Category Archives: Items of Interest

The History of the Romans: Every Year

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

From the Foundation of Rome through the Fall of the Byzantine Empire, there has been constant growth and change in what was the Roman Empire. With so much going on, how could you possibly know everything?

That issue gets decided today as we witness the History of the Romans: Every Year!

See the entire history and progression of Roman civilization from the city-state Kingdom all the way to the last Byzantine successor state.

This video was originally published on 31 December 2015, with musical credits of “Majestic Hills”, “Hero Down”, and “Teller of the Tales” all by Kevin MacLeod.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, maybe you even learned something new or exciting. We look forward to having you join us again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

First Time In Paris? We Haven’t Been Yet Either

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It was about 2 years to the day that my wife and I had planned out the trip of a lifetime to Paris. We had planned to spend Christmas and New Years in Paris, France not Paris, TX.

It was to be an adventure since neither of us had ever been before. But that trip never happened for not too long after we found out that we were going to have a child, and that the due date of the baby was to be 2 weeks before our vacation.

Trip over.

Since we haven’t yet traveled overseas due to the arrival of our son on 29 November 2015, today we revisit our plan for traveling to Paris!

Eiffel Tower New Years
Fireworks above the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve.

When we began the planning, after securing our airfare and hotel accommodations, we were about a year away from the trip. Questions were coming hard and fast.

What are we interested in seeing? How do we want to travel? Do we want to get plane tickets own their own, or bundle them together with the hotel?

Do we want to stay in one location the entire trip, or move about? Are we traveling on a budget? The questions can go on and on.

NotreDameDeParis
Notre Dame de Paris

The first question, sites we want to see, was fairly easy to answer. We want to see it all!

 

Seriously though, Jenn and I want to get the best from our first Paris experience. We are tourists and we want to see the major tourist locations: Notre Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre, and The Eiffel Tower.

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

These are just obvious. However, we were not against becoming part of the “City of Lights” and strolling off of the tourist path.

To make lasting memories, the plan will be to experience as much as we possibly can. Hopefully this can also be accomplished in the most cost efficient means available.

To do so, the next most important decision is the location in which to stay. This is where some speed bumps will arise.

arrondissements-paris
Arrondissements of Paris

Paris is a very large city. As most cities of a similar size, like London or New York, the city is broken up into smaller districts.

The Parisians call their smaller areas Arrondissement (neighborhoods). They are divided up into 20 of these municipal areas.

If you imagine a spiral, how it starts in the center and continues to loop clockwise around from there, this is how the Arrondissements are formed.

The River Seine divides Paris almost in half, thus creating a Right (North) Bank and a Left (South) Bank. The Right Bank contains the following Arrondissements: 1-4, 8-12, and 16-20 while the Left Bank contains Arrondissements: 5-7 and 13-15.

Louvre
The Louvre

One would think that it would not be so challenging to choose which Arrondissements to stay in due to the breakdown. Well that is not the case.

Each neighborhood has its own feel and its own charm. Plus there is at least 1 attraction in each neighborhood that visitors want to see.

From sites that I have gone through, it appears all of the districts are safe. If you have yet to visit “The City of Love” then here are brief descriptions of each.

1st Arrondissement

PalaisRoyalParisColonnes
The Colonnes de Buren in the Cour d’Honneur of the Palais-Royal.

The least populated, but most expensive, of the 20 Arrondissements is right in the center of Paris. What’s here? The Louvre Museum, Palais-Royal, Tuileries Garden, Forum des Halles, Bourse du Commerce, and the upscale Place Vendôme.

The Palais-Royal is opposite the Louvre. The larger inner courtyard, the Cour d’Honneur, has since 1986 contained Daniel Buren‘s site-specific art piece Les Deux Plateaux, known as Les Colonnes de Buren.

2nd Arrondissement

The Paris Bourse

Primarily a business district, the 2nd, aka the smallest Arrondissement, is also home to a number of historic shopping arcades. What’s here? The Paris Bourse, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, lots of cafés and delivery trucks.

The Paris Bourse  is the historical Paris stock exchange, known as Euronext Paris from 2000 onward. The Bibliothèque nationale de France is the National Library of France, and is the national repository of all that is published in France.

3rd Arrondissement

The main entrance of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM), or National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts.

Another small Arrondissement, the 3rd contains the northern part of the historic Marais district. What’s here? The Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, the Picasso Museum and the Carnavalet Museum.

The Place des Vosges, originally Place Royale, is the oldest planned square in Paris and one of the finest in the city. It is located in the Marais district of Paris, and was a fashionable and expensive square during the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The Musée Picasso is an art gallery located in the Hôtel Salé in rue de Thorigny, dedicated to the work of the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.  The Carnavalet Museum is dedicated to the history of the city, and occupies 2 neighboring mansions: the Hôtel Carnavalet and the former Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau.

4th Arrondissement

Place des Vosges
Place des Vosges

The 4th is the oldest part of Paris. With designer boutiques and fancy cuisine, lots of hipsters have taken to this area.

What’s here? Notre-Dame, the Place des Vosges, City Hall and the Gothic Tour St-Jacques. To contrast all the historic buildings is the modern Centre Georges Pompidou.

Notre-Dame de Paris, or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world.

5th Arrondissement

Arènes de Lutèce, the most important remains from the Gallo-Roman era in Paris.

The 5th, or Latin Quarter, holds the renowned Sorbonne University. The school brings a more youthful crowd.

What’s here? The Panthéon, the Val-de-Grâce, the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, the Cluny Museum, Jardin des Plantesand the Roman-era Arènes de Lutèce and Thermes de Cluny.

