Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Mosaic floor of an early Christian Basilica, Delphi

The mosaic floor of an early Christian basilica, found in the archaeological site of Delphi, is from the 5th-6th AD. It was brought to light by chance in 1959, during digging for the foundations of a building in the modern town of Delphi. 

The mosaic depicts numerous animals, including deer, eagles, peacocks, fish, octopus, sea creatures, birds and many more, while the male figures show fishermen and farmers. This monument, beyond the boundaries of the ancient sanctuary, sheds light on the history and topography of the town of Delphi during the Byzantine period. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Twins of Argos

The two identical, over life size statues, are the oldest monumental votive offerings at Delphi and one of the earliest paradigms of large scale archaic sculpture. Such a pair of statues in ancient Greek art is quite rare. From the time of their discovery, they have been identified with two mighty and pious brothers from Argos, Cleobis and Biton whom the Argives wished to honour by making and dedicating statues of them at Delphi. Other interpretations, however, identify the two statues as the Dioscuri, whose cult was widespread in the Peloponnese.

Herodotus describes the story of Cleobis and Biton as follows:
"...Cleobis and Biton were men of Argives stock, had sufficient wealth as well as physical strength. They had both won prizes at athletic games and the following story is told of them: a festival of Hera was being celebrated in Argos and it was absolutely necessary for their mother to be taken by wagon to the temple dedicated to the goddess, but the oxen that were to drag it had not come back from the fields. As time passed, the two youths became anxious, so they harnessed themselves beneath the yoke and dragged the wagon, their mother riding on it, for a distance of 45 stades until they reached the temple...And the mother, in her great joy at what they had done for her and the praise she had heard, stood in front of the statue of the goddess and prayed for Hera to give her sons, Cleobis and Biton, who had honoured her so greatly, whatsoever is best for a man to receive. And after this prayer, when they had sacrificed and feasted, the two youths lay down to sleep in the sanctuary and never rose again. And the Argives made statues in their likeness and dedicated them as offerings at Delphi, believing that they had proven themselves to be the best of men". (Herodotus 1,31)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Street Art in Bristol

Bristol's street art scene is extremely diverse and has many talented street artists at its forefront. Many might be against street art, however, another way of looking at it is accepting its meanings and colours, especially when they are applied on the grey concrete of a city. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A rainbow in your hand

A Japanese publisher released a book entitled, "Rainbow in your hand" in order to bring to us the rainbow, creating thus unique feelings for everyone. It works in a great manner; as you turn the pages quickly, flicking through the book, it creates a three dimensional picture in your hand, giving a beautiful illusion.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scary work of art

"The Mending Project" is the new work by artist Beili Liu, who invites everyone to take part in an interactive repair work that causes terror. The viewers are invited one by one to sit at a table and carefully cut a piece of fabric from a large cloth in order to create a huge patchwork fabric, which eventually surrounds the table. However, on the ceiling of the gallery, just above the seat where the volunteer sits, there are hundreds of sharp scissors hanging. 

The scissors are located there in order to affect mentally the visitor; hence the simple task of cutting a fabric becomes a scary execution. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

God cannot do everything...!

Recently I took an interest in Aesop's Fables. I came across a very interested story, which is used in many other forms by the Christian world. The fable is entitled "The Shipwreck Man":

A rich Athenian was sailing with some other travellers. A violent tempest suddenly arose, and the boat capsized. Then, while the other passengers were trying to save themselves by swimming, the Athenian continually invoked the aid of the goddess Athena (patroness of his city), and promised offering after offering if only she would save him. One of his shipwrecked companions, who swam beside him, said to him: 'Appeal to Athena by all means, but also move your arms'. 

By this small didactic story we understand that we can invoke the gods, however, we must not forget to put in our own efforts to save ourselves. In Greek there is a phrase for this, taken from this story, 'συν Αθηνά και χείρα κίνει᾿. This of course applies, also, to the Christian faith, whereby we should pray to God, but we need to help ourselves too. Without the latter (and due to our free will) it is difficult for God to help us. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Stavrovouni Monastery, Cyprus

Perched on a rocky peak, Stavrovouni means Mountain of the Cross. This is 9km off the Nicosia-Limassol highway and stands high above the surrounding landscape on a rocky outcrop. It was founded in the 4th century by St Helena who built it to contain a fragment of the true cross. St Helena is said to have introduced cats to Cyprus to deal with the number of snakes she found when building the monastery. The brotherhood is extremely devout, keeping vows as strict as those at Mount Athos in Greece. 

The Monastery of Agia Varvara (Saint Barbara) at the foot of Stavrovouni Hill is easily accessible. The monks here have a reputation for icon painting.

From the peak of the Monastery, there is a magnificent view of Larnaca; the Monastery stands at approximately 600 meters. As of its history, it has been abandoned and burnt multiple times, first in 1426 by Arab invaders and in 1570 by Turks. The monks returned and reoccupied the Monastery in 1670. Currently, the Monastery looks like its last renovation and reconstruction of the 19th century A.D. What is necessary to note about Stavrovouni Monastery, is that only men are allowed to enter.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ancient Greek Musical Inscriptions

The blocks found here are from the southern outer wall of the Athenian treasury, in Delphi. They are incised with musical inscriptions, hymns to Apollo. These inscriptions are the oldest written notation of a melody. Between the verses, written in the Ionic alphabet, notes have been inscribed for both the choral and instrumental scores. The music for the instruments (cithara, lyre, flute) was written in combinations of characters and punctuation. 

The hymns were composed by Athenaios and Limenios and carved into the wall of the treasury in 128 B.C. Without division into stanzas or repetition of melody, the two hymns accompanied the sacrifices and religious ceremony with which Apollo was honoured by the procession of the Pythais, i.e. the Athenian official ambassadors and pilgrims to Delphi. The hymns were sung by a large choir accompanied by lyres and flutes. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Beauty of Piazza Navona

The foundations of the building surrounding the elongated oval of Piazza Navona were the ruined grandstands of the vast Stadium of Domitian. The piazza still provides a dramatic spectacle today with the obelisk of the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumu in front of the church of Sant' Agnese in Agone as its focal point. 

The predominant style of the area is Baroque, many of its finest buildings dating from the reign of Innocent X (1644-55), patron of Bernini and Borromini. 

No other piazza in Rome can rival the theatricality of Piazza Navona. Day and night there is always something going on in the pedestrian area around its three flamboyant fountains. 

Up until the 19th century, Piazza Navona was flooded during August by stopping the fountains outlets. The rich would hence splash around in their carriages. Today, with its numerous shops restaurants and cafes, the piazza is a favourite in all seasons. During the summer months it is busy with street entertainers, while in winter it fills with colourful stalls selling toys and sweets for the feast of the Befana.