Category Archives: gargoyles

Adams Autumn Delight

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Yang and I have some specially favorite rail trails to ride, and one of these is the Pittsfield to Adams line.  Even if we do it once in the spring, we have to do it again in the fall because the colors are so gorgeous!  This year, we made our trip around the Columbus Day Weekend, on Tuesday.  We thought we’d try something different by not going straight from Pittsfield to Adams, but by parking at the dam in the middle and first going down to Adams.  Then we’d come back and having lunch at a restaurant near where we’d parked before continuing on to Pittsfield and returning. As you can see I was able to take some beautiful shots of hill full of colorful trees across the river from the parking area.

It was a gorgeous day, a little colder than the weather had been before, but the sun was out and the air was crisp.  A warmer fall jacket did just nicely and the foliage was superb.  I had to stop here, not only to enjoy the surrounding hills but to inspect what I thought might be a beaver’s dam.

 

 

 

I  couldn’t help stopping to take pictures of some of the most wonderful flaming maples.  It was so cool to see colors that went from crimson flame to soft orange all in one tree!  I noticed that there weren’t too many  scarlet leaves to see as we’d experienced in our first fall ride here. My guess is that those leaves had either lightened in color or fallen.

We ultimately cruised down the hill leading into Adams.  I wished I could have taken shots of the dusky green woods and glacier-abandoned boulders on my right or the tumbling river on my left, but there was no stopping on that race down the hill.  Just before we entered the town, we stopped to take some shots, with the gold, orange, flame  hills shot with evergreen surrounding the town.  The pale azure sky forms a complement of color.  And here’s a most handsome guy in the foreground!

On the other side of the town, the trail runs along where the river has been  channeled into a canal.  Again, the hills embracing the town’s valley make you think that it must be glorious to wake up in the morning or return from work in late afternoon to such gorgeous colors surrounding you.

 

 

 

 

We may have raced down a hill to get into town, but we had to labor up it when we left.  I may not be as young as I used to be, but I made it, albeit panting a bit at the end. I didn’t need a sign to tell me to Stop! Luckily, there ‘s a lovely little bridge where you can  rest. Nice view, isn’t it?

You can tell by the look on my face that it was a loooong ride up.  Thank God for water!

Wouldn’t you know that when we finally got back to the parking lot, it turned out that the restaurant was closed on the only day of the week we were there!  We ended up having to forego the rest of the ride and scout out a place to eat in Pittsfield.  That’s okay, though.  We’d actually conquered the toughest part of the ride.  Even better, we found this great little (literally) Italian restaurant in town, Brooklyn’s Best.  Later, we took some fun pictures while walking off dinner.  We discovered this neat little gargoyle above.  I even made a new friend.  Do you think Rosie and ‘Tasha will share their litter boxes with him?

Definitely, Don’t Blink! Evergreen Cemetery Portland, Maine

So, at last I have a moment to finally post a blog on the Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, Maine.  According to the cemetery’s web site, Evergreen was created in 1854, designed by Charles H. Howe, in the rural landscape style initiated in this country at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.  Yang and I went to Evergreen twice on our trip. The first time was on  a beautiful sunny and breezy Friday afternoon.  This was the visit where got the most pictures.  I was not disappointed by the greenery or the Romantic/Gothic sculptures atop the graves. 
Here we have some beautiful reliefs. One of my favorite reliefs was this dove, ancient with a a touch of bright orange lichen. We saw other statuary painted even more with this orange, as well as the more expected dark or pale green.  There were also these more modern doves, sculpted in bronze and gracefully merged into the granite memorial, along a twining bronze vine.  Lovely!

 

 

 

 

 

You can tell that these are the graves of seafaring people.  They don’t call it Portland for nothing!  The first photo shows a relief of an anchor and the second of a mast on the waves.  This second seems worn down and weathered more than the first.  Yang and I had a bit of a time trying to discern exactly what it was at first.  Dr. Physicist was the first to figure it out!  What would my Dad from the Navy say?
There were also some neat mausoleums!  These two are in graceful classical style.

