Tower of London

The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 (Ranulf Flambard) until 1952 (Kray twins),[3] although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times, and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. From the early 14th century until the reign of Charles II, a procession would be led from the Tower to Westminster Abbey on the coronation of a monarch. In the absence of the monarch, the Constable of the Tower is in charge of the castle. This was a powerful and trusted position in the medieval period. In the late 15th century the castle was the prison of the Princes in the Tower. Under the Tudors, the Tower became used less as a royal residence, and despite attempts to refortify and repair the castle its defences lagged behind developments to deal with artillery.

The peak period of the castle’s use as a prison was the 16th and 17th centuries, when many figures who had fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Elizabeth Throckmorton were held within its walls. This use has led to the phrase „sent to the Tower„. Despite its enduring reputation as a place of torture and death, popularised by 16th-century religious propagandists and 19th-century writers, only seven people were executed within the Tower before the World Wars of the 20th century. Executions were more commonly held on the notorious Tower Hill to the north of the castle, with 112 occurring there over a 400-year period. In the latter half of the 19th century, institutions such as the Royal Mint moved out of the castle to other locations, leaving many buildings empty. Anthony Salvin and John Taylor took the opportunity to restore the Tower to what was felt to be its medieval appearance, clearing out many of the vacant post-medieval structures. In the First and Second World Wars, the Tower was again used as a prison, and witnessed the executions of 12 men for espionage. After the Second World War, damage caused during the Blitz was repaired, and the castle reopened to the public. Today the Tower of London is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Under the ceremonial charge of the Constable of the Tower, it is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces and is protected as a World Heritage Site. (Wikipedia)

Photo Dragos Robatzchi


Trier Cathedral

The High Cathedral of Saint Peter in Trier (German: Hohe Domkirche St. Peter zu Trier), or Cathedral of Trier (German: Trierer Dom), is a Roman Catholic church in Trier, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is the oldest cathedral in the country. The edifice is notable for its extremely long life span under multiple different eras each contributing some elements to its design, including the center of the main chapel being made of Roman brick laid under the direction of Saint Helen, resulting in a cathedral added onto gradually rather than rebuilt in different eras. Its dimensions, 112.5 m length by 41 m width, make it the largest church structure in Trier. In 1986 it was listed as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The structure is raised upon the foundations of Roman buildings of Augusta Treverorum. Following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine the Bishop Maximin of Trier (329-346) coordinated the construction of the grandest ensemble of ecclesiastical structures in the West outside Rome: on a groundplan four times the area of the present cathedral no less than four basilicas, a baptistery and outbuildings were constructed; the four piers of the crossing formed the nucleus of the present structure.

The fourth-century structure was left in ruins by the Franks and rebuilt. Normans destroyed the structure again in 882. Under Archbishop Egbert (d. 993) it was restored once more.

The West front in five symmetrical sections remains typical of Romanesque architecture under the Salian emperors. The West end choir, with its apsidal semi-cylinder expressed on the exterior façade, was completed in 1196. The interior is of three Romanesque naves with Gothic vaulting, and a Baroque chapel for the relic of the Seamless robe of Jesus, recovered from the interior of the high altar in 1512, complete the interior.

The Latin inscription above the clock on the tower reads „NESCITIS QVA HORA DOMINVS VENIET” („You do not know what time the Lord is coming”).


Helena‘s head relic in the crypt of Trier cathedral

The Seamless Robe of Jesus, the robe said to have been worn by Jesus during or shortly before his crucifixion, is the most well-known relic in the cathedral treasure. It is kept in an annex and shown to the public only infrequently, most recently in 2012. Beyond that, the Cathedral also has one of the Holy Nails from the Cross.

The skull of St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, is displayed in the cathedral. Decorated portable altar and sandal of St. Andrew is also an important relic of the cathedral.[3] Text Wiki

Photo: Dragos Robatzchi


Merry Cemetery

 Merry cemetery tombstones

The Merry Cemetery (Romanian: Cimitirul Vesel pronounced [t͡ʃimiˈtirul ˈvesel]) is a cemetery in the village of Săpânța, Maramureş county, Romania. It is famous for its colourful tombstones with naïve paintings describing, in an original and poetic manner, the people who are buried there as well as scenes from their lives. The Merry Cemetery became an open-air museum and a national tourist attraction.