The Arènes de Lutèce was a Roman amphitheater that could once seat 15,000 people and was used to present gladiatorial combats. The Thermes de Cluny are a Roman Bath complex built by the influential guild of boatmen of 3rd Century Roman Paris (Lutetia), as the consoles on which the barrel ribs rest are carved in the shape of ships’ prows.

6th Arrondissement

Church of Saint-Sulpice
Church of Saint-Sulpice

The iconic 6th is what Paris’s Left Bank is all about. It is popular with locals and visitors alike, which makes it a popular place to stay.

What’s here? The Jardin du Luxembourg, the Odéon Theatre, the Church of Saint-Sulpice, and the 11th Century Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

The Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe is 1 of France’s 6 national theatres. Saint-Sulpice is a Roman Catholic church, only slightly smaller than Notre-Dame, and is dedicated to Sulpitius the Pious.

7th Arrondissement

Les Invalides
Les Invalides

The 7th is filled with government institutions and major landmarks. This is also quite an upscale Arrondissement.

Being expensive overall, if money is any concern of yours then this is not the place to stay. What’s here? The Eiffel Tower, the Invalides (with Napoleon‘s Tomb), the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Rodin, the Musée du Quai Branly, the Palais Bourbon, and the UNESCO Headquarters.

Les Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids) is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose.

8th Arrondissement

Élysée Palace
Élysée Palace

Another Arrondissement loaded with tourist attractions. The 8th is like Oprah-rich.

This is where fashion meets Sex and the City finale. What’s here? The Champs-Élysées (probably the world’s most famous boulevard), the Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, the Élysée Palace, Madeleine church, and Monceau Park.

The Place de la Concorde is the major public squares in Paris, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. The Élysée Palace has been the official residence of the President of France since 1848.

9th Arrondissement

Église de la Sainte-Trinité

A multifaceted Arrondissement, the 9th holds prestigious boulevards in the south and not so prestigious red light district (Pigalle area) in the north. The Rue Saint-Denis is where senior citizen prostitutes can be found.

What’s here? The former Opéra Garnier, the Galeries Lafayette, and Sainte-Trinité.

The Galeries Lafayette is an upmarket French department store chain, with its flagship store is on Boulevard Haussmann. The Église de la Sainte-Trinité is a Roman Catholic church of the Second Empire period, built as part of the beautification and reorganization of Paris under Baron Haussmann.

10th Arrondissement

Facade of the Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.

The 10th is noted as being very “down to earth”. It is spread out too, so it is no wonder that both of Paris’s main railway stations (the Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord) are found in the 10th.

What’s here? Canal Saint-Martin and Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.

The Canal Saint-Martin is a 2.8 mile long canal connecting the Canal de l’Ourcq to the river Seine, and runs underground between Bastille (Paris Métro) and République (Paris Métro). The Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul is a church dedicated to Saint Vincent de Paul.

11th Arrondissement

Church of Saint-Ambroise
Church of Saint-Ambroise

A very low profile Arrondissement, known around the city as the Oberkampf, the 11th is mostly residential. This Right Bank district is better known for its nightlife than its landmarks, so it may feel a little too “festive” for a first time visitor to Paris.

What’s here? The Cirque d’Hive and the Church of Saint-Ambroise.

The Cirque d’Hiver (Winter Circus) has been a prominent venue for circuses, exhibitions of dressage, musical concerts, and other events, including exhibitions of Turkish wrestling and even fashion shows. The church of Saint-Ambroise was named after its neighborhood, the quartier Saint-Ambroise.

12th Arrondissement

Bastille Opera House
Bastille Opera House

The 12th is large and mostly residential, but it is affordable and safe with access to major metro lines. What’s here? The Bastille Opera House, AccorHotels Arena, along with the Vincennes.

The Opéra Bastille (Bastille Opera House) is a modern opera house and the main facility of the Paris National Opera, France’s principal opera company. Vincennes is a commune in the Val-de-Marne department in the eastern suburbs of Paris, famous for its castle, the Château de Vincennes, and its park, the Bois de Vincennes.

13th Arrondissement

The Mazarin entrance to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital.

Largely residential, the 13th is more out of the way from the typical tourist sites. It is home to the city’s largest Chinatown, while Butte-aux-Cailles (Quail Hill) boasts a stretch of restaurants, cafés and bars.

What’s here? The Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrièrel.

Today the Butte-aux-Cailles area assembles a young, trendy and festive Parisian population in its many small bars and restaurants. The Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital is a celebrated teaching hospital of Sorbonne University, and is 1 of Europe’s largest hospitals.

14th Arrondissement

Catacombes_de_Paris
Catacombs of Paris

Not considered a lively Arrondissement, the 14th does have its own sleepy charm and quiet streets. What’s here? The Paris Catacombs, Place Denfert-Rochereau, and the Observatoire de Paris (how the 14th Arrondissement got its name).

The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries which hold the remains of more than 6 million people in a small part of the ancient Mines of Paris tunnel network. The Paris Observatory is the foremost astronomical observatory of France, and 1 of the largest astronomical centers in the world.

15th Arrondissement

Tour Maine Montparnasse
Tour Maine Montparnasse

As a hit-or-miss district, the 15th is the largest of the 20 Arrondissements in Paris (both in size and population). Filled mostly with concrete 1970s high-rises, the 15th is not very lively unless you go to where it borders the 7th.

What’s here? Tour Maine Montparnasse and the Parc André Citroën.

Maine-Montparnasse Tower, also commonly named Tour Montparnasse, is a 689 ft office skyscraper located in the Montparnasse area of Paris. Parc André Citroën is a 35 acres public park located on the Left Bank of the river Seine.

16th Arrondissement

Palais de Chaillot
Palais de Chaillot

The 16th has the reputation of being the richest, with lots of Americans living here with their families. It is also viewed as being very safe, but more quiet and residential.