This one is modern with a lovely carved dove and beautiful stained glass.  Like the mausoleums above, it maintains a sense of stillness, grace, and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my favorite part to put on display, the one that give Dr. Whovians nightmares!  The angels and other figures. There were quite a number of grieving young women, young women pointing  souls victoriously upward to salvation, and – of course – angels.  Here are some of the most interesting.
A woman stands proudly for victory of the soul over grief and death, reaching into the blue and rising up with the ascent of the powerful tree behind her.

 

 

 

 

This victorious female incarnation of the soul bring us back to the seafaring nature of the Portland.  She holds an anchor, not to weigh her down but to assert the integrity of the sailing family whose life she honors and whose life after death she raises.

 

 

Another grieving female leans on a cross, perhaps embodying the soul’s dependence on Christ’s sacrifice on the holy cross.  Does she grieve for her own death, those she leaves behind, the stains on her soul, or for the death of her Savior?  I’ll also call your attention to the brilliant orange lichen encrusting the carven figure.  It lends beauty, but the lichen is also a life form that thrives on the monument to death, eating away at it to survive.  Dust to dust or dead stone to plant life?

 

 

As a writer, I find this angel especially interesting, for it is a writer, too!  Is it improving on Milton, telling the REAL story of our Paradise lost?  Is it recording the history of the family interred around the monument?  Do we need to climb up on the monument to see what’s actually written there – not advisable!

 

Then, here are a few gravestones I found interesting.  A globe, some Celtic crosses, an urn – enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are also some ponds to the rear of the cemetery that back up to a woody nature trail.  On the second day, we had the good fortune to see this guy in one of the ponds!

Wouldn’t all the maples in this graveyard look gorgeous in autumn’s colorful splendor?  I’ve got to make it back here then!

 

Edson Cemetery Takes the Bronze

Some people head for the Edson Cemetery in Lowell because they want to visit Jack Keruac’s grave.  Me, I’m more interested in visiting my own late  family’s digs – so to speak.  Something else that has always fascinated me about this graveyard are the two bronze (or bronze-coated) statues that dominate the landscape.  Ever since I was a kid, when my parents brought me here, I always insisted in checking out the statues of Passaconaway and the giant elk honoring the B.P.O.E.
The day Yang and I took these pictures  was really sunny, We found that when we were shooting straight up at the sky, the colors tended to wash out or the darks and lights formed too severe a contrast to capture detail.  So, my apologies for those photos that look washed out.  You can perceive more detail if you click on the photo to see a larger version of your computer or iPad screen.

 

The story behind Passaconaway is especially interesting.  He was a Sachem of the Penacook tribe in the 16th and 17th centuries who united the Wamesit and Pawtucket tribes in a protective league against the Mohawks, whose territory extended from Western, Mass.  His organization of tribes  drew on a democratic order that later influenced the establishment of English settlements.  He kept peaceful terms with the  Europeans immigrants, allowing the them to settle in what is now Chelmsford and Billerica.  In fact these immigrants admired his wisdom, honor, and good governance.  After his death, sadly, the Europeans proved aggressive and greedy, driving off their predecessors from their rightful lands (Kelley).  At least the names Wamesit and Pawtucket remain in circulation in the Merrimack Valley area, as well as other First Nation names. According to marie Donovan, the statue was commissioned by the Improved Order of Red Men in 1899, but had not been kept up over since 1967. I can well remember the changes in its appearacne over the years that I lived in Lowell.  In the twenty-first century, the organization turned to “Fred Hein and his students in the metal-fabrication shop at Greater Lowell Technical High School” to do repairs and return the statue to its glory (Donovan).

The Elks Rest Statue is also a monument that intrigued me as a child.  I have seen it refurbished over the years, but have not been able to find any background material on the statue other than that it honors deceased members of the B.P.O.E.  If anyone could add something, like when it was created and by whom, I’d love to hear.  I could incorporate the info into this blog – giving you credit of course!