The unusual feature of this cemetery is that it diverges from the prevalent belief, culturally shared within European societies – a belief that views death as something indelibly solemn. Connections with the local Dacian culture have been made, a culture whose philosophical tenets presumably vouched for the immortality of the soul and the belief that death was a moment filled with joy and anticipation for a better life.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Photo: Dragos Robatzchi

Sighet – Romanian Saxon deported to Soviet Union or Baragan

The Memorial Sighet was opened in 1997 in the former „Prison of the Ministers” (Inchisoarea Ministiriilor) in the town of Sighetu Marmatiei („Sighet”) located in the far north west, in the beautiful Maramures region.

The prison, which was active from 1897 until 1977, takes its name from the period during the 1950s when it held many political prisoners (former government ministers, generals, academicians, and religious leaders – the cultural and political elite of Romania) in terrible conditions – brought here because it was thought to be particularly secure since the town was just 2km from the Soviet frontier. 180 prisoners were held in terrible conditions in 72 cells. Many were elderly but this didn’t save them from beatings and punishment so it is no surprise that many died. These included one of the most respected prewar politicians, Iuliu Maniu who orchestrated the 1944 coup, Dinu Bratianu – leader of the National Liberal Party and Ion Mihalache – founder of the Peasants Party. The Memorial Sighet was established as a reminder of the atrocities committed by the communist regime – for years the populace had been brain-washed to create the so-called „New Man” through the rewriting of history and poisoning the memories of generations. Moral and civic values could only be recovered if the collective consciousness is duly recuperated. Sighet prison was chosen because it was the first of many political prisons set up in Stalinist times and because it was where the country’s political, spiritual and cultural elite of the pre-war democracy was exterminated. An International Study Centre was established here because out of all of the former communist countries, Romania’s experience had been the longest and most painful – from the long years of suppressed resistance to Ceausescu’s obscene „Golden Epoch”.

The Civic Academy Foundation took over the derelict prison in 1993 and began its reconstruction into a museum. Work included major renovation and the building of a Hall of Remembrance and Prayer. The cells have not been restructured – each floor still comprises 10 isolation cells and 4 shared cells, in addition to the „Black Cell”. The Memorial was opened in June 1997 by the Foundation’s president, the acclaimed writer Ana Blandiana – known for standing up to the Ceausescu regime.

    Map Room: an introduction to the Romanian „Gulag” – a giant map pinpoints the location of the main detention centres, psychiatric asylums, labour camps and common graves. Photos and further maps present further detail.
    Sighet Prison: the second room presents an introduction to the prison with plans and a layout of the museum.
    Collectivisation Room: Written and recorded documentation, pictures of collectivisation and peasant revolts, and repression of the peasantry provide a clear image of the Romanian countryside before and after collectivisation
    Hard Labour Room: this room introduces the labour camps – in particular the construction of the Danube-Black Sea Canal -„Death Canal”, but also the fate of the Romanian Saxons deported to the Soviet Union or Baragan Plain.
    Penitentiary Regime: the old kitchen has been converted into a room illustrating the prison regime.
    Maniu’s Cell: the cell where Iuliu Maniu died is one of the cells retained in original condition; there is also a separate permanent exhibition to the life of Iuliu Maniu in the museum.FIRST FLOOR
    The Black Cell: this was a punishment cell – detainees placed in this cold, damp and dark cell would be stripped naked and bare-footed. They received only half their daily food allowance and were often chained so that they could not sit down. This cell is also preserved in original condition
    Everyday Life in Prison / The Prison – Inside and Outside: two rooms illustrating the hard penitentiary regime. On display are items made by prisoners including small wooden crosses, communication tools and a clothchess set .
    The tragedy of the Church and the clerics, repression of intellectuals and the physical suffering by torture are also depicted in the rooms on this floor.
    Deportation to Baragan: an exhibition of documents, pictures and daily objects brought back from the villages of the Baragan plain.
    Women in Prison: this room presents two imprisoned women who were separated from their children – one of the most moving items is a bar of soap from the husband back at home bearing the carved words „I love you”.
    Visovan Room: representing the conditions in which the first group of students and young peasants were imprisoned
    Gheorghe Bratianu’s Cell: the cell in which Gheorghe Bratianu, professor and politician, died; Exhibition of the Cult of Ceausescu

    Many survivors of the prisons said that it was only their faith that kept them alive – here it is possible to light a candle and pay your respect to their memory.

