Posts Tagged ‘illuminated manuscripts’

A very cold February day in London

February 13, 2012
my garden in the morning

my garden in the morning

a veritable winter wonderland

a veritable winter wonderland

London Eye

London Eye

Hungerford Bridge

Hungerford Bridge

Thames and St Paul's from Hungerford Bridge

Thames and St Paul's from Hungerford Bridge

Friday a day out in London. A very cold day out in London to the British Library, an exhibition on illuminated manuscripts in the afternoon, a concert by The Sixteen in the evening.

It snowed Thursday night. I got up Friday morning to find my garden white with snow, the trees covered in snow.

I went back to bed. No, I have to get up, I have a day in London planned.

I walked to the station. Along came a bus. I hopped on the bus.

The train journey into London a veritable winter wonderland.

We have become used to mild, wet winters for the last decade, that a cold spell arrives comes to us as a shock. This has been an exceptionally long, exceptional cold spell.

It snowed the previous weekend on the Saturday. It has been cold, below zero, since the Monday before the Saturday when it snowed.

As the train approached Waterloo two interesting buildings caught my eye. One, still under construction, a tall pyramid shaped needle, the other looked like the sail of a boat.

The sun was now out, and so although it was very cold, I decided to walk to Covent Garden rather than catch the Tube. In the sun pleasant, out of the sun, very very cold.

I went on a little detour out the back of Waterloo Station. There used to be an excellent second-hand record shop, I thought I would see if I could find it. I did not recognise where I was, decided it would be a wild goose chase and gave up.

I walked over Hungerford Bridge, excellent views looking downstream of St Paul’s on the skyline, through Victoria Embankment Gardens and up into Covent Garden, where I had arranged to meet a friend who I had not seen for twenty years, for lunch in Food For Thought. In the sun it was pleasant, out of the sun very, very cold

Food for Thought was as always excellent.

We then caught the Tube to King’s Cross St Pancras. Emerging into the street it was very, very cold. What was it going to be like tonight? Forecast was well below zero.

We walked the short walk to the British Library which is just past St Pancras Station.

A little wander around the library. Looked at a small collection of books celebrating the life of Charles Dickens. Where was the Reading Room where Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto? We learnt later the Reading Room was in the British Museum. We then tried to enter the exhibition on illuminated manuscripts.

They would not let us in. Said our tickets were only valid for the evening. After some hassle and the intervention and apologies from a more senior member of staff, we were allowed in.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination

The exhibition was excellent, but after an hour or so, my head started to spin. We decided to go off and get something to eat and come back in the evening. On leaving we double checked the time and was told doors opened at 7pm.

We walked down Euston Road to Euston Station. A very cold walk. Around the back of Euston Station is a side street with excellent Indian restaurants.

We ate at Chutney’s. The food as always was excellent.

We got back to the British Library around 7-15pm to find people hanging around outside. It was subzero but they would not let anyone in until 7-30pm, the time stated on the tickets.

Once in, a man apologised for all the hassle we had been given and was grateful for raising the issues. He gave me a copy of a CD by The Sixteen as way of apology. I thanked him, said the exhibition was excellent and we were looking forward to The Sixteen.

After-hours access sounds great. It was not. It was very crowded, by now I was very tired and could not remember what I had seen and what I had not seen.

The concert was very informal. People standing, sitting on the floor, on the stairs on the balcony. We were lucky and had seats. The seats were for the elderly and infirm. I felt a bit guilty taking one, until I thought, I have been very poorly with bronchitis and this was the first day I have been out in three weeks.

The concert was excellent. Music of the period inspired by the exhibition, with an accompanying CD, of which I had been given a complimentary copy.

Musical Illuminations

By now I was exhausted.

We went to a pub and relaxed with a much needed drink. Then Tube to Waterloo and trains home.

My train seemed to have got lost. Why was it passing through East Putney? A very slow journey due to bad weather conditions and trains ahead.

My train did not arrive at my station until twenty minutes past midnight. A long walk home in the cold. Luckily there was no wind. My face was starting to burn from the cold.

I arrive arrived home in the early hours of the morning, ten minutes before one o’clock.

Later in the day, I did not get up until midday, I learnt it had been the coldest night of the winter. In Holbeach in Lincolnshire it dropped to minus 15.6 C, the coldest recorded temperature since 1910. During the day, Coningsby in Lincolnshire was the coldest place, the temperature not rising above minus 6 C.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination

February 11, 2012
feast of Belshazzar

feast of Belshazzar

An illiterate King is like a crowned ass. – John of Salisbury

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination is an exhibition of Royal Manuscripts at the British Museum. But please do not even think of ordering tickets on-line as to do so is a nightmare.

On-line tickets for British Museum exhibition

The nightmare continues when you arrive. Tickets for a concert by The Sixteen that evening, explicitly gave admission to the exhibition. But not according to the guardian on the door. No you cannot gain access, you have to buy your tickets, your tickets are for this evening only. Absolutely ridiculous, but common sense did eventually prevail, with apologies from the British Library.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination runs from 11 November 2011 to 13 March 2012, with associated talks, a concert by early music group The Sixteen and a three part series on BBC Four, Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings.

The British Library’s unique collection of medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts. Collected by the kings and queens of England over 800 years these treasures are outstanding examples of the decorative and figurative painting of the era. Together they are our most vivid source for understanding royal identity, moral and religious beliefs, learning, faith artistic trends and the international politics of the period.

Books within books. Athelstan shown reading a book, Athelstan shown giving St Cuthbert a book.

Note: The St Cuthbert Bible is on display in an adjacent semi-permanent exhibition which sadly we had no time to look round. The St Cuthbert Bible is only on loan and will be lost to the nation if funds are not found to purchase. [see St Cuthbert’s Bible]

Strong link between art, books, Kings and religion (the great monastic houses).

Books were revered.

Athelstan the first King to have his image in a book. Athelstan, the Anglo-Saxon King who united the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to form one kingdom, England

Edgar, had a book written by the monks of Winchester, the pages are written in gold! The king holding a book, a gold book, probably the book written in gold.

Being in the good books, had a quite literal meaning. The Anglo-Saxon monks of Winchester kept a register. If your name was listed, you would be called by Christ to enter Heaven,

I never knew Cnut was entombed at Winchester. Not quite what one would expect for a Danish King. But then would you expect Napoleon II and Empress Eugenie to be entombed in Farnborough Abbey, guarded by French Benedictine monks.

The illuminations are amazing to look at. Many of the books are huge.

The British Library has created a set of facebook albums of the illuminated manuscripts, together with detailed notes. Please feel free to share on your facebook wall and with that of your friends.

A lot to take in, after an hour or so, my head began to spin.

The books were commissioned by Kings, given as presents, received as spoils of war.

Bibles, history of the Bible or Bible historiale, history of the world, an early encyclopedia, instructions on princely behaviour, music, an atlas commissioned by Henry VIII opened at a page showing Brazil.

The Bible Histories tell Biblical stories, but the beauty of the illustrations are the clothes of the day of the illustrator.

These manuscripts are usually locked away in the vaults. We were lucky to see them. After the exhibition ends, it will be a long time before they see the light of day again. If you are able to, make the effort to visit as it is well worth it.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination
Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings
My Name is Red