
In contrast, his younger brother Prince Albert (1895-1952) would not ever become king under normal circumstances, so there was a less rigid approach to him serving in war. Everyone believed that Britain controlled the seas and the nation’s naval supremacy could not be challenged by Germany, so Albert, who was still in his teens, served in the Royal Navy as a midshipman.
However Germany embarked on a campaign of battleship building and by 1916 was ready to take on the British fleet which was blockading the North Sea. In May the Battle of Jutland was waged, becoming WW1’s biggest sea engagement. It was a catastrophe for both sides, including for the young prince in a gun turret, watching the ships being destroyed by torpedoes around him.
Thus both princes, who had lived in the lap of luxury back in their palaces, faced horror at war. Perhaps Edward seemed a little jealous of his younger brother who participated in direct action. But there was no questioning the bravery of both princes.
Edward the Prince of Wales in army uniform, and his brother in navy uniform, 1915.
During WW1, Edward had his first, hidden sexual experiences in Amiens, and then in Paris. But post war, living a vigorous social life was essential for any ex-serviceman, to regain his sanity. People were tolerant. In London Edward courted Lady Sybil Cadogan, his sister’s best friend, and wanted marriage in 1917. His next affair was with Lady Rosemary Leveson-Gower, a society beauty who the prince wanted to marry in 1918. However she married William Ward, 3rd Earl Dudley, in March 1919. Then Edward chose married women: Marian Coke, his much adored lover Freda Dudley Ward divorced wife of an MP who was vice chamberlain of the Royal House-hold and the American heiress Audrey James. Best of all was Lady Thelma Furness, daughter of an American diplomat who eloped at 16, divorced and then married the shipping magnate Viscount Furness. Thelma joined the Prince in Kenya in 1928 where the two fell in love.
first cousins and close friends, sharing a family wedding in Berlin
Edward fervently believed future European war had to be avoided, supporting the British Legion in interwar efforts at reconciliation with German ex-servicemen, even after Hitler came to power.
For King George V, individual personality had to be completely subordinated to the dignity of the office of king. But Prince Edward believed a king had to be a strong leader who embraced a cult of personality. He admired Fascist leadership because he believed appeasement with Fascism offered European peace. In particular Fascism seemed a modern answer to the Communist threat, for example by improving the lives of Germany’s poor.
I will add one more critical factor that Dr Jones did not mention. Edward VIII’s mother Queen Mary was almost entirely German and his father King George V was partly German. Edward remembered how older relatives would change to speaking German, as soon as any English-speaking staff left them in privacy. Edward himself was fluent in his "mother tongue". So asking the prince to devalue his German heritage would have been cruel, and ineffective.
After enrolling at Oxford in 1850, Dodgson became a fellow at Christ Church College. According to the rules, fellows had to be ordained, but Dodgson ignored the ordination rule and lived at the college unmarried. He was a maths lecturer and a devout deacon of the Anglican Church.
Like many Victorian bachelors, he became an “uncle” to his friends’ children, taking them out. In 1855, Dodgson’s Dean Henry Liddell arrived at Christ Church with his wife, Lorina and their first four children. As the 3 sisters grew older, Dodgson took the girls under his wing, with their parents’ blessing. In summer 1862, he took the Liddell girls on the river in Oxford and told them stories. Alice Liddell (1852-1934), then 10, was delighted that the main character shared her name and asked Dodgson to write his stories.
Dodgson wrote to Gertrude Thomson, an artist who was sketching girlish nymphs: "I am fond of children except boys." And "I confess I do not admire naked boys in pictures”. He took exquisite, melancholy photographs of little girls. But it was Alice Liddell in particular who became his passion.
So why did the Liddells trust Dodgson with their precious daughters. I suggest a few significant reasons:
1. Harry Liddell was Dodgson’s dean and had a trusting professional relationship with him;
2. The Liddells had 9 children and were delighted when an adult offered to help keep them educated and amused;
3. Dodgson was a respectable Anglican deacon; and
4. The children loved Uncle Charles’ stories and activities.
Victorian culture clearly had a very sentimental view of young girls that could co-exist with disgust about adult sex!! There is no doubt that Dodgson was tormented by what HE called "the inclinations of my sinful heart"; that his own thoughts were “unholy”. But Dodgson felt his erotic fascination was under control; he was channelling his desires into a wild and lovely literary universe instead.
One example will suffice. On the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the BBC made a documentary called The Secret World of Lewis Carroll, 2015. It explored the nature of Carroll's relationship with children, and revealed a newly-discovered photograph of Alice’s elder sister, entirely nude. Although the picture was not 100% proven to have been Carroll’s, the uncomfortable pubescent model strongly suggested he was a somewhat repressed paedophile.
In 1865 a completed version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published as a book, published with John Tenniel's unmistakable art work. Dodgson published a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, in 1871, and a long poem in 1876.
He retired from teaching mathematics in 1881, and died in 1898 aged 66. At that stage, loving little girls was still acceptable. The London Daily Graphic’s 1898 obituary fondly noted his affection for girls. Also in 1898, Dodgson’s nephew published a biography that devoted two warm chapters to Dodgson’s child friends and their kissing.