What’s here? The Palais de Chaillot, the Musée Guimet, the Palais de Tokyo, and the Musée Marmottan.

The Palais de Chaillot was also the initial headquarters of NATO, and the buildings now house a number of museums. Musée Marmottan Monet is a museum featuring a collection of over 300 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

17th Arrondissement

Pétanque, the outdoor bowling-game, as played in Batignolles.

This is a diverse Arrondissement outside the center of Paris most visited by tourists. The 17th is home to up-and-coming Batignolles area that houses many established French artists and writers.

What’s here? The Batignolles Cemetery, the Square des Batignolles, and the Palais des Congrès.

Batignolles was an independent village outside Paris until 1860, when the Emperor Napoleon III annexed it to the capital. The Palais des congrès de Paris is a concert venue, convention center and shopping mall.

18th Arrondissement

Moulin Rouge
The famous Moulin Rouge

Home of the famous Moulin Rouge, the 18th is like a vintage postcard of Paris. The once bohemian, and still village-like, district is often inundated with tourists.

That being said, avoid any hotel or hostel that is off of the Barbès-Rochechouart or Château Rouge metro stop. This is not the best district for wondering around the desolate side streets at night.

What’s here? Sacré-Coeur Basilica and the Place du Tertre.

Moulin Rouge (Red Mill) is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

19th Arrondissement

Panoramic view of the island within the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.

Another large Arrondissement, the 19th is a bit out of the way for Paris newcomers. The markets here are interesting to do as a day trip. Come night fall in Belleville, an area bordering the 19th and 20th Arrondissements, there is a large community of young prostitutes.

What’s here? The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont and the Parc de la Villette.

The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a public park occupying 61 acres, was opened by Emperor Napoleon III. The Parc de la Villette is another public park which houses 1 of the largest concentration of cultural venues in Paris, including the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (City of Science and Industry, Europe’s largest science museum), 3 major concert venues, and the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris.

20th Arrondissement

Père Lachaise Cemetery

The final, and mostly residential, Arrondissement is cosmopolitan and has no real attractions. The 20th still gets its fair share of tourists.

What’s here? The Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in the city (110 acres) and is notable for being the original garden cemetery, as well as the original municipal cemetery.

So now Jenn and I know what we are up against. With some information on our side, finding a place to stay will not seem so daunting.

The key to collecting information on traveling is to get different views. One website may not like a past experience and may downplay what happens to be true.

I found using a more “hip” site and a more “informative” site helped balance things. With the boy now, I’ll probably have to go check out a “family friendly” site.

We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure, and maybe were even inspired to check out Paris for yourself. Whenever our own trip gets set up again, we shall be certain to keep you updated.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Travel With Kids – Rome, Vatican City & the Amalfi Coast

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

After traveling with my wife and infant son to see family for Christmas, I got to thinking “What will traveling be like when our boy’s older? Where will we take him to make some wonderful memories?”

Last week we shared Travel With Kids – Rome to showcase all that can be seen and experienced in the Eternal City while traveling with children. We thought that was a good idea and looked for more videos to share.

Today we present to you Travel With Kids – Rome, Vatican City & the Amalfi Coast!

If you enjoyed today’s adventure and want to see more like it, and maybe even about different locations, check out their site here.

We wish you a great 2017 filled with endless possibilities. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Travel With Kids – Venice

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

After traveling with my wife and infant son to see family for Christmas, I got to thinking “What will traveling be like when our boy’s older? Where will we take him to make some wonderful memories?”

We’ve already shared Travel With Kids – Rome and Travel With Kids – Rome, Vatican City & the Amalfi Coast to showcase all that can be seen and experienced in the Eternal City (and Italy‘s coast) while traveling with children. We thought that was a good idea and looked for more videos to share.

Today we present to you Travel With Kids – Venice!

If you enjoyed today’s adventure and want to see more like it, and maybe even about different locations, check out their site here.

We wish you a great 2017 filled with endless possibilities. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Travel Kids – Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe and to 2017!

During the course of this holiday season my wife & I have been traveling with our son for the first time. Granted he’s only a year old and we stayed within the United States, it was our first time on a plane as a family.

This got me thinking, what will traveling be like when our boy’s older? Where will we take him to make some wonderful memories?

How will traveling with a child (or children) be? The last time I traveled with children, I was one of the children.

So today, to start a new year, we present to you Travel With Kids -Rome!

If you enjoyed today’s adventure and want to see more like it, and maybe even about different locations, check out their site here.

We wish you a great 2017 filled with endless possibilities. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Seven Wonders of Ancient Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

With 2017 just hours away, we are busy getting ready for some fun. However, we still thought we should end the year with something lively, educational and entertaining (of course).

That is why today we bring to you the Seven Wonders of Ancient Rome!

Able to inspire wonder and awe in all who gazed upon them, the Seven Wonders of Ancient Rome – the Pantheon, the Aqueducts of Rome, the Via Appia, the Baths of Caracalla, Trajan’s Markets, the Circus Maximus and  the Colosseum – were the works of great men who translated fantastic visions into the epitome of human achievement. These visionaries included ambitious Emperors like Hadrian and engineers with revolutionary ideas such as Apollodorus of Damascus.

By the 2nd Century AD, Rome had become the Caput Mundi (Head of the World). Architectural marvels with a clear civic purpose such as roads and aqueducts stood alongside constructions of great beauty and immense luxury.

They transformed Rome into one of the greatest cities of Classical Antiquity and the Roman Empire into a vast monument to the genius of its architects. We recreate Rome’s ancient streets, fly over its aqueducts and walk beneath the shadow of her impressive arches.

By investigating the minds of the Emperors, architects and engineers behind them, we reveal the mysteries of constructions that changed the world.

