Catherine was high-born, beautiful and learned. She disputed with pagan learned men against the worship of idols. She wiped the floor with them, and Emperor Maxentius had 50 of the learned men burnt alive for their failure to answer adequately.
Catherine was imprisoned where many people came to visit her and were converted to Christianity. The most illustrious visitor was the Emperor’s wife, Valeria Maximilla who was, herself, martyred. Then, the Emperor offered to marry Catherine, but she refused to abandon her faith, so he had her tortured. In prison, she was fed by the holy dove and had visions of Christ.
Her gaolers then tried to break her on a wheel, although the wheel broke, killing spectators with the splinters, she stood steadfast. Two hundred soldiers were converted to the faith on the spot. They were then beheaded, followed by Catherine herself. Milk, not blood, flowed from her severed veins.
The persecution in the early 4th Century was real, but it wasn’t driven by Maxentius, who came to power promising religious tolerance. But, following the accession of Constantine the Great, Maxentius’s reputation was blackened. There is no contemporary evidence for the events of Catherine’s life. There is a modern theory that her tale was conflated with the remarkable story of Hypatia of Alexandria (d. 415), a pagan and a real learned woman; The first female Mathematician we know any facts about. She was murdered by a rampaging mob of xenophobic Christians.
Catherine is remembered by the firework: the Catherine Wheel and is, of course, the patron of Philosophers, Theologians, and Royal women; young women, students, spinsters, and anyone who lives by a wheel: carters, potters, wheelwrights, spinners, millers. And, I imagine, Formula 1 drivers.
St Catherine in London
There are several Churches in London dedicated to St Catherine or St Katherine, dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria. The one in Coleman Street, rebuilt by Christopher Wren and his team, was demolished in the 1920s. There was a Chapel to St Catherine at Westminster Abbey (c1160), the ruins of which are visible in St Catherine’s Garden. I would guess that St Katherine’s Dock and St Katherine’s Cree Church are also so dedicated, but cannot as yet find a dedication for either.
First published on 25th November 2022. Revised and republished 25th November 2023
Today, I’m publishing the stories of two Saints with London connections.
The first is for November 23rd, and I have extensively rewritten it. It is all about St Clements of Oranges and Lemons fame.
The second is from November 17th and is about St Cecilia and the London Proms, which you will find below:
St Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians. She was martyred in Rome in the Second or Third Century AD. The story goes that she was married to a non-believer, and during her marriage ceremony she sang to God in her heart (hence her affiliation with musicians). She then told her husband, that she was a professed Virgin, and that if he violated her, he would be punished. She said she was being protected by an Angel of the Lord who was watching over her. Valerian, her husband, asked to see the Angel. So Cecilia told him to go to the Third Milestone along the Appian Way, where he would be baptised by Pope Urban 1 and would then see the Angel. He followed her advice, was converted and he and his wife were, later on, martyred.
The Church in Rome, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, is said to be built on the site of her house, and has 5th Century origins. My friend, Derek Gadd, recently visited and let me use these photographs:
St Cecilia in London
There is a window dedicated to her in the Holy Sepulchre Church-without-Newgate, In London, opposite the site of the infamous Newgate Prison. Henry Wood, one of our most famous conductors and the founder of the Promenade Concerts, played organ here when he was 14. In 1944, his ashes were placed beneath the window dedicated to St Cecilia and, later, the Church became the National Musician’s Church.
The memorial to Henry Wood at St Sepulchre is engraved:
This window is dedicated to the memory of Sir Henry Wood, C.H., Founder and for fifty years Conductor of THE PROMENADE CONCERTS 1895-1944. He opened the door to a new world Of sense and feeling to millions of his fellows. He gave life to Music and he brought Music to the People. His ashes rest beneath.
The Concerts are now called the BBC Proms and continue an 18th and 19th Century tradition of, originally, outdoor concerts, and then indoor promenade concerts. At the end of the 19th Century, the inexpensive Promenade Concerts were put on to help broaden the interest in classical music. Henry Wood was the sole conductor.
Mexican Day of the Dead, in fact, the second day of El Dia de Muertos. Here is a video from Mexico, which you will enjoy for its Latin song and images of the Day of the Dead in Mexico. (It’s on Facebook, so may not work unless you have a login).
Today is the day to celebrate all those loved ones who have passed away. To keep them in mind, to remind you still care about them. It is the third day of the season of Allhallowstide, following All Hallows Evening (Halloween), and All Saint’s Day.
