Tag Archives: UNESCO World Heritage sites

On almost missing Charlemagne’s throne in the Palatine Chapel of Aachen, a mosaic mouse and cookie king

The Palatine Chapel and throne of Charlemagne had been burning hot near the top of our travel list for years, so “Charlemagne’s throne room is closed today” was definitely not what we wanted to hear on arriving in the tourist office of Aachen after a journey of two flights and three train rides.  I had […]

The Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay: thumbs up from Bernard of Clairvaux

You know those fantastical hybrid animal monsters abounding in Romanesque church art?  They really pissed off Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux.  I love to read and re-read his attack on Romanesque art extravagances in his Apologia c. 1124: But these are small things; I will pass on to matters greater in themselves, yet seeming smaller because they […]

I hope that you, my friends, might also one day find yourselves at the door to Villa La Rotonda in Vicenza while a security guard sings you the theme to Married… with Children.

“Where are you from?” asked the gregarious guard at the entry to Palladio’s Villa La Rotonda.  After replying, “Chicago, USA” we braced ourselves for the usual “Al Capone, bang bang bang!” only to be surprised by the guard’s delighted smile and cheery rendition of the theme song to Married… with Children. While Chicago may be […]

Urbino: Ideal Renaissance city drowned in a sea of drunken students

How could I help it?  I idealized Urbino. Even though I’ve long maintained a vigilant stance against romanticizing people and places alike, this was Urbino: Renaissance mecca for humanists, scholars, art and architecture.   The location, in the isolated and mountainous region of Italy’s Marche, combined with being a university town filled me with visions of […]

Bamberg Cathedral’s Last Judgment tympanium: some kings go to heaven, some kings go to H-E-double hockey stick.

See, there’s Christ in the center, with Virgin and St. John at his feet.  Some happy naked people are popping up out of graves under his feet.  On the left, some annoyingly self-satisfied folks are headed to their eternal reward, on the right, well, the facial expressions say it all. I know, I know,  I […]

Gothic sculpture in Bamberg: disputing prophets and apostles, a touch of anti-semitism, and a secret tip

Do you love Gothic sculpture?  Well, what are you waiting for?  Get yourself over to Bamberg, Germany asap, run up a steep hill past all the college kids drinking smoked beer, past the City Hall that may or may not have been designed by Jeff Koons, to the cathedral.  Don’t miss the superb tympanum and the […]

Two crucifixes in Cologne: Gero’s and Gabelkruzifix

The crucifixion of Christ is one of the most predominate symbols of Christian Art, so it’s surprising to realize that, as a form of art, it’s only developed in the last 1000 or so years.  (Back in the early days, when Christians were trying to recruit converts, a symbol of a tortured man probably wasn’t so […]

Goosebumps in Speyer cathedral

Monumental but austere and a superb space to hear organ music: Speyer’s imperial cathedral is glorious.  And because we seem to be the luckiest travelers ever to wear matching Rick Steves backpacks, we happened to enter just as a first-rate organist performed on the cathedral’s organ.  It filled the church with sound, turning the entire building […]

In which I meet the Bamberg Rider and the attraction is mutual

No one knows the identity of the Bamberg Rider, an equestrian statue in the Cathedral of Bamberg, though there’s no shortage of scholarly speculation.  The other great mystery is why I am so attracted to this statue.  While we were rushing uphill to the church to see him, HOB said to me “Now why is it […]

Tonight I’m sleeping with the monks at Maulbronn Monastery

Tonight we’re sleeping in a monastery ….well, almost.   Our hotel is a bona fide UNESCO World Heritage sight.   It was built here right beside the Maulbronn Monastery in Southwestern Germany (and these days it comes with Wi-Fi) The grounds of the monastery, which was founded in 1147, and the enclosed cloister are strikingly well preserved.  I […]