Thanks for stopping by today. Please celebrate New Year’s Eve safe and responsibly, so we can see you back in 2017.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

 

 

The CRAZIEST Things Ancient Romans Did!

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Sometimes we find it nice to just kick up our feet and relax. If we can watch something both entertaining AND educational, then we truly are amongst the gods.

So we bring to you a top list of 20 historical facts you probably didn’t know about the Roman Empire.

From bloody gladiator fights at the Colosseum (aka the Flavian Amphitheatre) to insane Emperors drinking poison. From women sporting a unibrow to gluttony to the point of vomiting.

Find out what Julius Caesar and the Senate were really up to. Enjoy!

We hope you were entertained as we were, and maybe you even learned something new about Ancient Rome. Stop by again soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Christmas Traditions Across Central Europe

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Even if you aren’t Christian, we’re fairly certain you know what today is. Let us be one of the first to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Since this is our 1st article posted on December 25th, we figured it only fitting if it was written about Christmas. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy this holiday, simply open-minded enough to enough having a good time with friends and family.

Because Christmas is now a global celebration we thought it might be cool to see how others celebrate. We then thought it’d be even better if those places and cultures in areas that were once part of the Roman Empire.

Beginning today, we are hopefully starting our own practice of showcasing Christmas traditions from various locations each Christmas day. With that we bring to you Christmas Traditions: Central Europe!

Christmas time in Slovakia

Christmas traditions vary from country to country. Christmas celebrations for many nations include the installing and lighting of Christmas trees, the hanging of Advent wreathsChristmas stockingscandy canes, and the creation of Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ.

Christmas carols may be sung and stories told about such figures as the Baby JesusSt NicholasSanta ClausFather Christmas, Christkind or Grandfather Frost. The sending and exchange of Christmas card greetings, observance of fasting and special religious observances such as a Midnight Mass or Vespers on Christmas Eve (December 24), the burning of a Yule log, and the giving and receiving of presents.

In countries of Central Europe (roughly defined as the German-speaking countries Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary) the main celebration date for the general public is Christmas Eve. The day is usually a fasting day, and in some places children are told they’ll see a golden pig if they hold fast until after dinner.

When the evening comes preparation of Christmas Dinner starts. Traditions concerning dinner vary from region to region.

For example, in Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, the prevailing meal is fried carp with potato salad and fish or cabbage soup. However, in some places the tradition is porridge with mushrooms (a modest dish), and elsewhere the dinner is exceptionally rich, with up to 12 dishes.

This in fact reveals that when Christmas comes around all the kids get presents from neighbors and house guests. Even the house pet gets a little something.

Christmas Tree

After the dinner comes the time for gifts. Children usually find their gifts under the Christmas tree, with name stickers.

An interesting example of the complicated history of the region is the “fight” between Christmas beings. During communism, when countries of Central Europe were under Soviet influence, communist authorities strongly pushed Russian traditional Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) in the place of Little Jesus won.

Now Santa Claus is attacking, by means of advertising and Hollywood film production. Many people, Christians as well as people with just a Christian background, go to Roman Catholic midnight mass celebration.

In many areas of Central Europe, St. Nicholas or Santa Claus does not come for Christmas. He visits families earlier, on the dawn of St. Nicholas Day on December 6, and for the well-behaved children he has presents and candy-bags to put into their well-polished shoes that were set in the windows the previous evening.

A 1900s greeting card reading ‘Greetings from the Krampus!’

Although he neither parks his sleigh on rooftops nor climbs chimneys, his visits are usually accompanied by a diabolic-looking servant named Krampus who gives golden colored birch sticks for so called badly behaved children.

In some German-speaking communities of Europe (particularly in Catholic regions of western and southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, South Tyrol and Liechtenstein) the Christkind (literally Christ child) brings the presents on the evening of December 24 (Holy Evening or Heiliger Abend). The Christkind is invisible so as never to be seen by anyone, but he rings a bell just before he leaves in order to let children know that the Christmas tree and the presents are ready.

It is a tradition to lavishly decorate a Christmas tree in the days directly before Christmas or on the morning of Christmas Eve. On late Christmas Eve, after the bell rings, the tree is shown to the children and presents are exchanged.

Old Bavarian crib found in St Mang Basilica, Füssen, Bavaria.

Many Catholic churches also have a first Mass of Christmas, called Christmette, on Holy Evening about 4 pm for the children and parents to attend before the families return home for their meal. The crib is a very important part of the celebrations in Catholic areas especially Bavaria.

In the largely Catholic Austria, Christmas markets are a long-standing tradition. In Vienna, for instance, the market is held in the large square in front of City Hall.

Innsbruck opens its romantic Christmas market in the narrow medieval square at the foot of the Golden Roof. In Salzburg, the Christmas market takes over the square in front of the Cathedral with its picturesque stalls, while the tree vendors occupy Residenzplatz on the side of the huge Cathedral.

Christmas market in front of the town hall in Vienna, Austria.

In Austria, Christmas trees play a very important part of Christmas celebrations. Every town sets up its own huge tree on the main square all decorated with candles, ornaments and candies and frequently there will be an extra one, adorned with bread crumbs, for the birds. In families the tree is decorated with gold and silver ornaments or stars made out of straw, sweets and candy wrapped in tinfoil, gilded nuts, etc.

The feast of St Nicholas marks the beginning of Christmas in Austria. On Christmas Eve the tree is lit for the first time and the whole family gathers to sing Christmas carols like “Silent Night”.

Austrian Advent bowl

Gifts that are placed under the tree are opened after dinner on Christmas Eve. Austrian Christmas tradition has it that it is the Christ Child himself who decorates the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and brings the children their Christmas presents.

The Christmas Eve dinner is the main event of the night often served with fried carp. The famous sachertorte and different kinds of chocolates are served as dessert, with Austrians also having special crescent shaped cookies.