 

 

 

History of Passaconaway: Michael Kelley, Tewksbury Town Crier, 12/02/2017.http://homenewshere.com/tewksbury_town_crier/news/article_e16632ee-9dbd-11e9-b94c-2b88e245c7a4.html#tncms-source=article-nav-prev
Statue Refurbishment:  Marie Donovan, “Refurbished statue of Chief Passaconaway rededicated Sunday in Lowell”  The Lowell Sun. 5/20/2011.  http://www.lowellsun.com/rss/ci_18103578

 

Tarrying Awhile at Hearthstone Castle

I’m heading back to school this week. So before work gets too hot and heavy, I want to post a blog on one of the wonderful short trips Yang and I took when  we went away for two days.  The first day was a visit to NYC to explore Central Park and have a yummy tea at Alice’s Teacup – another blog on that later!  The second day, as we made our way back from where we’d stayed  in Milford, brought us to Danbury’s Tarrywile Park and the Hearthstone Castle.  If you click here, there’s a wonderful history on this link about the castle.

We walked up a fairly short, but decidedly steep, wooded path to be greeted with this sight.  What a pity that the castle has been defaced and let go into such disrepair.  Still, it was deliciously eerie, with the afternoon sunlight rising in a clearing amidst the trees.  Note the turrets with sharp field stones acting as the crenellation.  There in front was the portico where the wealthy would arrive in their carriages to be dropped off at the door for a summer weekend in the country or a formal dinner or ball.  They must have had a ballroom! And here I am walking quite determinedly up to get a closer view, braving  assault from ticks and poison ivy.

 

 

 

We took some neat shots of the ruins, so you could see the sky pouring blue through a window in the back wall out to you from a smashed window or a broken wall  in front of you.  Unfortunately, the sun was so bright  that it washed the blue right out of most of these shots.   I love the gorgeous turret here and wonder what kind of round rooms were inside on each floor.  The view must have been a delight. A great place to sit with your tea and a good book.  Perhaps a Scarlet Tanager or Rosebreasted Grosbeak might fly by, even perch on the ledge?  Looking through the smashed windows, where the boards had been pried away, you could also see the brick that lined or insulated the interior where the material covering the interior walls had been stripped away.  I couldn’t help recalling the marvelous ruined abbeys I’d seen on my trip to England – sky gleaming blue through soaring arches and graceful architecture.  Of course, this ruin is on a much smaller scale – and more jagged than the medieval constructions.  Still, doesn’t the setting lend itself to a novel?  Hmm, maybe that’s what I’m working out in my mind here.

 

 

 

Here’s a neat farewell shot of the ruin.  I’m not sure if Yang or I took it.  I would love to go back in the fall, when the leaves turn gorgeous!  You should make a visit, too.  And remember that the park has lots of inviting hiking trails.  Yeah, I think this place has to make it into a novel.  It’s just so Thornfield or Manderly!

P.S.  A tip of one of my many hats to Robert Johnson for putting me wise to this site.

 

Carven not Craven Images: Providence

The same day that we visited Battleship Cove, we also gave ourselves a walking tour of the older architecture in the downtown section of Providence.  Yang and I had come here for a walk once before in the winter and marveled at the beautiful buildings with their ornate decorations.  We’ll start with the Shepherd Department Store Building.

 

 

 

The Shepherd Department store was once the largest department store in the country, covering an entire block and consuming three buildings.  First built in 1880, the store continued to grow and became a mainstay for about 100 years.  Unfortunately, like many of the other big department stores (Bon Marche, Filenes, G. Fox) it was undone by the viral spread of malls.  Check out the interesting background info on this store and on it and  similar ones.  Fortunately, Shepherd’s facade has been preserved, with a major portion of the building serving as  campuses for URI and CCRI, as well as offices for the RI Department of Education, making the relief of the owl pictured above both prescient and appropriate!

 

 

The archways on each of these street-corner main entrances are extraordinary to to view.

And of course, you can’t help but admire this fierce lion head  decorating the building.

 

 

He isn’t the only lion.  This building, now a dance club, is  protected by a line of threatening Panthera Leo – so you’d darn well better heed the sign warning that the rest rooms are only for patrons!

 

 

There are also far less threatening carvings or reliefs.  With this building that was once a nineteenth-century performance center, we have musical instruments:  mandolin and horn on one side and lyre on the other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another building, I found these reliefs:  a pilgrim-looking guy and the female head from the old dimes.  How wise to pick a relief that has rays coming from her head that can also double as pigeon repellers. Note that anchor relief just around the corner.

