Sunday, January 27, 2013

Necropolis of Monterozzi, Tarquinia, Italy

The Necropolis of Monterozzi was a spur of the moment decision to tour. We had seen all of the routine tours of Rome so we thought it was to be a leisure day. But Christine spotted a tour that sounded interesting, and I think she picked it because I couldn't pronounce any of the words. So I had to do some homework. (Editor's note: I'd grown up reading Nat'l. Geographic Magazines and had taken a college course on Etruscan history. Attaining a dream was thrilling to me even if it meant more broken rocks to Roy.)
Necropolis means a cemetery, especially a large and elaborate one belonging to an ancient city.
Monterozzi means a hill or hump.
That meant we were going to tour an ancient cemetery on a hill. Oh boy!

Right inside the entrance, we saw a bunch of mushroom-looking stones. The guide quickly pointed out that they were urns to hold the ashes of the  citizens who weren't very wealthy.
The wealthy built underground tombs that looked like a hump (Monterozzi?) on the surface. 
Six thousand of these tombs have been discovered, but only 15-20 are open to the public at one time. Christine tried to see all 6,000 but fortunately, we ran out of time. The tombs are entered through a hut looking structure with stairs leading down to the tomb. To protect the tombs, a glass barrier is at the bottom of the stairs. Taking pictures through the barrier makes the pictures look funny.
Tomba Delle Leonesse

The ceiling had a checkerboard motif and the walls were divided by six columns that gave the tomb the appearance of a pavilion. On the gable of the end wall were depicted two she-lions face to face.
In the center of the wall is a great crater with whirls flanked by two musicians; on the left there is a female dancer, opposite her was a couple dancing. Along the side walls were banqueting diners reclining.  
The decorative concept of this tomb is that of a tent, normally used for the deposition of the corpse, but here intended as a hunting pavilion. Note the two ducks hanging by the beaks on the end wall.

Fowling and Fishing Tomb
The gable depicts a banquet. The wall has scenes of hunting and fishing, brightly colored rocks from which some hunters shoot at birds with bows and slings.
Same tomb without the zoom.
Tomba Dei Caronti
The false door symbolizes the entrance to the nether-world and is guarded by the Etruscan demon of death. 
Tomb 5636
Not yet identified with a specific family, the fresco is a scene related to the dead buried in the grave below the picture. They are preceded by a child followed by a Vanth-Etruscan female demon with a torch to light up the dark way to the afterlife-dead. (A Vanth is a female demon in the Etruscan underworld but is a benevolent guide, not an avenging spirit). They are met by two members of the family already dead. Coronte is seated on a rock as a keeper-dead at Hades' (underworld) door.

The following tombs were not identified in my notes but they are still pretty (as tombs go).

Note: This was not the end of our tour, just the end of the Necropolis portion.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Messina, Italy (Sicily)

Messina was another port that Christine and I were just going to stay onboard and relax. However, this was our view from our veranda--the Votive Temple of Christ the King, crowned by an octagonal dome. 
This could also be seen from our balcony. The attractions were so close that we couldn't resist going to see them more closely. And only walk a "few blocks".
Almost immediately after getting off the ship and walking across the pier was the Church of the Annunziata dei Catalani.
The church dates from the 13th century (1200's). Note the external decoration of the transept (transverse section which forms a cruciform shape in a church--remember the Vatican?), and the dome area with a series of blind arches separated by small columns.
The Annunziata dei Catalani clearly reflects Arabic architectural influences.
Christine always has the time to admire beautiful flowers.

Just down the street was the Chiesa Di S. Giacomo (St. James Church).

St. James was built between the Norman Age and early Swebian Age (9th-11th centuries A.D.).

The building has been added to and restored throughout the years. Note the frescos.

Recently found were ruins of the southern aisle along with the central aisle.

The Sanctuary of Montalto, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is up on the Caperrina hill. First built in 1295 but earthquakes destroyed the first structure. The building shown was built in 1930 with "modern" architecture.

Our journey was leading us to the Piazza del Duoma. The Piazza is a favorite tourist attraction with the Cathedral of Messina, the bell tower, and the Fountain of Orion.

The Fountain of Orion
The fountain was designed by Montosoli, a disciple of Michelangelo, and finished in 1553. Orion was a giant huntsman in Greek mythologh whom Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion.
The fountain not only embellished the square, it provided water for the Messina citizens. To lessen the damage from daily usage, iron gates were built but left free the external basins to allow access to the water. In 1855, the present railing was placed around the fountain closing off the fountain.  

The Astrological Clock, or Bell Tower provides a great show at noon. The tower has four separate movements. At the bottom, a two-horse chariot driven by a god indicates the day of the week. Above, Death waves his scythe threatening the child, youth, soldier or old man-the four ages of man-that pass before him. The third layer displays a group of figures, which, according to the time of year, represent the Nativity, Ephphany, Resurrection, and Pentecost.
Athe the top, the local legend whereby the Madonna delivers a letter to the ambassadors of Messina in which she thanks the inhabitants of the town who were converted to Christianity by St. Paul. 
When the clock strikes midday, all the mechanical figures come to life in time to music. The Ave Maria begins playing from a loudspeaker and the figures start to move; a lion roars, a bird flaps its wings, and two historica heroines take turns ringing the bell and just before it ends, a statue of Jesus appearing from a tomb appears. The show rivals the bell tower in Munich.
On the south side of the tower are two astrological clocks. Above is a perpetual calendar. It may need a little adjusting as the angel's arrow points to June 29. I took the picture on July 5. Notwithstanding, the clock was very impressive.