Now my final questions. There is a gulf between how modern readers perceive an author and how they perceive his work. Is a good work of art, created by a bad person, tainted forever? Would you still read his stories to your children, thinking of them as classics of pure, innocent literature?
A settlement called Portus Cale was founded on the north bank of the Duoro River in the C4th BC. But nothing much was known before Porto was recovered in 868 AD from the Moorish empire.
Prince Henry the Navigator (1394–1460) was born to English Queen Philippa and Portuguese King John I who had earlier married in Porto, creating a political alliance between Portugal and England. It was Prince Henry who, in the new Portuguese Empire, initiated the Age of Discoveries. Henry supervised the early development of Portuguese exploration and maritime trade with other continents through the exploration of Western Africa, Atlantic Ocean islands and the search for new routes. Only thus did Portugal become a sea-trade force, so it is appropriate that a statue in a park honours Prince Henry still today.
Prince Henry, the Navigator
The granite streets are everywhere but focus on the grand avenue Rua das Flores, once it was refurbished: its frontages now shine with restored tiles in blues and greens. The avenue is lined with stately stone facades and dominated by the town hall. Granite churches also display glazed blue and white tiles.
Of great beauty is the Capela das Almas/Chapel of Souls near the city’s main shopping street, Rua Santa Catarina. The chapel has its origin in an old chapel made of wood, built to honour Santa Catarina. The construction of the building that exists today dates back to the later C18th, when the Brotherhood of the Souls and the Chagas of San Francisco moved from the Monastery of Santa Clara to the Chapel of Santa Catarina. Capela das Almas’ exterior tiles, painted with scenes from the lives of saints, are inter-war.
Capela das Almas
Visit the Church of St Francisco, the only Gothic church in Porto; the severe, grey exterior has richly gilded, highly ornate, baroque wood carvings inside. Porto’s craftsmen in 17th and early C18th were special.
Sao Bento Railway Station was built on the site of a Renaissance Benedictine monastery. Work began on the terminal in 1900, in the French Beaux Arts architectural style. São Bento mainline’s central station is one of the most beautiful in Europe, displaying 20,000 glazed azulejos-tiles that, by 1916, depicted highlights of the nation’s history.
The Monastery da Serra do Pilar is a C16th former monastery is the architectural highlight of the Gaia side. Belonging to the Order of Saint Augustine, the church was made in a circular shape and was covered by a hemispheric vault and balcony. It took 72 year to complete because of financial difficulties and because of the political turmoil between Spain and Portugal.
Some fine architecture was built during the early C18th, including Clerigos Tower. Climb the Tower, the city’s most prominent landmark; it was built by Florentine architect Nicolau Nasoni, a man who was buried in the adjoining church. It is Porto’s best example of baroque architecture and is the tallest tower in Portugal.
Dona Maria Pia bridge, 1877
designed by Gustave Eiffel
To cross to the other side of the river, there is a choice of bridges. Dona Maria Pia, designed by Gustave Eiffel and built in 1877, is a railway bridge over the Portuguese northern municipalities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Another bridge, the Dom Luis I, boasts one of the biggest forged iron arches in the world.
Two water taxis cross the river as an alternative to the bridges, inspired by the design of the old rabelo cargo boats. River taxis are convenient for exploring the city on foot, with a dock at the Ribeira. The view of the city is best seen from the other side of the river, Vila Nova de Gaia, where the coloured, narrow dwellings stand out.
Book for a longer (eg 8 day) river cruise along the Douro River to see some of the most gorgeous natural scenery across Portugal, and sip on locally made port wine during a tasting session. Visit three vineyards to taste world-class wines while admiring scenic views from the Douro’s terraced vine yards. And have traditional lunches in the charming villages. All the major river-cruise operators organise Douro trips from late March to Nov eg Spain & Portugal Travel Connection or Euro River Cruises.
Two proposals have convinced the world that the USA is going mad vis a vis gun massacres.
In the second story, I cannot tell if the following newspaper article is positive advertising by right wingers or biting satire by left wingers. Neil Murphy wrote in the International Business Times that a Pennsylvania church will bless gun-toting couples in a ceremony taking place just half a mile from a local elementary school. Followers of the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary Church will be blessed by spiritual leaders at their campus in Newfoundland Pennsylvania at the end of this month. Only heterosexual couples have been asked to take part.
Attendees are requested to bring their own semi-automatic rifles, including AR-15s and AK47s, as part of the Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing. Those who cannot legally acquire a weapon have been asked to purchase a $700 gift voucher from a gun store.
Parents whose children attend neighbouring Wallenpaupack South Elementary School have voiced concern over the event, which comes just days after the massacre near Miami. Teenage Nikolas Cruz will be tried for killing 14 students and three adults with his legally-purchased AR-15 rifle.
Tim Elder, Unification Sanctuary's director of world missions, says that the event was planned months before the Miami school shooting and says all weapons will be securely checked by staff. According to Elder, Church teachings say assault weapons symbolise the New Testament's rod of iron passage and illustrates followers' intent and the ability to defend one's family, community and nation of Cheon Il Guk."