St. Nicholas postcard from Germany.

In Germany, Christmas traditions vary by region. Till the reformation St. Nicholas’ Day, Saint Nicholas was the main provider of Christmas presents.

St. Nicholas still puts goodies in children’s shoes on that day. Sometimes he visits children in kindergarten, schools or at public events. They have to recite a short poem or sing a song in order to get sweets or a small gift.

Knecht Ruprecht (the servant Ruprecht), dressed in dark clothes with devil-like traits, sometimes accompanies St. Nicholas. His duty is to punish those children who haven’t behaved during the year.

Traditional Miner’s figures as Christmas light bearers.

The Sorbs, a minority in Saxony and parts of Brandenbuerg with a language similar to Polish, have some specific traditions. One tradition is related to the Wooden toymaking in the Ore Mountains, especially Seiffen provides Christmas related decorations like the Christmas pyramid and toys around the year.

Christmas letters may be addressed to Engelskirchen (Angel’s church) or Himmelpforten (Heaven’s gate) or some other in municipalities with matching names. After privatization, Deutsche Post kept the tradition of dedicated Christmas offices, one in each state, answering letters and requests from children.

Currently the actual Christmas gift-giving usually takes place on Christmas Eve. This tradition was introduced by Reformator, Martin Luther, as he as of the opinion that one should put the emphasis on Christ’s birth and not on a saint’s day and do away with the connotation that gifts have to be earned by good behavior.

The gifts should be seen as a symbol for the gift of God’s grace in Christ. This tradition quickly became common in predominantly Catholic regions as well.

Weihnachtsmann bringing presents.

Gifts may be brought by the Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man), who resembles either St. Nicholas or the American Santa Claus, or by Christkindl, a sprite-like child who may or may not represent the baby Jesus. Till 1930, there was sort of south-north divide between the realms of southern and Silesian Christkind and Nordic Weihnachtsmann.

The Christmas tree is first put up and decorated on the morning of the 24th. The gifts are then placed under the tree.

Christmas services in the church serve as well to exchange greetings with neighbors and friends. After an evening meal one of the parents usually goes into the room where the tree is standing, lights the candles and rings a little bell.

The children are then allowed to go into the candlelit room. In many families it is still a custom to sing Christmas songs around the tree before opening up the presents.

Christmas goose in Bavaria.

The culinary feast either takes place at supper on Christmas Eve or on the first day of Christmas. Traditions vary from region to region, but carp is eaten in many parts of the country.

Potato salad with frankfurter or wiener-sausages is popular in some families. Another simple meal which some families favor, especially in regions where Christmas Eve still has the character of a fast day, is vegetable or pea soup.

In some regions, especially in Schleswig-Holstein where Danish influence is noticeable, a roasted duck or goose filled with plums, apples and raisins is family tradition. In other regions, especially in Mecklenburg and Pomerania, many families prefer kale with boiled potatoes, special sausages and ham.

Many families have developed new traditions for themselves and eat such meals as meat fondue or raclette. In almost all families in all parts of Germany you find a wide variety of Christmas cookies baked according to recipes typical for the family and the region.

Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic – Christmastime.

Christmas Eve is celebrated as Štědrý den/Štedrý deň (Generous Day) when the gifts are given in the evening. December 25 and 26 are Public holidays in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, but Christmas (Vánoce/Vianoce), is most commonly associated with the 24th.

According to tradition, gifts are brought by Ježíšek/Ježiško (baby Jesus). Fish soup and breaded roasted carp with special homemade potato salad are a traditional dish for the dinner.

Christmas Wafer in a basket.

In Slovakia, before eating, everyone exchanges Christmas greetings with each other by sharing a piece of Christmas wafer (Oblátky) with honey and walnuts. Traditional dinner depends on region, but common Christmas dinner is cabbage soup (Kapustnica) or lentil soup and breaded roasted carp with special homemade potato salad or handmade gnocchi with poppy (šúľanky s makom).

The gifts are surreptitiously placed under the Christmas tree (usually a spruce, pine or fir), usually just before or during dinner. After Christmas dinner, Children have to wait for the ringing of a Christmas bell on the tree to run for the presents.

Other Czech and Slovak Christmas traditions involve predictions for the future. Apples are cut crosswise and if a perfect star appears in the core, the next year will be successful, distorted star means a bad year or illness, while a cross may suggest death.

Girls throw shoes over their shoulders and if the toe points to the door, the girl will get married soon. Another tradition requires pouring some molten lead into water and guessing a message from its shapes.

In Catholic Slovakia, the tradition of Jasličkári involves young men dressed as shepherds or angels visiting their neighbors and presenting recitations and songs about the story of the birth of Jesus.

Although the role of gift-giver on Christmas Day itself is assigned to the Christ Child, on the night before St. Nicholas Day Hungarian children traditionally place a boot on their windowsill waiting for Mikulás (or Szent Miklós) to come by and fill it with treats.

Baumkuchen in Budapest

In Hungary, celebrations begin with Christmas tree decoration and gift packaging during daytime on December 24, then comes a family dinner with traditional Christmas meals. In some parts of Hungary, a traditional supper called fish soup (halászlé) is served for Christmas Eve meal, otherwise the day is a fast-day.

There is also a popular folk custom during December and especially on Christmas Eve, in which children or adults present the birth of Jesus. The custom is called playing Bethlehem, and it is an acting performance, where the actors are wearing costumes, and telling stories about the 3 kings, the shepherds, Mary, Joseph and of course the birth of the Holy Child.

A Christmas crib and a church are used as the scene. The actors go from house to house, and they receive gifts for their performance.