Beata, who comes from Poland, tells me that, November the 1st is a happy day when relatives visit the cemeteries of the dead loved ones bringing chrysanthemums to decorate the graves. It’s a happy day for the dead because they are being remembered and visited by their loved ones. Today, November 2nd, is a more sombre day – a day to stay at home and think of the loved one’s perhaps looking through albums of photographs.
In England it was the time of year in which ‘Souling’ used to take place. Households made soul-cakes, children or people in need of food come to visit and are given soul cakes in exchange for praying for the dead.
Soul, soul, for a souling cake. I pray good Missus for a souling cake. Apple or pear, plum or cherry. Anything good to make us merry.
Traditional rhyme from Shropshire and Cheshire
This is based upon the idea of Purgatory, and the belief that intervention on Earth can influence the amount of time an ancestor spends in purgatory for their sins.
John Aubrey (1626 – 1697), antiquarian, collector of folklore and writer, mentions a custom in Hereford which shows a variant of the idea.
In the County of Hereford was an old Custom at Funerals, to hire poor people, who were to take upon them all the Sins of the part deceased. One of them I remember (he was a long, lean, lamentable poor rascal). The manner was that when a Corpse was brought out of the house and laid on the Bier; a Loaf of bread was brought out and delivered to the Sin-eater over the corps, as also a Mazer-bowl full of beer, which he was to drink up, and sixpence in money, in consideration whereof he took upon him all the Sins of the Defunct, and freed him (or her) from Walking after they were dead.v
John Aubrey, Remains of Gentilism 1688
This belief in the power of action in the Here and Now to lubricate passage through Purgatory to the Ever After was a major part of fund-raising for Catholic Institutions before the Reformation. For example, in the records of St Thomas Hospital, Southwark, a wealthy widow called Alice (de Bregerake – if I remember the spelling correctly) left her wealth to the hospital in return for an annual Rose rent; lifetime accommodation in the Hospital in Southwark, and for the monks and nuns to pray for her soul and the souls of her ancestors.
Revised 2nd Nov 2023. First published 2nd Nov 2021
How the Celtic festival that marked the beginning of Winter became All Hallows is not clear. Some say the Church set up its own festival independent of the Northern European traditions, but it is as likely that the Church adopted existing pagan festivals, and gave them a Christian spin.
Samhain, on October 31st, was, for Celtic religions, not only the beginning of Winter but also the beginning of the Year. The Festivities began on the evening before the day because Celtic and Germanic traditions began their day at Dusk. So Halloween is not, in fact, the evening before, it is the start of the day of the festival.
The Church adopted the Roman tradition of the day beginning not at Dusk but at Midnight. So the festival of All Hallows is on November 1st not October 31st. But the Church mimicked the old ways of doing things by celebrating the evening before as the Vigil of All Hallows’ Day which was called All Hallows Evening or Halloween.
For the Celts, Samhain is an uncanny day when all the sprites and spirits are alive and in the world. The Church took that, and span in on its heads, so it became a ‘hallowed’ holy day when all Saints are celebrated and alive to us, and celebrated on October 31st and November 1st.
A celebration of All Saints was originally in May in the Church but was changed to the 1st November in the 7th Century by Pope Boniface, later swapped back to May, and in the 9th Century fixed on the 1st November. It is followed on the 2nd by All Souls’ Day.
So on the 1st November, those celebrating the pagan festival would be in full swing after a hard night of celebration. The embers of the Fire would be still burning, stones left around the fire would be inspected for the prophecy they told of the future. Each person had a stone, and if it was still intact it was good luck, if it had disappeared the future was not good.
In France, All Hallows or All Saints is called La Toussaint, and flowers such as Chrysanthemums which blossom in late October, were put on the graves.
In Spain, it is Dia de Todo Los Santos and is a national holiday upon which people put flowers on the graves of the dead.
In Mexico Dia de los Muertos celebrates Holy Innocents on the 1st – Dia de los Inocentes. People create altars to the lost ones, with their favourite flowers, toys, food stuffs,, photographs. People argue about the pre-colombian aspects of the festival as there are similarities to European All Saints Days celebrations but Quecholli, was a celebration of the dead that honored Mixcóatl – the god of war. It was celebrated between October 20th and November 8th.
My correspondent in Mexico has sent back these pictures of the festivities in Mexico.