 

Between them was a medallion with this cherub.

 

I was  struck by the Providence Performing Arts Center.  This gorgeously ornate building covers an enormous amount of territory.  It seems like an entire block.  The front is impressive, predominating the view at this end of Weybosset Street.  The sides are no less impressive. Originally built as Loewe’s Movie Palace  in 1928, the theatre opened to an audience of 14,000. Loewe’s went through some tough times in the latter half of the twentieth century before its redesign as a  successful  multipurpose performance venue.  Click here for  background on this magnificent building.

 

Here, Yang caught me giving the side view of the theatre a once over. Yes, I do have a hat! There are plenty more shots that we took that day – the photographic not the liquid kind.  However, I don’t want to make this post too long.  Looks as if I’ll have to do a Providence,  part II!

Adventures in the Lowell Cemetery Part 2

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 I promised you a second post on our adventures in the Lowell Cemetery, so here it is!  This blog will concentrate on the unique statuary gracing the cemetery.  However, to begin, I want to revisit two of the monuments I showed you last time out.  I’ve done some additional research and discovered intriguing background on them.
First is this beauty.  I wrote about it as a penitent soul being ministered by an angel.  However, I found out that it has an intriguing back story.  A mill girl had saved up a considerable sum over the years, planning for a special monument to be erected upon her death, which came to pass in 1886, after a long life.  For various reasons, her plans weren’t implemented until some after her burial.  Finally, when everything came together for the tomb stone to be created, there was $8000 available (lots of dough back then!),  and those left in charge employed Daniel Chester French (creator of the Minute Man Monument) to create this work of art (Chris Camire).

 

This monument to the Bonney family has been the subject of all kinds of crazy stories about witches and hauntings.  However, the truth  is that it is just a remarkable monument to the Bonney family (“Mysterious Witch Bonney”).  It was created by Frank Elwell, the director of the Sculpture Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He titled the monument “New Life”(Camire), no references to witchcraft at all!  The tomb honors Clara Bonney, who died relatively young in 1894, as well as other members of her family (Camire) – which kind precludes the monument housing the remains of anyone executed in the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s as some like to claim.  I’m just saying . . .
Maybe the most remarkable monument, definitely the most well known, is this gorgeous recumbent lion. Called the Ayer Lion it memorializes James Ayer, a business man so prominent that he has a major street named after him in the city.  The face is so powerfully expressive you almost forget it’s not a human.  The lion is made of the finest Italian marble and was created in Italy, by Price Joy (“The Ayer Lion,” Lowell Cemetery).

 

 

 

I don’t have any  back stories on the following statuary, but I think their beauty speaks for itself.  I did note that books and publishing seemed popular, with two monuments taking the forms of volumes.   I believe this one on the right  honors two publishing partners.   I also found the one below that showed the “open volume” of one man’s life, resting steadfast on a rock.

 

 

 

 

 

And below, is a closeup of the text of his life.

There were also some funky, creative shapes.  I love the intertwining of initials here with what could be some form of a Celtic cross.

 

I can’t even begin to tell you what this thing is supposed to be – but it does have a kind of Lovecraftian flavor,  does it not?  Speaking of Lovecraft, there were some people taking pictures of a wonderfully goth-coutured wedding party.  The groom had perfect H.P.  hair, glasses, and suit!  We exchanged conspiratorial smiles as Yang and I drove by!

 

Of course there were also plenty of  angels, women ready to guide you to the unknown, and wise matrons. Something that gave many of these statues a wonderfully eerie quality was that, as Yang noted, they hadn’t been cleaned, so they frequently were aged with wear from the elements.  This woman bearing a cross is a particularly good example.  Is she coming to get me or guide me?  Her blurred features make her seem unnervingly not quite human and her motives ambivalent.
Others could be put in unique settings like atop a tall monument or caged within the marble barriers of something like a spire.  I see the woman above as a symbol of the heaven to which we all aspire above us. Holding a victory wreath, she implies if we reach her we can achieve the victory of salvation.   Perhaps she is a guide waiting in a liminal space to lead us ever upward.  Still, what about the woman encased in marble.  Does she need to be kept in to protect us?  Don’t blink!

