Tag Archives: Canterbury

Quimper’s Saint Coretin Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral and the local church of Locmarie

On a recent stay at Quimper in Brittany we devoted some time to the Cathedral:  Cathédrale Saint-Corentin de Quimper and it was interesting to experience this building and compare it both to our local Canterbury Cathedral that I know so well and also to the local and much less grand church around the corner from Saint-Coretin.  (Coretin was the city’s first bishop by the way)

Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper with the Odet River

Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper with the Odet River

Chapel at Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Chapel at Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Side Aisle of Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Side Aisle of Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Nave of Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Nave of Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Flying Buttressing at Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Flying Buttressing at Saint Coretin Cathedral, Quimper

Both the Canterbury cathedral and Saint-Coretin share an unusual feature:  Both buildings have unusually kinked aisles and whilst they are both of elderly – Canterbury has the edge in being more than a few hundred years older –  and Canterbury is significantly larger I found the spaces contained within Saint Coretin  curiously un-mystical and they left me cold. This may be slightly unfair as my favourite part of Canterbury is the crypt and whilst I feel sure Saint Cortetin has one, it isn’t open to the casual visitor so I didn’t get to experience it.  The building is altogether a more uniform structure, the whole comes across as being conceived by one mind or at least one conception and seems to be of a time which contrasts strongly to Canterbury that is a really cobbelled together structure and as Jonathan Foyle puts it is a journey through time.  I found the grey local stone rather unappealing lacking the warmth of the limestone used at Canterbury (that ironically was imported from Caen in Normandy!)  The inside however did have some marvellous colours that Canterbury does not have.

And not surprisingly, given Canterbury’s position as home of some of the finest medieval glass in existance, the stained-glass was universally poor by comparison, with some of the best examples being quite modern and I use the word “best” relatively.  (I note that Wikipedia suggests that the 15C glass is “exceptional” but then I guess that is a relative term) So overall, I came away feeling very happy to have visited the Cathedral but rather unmoved by the experience.

This was not the case at the church of Locmarie just across the Odet from the cathedral.  Here we found a marvellous space with no stained-glass at all and none of the grace to be found at either Canterbury or Saint Coretin but with so much more spirit than the latter. The church of Locmarie predates the cathedral by some three or four hundred years and is an entirely Romanesque structure featuring the massive walls, round arches and tiny windows that define the period.  But although its rough hewn interior had none of the finesse of St Coretin,  it does hold a truly magical feel that more than makes up for it’s inadequacies in other respects.

The church was built in 12C and there is surprisingly little more information about it.  The west wall was rebuilt a few hundred years after it was originally built but that aside, it kind of just is.  This is in itself refreshing as it allowed us to simply appreciate what was there, rather than thinking about who did what when and where etc etc.

Side Aisle of the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Side Aisle of the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Side Door at the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Side Door at the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

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Side Chapel at the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Side Chapel at the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Nave of Side the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

Nave of Side the Church of Locmarie, near Quimper

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#Getty Museum, Los Angeles – #Canterbury Glass and St Albans Psalter

Over the weekend a little package arrived from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

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The package contained all the bumpf from the exhibition except the book which will be following shortly and it wasn’t entirely unexpected as the “Treasures from the Church Cloister” exhibition opened on September 20th.  Last week I met up with Leonie (Director of Stained Glass at the Cathedral) who gave me a full rundown of the exhibition and it’s installation.  She also said the some of my images are 7m high and they all look great :-)

By all accounts Leonie and her team have done an outstanding job and everybody at the Getty are delighted – it looks to be a sellout show and will be in Los Angeles until February before moving to New York after which the glass panels wend their way back to the Cathedral.

I feel blessed and privileged to have played a part in the project!

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Canterbury at Night and Brassai’s “Paris de Nuit”

One of the most precious photography books in my collection is Brassai’s “Paris de Nuit”.  This was given to me by my father about 20 years ago and is a well loved copy which detracts from it’s monetary value (it remains the most valuable book I own despite the wear) but in no way detracts from the images.  These images, along with those of Sudek have formed one of the back-bone of my photographic education. Interestingly though, I never felt moved to emulate any of their work at the time.  But last year, or it may have been the year before, I spent a number of winter nights tramping around the streets of Canterbury doing a Canterbury de Nuit series.

By way of background to Brassai, this Hungarian born photographer forms part of that rich stream of photographers that flowed out of Europe during the early part of the 20C.  He worked mainly in Paris and died there in 1984, after a life of work in photography.  His commercial commissioned work is largely forgotten now but his legacy of personal work is formidable.

And so to Canterbury at night…

Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction Canterbury Junction

St Mary the Virgin Church, Fordwich, Near Canterbury, Kent

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Popped in to see St Mary the Virgin in Fordwich after doing that traditional Sunday activity of visiting the DIY shop.   This is one of seventeen Kent churches entrusted to the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, a charity who sole function is to ensure that the historical and material aspects of local Churches is maintained and that they can remain open to the public.