In the largely Roman Catholic Poland, Christmas Eve begins with a day of fasting and then a night of feasting. The traditional Christmas meal is known as Wigilia (The Vigil), and being invited to attend a Wigilia dinner with a family is considered a high honor.

Traditional Polish Wigilia meal.

A traditional Wigilia supper in Poland includes fried carp and barszcz (beetroot soup) with uszka (little ears, also known as meatless ravioli). Common dishes are fish soup, with potato salad, pierogi, gołąbki filled with kasza, pickled herring and fruit kompot.

The dinner contains 12 dishes symbolizing the Twelve Apostles. In many homes, an extra place setting is set and is symbolically left at the table for a lonely wanderer who may be in need of food, an angel, the Baby Jesus or the Holy Spirit should appear to share the feast.

Before eating, everyone exchanges Christmas greetings with each other. The supper begins with the breaking of the opłatek. By sharing a piece of Christmas wafer (Opłatki), when everyone at the table breaks off a piece and eats it as a symbol of their unity with Christ.

Carolers walk from house to house receiving treats along the way.

The meal is followed by the exchange of gifts. The remainder of the evening is given to stories and songs around the Christmas tree. In some areas of the country, children are taught that “The Little Star” brings the gifts. As presents are unwrapped, carolers may walk from house to house receiving treats along the way.

On the night of Christmas Eve, the appearance of the first star in the sky is watched for, in remembrance of the Star of Bethlehem. This star has been given an affectionate name of “the little star” or Gwiazdka (the female counterpart of St. Nicholas).

Christmas Star

On that evening, children watch the sky anxiously hoping to be the first to cry out, “The star has come!” After the first star appearance is declared, the family members sit down to a dinner table.

According to tradition, bits of hay are spread beneath the tablecloth as a reminder that Christ was born in a manger. Others partake in the practice of placing money under the table cloth for each guest, in order to wish for prosperity in the coming year.

Christmas Eve ends with Pasterka, the Midnight Mass at the local church. The tradition commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem and their paying of respect and bearing witness to the new born Messiah.

The next day (December 25) begins with the early morning mass followed by daytime masses. According to scripture, the Christmas Day masses are interchangeable allowing for greater flexibility in choosing the religious services by individual parishioners.

Christmas market in Sibiu, Romania.

Christmas (Romanian: Crăciun) in Romania is on December 25 and is generally considered the second most important religious Romanian holiday holiday after Easter. In Moldova, although Christmas is celebrated on December 25 like in Romania, January 7 is also recognized as an official holiday.

Celebrations begin with the decoration of the Christmas tree during daytime on December 24, and in the evening Moş Crăciun (Father Christmas) delivers the presents.

The singing of carols is a very important part of Romanian Christmas festivities. On the first day of Christmas, many carolers walk through the streets of the towns and villages, holding a star made of cardboard and paper on which are depicted various scenes from the Bible.

Romanian children singing traditional Christmas carols, they are called “colindatori”.

Romanian tradition has the smallest children going from house to house, singing carols and reciting poems and legends during the whole Christmas season. The leader of the group carries with him a star made of wood, covered with metal foil and decorated with bells and colored ribbons with an image of the Nativity painted on the star’s center.

Romanian food served during the holidays is a hearty multi-coursed meal, most of which consists of pork (organs, muscle, and fat). This is mainly a symbolic gesture for St. Ignatius of Antioch.

We hope you enjoyed today’s Christmas tour around Central Europe. Be sure to join us again next year as we venture to another part of Europe.

Have a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Ball, Ann. Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices. 2003. ISBN 9780879739102.

Ernst, Eugen. Weihnachten im Wandel der Zeiten, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2. Aufl. Darmstadt 2000.

Forbes, Bruce David. Christmas: a candid history. University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 0-520-25104-0

“Christmas”. www.encyclopedia.com.

“Christmas Season in Austria”. austria.info.

“Christmas traditions in Poland”. Thehistoryofchristmas.com.

“Deutsche Botschaft Bern – Startseite”.

“Hungarian Heritage Museum”.

“St. Nicholas Around the World: Hungary”.

Pala d’Oro: The World’s Most Expensive “Fabric”

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

When the Roman Empire took over Egypt and Jerusalem, monotheism spread across the land in the form of Judaism and Christianity. It wasn’t perfect at first, and many early Christians especially were punished for their religious beliefs.

Then with the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity, the new religion became the official state belief system. The deities of the past had, for the most part, been turned in for a singular, all-powerful God.

With the new Christian religion came new relics to be considered sacred or holy. Over the course of several hundred years, the collections have grown and the items have taken on a life of their own (almost).

With that said, it’s time to get on your galoshes as we head to the waterways of Venice to uncover the Pala d’Oro!pala-doro

Italian for Golden Pall or Golden Cloth, the Pala d’Oro is the high altar retable of the Basilica di San Marco. It is universally recognized as one of the most refined and accomplished works of Byzantine enamel, with both front and rear sides decorated.

The altarpiece is 9.8 ft wide by 6.6 ft tall. It is made of gold and silver, 187 enamel plaques, and 1,927 gems. These include 526 pearls, 330 garnets, 320 emeralds, 255 sapphires, 183 amethysts, 175 agates, 75 rubies, 34 topazes, 16 carnelians, and 13 jaspers.

The altarpiece consists of 2 parts, a top and bottom section. The enamels in the top section of the Pala d’Oro contain the Archangel Michael at the center, with 6 images depicting the Life of Christ on either side of him, which were added in 1209.

Centerpiece of Christ in Majesty
Centerpiece of Christ in Majesty

They show the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Descent into Limbo, Crucifixion, Ascension, Pentecost, and Death of the Virgin. It’s generally thought that these weren’t originally part of the altarpiece, as their stylistic features place them into the 12th Century, and they were probably looted during the Fourth Crusade.