 

 

Uh oh!  Hope that Whovian reference wasn’t too unnerving!  Here’s a picture of the victory lady in closeup to comfort you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what better way to end an October visit to a Romantic cemetery than with an autumn moon in a pure blue October sky?  Keats would surely approve.

Below are the web sites where I found the background information not evident from just looking at the monuments.  Check them out for more information and photos:

Chris Camire.  “What a Site!  The Lowell Cemetery Celebrates Its 175th Anniversary and ‘The Serenity of Nature.'” The Lowell Sun. 16 June 2016.  http://www.lowellsun.com/lifestyles/ci_30022685/what-site

“The History of the Ayer Lion”  Lowell Cemetery. 2015.  http://www.lowellcemetery.com/

“The Mysterious Witch Bonney.” Atlas Obscura.  2017. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mysterious-witch-bonney

Adventures in the Lowell Cemetery, Part 1

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The weekend before Halloween, Yang and paid a visit to the Lowell Cemetery.  It isn’t the oldest burial ground in the city, but it’s probably the most Gothic, designed in the Romantic style, after Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, MA.  The fall colors were uneven in Lowell, as in most of central Mass.  However, we were able to get some lovely background shots, as you can see here.  Yang took this photo of the gate and a beautiful sugar maple next to it, from the inside of the cemetery.

 

The combination of fall colors and crypts and monuments made some wonderfully seasonable shots, especially since the cemetery has some unique and beautifully crafted monuments.  I love the  highlight the orange-flame gives to this crypt.

 

 

 

 

I was especially taken by this pillar topped with a kind of medieval church spire.   The burnt oranges and reds of the scenery create beautiful surroundings in the amber autumn sunset.    I was so impressed with the top of this monument, that I had to get a close up of it.  Definitely reminiscent of something out of the High Middle Ages.
Of course there were also some shots of the trees that were absolutely enthralling, too!

 

 

I was particularly taken with this relief carving of an angel ministering to penitent soul, on a stone nestled by a green pine against a background of soft  orange and golden foliage.

 

 

 

The relief carvings were some of the most striking and beautiful monuments that we viewed in the Lowell Cemetery.  One of the first ones that I noticed was of this angel presiding over the tomb with a cross.  Like many of the statues and monuments, it revealed its antiquity by the way mold, lichen, and moss had blurred its features. I love the way the sinking sun lends an gleam of divinity over the guardian angel.

 

 

The Parker crypt is guarded by two figures carved on either side of the entrance.  I’m not sure who or what the two figures represent beyond sorrow at death. Since we have a major thoroughfare in Lowell called Parker Street, and this tomb is on the elaborates side, the family must have been quite a powerful one in Lowell. No one named Ben, May, or Peter was listed on the site.

 

 

This stone combines media, stone and bronze.  Does the figure represent Death or Fate, quieting our questions and fears about what comes next with a finger to the lips.  I’m not sure if the form is male or female.  It’s more solemn than reassuring – a sober warning to the living that no secrets, hopes, or words escape from those who’ve passed beyond this vale of tears – or vale of soul-making if you’re into Keats.  Or maybe even this is a warning to give up asking questions when you enter into a realm beyond thought and languages as we know them.  Perhaps a close up will help us better read the warning of this eerie being, shroud ethereally encircling it.

 

 

Arguably my favorite monument is the verdigris-bronze piece on the front of this stone monument arching up from the hillside.  Who is buried here?  What is the person’s past?  Beliefs? to inspire such a powerful and eerie figure.  She seems like a sybil spreading her capes in warning – or is she an embodiment of Death come to sweep down on us and enfold us in her flowing, boundless cape?  I really need to do some research on the history of these wonderful works.  Are there any sculptures by famous or venerated artists in this cemetery?  At any rate, she definitely deserves a close up.

 

I have lots more photos to share, however, I don’t want you to succumb to cemetery overload.  This is enough delicious melancholy for now.  But don’t you think this place is so perfect a setting for parts of a Gothic novel?  I already have some ideas “haunting” my brain.  Anyway, I promise you another blog with more pictures soon.