Fordwich sits comfortably and sleepily on the banks of the Stour as it winds it’s way to the sea.  The present town bears very little relation to the buzzing place it must have been when it served as the main port for the arrival of Caen stone from France during the Norman reconstruction of the nearby Canterbury Cathedral in 12C and 13C.  Nowadays it’s main claim to fame is that it is the smallest place in the country to have a Town Council and it also has two fine pubs one of which is conveniently opposite the miniscule Town Hall!

Having negotiated my way past innumerable gravestones I arrived at the Church door.  The church itself is very much more substantial than the Romney Marsh building I visited last Sunday and the setting is no where near as unique but that said it does have some interesting features.  I guess from an historical point of view the sarcophagus (that supposedly once contained the remains of St Augustine of Canterbury) is of note. dating from 1100, it is carved with columns and with fishscale tiles on the sloping top  making it look a bit like a Greek temple but but beyond that the thing itself is pretty featureless.

The painting (1688) above the tympanium represents the Royal Arms of William III and Commandments but the best thing about it is the way it exactly follows the shape of the chancel arch below and so serves to emphasise the architectural structure of the building as well as to remind us to be good and pious.

And then there is the fine hand-pumped organ with a large lever protruding from the rear which, no doubt,  someone who didn’t pay enough attention to the commandments above the Chancel Arch was obliged to pump up and down until given the signal to stop from the organist.

And finally, the crowning glory has got to be the curious bully-beef tin hooked on the side of one of the pews.  It certainly never had the honour of holding any relics but what a fantastic piece of folk art – and I have no idea what it was made to hold!

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent ©Robert Greshoff

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Fordwich, Kent
©Robert Greshoff

Red Telephone Box resurrection in Kent and “La Cabina”

Easter is a good time to think of resurrection.

I have passed the yard of #UniquelyBritish countless times since moving to Kent 10 years ago but I visited the place for the first time last week.  Their yard is situated next door to the busy A2 motorway on it’s way to Dover but because the landscape is elevated at that point you wouldn’t realise the road is there.  And there is not much else around aside from countryside which creates a slightly incongruous and somewhat surreal environment for these red telephone boxes.

#UniquelyBritish have been resurrecting these red telephone boxes for years and send them out all over the world and are the only company in Kent doing this work and one of three or four nationwide.  They also do postboxes and some of the more standard architectural salvage stuff but the phoneboxes are the undoubted stars.  There seems to little point in regurgitating the history of these iconic British objects here, but if you are curious to know more, this is a good place to start:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_telephone_box

The place made me think of the slightly weird Spanish movie La Cabina (“The Telephone Box”), an Emmy award-winning, 1972 film directed by Spanish director Antonio Mercero, and written by him and José Luis Garci.  The plot is simple:  A new phone-box is delivered to a own square.   A father tries to make a call and is trapped in it.  All efforts to release him fail and eventually he is carried away (in the box) to a hellish place where hundreds of similar telephone boxes are stored resplendent with their ex-occupants.  A weird but compelling movie.

If you’re interested it is about 30 minutes long and can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFeERCVkAPg

Now the pictures:

Uniquely Britsh, Telephone Boxes, K6, Kent, Canterbury Uniquely Britsh, Telephone Boxes, K6, Kent, Canterbury Uniquely Britsh, Telephone Boxes, K6, Kent, Canterbury Uniquely Britsh, Telephone Boxes, K6, Kent, Canterbury Uniquely Britsh, Telephone Boxes, K6, Kent, Canterbury Uniquely Britsh, Telephone Boxes, K6, Kent, Canterbury

The innards of Canterbury Cathedral

With the Getty Museum project now complete, I thought I take a few pics of the wonderful roofspace up at the top of the cathedral.  Unfortunately the numerous firewalls prevent one getting a vista of the entire roofspace and one can only imagine what that view must be like.  But each section on it’s own has a degree of dynamism particularly those that have windows.  The other sections, without the benefit of natural light are vast caverns of darkness and in these conditiions (even with the few measly lights that there are, turned on) the rather incongruous signpost, is a very useful addition.  Carrying a compass helps too!

You get to the roof via a very long, continuous and pretty steep stone stairway complete with irregular tread heights which make slipping a constant hazard.  If you were to miss a step and start an involuntary descent, you’ll keep on going until you hit the bottom.  So one tends to use the rusty handrail thoughtfully provided.  Stone staircases in cramped settings are really difficult (if not impossible!) to shoot in such a way that demonstrates both their height and steepness.  Nevertheless I gave it a try and failed on both those counts.  But as the shot looks to me more like a snail shell than a staircase, I claim success in showing a stone staircase as a snail shell.

The last shot was taken from the Clerestory which I took simply because I was there!

Back to the world of new buildings tomorrow.

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