The Sanctuary is run by 38-year-old pastor Hyung Jin Moon, the son of Unification Church founder and self-professed messiah Sun Myung Moon. The Unification Church was founded by Moon in 1957 in Seoul, Korea using teachings from the Bible and his own family beliefs. The Unification Church off-shoot is a staunch supporter of Americans' rights bear arms and will host President Trump Thank You Dinner on Saturday — a fundraiser for Gun Owners of America.
So we have established a Caulfield Gun-Coffee Club for solving the gun catastrophe in the USA. Although Australia has never had much of a visible gun culture, we have had terrible mass gun murders in the past. The Milperra Bikie Massacre killed 6 bikies and one by-stander in 1984; Hoddle Street Massacre killed 7 city commuters in 1987; Queen Street Massacre killed 8 city shoppers and workers in 1987; and worst of all, the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre that killed 35 customers in an outdoor café.
The new Australian prime minister in 1996, John Howard, headed the conservative party. In his first speech to Parliament after the Port Arthur Massacre, he called for Australian legislators to take up the vexed issue of gun control, and vowed to devote his prime ministership to the issue. In May 1996, his government unveiled the National Firearms Agreement that radically strengthened Australia’s gun laws. The NFA established a registry of all guns owned in the country and required a permit for all new firearm purchases. It totally banned all automatic and semi-automatic guns.
Since many of these guns were already in circulation, the bill included a mandatory buy-back programme, which included large-scale gun confiscation and the destruction of 700,000 guns. Gun owners were compensated for the proper dollar value of the weapons seized by the state. Polls showed the new legislation was supported by 82% of the population.
Studies since 1996 reported that the new laws greatly reduced Australia’s homicide and suicide rates. And since the law’s passage, there has not been a single mass shooting in Australia. John Howard has described this programme as his greatest accomplishment as prime minister.
The Caulfield Gun-Coffee Club recognises that the American Constitution and its gun amendments cannot be changed without a mammoth effort at the Federal level. So instead we propose that A] 49 USA states ban guns WITHIN the borders of their states and B] all devoted gun owners be moved to Alaska, along with the weapons of their choice. C] Any current Alaskan citizens who do not approve of gun murders will be guaranteed a home and job in another state of Continental USA. Alaska is big enough to take in hundreds of thousands of gun fanatics and has the advantage of not bordering any other USA state. Sorry Canada :(
There will inevitably be issues with the underage children of those gun-loving parents who move to Alaska. Would the children be kept with aunts and grandparents in states other than Alaska, to be reunited to their parents when they reach their majority (aged 18 or 21)?
For those professionals who are legally entitled to use guns, such as the police, armed forces and Olympian athletes, locked training facilities must be provided across the USA.
Lasting only from May-Sept 1212, the Children’s Crusade was a popular religious movement in which thousands of young people took crusading vows and set out to recover Jerusalem from the Muslims. This was probably not as surprising an event back then, as it sounds to our ears.
Popular movements of religious fervour appeared whenever official crusades were preached. Preaching aroused mass enthusiasm, mostly in areas with a long tradition of crusading, as in and around the French town of Chartres. From the time of the First Crusade in the late C11th and continuing into the C13th, successive waves of crusading fervour swept over this region.
This was already a turbulent era. The Albigensian Crusade (1209–29) was being preached against the heretical southern Cathars, resulting in strong military recruitment from Chartres. Spain was the scene of another Crusading crisis. A Muslim invasion from North Africa in 1210 led to the fall of Salvatierra Castle in Spain in 1211. A fearful war was expected in 1212. Pope Innocent III quickly coordinated Christian prayers on behalf of the threatened Spanish church by holding processions in Rome in May 1212.
Similar processions were held at Chartres in May where the shepherd boy Stephen of Cloyes and his fellow workers participated. This young preacher believed he’d been chosen by Jesus to lead the divine mission: to lead pueri and puelle (Latin for boys and girls) to save Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre. He gathered followers by predicting miracles eg by claiming that the Mediterranean Sea would part for them en route to Jerusalem! Masses of children became wild with excitement, dropped their ploughs and sheep, took the crusader’s vow and flocked to the rendezvous point.
Some adults believed the children’s movement was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Other adults believed that sending off 11-12 year olds was the work of the Devil. Some parents were so anxious for the young lives that they locked up their children in the home, to prevent their departure. [I would certainly have locked my 11 year old sons up!]
Under Stephen’s leadership, French children assembled at St Denis during a popular annual June event, the Lendit Fair. The numbers of Stephen’s followers were uncertain but presumably c30,000 French children assembled in bands and marched through French towns. Carrying banners and crosses, some of the French children went all the way to Marseilles. Those that sailed from that port were probably sold as slaves in Alexandria or Tunisia. Other children were too hungry to go on, and returned home.
From the records of a German Children’s Crusade, we know that some of the French children arrived in Germany in mid-July. A lad named Nicholas from Cologne DID succeed in launching a crusade, carrying his charismatic tau cross and leading the German pueri southward to Mainz and Speyer.
Nicholas led his c50,000 lads to go over the Alps into Italy via Piacenza and Genoa, then onto the pope in Rome. The pope praised the children for their bravery, but stated that they were too young to crusade. From the port of Brindisi, a few thousand young crusaders got onto ships to sail to Jerusalem .. and disappeared. Quite separately we heard that of the 7,000 German pueri who arrived in Genoa, many remained because cheap labour was needed there. Only a few German children returned home to their frantic parents.