The female figure to the left is La Catrina. This image was popularised by an early 20th Century design by José Guadalupe Posada and developed in a mural by Diego Rivera. For more details click here.
I have been away leading a tour of Quintessential Britain for Road Scholar and have fallen behind. And I had a few almanac days waiting for the right day to come! And now they have passed. But, I need them in the Almanac, so here is the beginning of a July catching up exercise.
The Divine Twins, aka the Dioscuri, were horsemen, patrons of calvary, athletes and sailors, one of many indo-european twin gods. Pollux is the son of Zeus and Leda (raped by Zeus in the guise of a swan). His twin brother has a different and mortal father, the King of Sparta to the same mother, Leda. So they are examples of heteropaternal superfecundation as Mary Poppins probably didn’t sing.
One is therefore immortal and the other isn’t. They had many adventures including sailing with Jason as Argonauts.
According to some version of the story Castor was mortally wounded, and Zeus gave Pollux the option of letting his brother die while he spent his eternity on Mount Olympus. The alternative was to share his immortality with his brother. He did the good thing, and the twins spend half their year as the Constellation of Gemini and the rest, immortal on Mount Olympus. Thus, they are the epitome of brotherly love.
Their sisters were, no less than Helen of Troy, and Clytemnestra. They were also twins, Helen the divine daughter of Zeus and, Clytemnestra, mortal daughter of the King of Sparta. The Swan was being pursued by an eagle, so Leda protected the Swan and took it to bed on the same night she slept with her husband Tyndareus of Sparta. Two eggs were fertilised, each split in two to give two sets of twins.
Neither mind the Brothers, what Sisters! Helen you know but Clytemnestra was the wife of Agamemnon, the arrogant leader of the Greeks. On the way to retrieve Helen from Troy, the Greek Fleet is becalmed. So Agamemnon sacrifices his own daughter, Iphigenia, on the island of Aulis to get a fair wind to Troy. (read Iphigenia at Aulis by Aeschylus, a great play which I studied in Classical Studies at University)
Meanwhile, Queen Clytemnestra, abandoned at home broods on her husband’s heartless fillicide. She takes a lover. After 10 years of war Agamemnon comes back, in triumph from the destruction of Troy, with his prize the Trojan Princess, Cassandra. Strutting with arrogance he demands Clytemnestra prepare him a bath and she gives him the hottest bath possible and, with the help of her lover, hacks Agamemnon to pieces.
Cassandra prophesizes that she too will be killed, but she has been cursed with ability of accurate prophecy twinned with the inability to get anyone to believe her. So she is also slaughtered.
I visit John Collier’s painting regularly and am fascinated by her grim expression. (Sadly she has recently come off display at the Guildhall Art Gallery).
In the 18th/19th Century rich people were into ‘attitudes’. For example, Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton, would be invited to present an attitude in front of a dinner party of mostly male aristocrats. She would dress up in a flowing revealing unstructured classical gown and stand on a table presenting herself as: Helen or Andromache or some other classical beauty. She would assume an appropriate facial expression and posture to everyone’s pleasure.
Clytemnestra is more difficult! I imagine Collier’s model being prompted to look both sad at the loss of the daughter; outraged at the arrogance of the husband; horror at the gore of the murder but overall to portray a grim satisfaction that the bastard got exactly what he deserved.
Lord Leighton had a famous model who was exceptionally skilled at adopting poses for his paintings. He determined to help her with an acting career. As part of the plan he helped improve her cockney accent and it is said this inspired Bernard Shaw’s story Pygmalion which, in turn, inspired My Fair Lady and Eliza Doolittle.
The model was called Dorothy Dene. She became a famous actress, outstripping the fame of Ellen Terry and Lily Langtry. She modelled for the famous painting ‘Flaming June’ which sold 500,000 print copies in 1895. Lord Leighton went somewhat out of fashion and the original painting was purchased for £50 by the rather marvellously named Museo de Ponce, Puerto Rico where she still resides.
I have one of those half million prints on my bedroom wall.
Before we finish do have a look at John Collier’s Wikipedia because he is the most ridiculously well connected painter you can imagine! Related to half the Cabinet and married to TWO daughters of Darwin’s Bulldog T.H.Huxley (grandfather of Aldous Huxley).