Carven (not craven) Creatures of the Big Apple

 On one of our several peregrinations to NYC, Yang and I were strolling around the upper Westside, near Central Park, where we were taken by the marvelous reliefs and carvings on the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings.  Here’s a record of that intriguing stroll.

 I’m not sure if this is the head of a cupid or a Roman youth.  It looks like wood lacquered over  black paint.  Or it could be masonry painted over.  What do you think?  I love the sheaf of what look like cattails surrounded by scrollwork.

 

The whole side of this building was alternating Classical mythological figures and Green Men – sort of like the melange of classical and native mythos in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I decided to include only this detail of what looks like Athena flanked by two Green Men.  I’m fascinated by the thought of who decided on this design.  Was it the architect’s idea or did the original owner order the magical artwork?  Was it a signal of the owner’s or the architect’s learning and sophistication?

 

Here, you can see swans above gryphons holding escutcheons, but with no motto or symbol on the shield.  The wider shot below illustrates the art deco design over the entranceway.  Would this building have been constructed in the 1920s or ’30s?

We photographed these reliefs of mythical beasts on one building.  I can definitely identify the creature over the entrance as a dragon.  The others I’m not so sure about at all.

 

I think this might be a form of a gryphon.  It has a lionlike head and paws in front. It is a winged critter,  Yet, are its hindquarters too reptilian?

 

 

 

These next ones have me really scratching my head.  I seem to have heard of some mythic beast with the tail of a snake, but I can’t quite remember what it was.  I definitely see a bird’s wings and claws.  However, what is the head?  A dog?  A donkey? El chupacabra?

This one completely knocks me for a loop.  The head is clearly reminiscent of what all MST3K fans will recognize as Trumpie from The Pod People.  So, is it proof of earlier alien invasions?  Interestingly, the creature doesn’t seem to have both arms and legs, but one pair of limbs that could serve both purposes – unless the wings count as arms/hands – as with bats.

 

I’m not sure if these chaps are supposed to be gods or Green Men, but the fellow in the other picture certainly looks as if he could be Bacchus.  I love the contrast of the red brick with the cream-colored carvings.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, this shot is particularly interesting for more than one reason.  First, of course, is the graceful carving of the British lions above the entrance.  Especially interesting is the cat in the window perfectly situated above the lions.  However, if you take a closer look at the cat you may exclaim, “Say what!”

That sweep of black fur across the forehead, that little smutch of black fur under the nose.  Good Gravy Train!  The cat looks like Hitler! How embarrassing in front of the other cats.

Worcester Gargoyles

Being a Gothic kind of a gal, I’ve been fascinated by the gargoyles I’ve found on churches in Worcester.  There may be more than these three examples, but these churches caught my eye.

stmatthews4The first example is a single, friendly gargoyle that curves along a corner of the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church on Southbridge Street.  He gracefully curls his undercarriage toward you, his wings unfurl smoothly, and he seems to offer a friendly smile. stmatthews3 Unlike traditional gargoyles, designed to scare away demons or to embody the sin and monstrosity lurking in the human soul, he almost seems to embody the thought that what we may  judge monstrous, out of our own fears and prejudices, may actually be good and loving.  An interesting thought, right?

 

allsaints1All Saints’ Church has two gargoyle guardians allsaints2on its tower.  These fierce protectors are poised and ready take flight and dive bomb whatever demonic threats to the parish’s spiritual stability may lurk in the environs of  Irving Street, Worcester, Ma. The church has played allsaints3host to the Worcester State Chorale performances, and the acoustics for their exquisite singing  was breath taking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final church has a veritable feast of gargoyles, although some have disappeared mysteriously since first I sighted them.  Did they fly away?  Don’t blink, then, Dr.  Who fans!  Originally, the Union Congregational Church but now the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, this building is magnificent. The church has been likened to a scaled down version of Notre Dame de Paris.  Not as many gargoyles, but a respectable showing nonetheless. gargoyle4Apparently, the missing gargoyle did not fly off (no Mr. Norell around), but was removed and sold to clear debts (see WT&G story.)  The gargoyles that remain are, indeed, something else.  My husband and I took these photos early in January, when streams of frozen ice lent the creatures a special beauty.    We see that this poor chap seems to be feeling the cold intensely.  gargoyle1Perhaps he’s existing multi-dimensionally:  here and on Dante’s ninth level of hell.  Looks as if he has the satanic wings with which to create the freezing air.  He’s clearly not enjoying himself.