All in all, the Children’s Crusade was an utter disaster. As it was doomed to be from the beginning.
Yet it also represented the decline of the Crusades. Innocent III had already planned a crusade to recapture Jerusalem; in 1213 and 1215 he issued papal bulls calling on Christians to join in. The eventual failure of this 5th Crusade predicted the end. In 1270-2 the 8th and 9th Crusades failed totally; the mainland Crusader states ended with the fall of Tripoli (1289) and Acre (1291).
Johann Sporschil: Geschichte der Kreuzzüge.
I can easily imagine the excitement that these self-proclaimed, unarmed Crusaders evoked when they planned to regain Jerusalem and recover the True Cross. So despite the very short amount of time taken up by the children’s crusading movement, interest in the story continued over the centuries. Countless children’s books were written in later generations. Highly romanticised illustrations of the Children’s Crusade were still being published in prints and books, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.
After being captured and imprisoned by the Reds at Baku in 1920, Danila escaped on a motor bike, eventually travelling to China. Due to his wartime experiences, Vassilieff felt free to continue life as a womaniser; until he married Anisia Nicolaevna at the Shanghai Russian Church in 1923.
From Shanghai the couple sailed to Australia in 1923. In 1923 they bought a sugar-plantation near Townsville but in 1928 he separated from his wife and was employed on the Northern Territory railway.
In 1929 he left Australia, studying art in Brasil (1930-1) and in the West Indies and South America (1932-3). Then he spent two years in England, Spain and Portugal (1933-4), mixing with White Russian ex-pats and creating a relationship between modernist art and Russian decorative art.
During his 5 years travelling, the UK was where he met fellow Russian Vladimir Polunin who was a teacher at the Slade School of Fine Art. The period emphasised Vassilieff’s Russian heritage of strong colour.
In 1934 Vassilieff returned to Australia and became the link between Australian and European art history. Complete with his dark beret, nicotine-stained clothes and intense gaze, the Russian became a colourful man. In Oct 1935 Vassilieff settled in Sydney, painting stormy, inner-city street scenes. Only now did enthusiastic reviews of his work establish his reputation eg scruffy children playing in workingclass suburbs, still lifes and portraits. His expressionist works were shown twice at the Macquarie Galleries. His biggest supporter was the famous art critic Basil Burdett.
Heide was the home built around bourgeois art patrons John and Sunday Reed in the 1930s, and attracted artists Sidney Nolan, Bert Tucker and Joy Hester. Not far from Heide in Bulleen, Danila Vassilieff created his own bohemian stone-and-log house in North Warrandyte, a home he called Stonygrad. Here he created a terraced garden with fruit trees and flowers, and sculptures out of local stone.
Stonygrad became a focal point for the Angry Penguins and other locals. In the late 1930s-40s, Danila influenced many of the younger painters who later became Australia's stars - Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, Joy Hester and Sid Nolan.
In 1944 his relationship with Helen Macdonald ended. Vassilieff had separated from his first wife way back in 1929 but they were not divorced until 1947. Because his art was unappreciated in Australia, he decided to sell Stonygrad and move to South Africa. In true Vassilieff style, he fell in love with the purchaser of Stonygrad, academic Elizabeth Orme Hamill. 3 months later they married and, newly inspired, the artist turned to sculpture using lime-stone from Lilydale.
Vassilieff building Stonygrad
His view that immediacy and message mattered more than intellect and aesthetics, influenced younger artists: Albert Tucker, Lina Bryans, Joy Hester and Sidney Nolan. He did exhibit again later at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Melbourne, but now his work was not in great demand.
Sickly and slim, Vassilieff had always spoken English in a low, accented voice. As he sold few paintings, he never had any money and traded portraits for hot dinners. He also traded on his romantic image to get women into bed. Sadly he spent his final months in a shack near Mildura painting unhappy water-colours, the last in 1958.
Vassilieff died of a heart attack alongside John Reed at Heide, who stood by the artist to the end. A memorial exhibition of Danil’s oeuvre was held at Melbourne’s Museum of Modern Art of Australia in 1959. His work is now represented in major Australian galleries.
Vassilieff's biographer Felicity St John Moore published Vassilieff and His Art in 2012. Vassilieff brought a stream of Russian folk art into Australian art, as well as exciting ideas about the indivisibility of art and life. The bright colours reflected his exuberant love of the river, its flora and fauna. Sadly, Felicity said, he divided critics and friends, thanks to a peculiarly Cossack chauvinism, fierce anti-intellectualism, dysfunctional relationships with women and crude painterly language.
In 2012 an exhibition at Heidi examined the profound influence of this artist in the history of Australian art. It comprised key paintings from the mid-1930s to mid-1940s, works on paper and sculpture. This project highlighted Vassilieff’s role in linking the expressive tradition of Russian folk art with modern Australia art.
In 2015 director Richard Moore's film, The Wolf in Australian Art: Life and Art of Danila Vassilieff was based on a book published by his mother, Felicity St John Moore. She also co-curated a 2012 show at Heide that did much to restore Vassilieff to the modern public.