European Twin Gods
It is suggested that twin male gods are a feature of indo-european religions, and that the Twins are associated with horses/chariots and are responsible for moving the Sun and the Moon. Their use of a horse above the water means that they can rescue people lost at sea. St Elmo’s fire was said to be the way they manifested their divinity to sailors. Diodorus Siculus records that the Twins were Argonauts with Heracles, Telamon, and Orpheus. Further, he tells us in the fourth book of Bibliotheca historica, that the Celts who dwelt along the ocean worshipped the Dioscuroi “more than the other gods”.
One of the joys of my Spring & Summer is revisiting places I know and love in my role as a Course Director for Road Scholar. Sunday, I was in Broadway, once considered the most beautiful village in Britain. It was also the model for Riseholme in the wonderful ‘Mapp and Lucia’ books by E. F. Benson (made into a TV series by the BBC starring Prunella Scales, Geraldine McEwan and Nigel Hawthorne).
This weekend was the:
The artists register in the morning and have their paper or canvas stamped, or given a block of Maltese stone. They then go off to create a work of art in the village. At 3pm or so, they are judged. At 5pm, the art works are exhibited and often on sale in the Marquee on the village green.
It’s always a delight walking around Broadway in the sun, but with an artist and easel every 50 yards or so even more enjoyable. By the tent on the village green were about 10 sculptors chipping away at identical blocks of stone.
I believe ceramic, textile, and artists in other media also are willing to have a go at making art in a sevely limited timescale.
The appellation of most beautiful village, came in the late 19th Century. Broadway, once made rich by selling wool and then as a stop off on the stage coach route from Aberystwyth to Worcester, Oxford and London, fell on hard times with the arrival of Brunel’s Great Western Railway to the Cotswolds. Half the village, the Broadway Museum says, moved away as their livelihood serving the coaching trade died.
But artists, led by Americans Frances Millet and Edwin Abbey, turned Broadway into a much sort-after country retreat. Visitors included Oscar Wilde, J. M. Barrie, Singer-Sargeant, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Gabriel Dante Rossetti, American actress, Mary Anderson, Edward Elgar, E. F, Benson. Mark Twain visited for Millet’s marriage.
What made the visit particularly interesting was the story told to me by the Volunteer at the Gordon Russell Museum in Broadway. (More about Gordon Russell in a future post) This is the story as I understood it:
The Russells restored the Lygon Arms in Broadway using Arts And Crafts architects. They also restored antique furniture. The son, Gordon Russell, became a leading designer of modernist Furniture and so advertised to passengers on the Cunard Line in order to attract the attention of rich American visitors. One, Henry T Ford, was interested, came to Broadway, staying at the Lygon arms. He asked for help to purchase a Cotswold Cottage. He was taken to nearby village Snowshill, where Ford bought a complete Blacksmith’s workshop, and shipped them back stone by numbered stone to Brentford on the Thames, then to the London Docks and across the Atlantic to set them up in a Museum in Michigan where they still are!
Research suggests it’s a little more complicated, in so far as he purchased his first Cottage before coming to Broadway, but it still leaves a delightful story about American ideas of Quintessential English village life. More on this story here:
By the way, Frances Millet planned to return to the States on the Titanic. He was one of the 1500 who drowned, but a letter he wrote while on the ship was posted, probably in France and is on display in the Broadway Museum.
St Columba, or Colmcille is one of the most important saints for the early transmission of Christianity. He was born in 521 and said to be a descendent of the possibly legendary Irish King Niall of the Nine Hostages. (The Hostages were a token of Niall’s power as they came from the five provinces of Ireland, which are Ulster, Connacht, Leinster, Munster, andMeath. The other four represented Scotland, the Saxons, the Britons, and the Franks). Columba was sent, at an early, age to be brought up as a Monk and went on to set up Monasteries in Ireland at Derry and Durrow.
In 563, he left Ireland, possibly because he got involved in a dispute that lead to loss of life. He went into exile to Scotland and set up the famous Monastery on the island of Iona, Inner Hebrides, off the coast of what would one day be called Scotland. At the time, it was under the control of the Kingdom of Dál Riata, which was nominally Christian and controlled parts of Ulster and Western Scotland. From Iona, Columba led the conversion of the Picts to Christianity, which helped towards the unification of the Gaels, the Picts and the Britons, eventually into the Kingdom of Alba which became Scotland. Early Scottish Kings such as Macbeth (Mac Bethad mac Findlaích) were buried here.
