Archive | March 2015

Through My Lens: Majolica Cloister of Monastero di Santa Chiara

Majolica Cloister

Today’s cloister has a splash of colour, which I thought appropriate considering it is Palm Sunday ― always a joyous day of celebration in the Lenten calendar.

This is the Majolica Cloister of Monastero di Santa Chiara in Naples, Italy, which was built in the fourteenth century as both a Franciscan monastery and a convent of the Order of Saint Clare, also known as the Poor Clares. During the eighteenth century, the garden of the cloister was completely transformed by the addition of the majolica-tiled pillars you see in the photo. (Majolica tiles are common throughout the Mediterranean region.) The pillars line two intersecting pathways that divide the garden into quarters.

It had only just stopped raining when we popped in to take a quick look at this cloister in October 2002. It was far too short a visit ― my friends and I had a train to catch ― but someday I hope to go back and photograph it properly.

Through My Lens: Cloister of the Monasterio de San Jerónimo

San Jerónimo

The Monasterio de San Jeronómo is in Granada, Spain. I didn’t realize this Hieronymite monastery had a cloister until I wandered inside to explore ― I was so pleased to see it. I was particularly entranced by the staircase at the end of the walkway in this photo. Carved into the stone above the two arches are the words, “Soli Deo honor et gloria.”

This cloister is my photo choice for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

Happy Birthday, Johann Sebastian Bach!

The Germans threw a party today in Eisenach, the birthplace of my favourite composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. That’s because today is Johann Sebastian’s 330th birthday. This house ― known as Bachhaus ― is a museum dedicated to the man; at one point, it was thought he was born here, although now it is believed that his birth house is no longer standing.


I visited this museum in 1998 with my dad. We were on walkabout through Germany and France and came to Eisenach because of the Martin Luther connection; the Bach connection was a bonus (for me).

What we didn’t realize until we arrived and were looking for a place to stay is that Eisenach is in the former German Democratic Republic (aka East Germany). Which meant no one in the town spoke English. I managed to get us a room by telling the woman at the tourist information centre that we wanted ein Zimmer, zwei Nächte (one room, two nights). She congratulated me on my, ahem, German.

But it got really comical the next morning when the owner at the pension where we stayed insisted on chatting to us throughout breakfast in German ― even after we told him we could not understand him. Dad had studied German a bit in college, but it wasn’t enough to help us out. The pension owner offered to speak to us in Russian, but we assured him that we understood even less Russian than German.

And so, Dad and I nodded politely at our host while we drank our coffee and ate our bread and cheese. He was a compulsive talker ― that much was obvious ― and eventually he resorted to sign language. We kept nodding.

By the time Dad and I left for our day of sightseeing, we were exhausted. Even so, it was the loveliest and friendliest of introductions to Eisenach.

Through My Lens: Emerald Isle

Irish Coast

In honour of the good Saint Patrick, here is a photo of the Irish coast.

Through My Lens: Cloister of Silence of the Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás

Cloister of Silence

We’re still at the Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás in Ávila for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. This is a photo of the Cloister of Silence ― the second of the three interconnected cloisters. It contains 18 arches at ground level and 38 on the upper level and is where the monks were buried.

I love this stone well. I remember the feeling I had when I walked into this cloister ― it was as if I’d passed into Narnia and was wandering through the ruins of Cair Paravel with Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy.

Through My Lens: Bentley

Bentley Grain Elevator

This is a favourite photo of mine, and today is a good day to post it to the blog. That’s because this afternoon my dad and I took a drive to Bentley to deliver his sister (my aunt) safely home after a family get-together. Bentley, Alberta, is a small town due west of Lacombe where I spent a good chunk of my childhood summers.

Yup, I’m back in Wild Rose Country.

I took this photo almost five years ago. Alberta’s grain elevators are quickly disappearing ― in 1934, there were over 1700 of these iconic structures, but today there are maybe 120. Happily for me, this one is still standing.

Through My Lens: Cloister of the Monarchs of the Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás

Cloister of the Monarchs

My photo choice for today, the Third Sunday of Lent, is the Cloister of the Monarchs of the Real Monasterio de Santo Tomás in Ávila, Spain.

Work on this Dominican monastery started in 1482 and was completed in 1493. Real is Spanish for “royal” ― the cloister includes a palace built for Ferdinand and Isabella, who are commonly known as the Reyes Católicos (Catholic Monarchs).

I thought I’d died and gone to cloister heaven when I walked into this monastery. There are three sets of interconnected cloisters; the Cloister of the Monarchs is the third and largest one and contains 40 arches at ground level and 56 arches on the upper level.

Through My Lens: Cloister of Abbaye Saint Michel de Cuxa


For the Second Sunday of Lent, we’re hopping across the Channel to France. This photo is of the Cloister of Abbaye Saint Michel de Cuxa, a Benedictine abbey located in the French Pyrenees.

The abbey was built in 878, abandoned during the French Revolution, and restored to a monastic community in 1919. Its cloister dates back to the twelfth century, but many of the columns were removed in the early twentieth century by an American sculptor and are now on display at The Cloisters Museum and Gardens in New York.

I took this photo in November 2000. It was on this jaunt around southern France that I came to realize how much I value the beauty and the silence of monastic cloisters. I’ve been on a mission to photograph them ever since.