Let me quote from the excellent Napoleon’s Last Stand paper, written by historian Jean-Noel Bregeon. Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, skilfully managed to expel Emperor Napoleon from Portugal in 1811 and won decisive victories against the French in Spain in 1813. After the French Grand Army’s ruinous attempt to invade Russia, Allied forces invaded France from all sides in 1813.
The French Empire was weakening, damaging the Emperor’s plans for European domination. By April 1814 it looked as if the anti-French Allies had succeeded. Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to the Italian island of Elba; Bourbon King Louis XVIII was restored to power instead.
Napoleon was not a prisoner on Elba; he was granted sovereignty of the island plus an armed guard. A flow of intelligence from French informants & letters helped him secretly plan for his future. Even from Elba, Napoleon knew the Bourbon government was unpopular and by May 1814, he expected he would be sent for... to "tranquilise" France.
Then in Feb 1815, Europe received a shock: the audacious Napoleon escaped from Elba and sailed for France. It is hard to over-estimate the horror this news provoked. Many nations feared that Napoleon’s escape would restart French imperial expansion, and re-plunge Europe into war.
In spring 1815 British, Prussian, Austrian and Russian forces re-grouped as Napoleon again mobilised the French army. A last, epic showdown loomed. This time Napoleon faced a coalition of nations led by his old skilled adversary, the Duke of Wellington.
In March, Napoleon reached Paris with the applause of the masses in his ears. Despite his claims to want peace, the Allies were wary. Together they signed what amounted to a declaration of war.
Events moved swiftly, and the restored French emperor had little time to organise. With enemy armies massing on France’s northern frontiers, he tried to organise a volunteer force to supplement the standing army. Even so, the French army was a fearful opponent. Its troops were experienced fighters, and its commander still inspired passionate loyalty.
The Allied forces consisted of British, Prussian and other troops who were divided into detachments. British commander, the Duke of Wellington, patiently decided to wait for the enemy to attack rather than force their hand.
Brimming with confidence, Napoleon was planning for a decisive victory. Ignoring advice to postpone engagement with the enemy, he left Paris on 12th June 1815 to join his army in Belgium where Wellington’s and Gebhard von Blücher’s troops lay in wait. On 14th June Napoleon proclaimed: “The honour and happiness of our country are at stake; Frenchmen, the moment has arrived when we must conqueror or die!”
A double battle took place on 16th June in Quatre-Bras and Ligny; both were French victories, although neither was a fatal blow to Napoleon’s enemies. On 17th June, heavy rains soaked the ground and the French soldiers. The wet fields and muddy roads became a swampy mess.
At dawn on 18th June, Wellington and Napoleon organised their forces. Wellington set up his headquarters in Mont-Saint-Jean, not far from Waterloo. He had deployed most of his 68,000 troops along a long ridge with three farms. The British commander stuck to his defensive tactic, knowing he needed to wait for Blücher’s detachments (c50,000 men) to arrive. After the clash at Ligny, Blücher withdrew to Wavre, closer to Waterloo.
Napoleon’s camp was in the village of Maison du Roi. Because French forces totalled c72,000 men, Napoleon hoped to take advantage of the distance between the Prussians and the British, to quickly destroy Wellington’s forces. The emperor believed that victory was within his grasp! But the emperor’s plan was thwarted by the mud and fog, which prevented an early start. Napoleon believed that had it not rained, he would have quickly defeated the Allied army, before the Prussians arrived.
But none of the French attacks breached the front. The Allied infantry, especially the British, showed determined resilience in facing the French onslaught. As a result, some formations suffered unprecedented losses e.g the Inniskilling Regiment lost two-thirds of its men in 45 minutes.
The strain was becoming intolerable on Wellington. He desperately awaited news of Blücher’s arrival so that the Prussians could save them. At 4 PM Blücher’s forces started to attack the French flanks but the danger for Wellington was not over yet. One farmhouse fell to the French at 6 PM. An hour later, the allied forces faced the terrifying charge from the Imperial Guard, the force Napoleon always reserved to decide battles. The Emperor thought the Imperial Guard would break the Allies, but he miscalculated. He had to send several regiments of his Imperial Guard to fight the Prussians, men who were sorely missed by their comrades during the final push. As they charged, Allied gunfire ripped them apart. The Imperial Guard faltered and the French troops scattered in terror-filled retreat.
At 8:15 PM Napoleon ordered a retreat, once he realised the mortal blow had been struck. But the Allies’ victory came at a heavy cost. Historians estimated Wellington’s casualties c15,000 and Blücher’s at c8,000. Napoleon suffered c25,000 casualties and 9,000 Frenchmen were captured. Wellington was overwhelmed by the loss of life.
Napoleon immediately returned to Paris where he abdicated in favour of his son on 22th June. A month after the battle, Napoleon gave himself up to the British, who banished him to St Helena, a mid-Atlantic island. The Napoleonic Era was over for good.
Yet... yet....whilst on Elba, Napoleon knew the Bourbon government was unpopular and that he would have to save France. So why, despite solid advice to postpone the battle, did Napoleon take full command of an unnecessary battle, stating that he could easily defeat the inept British soldiers and the remote Prussian soldiers?