    This group of bronze statues in the prison courtyard represents the pain and despair of the prisoners.

    The Paupers Cemetery (Cearda Cemetery )in Sighet is where the dead bodies from the prison were buried without a cross.

    The centre enables a flow of information from all over the former communist world; the archive and library were started in 1993 and now include thousands of recordings, documents, diaries, written testimonies of life in the gulag, and even letters from t Color he prison.


Viseul de Sus wood steam train

The Viseu de Sus forestry railway, located in the far north of Romania close to the border with the Ukraine, is an outstanding example of technical cultural heritage.  The line is known as the “Vaser Valley Railway” – „vaser” comes from the local German word for water, in the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Travelling over a network of some 60 kilometers of narrow-gauge track, you will still find wood-burning steam locomotives running alongside several diesels and railcars.  CFF Viseu de Sus („CFF” is the Romanian abbreviation for Caile Ferate Forestiere, meaning „Forestry Railway”) is the last remaining forestry railway in Europe.

The track was laid at the gauge of 760 mm (the standard for narrow gauge lines within the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The line runs alongside the Vaser River with numerous curves, bridges and several tunnels, into a wild and romantic valley, high in the Carpathian Mountains.  The railway opens up a vast area of isolated forest and mountain, without roads or villages but with plenty bears and wolves instead!

The industrial use of timber in the Vaser Valley began at the beginning of the 18th century, during the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  German-speaking settlers explored the forest, harvested the timber, and transported it in log rafts down the river to the saw mills of Viseu de Sus.  In 1932 the forestry railway was built – an enormous technical advance compared with the rafting.

Forestry railways were widespread across Europe, especially in the Carpathian Mountains. The operating principle was very simple: they followed the rivers, often necessitating tight curves – hence the use of the narrow gauge!  The tracks were constructed so as to enable small locomotives to pull empty logging wagons up into the mountains and to let heavily loaded trains roll down under gravity to the saw mills in Viseu de Sus.

While forest roads replaced the railways in most European countries after 1945, the forestry railways in Romania survived much longer – in 1970 the State-run forestry administration still operated more than 3000 kilometres of railway.  Even as late as 1986 new forestry steam locomotives were being built in Romania, and in 1989 more than 15 forestry railways were still in existence, totalling approximately 1000 kms of line.(Viseul de sus web site)Photo :Dragos Robatzchi

Patriarchal Cathedral

he Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God (Bulgarian: Патриаршеска катедрала „Свето Възнесение Господне“, Patriarsheska katedrala „Sveto Vaznesenie Gospodne“) is a former Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the city of Veliko Tarnovo, in north central Bulgaria. Located on top of the fortified Tsarevets hill in the former capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, the cathedral was the seat of the Bulgarian patriarch from its construction in the 11th–12th century to its destruction in 1393.

Standing on top of a late Roman church, the cathedral, reconstructed in the 1970s and 1980s, follows a cross-domed plan with a bell tower and a triple apse. Richly decorated on both the exterior and interior, its internal walls now feature modern frescoes, the presence of which has meant that it has not been reconsecrated. Though not active as a Christian place of worship, it has been open for visitors since 1985.


The Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God is not the first church building to occupy the position on top of the Tsarevets hill. It was constructed directly on top of a late Roman (early Byzantine) basilica which dates to the 5th–6th century AD. The Roman basilica may have remained in use by the local congregation during the First Bulgarian Empire, though it was no longer active by the time the construction of the current church began.[1][2]


The Patriarchal Cathedral as illustrated in a sketch in the 14th-century Braşov Menaion

The current building of the Patriarchal Cathedral is considered by scholars to have been built in two stages. The first stage of construction was carried out in the late 11th century or the 12th century. The cathedral was initially built as a monastery church in the middle of a monastery compound, though in the early 12th century it was already the seat of the Bulgarian patriarch. The compound suffered large-scale damage caused by a fire, which necessitated the church’s reconstruction in middle of the 14th century, perhaps during the rule of Tsar Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria (r. 1331–71). Besides repair and reinforcement efforts, work on the church in the 14th century also included the construction of the exonarthex and the bell tower.[1]