Or maybe he’s just guarding the front entrance to the church against the incursion of demons with his pal here.

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These are the only churches with gargoyles that I know of in Worcester.  If you know of more, please let me know;  I’d love to find them.  I find it interesting that though the Protestant Reformation slammed the Catholic Church for superstitious, distracting, and gaudy decorations, none of these gargoyle-inhabited churches are Catholic.  They’re all Protestant.  Go figure – just don’t blink.

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Mont Saint Michel

When I was a little girl, perusing my geography book in a grade I can’t quite remember, I came across a photograph of and sidebar on the island castle/monastery Mont Saint Michel. Its inaccessibility, magnificence, and antiquity fascinated me.  I remember reflecting that never in a million years would I get the chance to visit such a cool place. It was a place to dream on, though.  1Stmicehl1Well, a million years rolls around sooner than you would ever expect. Last month, I found myself journeying to the mysterious isle, and not being disappointed.

The tide was out when we arrived––otherwise, we never could have crossed to the towering rock island, which would have been surrounded by tide-ripped ocean. Still, no one ought to feel all that much at ease, even with the tide out, for the sands hide quicksand, 2St.Michel2waiting to suck you down. So, stay on that boardwalk!  Then, when the tide comes back in, it’s with a rush that’s earned the nick-name “galloping horses.”

 

 

 

 

The monastery/cathedral that tops the island seems like an organic outgrowth, built into the 3Village1rock, as is the village, circled by city walls, that spirals up narrow, cobbled streets and ancient stone stairs to the  magnificent edifice melded into the summit.

 

 

 

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Fortunately, the collapsible stool Yang got me, enabled me to climb almost ad infinitum, with moments of rest to forestall the onslaught of my plantar fasciitis pain.7steps4

 

 

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It’s a long drop below.

 

 

 

 

9gargoyles2What would a castle/cathedral be without presiding gargoyles?

 

 

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The church where mass was said had beautiful Gothic architecture

 

 

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Outside at the top were gardens, which reminded me of the Cloisters in New York, near Fort Tryon State Park.  The Cloisters is clearly inspired by this wonderful aspect of some monasteries.  But how do 15cloiser1these flowers grow so beautifully on an island smack dab in the ocean?  How do the salt air and the harsh winter cold affect them?

 

 

 

Inside, within the monastery that contains that cathedral space is the refectory that fed a 21refectorypassel of monks and their royal guests in ages long ago.  They must have seen me coming and hidden all the food.

 

 

 

 

Crypt:  here, the crypt refers to the original meaning, a hidden place as opposed to a burial 19inside1place.  This was one of the vast chambers in the monastery.  The lack of light in these rooms made taking photographs extremely difficult, so I can’t share the dark, dreamy quality of the chambers that twisted around each other. That’s why the image of the Black Madonna here (a much later installation) isn’t the best.   I could definitely understand why in “The Horla” Guy deMaupassant characterized Mont Saint Michel as a setting that left one susceptible to possibilities of the fantastic and eerie.18Blackmadonna

 

 

 

 

 

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Going down showed us the beauty and magnificence of the curving stone walls, seeming to be an organic extension of the mountain rock.  22comingdown1

 

 

 

And gorgeous flowers and other plants revealed Nature’s tenacity, growing from the slightest cracks in man-made and Nature-made walls.

 

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Back in the village, we wound down the narrow streets, toward St. Michael’s Church, with the 27downvillage5warrior angel, himself, on guard in statue form by the door.  We visited inside and felt the joy of painting, stained glass, and statuary celebrating wonder at the Divinity (Take that Protestant Reformation!).  We also visited a tiny cemetery of tall gravestones with plots of flowers or colored broken stones enclosed by stone borders.  Finally, we made it to a little cafe for lunch, where I managed to order in French without embarrassing us!  Mmm, savory galettes of jambon, champignons, and fromage, complemented by cafe au lait.  What a wonderful day.28downvillage