We can acknowledge that the French under Marshal Michel Ney eventually captured a farmhouse in the Allied area and began decimating Wellington’s troops with artillery. But why was Napoleon so preoccupied with the 30,000 Prussians attacking his flank that he did not release troops to aid Ney’s attack until later? By that time, Wellington had reorganised the British defences, and the French attack was repulsed. Fifteen minutes later, the allied army launched a general advance and the Prussians attacked in the east, throwing the French troops into chaotic retreat.
I know that ceramics from the later 17th century and all the 18th century are greatly prized by Chinese collectors, for their technical skills and often coloured decoration. The best work came from the three great Qing Dynasty emperors, Kangxi (ruled 1661-1722), Yongzheng (1722-35) and Qianlong (1735-96).
The Yongzheng Emperor (1678–1735) was the 5th emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, reigning for 13 years. According to the National Palace Museum in Taiwan the Yongzheng Emperor promulgated an order in 1727 for court objects that had to differ in appearance from those outside, thus establishing a unique style for his court. The painted enamel motifs that Yongzheng loved were blue landscapes, landscapes with flowers, peacocks and wild goose, plums, orchids, bamboo and chrysanthemums. The exquisite under-glaze blue wares made in Yongzheng’s imperial kilns are some the best creations of the entire Qing era.
In 2009 the Taiwan museum borrowed 37 relics from the Palace Museum in Beijing for its exhibition on Qing Dynasty Emperor Yongzheng. The pieces included an imperial stone seal and a massive Yongzheng portrait.
The original estimate was £100,000-150,000, but on the day of the auction, the bids came thick and fast. The successful buyer was a Chinese private collector who paid £482,800 ($740,000) for the lot, including auction costs.
Two references for Qing porcelain are very useful. Firstly consider For the Imperial Court: Qing Porcelain from the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, written by Rosemary E Scott and published in 1997. Secondly Imperial Perfection: The Palace Porcelain of Three Chinese Emperors: Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, published in 2004, is valuable.
An unexpected find was 9 cm tall teapot, decorated with a bright blue pattern featuring two cranes under a palm tree on one side, and a man on a bridge on the other side. When found in 2016 in Britain, the teapot was already missing a lid, and the handle was repaired.
Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury identified it as the work of John Bartlam, a Staffordshire potter who left Britain in 1763 for South Carolina, drawn by its plentiful supplies of local kaolin and its wealthy consumers. He established the first known manufacturer of porcelain in the USA. British appraisers said this was the only known Bartlam American teapot in existence, and thus earliest USA-made porcelain teapot to survive.
Woolley and Wallis Auctioneers said the vessel’s historic importance rested in its association with the beginning of American porcelain production. Because of era of manufacture, the pot was said to represent the unique entrepreneurial spirit and important historical era, before the Boston Tea Party of Dec 1773. Thus this art object meant so much more to the Americans than it did to the other buyers.
The tiny wine bowl was worth a fortune because of fine craftsmanship, delicate decoration and historical value to fans of early C18th Qing ceramics. The teapot was not valuable because of its fine craftsmanship or delicate decoration; rather because of its great rarity and strong nationalist sentiment.
What a creative life and a tragic death Amadeo Modigliani (1884–1920) had. He left home in Livorno Italy in 1906, at 21, with money from his mother, and moved to the centre of the art world: Paris. He was engrossed by the works he saw, from artists ranging from the late Paul Cézanne to his contemporary Kees van Dongen.
Modigliani lived at various addresses in the bohemian district of Montmartre, not far from Pablo Picasso’s home. In the early days in Paris, Amadeo’s subjects included figures from the demimonde eg circus performers. But during the 13 years that followed, he struggled with the dark side which, in turn, strengthened his art.
Modigliani’s years of poverty were clear from the beginning – he was tubercular, hungry and poor. The consequences of his short and disordered life have resulted in debates amongst scholars, museums, dealers, auction houses and private collectors. His official catalogue raisonné is no longer 100% trusted because of disputed forgeries and subsequent court cases. But at least the authenticity of Dr Paul Alexandre’s wonderful collection of Modiglianis was never challenged.
Now the Tate Modern in London has brought together drawings, paintings and sculptures by Modigliani which might help with understanding his art. All the early work done in Italy was destroyed at Modigliani’s own request. So the Tate Exhibition consists of paintings and carved stone sculpture done during his chaotic, artistic life in Paris.
The paintings were sensitively hung in the Tate Modern galleries, with their colours creating a radiance. And the display reflected Amadeus’ progress over time. In 1909, he painted a very handsome portrait of his friend Paul Alexandre with layers of almost Turner-like brushwork. That same year he depicted the youth he referred to as a Young Gypsy with a stylised geometric angularity, posing him with legs spread apart and hands loosely resting in his lap. In 1918, Modigliani painted the Little Peasant with a simplified classicism but left him with the same rounded hands and arms a la Paul Alexandre but in a lighter palette.
What about the 12 nudes in the same section of the Tate, perfectly timed to mark the 100-year anniversary of Modigliani’s only solo show. That exhibit, at Gallerie Berthe Weill, was closed by police on its first day because of indecency. The heroic Mrs Weill’s impressive list of artists included Raoul Dufy, André Derain, Georges Braque, Kees van Dongen, Maurice Utrillo and Suzanne Valadon.
