Monday, 22 May 2017

South of Naples

They say that 'Northern Italy has euros but Southern Italy has soul'. It was certainly very noticeable that the south of Italy is far cheaper - for instance, who could resist a delicious Italian geleto that costs only 2 for a super double scoop in any of your favourite flavours?
In most places tourists are thin on the ground, reminding me of a time over 40 years ago whilst visiting Siena and having it almost to ourselves. 

Tourists clutching 'selfie sticks' were noticeably absent, but there were several delightful groups of chattering, happy, school children in the Baroque treasure trove of Lecce, one of Southern Italy's appealing cities.
A flight to Naples marked the start of our southern journey eventually ending up in what is known as 'Italy's heel'

It was hot - the sun shone brightly all day, everyday from dawn to dusk
Fine wines

delicious food was on the menu
freshly made pasta
80% of Italy's pasta is made from the durum wheat grown in this southern region 

We visited and travelled along the coast of the Adriatic Sea
to the 
Rocky spectacular Gargano peninsula with it's dramatic geological coastline of caves, grottoes 

and deserted beaches

Cities were explored

 and quaint hilltop towns 

An ever present feature were the brilliant colours of both the wild and cultivated flowers
and the Olive groves were laden with blossom
In the next post we discover a link to Cappadocia,  Turkey visited over three years ago.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Different Horizons

 Now that early summer has hit the garden we are leaving it to it's own devices, and heading off to a country we know well, but visiting and travelling in pastures new. 
I am pleased that the Cercis siliquastrum - Judas Tree has decided to flower before we leave
and also the Himalayan Piptanthuys nepalensis

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Lyveden New Bield

To appreciate the background to Lyveden New Bield reading the previous post here would help

Rushton Hall, Sir Thomas Tresham's principal home was roughly 12 miles away, as the crow flies, from the manor of Lyveden. However, this too was another part of his very large Northamptonshire country estate. 
It was here that Tresham decided to build another of his enigmatic lodges covered in the symbolic images of his Catholic faith together with an Elizabethan moated pleasure garden.
It was begun in 1595 but still unfinished at his death ten years later in 1605.  
It does resemble a small unfinished Elizabethan manor house, but it was built purely as a garden lodge where Tresham could spend time alone or entertain his guests. Visitors would stay at Tresham's manor house in the valley, wander up through his fruit orchard, then stroll through the garden before arriving at the lodge where they would be wined and dined on arrival. 
Whilst exploring inside the lodge several Red Kites were patrolling the skies above
The design for the lodge was based on a symmetrical Greek cross of exact proportions. The four bay windows each have 5 sides and are 5ft long (5 x 5  = 25) The Feast of the Annunciation being observed on the 25th March, and the Nativity on the 25th December.
Again like Rushton Triangular Lodge Lyveden is dominated by groups of three representing the Holy Trinity. The walls carry shields in sets of three, separated by a trio of windows with diamonds also in threes.
Emblems and inscriptions run all around the frieze, there is Judas's money bag holding 30 pieces of silver, the crown of thorns, dice and Roman helmets to represent the rolling of a dice by soldiers to claim the garment Christ wore on the cross, and the mongram IHS, the first three Greek letters that spell Jesus. 
It was an exciting landscape to explore as we discovered the extent of the 400 year old moats, and the Elizabethan Snail Mounts also known as Spiral Mounts. Elizabethans enjoyed wandering up them to the viewing point where they could embrace the wider landscape set out before them.
As we discovered the second mount I was reminded of Charles Jencks, the 21st century landscape/garden designer, and the grassy, sculptural hills, he sets within his landscapes. I pondered that the Elizabethans appear to have got there more than 400 years before him!
These earthworks at Lyveden originally extended much higher, but remain rare examples of the Elizabethan garden 
They are carefully monitored to ensure that foot traffic does not damage the underlying structures. The grass is allowed to grow on the slopes to encourage visitors to follow and keep to the spiral pathway. The longer grass also provides a perfect habitat for wild flowers and butterflies.
An antique print of Dunham Massey showing an example of a Snail Mount
By the time of Sir Thomas Tresham's death in 1605, he had run up substantial debts. Between 1581 and 1605 he had paid penatlites totalling just under £8,000 (equivalent to almost 2 million pounds today). He gave each of his six daughters sizable dowries of over £12,000, but all of this was overshadowed by the expense of his building projects.
His eldest son, Francis inherited the titles, estates and debts, but immediately became embroiled in the Gunpowder Plot that same year of 1605. Along with two of his cousins he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for his actions. He would have been hanged, drawn and quartered with his cousins and other conspirators had he not died unexpectedly on December 22nd 1605. Many thought that he died from poisoning while the official government version of the day was that he died from strangury – an acute inflammation of the urinary tract. Following his death, Frances was treated like a traitor. His land was forfeited and his name was attached to the list of other conspirators who wanted to murder James I. Despite not being tried, his corpse was decapitated, and his head set up over the town gate in Northampton, whilst his body was thrown into a hole at Tower Hill.
image Dunham Massey courtesy National Trust