There are several references to the cathedral in medieval sources. The earliest reference to the church tells of the transfer of Saint Michael the Warrior‘s relics from the Potuka fortress to the Patriarchal Cathedral on the order of Tsar Kaloyan (r. 1197–1207).[3] The housing of a warrior saint‘s relics in the Patriarchal Cathedral signifies the incessant warfare against Byzantines and Latins that dominated Kaloyan’s reign. In the late 14th century, the last Patriarch of Tarnovo, Saint Evtimiy, described the church as the „great patriarch’s Cathedral of the Holy Ascension” in his writings.[1]

Another possible reference to the church may be in a marginal note from 1358 to a copy of the Acts of the Apostles. In the note, the copyist, one Laloe, thanks God and the „Holy and Most Glorious Ascension” for having finished his work on the book. Scholar Bistra Nikolova believes this to be an allusion to the Patriarchal Cathedral, which may have patronised the project. Alternatively, the copy could have been made at the cathedral’s scriptorium, where Laloe may have worked.[1]

The church is also depicted in the medieval sketch of Tarnovo in the Braşov Menaion, a menaion service book written in the mid-14th century and then carried to Kronstadt (now Braşov, Romania) after the fall of Bulgaria under Ottoman rule.[4]

The Patriarchal Cathedral was destroyed after the Ottomans captured the Bulgarian capital after their Siege of Tarnovo on 17 July 1393. The church was fully reconstructed in the 20th century; reconstruction works were carried out by a team under architect Boyan Kuzupov. These commenced in 1978 and were finished in 1981, to mark Bulgaria’s 1300th anniversary. However, it was not until November 1985, when the contemporary murals were finished, that the church was opened once again for visitors.[2] The church’s ruins have been protected as a national antiquity since 1927; in 1967, they were proclaimed an architectural monument of culture of national importance.[5] As part of the Tsarevets architectural reserve, it is also listed among the 100 Tourist Sites of Bulgaria.[6]

The Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God is located on top of the Tsarevets hill, overlooking the modern city of Veliko Tarnovo. The church was part of a group of buildings which constituted the seat of the Bulgarian Patriarchate and acted as the city and the country’s main cathedral.[1] The patriarchate on Tsarevets was a fortress of its own, with two defensive towers and an entrance on its west wall. The Patriarchal Cathedral stood in the middle of its courtyard.[2]

The Patriarchal Cathedral features a triple apse, the central part of which matches the apse of the original basilica on the site. The three-naved church follows the traditional Byzantine cross-in-square design. Built out of crushed stones and mortar with limited brickwork, it measures 26 by 12 metres (85 ft × 39 ft). The cathedral includes two narthices, a bell tower and two other premises attached to the south church wall. The presence of a bell tower is considered to be a rarity in Balkan church architecture. Six columns support the interior and distinguish the altar from the cella (naos). It is unclear whether the church housed a synthronon (stone benches for the clergy) in the apse, as there are doubts that its remains may actually be part of the older basilica.[1][2]

The church featured ample exterior and interior decoration. While the facades were decorated with arches and ceramic tiles, the interior floor mosaics were made of white, yellow and pink marble as well as semi-precious gemstones like sapphire and porphyry. The interior walls were covered with frescoes and mosaics. However, none of the interior decoration has survived. During the church’s 20th-century reconstruction, its interior was repainted by artist Teofan Sokerov, who depicted important moments of medieval Bulgarian history in a modernist style.[2] Due to these murals, the church has never been reconsecrated and remains inactive. The facade of the cathedral also includes a stone with a donor’s inscription of a Bulgarian ruler, which ended up as part of the building material.[1]

There are a total of four burial grounds in and around the church, two of which are burials for priests. One of the burial grounds is inside the exonarthex, where overarched tombs were built in the 14th century.[1] Besides Michael the Warrior’s relics, the cathedral also housed the remains of Bulgarian patriarchs Joachim I, Macarius and Joachim III.[7]