Pala d'Oro viewed in its altarpiece setting
Pala d’Oro viewed in its altarpiece setting

The bottom section contains the enamels that told the Life of St. Mark. Commissioned by Doge Ordelaffo Falier and created in 1105 in Constantinople, these enamels were positioned along the base but have since been moved to their current position along the sides and the top row of this section.

Also in the bottom section is an enamel depicting Christ at the center of the altarpiece, and the 4 circular enamels around him are images of the Four Evangelists. To the right and left of Christ are the Twelve Apostles, 6 to each side.

Above Christ is an empty throne, which represents the Last Judgment and the Second Coming of Christ, with angels and archangels on either side of it. Underneath Christ and the Apostles are the 12 Prophets, with the Virgin at the center.

(From L to R) Doge Ordelaffo Falier, the Virgin, and Empress Irene
(From L to R) Doge Ordelaffo Falier, the Virgin, and Empress Irene

The 2 figures surrounding the Virgin are images of Doge Ordelaffo Falier and Byzantine Empress Irene. Interestingly, the depiction of Falier seems to be slightly off as his head is too small in proportion to his body.

There is evidence that shows the original head was removed, and replaced with a new one. There are also scratches on the enamel from when the previous head was removed, and some type of wax or paste was used to fill in the gaps where the replacement piece didn’t exactly fit.

Emperor Nicephorus III and Empress Maria of Alania
Emperor Nicephorus III and Empress Maria of Alania

While there have been theories that the previous head depicted an Emperor that explanation doesn’t quite fit. Emperors are usually depicted with red footwear, and this figure is wearing black footwear, with no signs of being altered.

Additionally, the enamel bears Falier’s name, which would have required a lot of effort to change and would have left evidence behind. The most likely explanation is that the original head was in fact Falier’s head, but without a halo.

Later church officials, possibly even Falier himself, decided to replace it to include a halo. The scepter he’s holding restricted how much could be altered, which required the crafters to make the new image slightly smaller.

Development and elements of the Pala d’Oro
Development and elements of the Pala d’Oro

The Pala d’Oro was thought to be first commissioned in 976 by Doge Pietro Orseolo, where it was made up of precious stones and several enamels depicting various saints, and in 1105 it was expanded on by Doge Ordelaffo Falier. In 1345, goldsmith Giovanni Paolo Bonesegna was commissioned to complete the altarpiece by Andrea Dandolo, who was the procurator at the time, and later became Doge.

Bonesegna added a Gothic-style frame to the piece, along with more precious stones. Dandolo also included an inscription describing what his own additions were, along with those of his predecessors.

Paolo Veneziano was commissioned to make wood panels to provide a cover for when the altarpiece was not on display. Veneziano was commissioned between 1342-4 to make this cover, where it was dated 1345 and signed by him along with his sons, Luca and Giovanni.

Virgin and Christ as the Man of Sorrows
Virgin and Christ as the Man of Sorrows

The cover is made from 2 pieces. The top plank features the Man of Sorrows in the center, who is surrounded by the Virgin and Saints JohnGeorgeMarkPeter, and Nicholas.

The bottom plank shows narratives of Life, Martyrdom, Burial, and Translation of St Mark. The wooden panels were opened to the public during liturgies only. In the 15th Century, Veneziano’s “exterior” altarpiece was replaced by a wooden panel which remains today, though the Pala is now always open.

altarpieceEven if you are not a follower of the Christian faith, we still hope you enjoyed today’s exploration of classic art.

Check us out again soon and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bettini, Sergio. “Venice, the Pala d’Oro, and Constantinople”. The Treasury of San Marco Venice. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984.

Buckton, David and Osborne, John. “The Enamel of Doge Ordelaffo Falier on the Pala d’Oro in Venice.” Gesta 39 no. 1, 2000.

Gibbs, Robert. “Paolo Veneziano”. Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Gonosová, Anna. “A Study of an Enamel Fragment in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 1978.

Nagel, Alexander. “Altarpiece.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Paoletti, John T. and Radke, Gary M. Art in Renaissance Italy. H.N. Abrams, 1997.

Romer, JohnByzantium: The Lost Empire. ABTV/Ibis Films/The Learning Channel, 1997.

Vio, Ettore. St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Thames & Hudson, 2000.

Vio, Ettore. St. Mark’s: the Art and Architecture of Church and State in Venice.  Riverside Book Co, 2003.

Horses of Saint Mark: A Triumphal Quadriga That Traveled

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you are like me, then you are a fan of author Dan Brown and his works regarding Harvard Professor Robert Langdon. Having just finished reading Inferno, I am about to go see the movie of the same name.

The book focuses a lot on Florence, but also touches down in Venice. It is the latter location in which we travel to examine a piece of art so amazing that world leaders have stolen it to show their power.

Today we explore the Horses of Saint Mark!outside

The Horses of Saint Mark, also known as the Triumphal Quadriga, is a set of Roman bronze statues of 4 Friesian horses, originally part of a monument depicting a quadriga (a 4-horse carriage used for chariot racing). These 13 foot tall horses were placed on the facade, on the loggia above the porch, of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, northern Italy after the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

The sculptures date from classical antiquity and have been implausibly attributed to the 4th Century BC Greek sculptor Lysippos, but a date in the 2nd or 3rd Century AD is considered far more probable. The famous Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome (c. 175 AD) provides a point of comparison.

Septimius Severus (Capitoline Museum)
Septimius Severus (Capitoline Museum)

They were probably created to top a Triumphal Arch (like the Arch of Trajan in Rome) or some other grand building, perhaps commissioned by the Emperor Septimus Severus. They may originally have been made for the Eastern capital of Constantinople, and certainly reached there later.