Was being Jewish in post-Dreyfus Paris a problem? Modigliani was not interested in the issue! While there were several memoirs that described Modigliani’s passionate response to anti-Semitism, there was no evidence that he felt himself an “outsider”. This cosmopolitan family had come from France, Tunisia, Italy, Algeria and Sardinia; national boundaries melted away. In Paris, his friends included many Jewish artists eg Lipchitz, Soutine, Chagall, Zadkine, Nadelman and Kisling, artists of mixed origin eg Diego Rivera, and non-Jews like Picasso, Laurens, Gris and Cocteau. If he was considered Italian, it was because of his dashing, aristocratic style.
The end was tragic. Amadeus’s young lover Jeanne Hébuterne was 36 weeks pregnant with their second baby. Suffering from acute kidney pain and spitting blood, Modigliani lay in bed and a frightened Hébuterne huddled by his side in their Rue de la Grande Chaumière flat. They were cold that winter, hungry and messy. When he finally fell into a coma, Modigliani was carried to hospital and tended by nuns while friends surrounded him.
Amadeus died and the artist’s brother paid expenses for a lavish funeral, where thousands of people gathered behind a horse-drawn carriage bearing his flower-covered casket. As the funeral cortege passed by, Hébuterne leapt out the 5th storey open window and died on the footpath below. At Cimetière du Père Lachaise, the Jewish funeral was packed out. Hébuterne’s Catholic parents arranged their daughter’s tiny funeral early the next day.
Decades after her parents’ deaths, Amadeus’ daughter Jeanne wrote a book called Modigliani: Man and Myth. Jeanne described her father as the pampered and indulged youngest son in an eccentric Italian family, his own bankrupted father, and Amadeus’ near-death experiences in childhood from pleurisy and typhoid. Perhaps by choosing the life of a Bohemian artist, he was toughening himself up physically while saving his poetic soul.
Sleeping nude by Modigliani
The first Jewish settler in New Zealand was Joel Samuel Polack in 1831. Born in London to Dutch parents, he established a successful retail business and later branched out into shipping, mainly to California. When New Zealand became a British colony in 1840, it was the perfect time for the Auckland Jewish community’s foundation; they soon acquired land for their first cemetery.
The first Hebrew congregation began worship in Auckland in 1843. Their first formal place of worship was in Nathan & Joseph's Warehouse in Shortland Street. By 1853 the congregation had grown to 100 and worship was held in a small building in Emily Place. By the 1860s this building had become too small for the rapidly increasing population and moneys were collected to build a new synagogue.
In 1884, the Jewish Community purchased a section on the corner of Princes and Bowen Sts. At that time the site was occupied by the former Albert Barracks Guard House, which overlooked a vegetable garden used by soldiers.
The community asked architects to submit synagogue designs and they chose Edward Bartley to take on the project. Bartley was an Irish carpenter and joiner arrived in New Zealand in 1854 and trained as an architect and builder. In 1872, he went into partnership with another builder, forming Matthews & Bartley Builders. He moved to the North Shore in 1872, later building his own home in Devonport. Other significant Bartley buildings included the Foundation for the Blind Jubilee Building and the original Wellesley St Opera House. And was a founding member of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.
The Princes St Synagogue structure was designed in a mixed Romanesque and Gothic style, the project influenced by an important Glasgow Synagogue. It was built out of concrete at a cost of 3000 pounds and could seat a congregation of 375. As one of NZ’s oldest massed concrete buildings, the basement was set aside for social and educational purposes, and a school annexe was later added.
The interior ornamentation was by the decorator JL Holland. The interior of the building featured a barrel vaulted timber ceiling and an ornate circular ark, covered by a stained glass dome imported from Australia. The blend of Arabic and Classical styles featuring ornate stained-glass windows; an elliptical staircase; a decorated barrel-vaulted, wood-panelled ceiling supported by graceful Arabic arches and columns; and ornate plaster work.
Along with his 3 sons who became architects, Bartley also trained Malcolm Keith Draffin (1890-1964). Draffin later became an Auckland War Memorial Museum architect.
The barrel-vaulted, wood-panelled ceiling with graceful Arabic arches and columns are still intact. The women's pews upstairs were removed and the bank office spaces remain.
The synagogue had been Auckland’s main synagogue until 1967. Only then, due to substantial growth in the Jewish Community, did the congregation move to a larger, newly synagogue opposite Myers Park.
After the original building was de-consecrated in 1969, ownership reverted to Auckland City Council. The building was left vacant and slowly deteriorated over 20+ years, until it was renovated to operate a branch of the National Bank in 1989. The interior of the former synagogue was meticulously restored to its original condition in the late 1980s, with extensive structural and strengthening work of the interior office spaces.
The University of Auckland has leased the old synagogue since 2003, using the building as home to the University’s Alumni Relations and Development office. It is located at the campus entrance.
The former synagogue is registered by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and has Historic Place Category 1 Status. The conservation project won the inaugural Auckland City Heritage Award. And they won a New Zealand Institute of Architects National Award citation in 1990 for successfully reconciling the tenant’s commercial requirements with the need to conserve one of Auckland’s significant buildings.