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Rushton Triangular Lodge and Sir Thomas Tresham

In c16th Europe subjects were expected to follow the religion of their rulers, and those who did not were frequently persecuted. Initially Queen Elizabeth l was more tolerant than most rulers, and at the beginning of her reign in 1558 Catholics were financially penalised but otherwise spared ill treatment. They could hold public office, but had to pay a small fine if they did not attend Anglican service in their parish church on Sundays. Those who stayed away were known as recusants - many who made a  token visit but who remained Catholic became known as 'Church Papists'. However, later in her reign, and under pressure from the government all of this changed.
Rushton Hall home of the Tresham family and now a five star luxury hotel
A magnificent oriel window with curved glass

Thomas Tresham - the younger, was orphaned at the age of three, and sent by his grandfather Sir Thomas Tresham - the elder, to live with the prominent Throckmorton family at Coughton Court, Warwickshire. His grandfather was the Grand Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and the owner of some of the countries wealthiest estates in Northamptonshire. Thomas, the younger, became heir to these estates at the age of 15 years.
Thomas was now rich, capable, clever, well educated and well connected. He married Meriel, the daughter of Sir Robert Throckmorton, and they had ten children. He was one of a group of gentry knighted by Queen Elizabeth l at Kenilworth Castle in 1575, and must have seemed set to become one of the leading figures in the country if he felt so inclined. Although his grandfather was a practising Roman Catholic, young Thomas was a lapsed Catholic, or at least appears to have conformed to Protestantism in early adulthood. However, after the Reformation, the Roman Catholic church sent a group of missionary priests to England to revive the Catholic religion, and Tresham was one of their most important converts. He became an ardent Catholic, one of the 'recusants' who refused to attend Anglican service. Later in Elizabeth's reign the government treated all Catholics as potential traitors and all priests enemy agents and stringent penal laws were passed. Many wealthy loyal Catholic families had secret 'priest holes' built in their homes where a visiting priest could hide away from danger. They also had secret places within the house - cabinets with concealed draws and doors, which could then be turned into an altar and used for Mass.  Although fervently and openly loyal to Elizabeth l Tresham was continuously sent to prison, subject to house arrest, or under surveillance.
Rushton Triangular Lodge was designed by Tresham himself in the 1590s following a long spell in prison. The building is a testament to his faith, and is dominated by references to the number three, symbolic of the Holy Trinity: it has three storys and three walls, each thirty-three feet long with three windows and three gables each. The upper storey is also 33 feet wide - 33 was the age at which it is said Christ died on the cross. The exterior also features trefoils and biblical quotations together with numbers, some of which still remain mysterious in their meaning.
view from the lodge - Rushton Hall is just about visible behind the trees on the lefthand side
The lodge stands on the edge of the parklands to Rushton Hall, and was built as a home for Tresham's Warrener (keeper of rabbits). It originally stood in rough open ground surrounded by hundreds of rabbits amongst the grass and bracken.

Over the entrance door is the Latin inscription 'Tres testimonium dant', and the numbers 5555. This phrase could mean either 'The number three bears witness' or Tresham bears witness' - his wife used to refer to him as 'Tres'. The first two 55 are probably a cryptogram for 'Jesus Maria', the words with which Tresham headed all his letters to Catholic correspondents: he liked coding words by the number of letters in them. The second 55 may just repeat this, or could represent the number of letters in 'Salus Mundi' (referring to Christ as the saviour of the world). Another interpretation, which does not rule out the first one (a double meaning really delighted Tresham) is that 5555 is a date. According to one contemporary computation 3962BC was the date at which the world was created. Counting the years from this date makes 5555 stand for AD1593, the year of the conception of the Lodge. The numbers 15 and 93 also appear in large metal letters fixed to the south-east and north fronts respectively.

On this south-west front is TT for Thomas Tresham, and 'Tres testimonium' 
The nine angels holding water spouts under all of the gables for draining water off the roof, are each inscribed with two letters, or with one letter and a triangle. These read sequentially around the building as SSSDDS and QEEQEEQVE. They have been convincingly interpreted as the initial letters of 'Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth' and 'Qui Erat et Qui Est et Qui Venturus Est' - Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts', 'Who was, and who is, and who will be'. The first phrase comprises the opening of the hymn of praise that occurs in the most solemn part of the Mass, just before the round wafer of unleavened bread known as the Host is, according to Catholic belief, transformed into the body of Jesus Christ. 
It is not possible to describe all the numerous symbols and their meanings, but if you notice anything on these photos and would be interested to know more then I would be happy to try and give the answer.
If visiting it is well worth buying the little guide book from English Heritage who look after the lodge.
Inside the Lodge the circular and cross-shaped aperture windows create a striking pattern of light
There will be a further post showing another of Thomas Tresham's idiosyncratic Lodges
1st image Rushton Hall courtesy hotel website