Although called bronze, analysis suggests that they should be seen as an impure copper (as they are at least 96.67% copper) rather than bronze. The high purity copper was chosen to give a more satisfactory mercury gilding.

Hippodrome of Constantinople
Hippodrome of Constantinople

It is certain that the horses, along with the quadriga with which they were depicted, were long displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. The horses may be the “four gilt horses that stand above the Hippodrome” that “came from the island of Chios under Theodosius II” mentioned in the 8th or early 9th Century Parastaseis syntomoi chronikai (brief historical notes).

The Third Crusade had failed abjectly, and in Western Europe there was little stomach for another go at the Muslims, now firmly in control of the Levant, including Jerusalem and much of the adjacent territory.

The Fourth Crusade saw what might be termed one of the great detours in world military history. Pope Innocent III had become Pope in 1198, and immediately started to preach for a Fourth Crusade (which got underway in October 1202).

Crusaders leaving Venice for the Holy Land
Crusaders leaving Venice for the Holy Land

A largely French force, but also crucially comprising a significant Venetian contingent, set out from Venice for Cairo in Egypt, intending to invest Jerusalem overland through Egypt. Fewer Crusaders than expected had turned up in Venice, whose merchants and bankers had expended a large amount of money and effort preparing for a much larger army.

Venice expected a significant return on its investment. Venice insisted on payment up front of the princely sum of 85,000 silver marks, which the Crusaders only partially managed by beggaring themselves.

Alexios III Angelos
Alexios III Angelos

The result was that when the Crusade sailed, the Venetians were feeling decidedly out of pocket. A displaced prince of Constantinople, Alexius Angelis, seized the opportunity presented by the presence of a large but strapped-for-cash army, and offered money, transport, knights, and control of the Greek Orthodox Church if the Crusaders would but place him back on the Byzantine throne in Constantinople.

So the Crusade detoured to Constantinople. The Venetian transports arrived off Constantinople in late June 1203, with the Crusaders finally entering the city on 13 April 1204.

Capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade
Capture of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade

After a siege of many months, the horses were looted by Venetian forces as part of the sack of the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Doge Enrico Dandolo wanted these coveted horses back in Venice to show the Republic’s, and his, power.

To allow them to be transported from Constantinople to Venice, the animals’ heads had supposedly been severed, thus collars were added upon arrival in Venice to obscure said cuts. Once the horses had been deemed ready they were installed on the terrace of the façade of St Mark’s Basilica in 1254.

Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs
Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs

The Triumphal Quadriga was, of course, not the only things taken from Constantinople by the Venetians during the Crusade. Also ending up in Venice were the Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs, built into a corner of the Basilica of San Marco, adjacent to the Porta della Carta.

The Basilica had been consecrated in 1094, and the consciously Byzantine-style of the building reflected the favored status Venice had long enjoyed in its dealings with the Byzantine Empire. Venice was given the title “favorite daughter of Byzantium” in 1000 by Basil II, as such the Venetians’ prided themselves in possessing an edifice which shared the same magnificent architectural design as the ancient basilicas of the Twelve Apostles and of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

The fall of Venice followed on from the plundering of Rome. There was no frontal attack, but rather Napoleon engineered the rebellion of a number of subject cities on the mainland against their Venetian masters, and the Great Council of Venice finally voted itself into extinction.

The horses remained in Venice until looted by Napoleon in 1797. On Napoleon’s orders, the Four Horses were forcibly removed from the basilica and carried off to France.

They were initially housed in Les Invalides. The horses were next placed on gate piers guarding the entrance to the Tuileries before they finally were used in the design of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel together with a quadriga.

arc-de-triomphe
Arc de Triomphe today with replacement horses

In 1815 the horses were returned to Venice by Captain Dumaresq. Having fought at the Battle of Waterloo and being with the allied forces in Paris, Dumaresq was selected by the Emperor of Austria to take the horses down from the Arc de Triomphe and return them back to St Mark’s in Venice.

For the skillful manner in which he performed this work the Emperor gave Dumaresq a gold snuff box with his initials in diamonds on the lid.

sketchIn addition, Francis Henry Taylor notes in his 1948 book, The Taste of Angels, that the marble facing and incrustation was pried off the exterior of Hagia Sophia to be used as ballast in the Venetian ships before being becoming decoration on the basilica.

The horses remained in place over St Mark’s until the early 1980s, when the ongoing damage from growing air pollution forced their replacement with exact copies. Since then, the originals have been removed from the facade and placed in the interior of St Mark’s for conservation purposes, with replicas in their position on the loggia.

Original Horses
Original Horses

Like many artefacts in museums around the World, the St Mark’s Horses are not simply exquisite objects from a distant past to be admired. They have played an active, symbolic role in Europe’s changing political landscape which make artifacts like these all the more interesting.

st-marks-basilica
St Mark’s Basilica

We hope you enjoyed today’s look at some stunning horses. Hopefully they’ve seen the last of their travels and will retire in Venice in peace.

Till next time Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Anon. The Horses of San Marco Thames and Hudson (an English translation of a 1977 Venetian city government publication).

Arthur, Judge. The Four Horses Rest Inside St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice after Being Plundered from Constantinople in the 13th century. Association For Research Into Crimes Against Art (ARCA). 6 June 2011.

Boissier, Henry. A History of The Boissier-Scobell Families, 1933.

Dowson, Thomas. The Horses of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Archaeology Travel.com.Henig, Martin (ed), A Handbook of Roman Art, p. 95, Phaidon, 1983, ISBN 0714822140

Houpt, Simon. Museum of the Missing: A history of Art Theft. Sterling Publishing Co,. Inc. p. 32. ISBN 1402728298. Retrieved 18 September 2014.

Byzantium 1200 Hippodrome Boxes