Tag Archives: history

My Introduction to the Eternal City

The second I ascended the metro (subway) stairs into the busy Roman morning, I knew right away this was a city I would get lost in. And, in time, I realized that it was the perfect city to get lost in.

Around every corner, history, culture, color, life, and the very spirit of humanity itself, simply leaps out towards you and calls you to a undivided chorus of curiosity,  amazement, and joy. It is simply unfathomable that this city continues to breathe with the art and stone laid by Romulus and Remus themselves. The Eternal City serves not only as a tribute to the Romans, but seems to welcome every corner of the earth beneath its architectural and cultural canopy.

We in the west especially are specially indebted to this city that ‘saved’ us through the years from vandal, savage, and ignorance. Imagining the scientific, philosophical, and architectural genius  cultivated in its bosom over the years, we can almost picture Leo the Great in 452 AD imploring the powerful Attila the Hun to leave its unparalleled patrimony in peace.  The innumerable museums, churches, and art call us to contemplate the world outside ourselves and our present yearnings for self, demonstrating and reminding us that it is through our collective and cooperative pursuits that we gain immortality.

The city is simply a witness to beauty. Its cobbled and narrow streets burst with treasures ancient and modern. Electric trams and mopeds ring their bells while whizzing along streets paved long before Benjamin Franklin ever dreamt of sunlight. Children play marbles under trees; the same trees giving shade to an archeological dig where their fathers immemorial might have played with glass first made larger than beads.

Using elements as ubiquitous and primal as water, the venerated Bernini, among others,  works the marvelous gift that is baroque architecture into our hearts. (The featured photo for this page displays Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi with the glorious facade of the church of Sant’Agnese). Egyptian obelisks point majestically heavenward from rooftops and fountains, perhaps in an attempt to remind visitors of the city’s spiritual heritage. Crowned with the Christian cross, they serve as signs to the city’s papal guardians and benefactors, whose successors, the last of Europe’s absolute monarchs, sit on sovereign territory just a few feet away from my hostel window.

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Last days in Vienna


en2My last days in Vienna were spent exploring the remaining parts of the city on a hop-on hop-off bus tour. Another German word I picked up from this portion of my journey was platz, which translates to square.” Knowing this, it was easier to understand what the Stephansplatz must be and I also quickly verified the Stephansdom [photo] as Stephan’s Cathedral, Austria’s tallestAnother interesting church in Vienna was the Romanesque Kirche zum heiligen Franz von Assisi or St. Francis of Assisi Church [photo].A grand statue of Empress Maria Theresa [photo] towered over a square near the city’s cultural centre, the museumsquartier. At a time when only men succeeded their fathers and when rule over kingdoms was legitimated through simple blood relation, her ascension to the vast Habsburg dominions was naturally met with great opposition. Her father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI had issued the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, granting females succession rights with which he acheived agreement among the powers within and outside his realm. After his death, however, the thirst for territory outweighed the promised peace and Maria Theresa had to preserve her birthright in the War of Austrian Succession against Prussia, France, and others. Her legacy in Austria is comparable to Victoria in Britain. She is often portrayed as a powerful matriarch, extending her had in protection or favor to her subjects. She, like Victoria, greived deeply at the loss of her husband, the Emperor Francis Stephen.
The mark of the Habsburgs is noticeable throughout the city. Their double-headed eagle can be spotted in numerous arches or atop state buildings including the Hofburg palace [photo] [photo]. I’ve mentioned the Habsburgs in earlier posts on this blog. That’s because the family has ruled at various times in what are present-day Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands. On what is known as the Outer Castle Gate or the Außeres Burgtor at the Hofburg Palace [photo] you can see the laurel-wreathed crests of the Emperor’s many dominions.  

es2Los ultimos dias de mis excursiones en Vienna, yo monté el autobús turístico (hop-on hop-off). Otra palabra alemana yo descubría mientras en este parte de mi viaje es platz. La palabra se traduce como “plaza.” Era fácil de entender que es Stephansplatz y Stephansdom [photo] (traduce como la Catedral de Stephan), la catedral más alta de Austria. Otra iglesia interesante en la ciudad es Kirche zum heiligen Franz von Assisi, la iglesia romanesque, Iglesia de San Francisco de Assisi [photo].
Una gran estatua de la emperatriz María Teresa [photo] está en una plaza cerca de Museumquartier, (centro cultural de la de la ciudad). En su época, solo los hombres sucedieron sus padres. Ademas, los príncipes gobernaron por los derechos de sangre. Por eso, otros demandantes amenazaron a su ascensión a el vasto imperio Habsburgo. Su padre, Emperador del Sacro Imperio, Carlos VI hizo una ley que permitía a las mujeres heredar el trono,la Pragmática Sanción de 1713.
Los austriacos consideran a ella como los británicos consideran Victoria: una gobernante fuerte y poderosa, madre fecunda, y esposa amante. Ella luchó contra los prusianos, franceses, y otros por su herencia.

El signo de los Habsburgo es una águila bicéfala. Se puede encontrar en muchos edificios del gobierno en todo la cuidad, como el palacio Hofburg.
He mencionado los Habsburgo en anteriores entradas de blog. Eso es porque esta familia gobernó en varias ocasiones en el territorio de los paises actuales de Hungría, República Checa, Alemania y los Países Bajos.

En las fotos de esta página, puedes ver los símbolos del los dominios vastos Habsburgo en la famosa Outer Castle Gate.

Una vez más. Por favor, perdona mi español horrible! Estoy aprendiendo 🙂

Journey to the Heart of London (Part 2)

In London I went on my first hop-on-hop-off city bus tour. These are great for people who don’t have a lot of time to see all the historic or important landmarks in a place like London, where they are plentiful and somewhat widely dispersed. These buses have person audio guides that play background music reflective of the historical background/heritage of the particular country/area of operation. The background music for this tour consisted of historic christian (and, British) hymns.

I was reminded of the historical (and persisting) relationship between church and state that most Americans (and most other democracies for that matter) would probably wince at. You see, in England, the Anglican (or Episcopal) church is established by law as the national church. As a public institution, it provides marriages, baptisms, and other services to believing members and non-believers alike. The Supreme Governor of the Church of England is the English Sovereign, whose power is usually exercised through Parliament.

They played pieces such as Now Thank We All Our God and O God Our Help in Ages Past. I also heard Jerusalem/And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time (William Blake), which I kept hearing on TV commercials as well. The words of the hymn appear below. Even if you’re not “religiously affiliated,” it’s interesting to note, simply even for poetic analysis, the interesting nature of the hymn.

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

Dripping with patriotic mysticism, this hymn must be one of the most rhetorical I’ve heard yet. With an answer to the first verse in the positive being highly implausible, Blake juxtaposed the fantastical with the metaphorically possible “arrows of desire,” and the idealized reality of England’s “green & pleasant land.” One feels obliged to see the whole thing not as an ode to an unreachable utopia of the future, but as a call to constant vigilance in the creation of idealized (but tenable) peace through mental and physical exertion in the present.

Check out more photos in the extended Facebook Album

Besides the content, the hymn is truly a beauty to hear. I’ve included a link at the end of the post. Hear it here: