(Guest Post) The Cathedrals…

This article has been prompted by my sharing of architectural interest with tweeps such as @natekev this blog’s Landlord, @dnahinga and @mafex_inc. Nate challenged me to guest blog on Cathedrals and I’m surely not one to pass up a challenge!


Being a Christian [devoted or not is neither here nor anywhere] means I have visited my fair share of ‘Houses of God’. In Kenya we have some extremely opulent churches as well as some shacks….but I think that what matters most, as many would say, is the ‘use’ and not the ‘structure’.

When we talk about Architecture and Religion, it becomes impossible to discuss one without the other. They are intertwined or better still, become two sides of the same coin. By biblical proportions, the Egyptians designed some magnificent temples dedicated to gods such as Amun-Ra, Osiris and Hathor as well as extravagant residences for the Pharaohs who were deemed to be gods too; they lived in opulence in life as well as in death [the pyramids].

Solomon’s Temple

The earliest that we can talk of architectural masterpieces in temple buildings is when King David wanted to build God a Temple and his plan was put aside because Solomon his son was the one appointed to do so. When you read through the Bible and particularly on the temple that King Solomon was to build….the opulence and artistry required plus the materials to be utilized would simply leave one baffled. Here is an excerpt of 1 Kings 6 where the description is as vivid as can be:

1 Kings 6: 14-18 :

14 So Solomon built the temple and completed it. 15 He lined its interior walls with cedar boards, paneling them from the floor of the temple to the ceiling, and covered the floor of the temple with planks of juniper. 16 He partitioned off twenty cubits at the rear of the temple with cedar boards from floor to ceiling to form within the temple an inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. 17 The main hall in front of this room was forty cubits[i] long. 18 The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. Everything was cedar; no stone was to be seen.

I believe it’s from that point that religion and architecture were joined together at the hip for eons to come…

Monolithic Structures

Cathedrals are behemoths….monolithic structures that are more attached to Christianity ( especially Catholicism) than any other form of ‘organized’ religion and the grandest of them all has to be the Seat of the Holy See, the Archbishop of Rome, and the Pope! St. Peters Basilica. It is made even more famous by the weekly Papal audiences, attended by thousands of faithful.

Built on the tomb of St. Peter, The superlatives describing this church are beyond me. It has been described as the “greatest of all churches in Christendom..” and with very good reason.

St. Peter’s Basilica.

Commissioned by Ivan The Terrible

Next we have St. Basil’s Cathedral which is the very icon of Moscow. Just the other day, St. Basil’s doodle ‘graced’ the Google homepage, as it celebrated its 450th anniversary! Clearly, cathedrals boasting 100yrs are pretty young in this trade.  The Basil Cathedral is officially and mouth-fully termed as “Cathedral of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat” and is situated rather majestically, at the famous Red Square in the Russian capital, Moscow. Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible after Kazan and Astrakhan were captured, the cathedral is under the Russian Orthodox.

St. Basil’s Moscow.

The Seat of the Archbishop

Then we have Our Lady of Paris, famously known as Notre Dame de Paris.  It’s the Gothic Cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris, the seat of the Paris’ Archbishop. It’s been said to hold the reliquary of the Crown of Thorns.  It also has the Organ, a common feature in all these Cathedrals. Its organ has 7,800 pipes, of which 900 are historical. The cathedral suffered extensive desecration during the French Revolution though it has since been restored to its ancient grandeur. There is also a treatise to its praise, titled Treatise on The Praise of Paris [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre_Dame_de_Paris]


The Notre Dame Cathedral                                                                   The Iconic Notre Dame Organ

Renaissance Expression

When talking of cathedrals, we can’t avoid touching on The Sistine Chapel. It is among the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City’s Pope’s residence. The Sistine Chapel is more famous for its frescoes worked on by Rennaissance Artists like Michelangelo, Borticelli, Pietro and Sandro, commissioned by Pope Julius II. The frescoes cover the ceiling, Eastern, Southern and Northern walls.  It is also known to be the venue of the Conclave for the College of Cardinals when a new pope is to be installed.

The Sistine Chapel

The Duke and Duchess’ Wedding

We now land in England where we have the Westminster Abbey officially referred to as the Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster. The Abbey has become more prominently featured around since most recent ceremonies touching on the UK Royals have been held there; including the funeral service of the late Princess Diana as well as the wedding ceremony of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Under the Church of England, the Abbey holds the burial grounds of all monarchs of Britain and its realms.

The Westminster Abbey

Gothic Display

In Cologne, Germany, we have the Cologne Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This cathedral is a monument of Christianity, German Catholicism and most of all Gothic architecture.

The Cologne Cathedral

Guinness World Record

Moving to Ivory Coast, known more for its cocoa production and a President who stole an election; He refused to leave the seat and had to be dragged out of his bunker in a vest. Cote de Ivoire as it now known, is home to one of the largest cathedrals in the world, in the city of Yamoussoukro: The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro.  Built at a cost of $300M it mirrors St. Peter’s Basilica especially on the Dome and the plaza. The Guinness Book of World Records even terms it as the largest church on earth with an area of 30,000sqms (322,917 sq ft) and 158m (518 ft) high, though it holds much less people than St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace  – Yamoussoukro

Cultural Melting Pot

Next is Turkey, the cultural melting pot that lies between the Arabic South and the European North and joined by the Greeks and the Cypriots. The Hagia Sophia has quite a history… Originally an Eastern Orthodox Basilica under the Patriarchal of Constantinople for more than a 1000yrs, it later became a mosque after Constantinople (now Istanbul) fell to the Ottoman Turks for nearly 500yrs. Thereafter, the cathedral secularized to become  a museum.  Its massive dome, a hallmark of the Byzantine architecture, is it’s trademark.

Hagia Sophia

Revered by All

And then we have The Dome of The Rock. I know we are handling Cathedrals here,but we are also on architecture. The Dome located on Temple Mount in Jerusalem is considered a holy site to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike. It’s the only building of worship in the Middle East that all major religions deem to be holy! Again, like the Hagia Sophia, what is seen here are intricate external architectural designs that are more at home in the Middle East region. The same case applies to the dome and the arches.

The Dome of the Rock

We obviously can’t cover all the Cathedrals here, for they are many and their traits are as unique as they they are. But one thing is for sure, the architectural designs and works that go into creating one, are immense and lasting forever!

* I thank @mmnjug for taking the time to conjur up this post. You can follow him on twitter, quite a brilliant and well-versed guy. Tweet/comment what you think…

Of Princes and Palaces…

Dungeons, dragons, witches and wizards, charming princes, desperate damsels, fabulously wealthy Kings and Queens; the epic tales of royalty and fantasy abound and amaze. We’ve all been given a glimpse into the lives of what medieval monarchs went through, seen the mammoth castles and fortresses they called home (as depicted in ‘modern’ television series such as Game of Thrones, Camelot and Merlin) It is indeed a fascinating life that royalty lead, having to balance national duty with personal life and always maintaining the not less than perfect outward appearance. Royalty are revered and adored and the only way to be one was/is to be born one!

Ever since I was in Class Seven, I was an ardent fan of a guy world renowned, not in his own right or achievement, but by the simple fact that he was the Royal of one of the tiniest yet wealthiest nations on earth; Prince Albert of Monaco. As we all know, shy of two months ago, Britain’s Prince William wed relatively unknown Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, in a ceremony that was likened to that of Princess Diana and Prince Charles way back in the late eighties. Prince Albert of Monaco however, wed the former South African Olympic gold swimming champion (now Princess) Charlene (formerly Wittstock) just this past weekend, in a religious ceremony that was much less publicized by the media but was arguably more glamorous than that of the British Royals. For some snippets of just how lavish this affair was, you can have a look here:  http://on.fb.me/r23xVL

Now you have to understand, I have been obsessed with the European royals, their lives and their castles ever since I was young; I would imagine myself as the heir to the throne of Monaco or that of the equally if not wealthier Sultandom of Brunei on the Indonesian subcontinent.

The medieval and grandiose palaces they reside in, the dazzling behemoths they are driven in and the unrivaled cuisine they enjoy. Who would want to pass up life as a Royal? In this post however, I will let you admire what some of the Princes of (mostly) European monarchies enjoy and the ‘delicacies’ that are the official Palaces of their Principalities.

Prince Harry of Wales and Buckingham Palace

Prince Harry

This Prince really needs no introduction. Harry has earned a reputation as a lovable rogue. Despite getting a D in Geography, he excelled in Sports at Eton College. At age 23, he was appointed by the Queen as Counsellor of State and has already embarked on fulfilling his royal duties. But beyond the headlines, he’s got a heart of gold and a passion for causes like Walking With the Wounded, a charity that benefits wounded veterans that is currently on a trek to the North Pole.

Originally designed as a large townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham around 1705, Architects John Nash and Edward Blore later extensively enlarged what is now Buckingham Palace to house British monarchs, the first of whom being Queen Victoria herself. This was of course way after King George III had acquired the property for his wife and during which the Palace was aptly named the ‘Queen’s House’.

Buckingham Palace (aerial view)


Andrea Pierre Casiraghi of Monaco and the Le Rocher Palace in Monaco

Andrea Pierre of Monaco

If Prince Albert of Monaco dies without having any legitimate children, then Andrea will adopt the name Grimaldi and be the next Prince. Casiraghi is one of a trio of Europe’s hottest young royals (along with brother Pierre and sister Charlotte). Second in line to the Monegasque throne, he lives mostly in New York and is fond of skateboarding.

Unlike most royals, though, he lacks official titles, since his late Italian father was a commoner, much like Kate Middleton (anyone he marries will have to be content with the family’s vast fortune). He is also actively involved in charity, such as with his mother’s AMADE Mondiale charity in and around the African continent.

Built in 1191 as a fortress and garrison, the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, on the Rocher Island, has an elegant facade, thanks to King Honore the 2nd who commissioned the Architect Jacques Catone to transform the Palace from the grim fortified nature it possessed to a more renaissance-looking structure. The main façade facing the square, the “front” of the palace, was given decorative embellishments which gave it a beautiful appearance by the end of the 18th Century.

Le Rocher Palace, Monaco

Prince Felix of Luxembourg and the Luxembourg Palace

Luxembourg Palace

Luxembourg Palace was built for the mother of King Louis Xlll of France, which would more than explain the elegant and almost femininely appealing facade of the Palace. It was thematically modelled on the Palazzo Pitti of sister city Florence in Italy. Most notably, from 29 July to 15 October 1946, the Luxembourg Palace was the site of the talks of Paris Peace Conference.

Prince Felix

One of the most intelligent royals on the planet, brainy billionaire Prince Felix is a 6-foot-tall jet-setter. He is the second son of the Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg. He is currently second in the line of succession. Said to be easygoing and flirty, he’s also surprisingly down to earth: Before recently moving to Rome for a master’s degree in Bioethics, he worked in the PR department of a sports marketing firm.

Prince Azim of Brunei and the Istana Nurul Iman

Prince Azim of Brunei

For those of you had no idea, Brunei is one of the wealthiest nations on Earth! With A-listers such as singer and songstress Mariah Carey a regular attendee of his social gatherings, it is no surprise that fun-loving Azim, fourth in line to the throne, is lavishly generous with his estimated $22 billion fortune, and regularly throws blowout bashes that grab “party of the year” headlines. He’s a lover of trinkets and baubles, too: One of his favorite childhood gifts from his father was a gold- and diamond-encrusted Game Boy.

The Istana Nurul Iman is both the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei and also the seat of the government. It was completed in 1984 at a total cost of $400 million. The name is derived from arabic and means Palace of the Light of Faith. Leandro Locsin was the principal Architect, basing its design on the Islamic and Malay influences within the Principality of Brunei.

The Istana Nurul Iman entrance

Prince Carl Phillip of Sweden and the Stockholm Palace

Prince Carl Phillip of Sweden

They say he is one of the ‘better looking’ of European Royals, Prince Carl of Sweden. He is the only son of King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia of Sweden. A wild child fond of clubbing and sports (from cross-country skiing to soccer), he’s been linked with a reality-show beauty since splitting with his girlfriend of a decade a couple of years ago. He currently studies at the Swedish University of Agricultural studies and also pursues his passion of graphic design in Stockholm.

The largest of all European royal palaces and entirely built of brick and sandstone sections, Stockholm Palace was predictably a fortress at first, to protect Lake Malaren. It happens to be the official offices of King Carl XVl Gustaf, though the family lives in Drottingholm Palace.

Stockholm Palace