Much of the events of this part of Columba’s life are legendary as recorded by St. Adamnan in The Life of Saint Columba written in the 7th Century. One notable story is that he came across a group of Pagan Picts who were mourning a child killed by a monster in the River Ness. St Columba revived the child. He then sent one of the Brothers to swim across the Loch to fetch a boat. The “water beast” pursued the Monk and was about to attack him when St Columba told the monster to stop, and so it did, retreating to the depths of Loch Ness. Thus founding the legend of the Loch Ness monster.
St Columba died in 597AD. Iona continued to prosper and in, 634AD sent St Aidan from Iona to found the Monastery at Lindisfarne. This was instrumental in the conversion of the Kingdom of Northumbria. This tradition of evangelism took hold in the British Isles, and it was from here that much of the German-speaking world was converted to Christianity.
This is St Columba’s legacy.
There is a developing understanding among scholars that this Irish inspired form of Christianity took a leading role in ritual, art, scholarship in the Roman Catholic world at this time. Just stop and think about that sentence for a moment. The north-western extreme of the Islands off the coast of Europe took a leading role in the development of Western Christianity. This was highlighted in a recent exhibition of Anglo-Saxon art at the British Library.
A look at the Lindisfarne Gospel and the Book of Kells showcases the amazing art of this period. For a real treat, look through this scrollable virtual copy of the Lindisfarne Gospel. It has been missing from the displays of the British Museum for a couple of years, and was on display in Northumberland in 2022. I’m not sure whether it is yet back on display at the British Museum. I hope so, but the scrollable version almost compensates for its absence. You can see the Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin or look at their online offering here: Not quite as joyous an experience as the online Lindisfarne but beautiful enough.
The Sir John Soane Museum is my second favourite London Museum. It’s the place I choose to take people who don’t know London. What I like about it is the atmosphere. It’s not a place I go because of the collection, it’s a place I go because I’m just awestruck when I enter the doors.
Architect Soane, made a Museum of his house, filling it with architectural and sculptural pieces but also some stupendous Art, particularly paintings by William Hogarth. But that isn’t my motivation to keep going back. It’s the Picture Room (and the domed ceilings). Soane had a great collection of paintings, but not enough walls. What he did was to design the Paintings Room. When you visit you go in, admire the paintings on the wall, and the attendant comes in, opens a shutter, and behind the great paintings are another wall of great paintings. And then he opens another set of shutters, and there, is another feast for your eyes.
Now, they have made high quality digital images of the rooms, and put them together using photogrammetry into a digital model which you can explore.
So, feast your eyes on it here: (choose Picture Room from the three options).
It’s not quite as user-friendly as it might be. Firstly, when the tour delivers you to the Picture Room, you have to take over control to go in and explore the 360 degree image of the room. Unfortunately, the pictures are not clickable, so you cannot get information about them from here. Also, the ‘hot spots’ which allow you to open the shutters, only reveal themselves, on my computer, if you approach them at a certain angle.
But don’t let this put you off, I’m sure you will find your way around. So go into the Room, look around, move the cursus, and you will see little signs pop up which open and close the shutters. Really, do try it! There are a couple of other rooms to explore too.
Oh, and the Dome Ceilings? Soane was a specialist in buildings that didn’t want windows in normal places. He was the architect of the Bank of England where windows in the walls were a security risk, and also of London’s first purpose built art gallery – the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Windows reduced the space for paintings, so he designed special low domed ceilings, and the Soane Museum is full of his experimentation in the form.
Scara Brae Three D Model
Another delight is the 3D model of Scara Brae which allows you to explore the Neolithic village, and walk around it. There are labels on this one, so you do get information too.
360 Degree Panorama Virtual Tours. My part in their development.
I was an early adopter of this form of virtual reality, setting up virtual tours of the Old Operating Theatre Museum in the 1990’s. I have a draft post of this which I have been awaiting time to finish, which I hope to finish soon….
Thanks to the Museum’s Journal article on Photogrametry of May/June 2022 for the two examples above.
I was just finishing my piece on Roodmas and the True Cross, starting to look up the history of the piece of the Cross that was held by the Duke of Buckingham in the 17th Century, when I came across this amazing story in the Shropshire News!
It seems two pieces of the True Cross have been given to Charles by the Pope! They have been put into a cross called the Welsh Cross which will take part in the Coronation Procession and then the King is giving the Cross (I assume with the pieces of the Holy Cross) to the Church in Wales. Let the Shropshire News tell the story:
This is quite extraordinarily medieval, and fits in with the news that we have been asked to take an oath of allegiance to the new King.