Decoration and lamps on the arches and columns
This important part of Auckland’s cultural history is for sale. The synagogue is the only landmark historic building of its type in the city and one of only two extant C19th synagogues in all the country. It had acted as Auckland’s main synagogue and focal point for the Jewish community from 1885 until 1968! The adjoining building, the Trish Clark Gallery for contemporary art that was built in 1986, is one of Auckland’s leading art spaces. Along with the old synagogue, the whole complex is for sale in Apr 2018.
You might like to read The History of the Jews in New Zealand (1958) by Lazarus Morris Goldman for an excellent and detailed analysis of Jewish settlers in C19th New Zealand.
In 1861 Herman Webster Mudgett was born to a respected New Hampshire family. In childhood he was fascinated with skeletons and soon became obsessed with death. Mudgett changed his name to H.H Holmes and studied medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.
While a student, Holmes stole cadavers from the laboratory, disfigured them and then planted the bodies as if they were killed in accidents. His passion for death had started early in life but his criminal skills began in medical school; it was only then he collected on fake insurance policies.
Holmes was a very good medical student. In 1884 he passed his exams easily and in 1885 he moved to Chicago where he worked at a pharmacy as Dr Henry Holmes. When the owner of the business passed away, Holmes convinced the widow to sell him the shop in 1887. Holmes hired the Conner family from Iowa to work in the shop and keep the books, and the widow was never seen again!
Holmes married a few times, often to more than one woman at the same time. Emeline Cigrand became Holmes' personal secretary but after accepting Holmes' marriage proposal, Cigrand disappeared. Soon after, Holmes sold an articulated female skeleton to a nearby medical school. Holmes later confessed to locking Cigard in the vault, before raping and murdering her.
On the ground floor of Holmes’ three-storey Murder Castle, thousands of people enter the shops, some operated by Holmes and some leased to local merchants. They knew nothing of what was happening above.
The angled, narrow corridors had poor lighting. Most of the rooms were rigged with gas pipes connected to a control panel in Holmes' closet. Stairways that led nowhere were interspersed with locked doors to which only Holmes had the key. And Holmes' personal office contained a walk-in bank vault, leaving the victims to suffocate. There were trap doors, secret passage ways, hidden closets with sliding panels, peepholes, doorways opening to brick walls, soundproofed bedrooms that were either airtight and lined with asbestos-coated steel plates, false battlements and wooden bay windows were covered in sheet iron.
Holmes' medical training paid off. The basement was designed for a good surgeon; it had a dissecting table, surgeon's cabinet, stretching rack and crematory. Sometimes he would send the bodies down the greased chute, dissect them, strip them of the flesh and sell them as skeleton models to medical schools. Or he placed the bodies into pits of quicklime vats or burnt them in the furnaces. Charles Chappell was an articulator i.e he could strip flesh from human bodies and reassemble the bones to form complete skeletons. Holmes paid Chappell to articulate a cadaver, then to sell the skeleton to a medical school.
When completed in 1891, Holmes placed ads in newspapers offering hotel jobs for young women and advertised the Castle for guests. He also placed ads presenting himself as a wealthy man looking for a wife. In May-October 1893 the Chicago World Fair was opened, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. The event attracted millions of people from all over the world.
All of Holmes’ employees, hotel guests, fiancés and wives were required to have life insurance policies. Holmes paid the premiums, as long as he was the beneficiary. Most of his fiancés, employees and guests suddenly disappeared, leaving Holmes to collect the insurance.
While in gaol, he devised an insurance scam with cellmate Marion Hedgepeth. Holmes would take out a valuable insurance policy, fake his own death and provide Hedgepeth with $500 in exchange for a helpful lawyer. Holmes did try his plan but the insurance company was suspicious and refused payment. Holmes then attempted a similar plan in Philadelphia, asking Pitezel to fake his own death. But Holmes killed Pitezel and collected the insurance anyhow!
In 1894 Hedgepath told police about Holmes’ scam. The police tracked Holmes, arresting him in Boston for insurance fraud. Almost accidentally, Chicago police investigated Holmes’ Castle where they discovered his tortures and murders. The bodies they found were so badly dismembered and decomposed, the number was unclear.
How did the crisis get so far? Because of the World's Fair and limited police procedure, missing persons had barely been investigated. And more difficult still, Holmes' innate charm could smooth over any major worries that neighbours and families were pursuing.
While conducting their investigation in Toronto, police discovered the dead Pitezel children who had gone missing sometime during Holmes’ insurance fraud spree. Linking Holmes to their murders, police arrested him and he then confessed to 28 other murders. Holmes' 6-day trial began in Philadelphia in late 1895. Throughout, he was charismatic to the day of his execution: May 1896. He was 36.
A man named AM Clark purchased the Murder Castle soon after the police investigation. Clark intended to capitalise on the Castle's notoriety and reopen it as a tourist attraction. However in August a watchman saw flames and explosions from the bedroom windows and the roof had collapsed. Only the first floor was salvaged and served as a bookshop until the Castle was sold in 1937. It was then pulled down.
After Holmes’ death, men who'd had dealings with Holmes came to violent ends. The last was Pat Quinlan, suspected accomplice and former Murder Castle caretaker. In March 1914, Quinlan committed suicide via strychnine.
In the next post I will examine a similar mass murderer (in Britain), and draw some conclusions.