Another clock depicted the astrnomical cycle marked by the signs of the Zodiac and the different phases of the moon. I am not sure of the clock's accuracy as I only know my own sign.
The Catheral contains the remains of King Conrad, ruler of Germany and Sicily in the 13th century.
Note the beautiful marble of the Catheral.

And the ornate mosiacs.


Inside the Catheral.

The tall ceilings were noteworthy.
Unfortunately, most of my pictures within the Catherdral were too blurry to show.
Christine, lower right, took one more look before it was time to leave.

Back tracking, the Sanctuary of Montalto comes into view again.

It may be hard to tell but the building was quite ornate and typical of the houses and buildings we saw. Some business in the second opening advertised "Hollywood". I am not sure what they sold.

The twin stacks of Noordam provides a guiding beacon for the return trip.

And we sail off to Rome. We have ended our Eastern portion of our cruise. When we get to Rome, some passengers will disembark and some will stay on board for the Western cruise.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Acropolis and Athens, Greece

 Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis (the word acropolis in Greek literally means "city on the extremity") is located on a 7.4 acre flat-topped rock above the city of Athens. Whereas there are several acropolis locations throughout Europe, the one at Athens is called The Acropolis.
 The entryway is a series of steps to the top. Ascending, the prominent sight is the Temple of Athena Nike, built between 427 and 424 B.C. Nike means victory in Greek, and the citizens worshiped Athena in hopes of winning against the Spartans.
The people of ancient Athens would take shelter in The Acropolis during attacks as the sheer walls helped to protect the site. 
Immediately on the left of the Temple of Athena Nike was the  Propylaea, or gateway. The stairs led into the gate-house at the entrance of tThe Acropolis. A bit of trivia, the Brandenburg Gate of Berlin and the Propylaea in Munich are specially copied from the central portion of the Propylaea.
Just before entering Acropolis through the Propylaea, I (and a lot of other people) glanced to the right and took this picture of the Temple of Hephaestus. The temple was dedicated to the God of the forge and was set among foundries and metalworking shops of ancient Athens. It is the best preserved of all of the Doric Temples in Greece and still has it's roof intact. 
 The Erechtheum was begun about 420 B.C. and was dedicated to several of the Gods.
The entrance, facing east, is lined with six Ionic columns and was dedicated to Athena Polias. The western part served the cult of the archaic king Poseidon and housed the altars of Hephaestus (remember him from the Temple of Hephaestus?).
The southwest porch is supported by the female figures or Caraytids. These figures are second in photographic popularity after the Parthenon.
Temple of Zeus as seen from the Acropolis, dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. The temple is almost in the center of Athens and still a big tourist attraction. Far upper left of the picture is the 2004 Olympic stadium which will be featured later in our story.
Also down the slope: Theater of Dionysus,
The Theater of Dionysus is today a major open-air theater and one of the earliest preserved in Athens. It was used for festivals in honor of the god Dionysus.  
   On a near-by hill:  The Philopappos Monument.
The monument is dedicated to Julius Philopappos, a prince from the Kingdom of Commagene. It is located on Mouseion Hill just southwest of the Acropolis.
The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece and of ancient democracy and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments.
The Parthenon is a temple also dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron.
Christine admired the structure from every angle so long that I left to make sure the bus did not leave without her. Christine is interested all European culture but has a special affinity to the Parthenon, dedicated to Athena. Christine, a former member of the Women's Army Corps, wore the insignia of Athena. Athena was selected to symbolize the WAC's as she was the goddess of handicrafts, wise in industries of peace and arts of war, also the goddess of storms and battle, who led through victory to peace and prosperity. Accordingly, the head of Pallas Athene, together with the traditional US, was selected for lapel insignia, cut out for officers and on disc for enlisted women.
 Young Lt. Christine. Note the head of Pallas Athene on Christine's lapel. Thus, she had a special interest in the Parthenon.
While off the subject, I thought I would throw in the obligatory "I was there" tourist photo.
Most have noticed the lack of roof, damage to the monument, and cranes for reconstruction.  In 1687 during the struggle between the Venetians and Ottoman Turks, the Parthenon was used as a gunpowder magazine! A Venetian mortar, fired from the Hill of Philosopapus (remember nearby hill with the shrine?), blew the magazine up and the building was partly destroyed. 
 Another good story concerns the east pediment (left). The pediment narrated the birth of Athena from the head of her father Zeus. A headache prompted Zeus to summon Hephaestus (the god of fire and the forge whose temple we saw earlier). Zeus ordered Hephaestus to strike him with his forging hammer and when he did, Zeus's head split open and out popped the goddess Athena in full armor. The sculptural arrangement depicts the moment of Athena's birth. Remember this the next time you play trivia.
After one last look, it was time to head back to the tour bus for the rest of the tour.
2004 Olympic Stadium
This was also the site for the Athens 1896 games.
 Remember the shot of the Olympic Stadium from Acropolis? This is a reverse photo showing the Parthenon. 
The Syntagma meaning Constitution in Greek is the square in front of the Parliament (formerly the King's Palace). It is considered the main square of Athens. The two soldiers in the far front are guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier. On the far right, the military were preparing for a ceremony.
Athens Academy
The Academy of Athens (1926) is the highest research establishment in the country and is operated by the Ministry of Education.
Tireless and in good humor after one of her "16 favorite" tours. 
 Back to our temporary home.
Guess what day we toured the Acropolis?
We leave Greece and sail toward Messina, Italy.