It is a clear reminder that we are subjects not citizens and news that we still set store by superstitions. Its a delicate time because many non-natural-Royalists, like me, thought the Queen did a great job as a non-political Head of State. We remain unsure about Charles. We have heard calls to modernise the Royal Family. But this seems to be doing the opposite. Time will tell.
Roodmas is celebrated on May 3rd and September 14th, although the Church of England aligned itself with the Catholic Church’s main celebration on September 14th.
Rood is another word for the Cross. Parish Churches used to have a Rood Screen separating the holy Choir from the more secular Nave. This screen was topped with a statue of the Crucified Jesus.
The two dates of Roodmas reflects that it commemorates two events:
The Discovery of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem in 326 by Queen Helena, wife of Constantius Chlorus and mother of Constantine the Great. Most of the Cross was sent back to the care of Constantine the Great.
The part of the Holy Cross that was left in Jerusalem was taken by Persians but recovered by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 628 in a peace treaty.
Queen Helena found the Cross with the nails, and the crown of thorns. She authenticated it by placing the Cross in contact with a deathly sick women who was revived by the timber of the Cross.
Over the years the Cross was shivered into ever smaller pieces as Emperors, Kings, Dukes, Counts, Popes, Bishops, Abbots, and Abbesses swapped relics with each other. The fragments were cased in beautiful reliquaries and had enormous power for those of faith and those who could be helped by healing by faith.
The Duke of Buckingham had a piece in his collection in the 17th Century, which I think he must have acquired from the aftermath of the destruction of the Reformation.
But I will be saving more about the Legend of the True Cross on September 14th.
For the story of Stratford-upon-Avon and the Legend of the True Cross click here:
Yew Sunday (Domhnach an Iúir in Irish) is the medieval name for Palm Sunday – this is the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph on a donkey, with palm leaves being laid in front of him. It has always been very curious to me this so-short-lived triumph preceding such heavy and heart breaking tragedy. It is the Sunday before the Betrayal, which leads to the Crucifixion on Good Friday and the Resurrection on Sunday. A busy week for the Church.
Palm Sunday can be celebrated by making crosses out of palms, or with processions bearing palm branches or eating special cakes (there is always room in any ritual for cakes). But in the North where do you get your Palms from? So, it was often substituted by Box, or Olive or Willow and particularly, in Britain and Ireland, by Yew. Yew is evergreen and is so long lived as to be a symbol of everlasting life (I wrote more about the Yew here).
Giotto Bondone was a Florentine painter of the 14th Century of whom Giorgio Vasari, in his essential guide to the artists of the Renaissance, ‘The Lives of the Artists‘ said of the 10 year old:
One day Cimabue, going on business from Florence to Vespignano, found Giotto, while his sheep were feeding, drawing a sheep from nature upon a smooth and solid rock with a pointed stone, having never learnt from any one but nature. Cimabue, marvelling at him, stopped and asked him if he would go and be with him. And the boy answered that if his father were content he would gladly go. Then Cimabue asked Bondone for him, and he gave him up to him, and was content that he should take him to Florence.
There in a little time, by the aid of nature and the teaching of Cimabue, the boy not only equalled his master, but freed himself from the rude manner of the Greeks, and brought back to life the true art of painting, introducing the drawing from nature of living persons, which had not been practised for two hundred years; or at least if some had tried it, they had not succeeded very happily.
Written in 1550.
If you look at the painting, you will see, even more than his contemporary Duccio, the faces of the people are rounded and, and at least somewhat, individual. The crowd scene, particularly, to the right, has some depth and the people further away seem to recede from the viewer, rather than, as they often do in Byzantine style paintings, either float or seem to stand on or support themselves on each other’s shoulders. The Gate into Jerusalem has been rendered by someone who has seen something that he believes has the key to realistic scenes. One day it will be rediscovered, and named single-point perspective. Yes, Giotto doesn’t know the secret but he is working to find out what the trick is. The people in the trees are also in the distance. These are the giant strides that Vasari is referring to in the quotation above. Realistic people, in spaces with depth. The donkey is quite sweet too! Cimabue was particularly good at painting Crucifix scenes.
The Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padova is a World Heritage Site and Giotto and his team covered all the walls and ceiling with frescos, depicting the Life of Jesus, the Life of Mary, and the Last Judgement.
Here is a real Digital Heritage treat – a 360 Degree tour of the Chapel! Follow the link below. If it seems to be taking a long time to load there is an information button which, once pressed will allow the panorama to load immediately.