Monday, June 24, 2013

Gargoyles of Cambridge, England: Our Lady and the English Martyrs

Our Lady and the English Martyrs, aka OLEM, is a beautiful Catholic church in Cambridge, England, that's covered in gargoyles. It's a Gothic Revival church built in the late 1800s, and it's one of the largest Catholic churches in the UK. I stumbled upon this church by accident when I was on tagging along on a day trip to Cambridge and had a few hours on my own to explore the city.

Look closely at the following two gargoyles and see what you might spot...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lisbon's Castelo de São Jorge (St. George's Castle)

This Lisbon castle sits at the top of a steep hill in the city's Alfama district. Streetcars don't go directly to the castle, but the steep walk is worth it. The Romans, Visgoths, and Moors all built sections of the fortification over the years. Most of the castle is now in ruins, but you can walk along the ramparts for fabulous views of the city.

Looking past one of the castle's cannons, you can see the Convento do Carmo.

Lisbon's raven coat of arms.

Peacocks run wild all over the grounds...

...including blocking the door to the castle's cafe!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Lisbon Cathedral

The Neo-Gothic Lisbon Cathedral (Cathedral Se) is part of the way up one of Lisbon's many steep hills, not far from Castle Sao Jorge. One of the most fascinating things about this cathedral is a legend associated with one of its relics. The cathedral holds the remains of St. Vincent, the Patron Saint of Lisbon. According to legend, two ravens watched over the saint's body as it was transported to its final resting place in Lisbon. The ravens took up residence in the cathedral, and their descendants remained there for centuries. That's how ravens came to be a symbol of Lisbon and adorn the city's coat of arms. 


Construction of the cathedral began in 1147, after the Portuguese recaptured the city from the Moors. Part of the cathedral was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake that damaged much of the region. These days modern electric tram wires surround the cathedral. Though the wires obstruct views of the building, being able to ride the tram up the steep hill makes it worth it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Medieval Castle Outside Lisbon, Portugal: Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors)

High on a hill above the city of Sintra, outside of Lisbon, Portugal, are the remains of a medieval Moorish castle. Built by the Moors in the 8th or 9th century, Portuguese kings gained control after the Siege of Lisbon in  1147. The castle was damaged in a 1636 fire and suffered further damage during the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. It would have been left to complete ruins if it hadn't been for King Ferdinand II, a patron of the arts who romanticized the middle ages and decided to reconstruct the castle in the 1800s. It's now a National Monument of Portugal and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

A map showing the layout of the sprawling castle:

Exploring the castle: