The Cathedral of St. Martin, Mainz

Dominating the Skyline

The Mainzer Dom or Cathedral of St. Martin looms over the relatively small city of Mainz. The staircase towers on the east, shown below, date to 1009. The  east choir and nave were complete by about 1137. East Front

Though the building has too often suffered from fire, neglect, war and now the ravages of modern civilization, it remains in use as a center of Christian worship. As a point of comparison, by the time the Roman monuments were 1000 years old, they were ancient ruins, looted for their stone and their original purposes of little interest to the new residents of Rome. In addition to its age, the size of the building is hard to grasp. It is 109m (357ft) long and the nave is 28m (98ft) high. With the aisles the church is 32m (104ft) wide. Though a bit smaller than its Gothic successors, it till whelms the senses. Western Dome

The core of the building is in the Romanesque style, marked by round arches and heavy, thick, flat walls. The windows are small, letting in but little light. The overall effect has been considered gloomy, but I’m not sure that gives proper credit to where this style fits in the development of architecture. If one had never seen a gothic church, with its skeletal frame and glass walls, this would seem spacious and light enough. Beam of Light

The blind arcade between the nave arches and the clerestory windows, which is adorned with paintings from the Gospels, was an innovation at the time. Triforum and Clerestory

The original building had a flat ceiling. The ribbed vaulting was installed in the late 12th century. This innovation seems to have come late to the Rhine churches. Such vaulting was already in use as early as the 11th century in England. The half-cylinder columns added to the inside of the rectangular columns support the vaults. Ribbed Vaults

A number of german churches built in this time period had chancels/apses on both the west and east ends. In the case of Mainz the more elaborate chancel, is in the west and the pews face that direction. West Chancel

The Romanesque core has been obscured somewhat by later accretions. Numerous monuments and decorative additions come from the high gothic and baroque ages. The transepts especially have numerous memorials in later styles (note also the early 21st century push-broom resting against the column in the background). _D6A5852

Chapels, funded by noble patrons who wanted to memorialize themselves, were added in the 13th century with large gothic windows, seen from the cloister in the image below, but many of these are shaded by buildings around the cathedral and do not add much light to the interior. This issue of patronage also gives one pause to consider the mixed personal and religious motives of donors.Cloister and Gothic Windows

Still today there are further additions, including a number of modern colored glass windows that to my eye clash a bit with the older elements. _D6A5701

Most other large churches from this age in western Europe were replaced at one time or another with newer, gothic structures. Together with Speyer and Worms, this church is a special representative of an important architectural style and a testament to the faith of those who built and rebuilt it.

Information Sources:

  • Ernst Gall, Cathedrals and Abbey Churches of the Rhine, NY,  Abrams, 1963
  • St. Martin’s Cathedral, Mainz, ISBN 978-3-7954-4383-5
  • http://www.mainz-dom.de

Mainz

Ancient history and modern life go hand in hand in Mainz. Close to the Frankfurt airport, it is a low-key and more personal alternative to the big city. The depredations of war have left only a few reminders of the past, but those are magnificent.

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Statue of St. Martin looks over the old city.

Some features date to Roman times. This wall from the 4th century was excavated near our hotel. You can clearly see that the exterior surfaces are well fitted, rectangular ashlars while the nearly 6 foot space between is filled with irregular rubble and mortar.

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Roman wall from circa the 4th century.

The Cathedral of St. Martin, much of which is 1000 years old, dominates the skyline. The marketplatz around the Cathedral is filled with fruit, vegetable and flower vendors. There are plenty of tourists, but residents are fully represented.

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Ancient cathedral looms over the marketplace.

To the immediate north of the cathedral is a modern shopping area. To the south is a surviving quarter of older buildings filled with boutique shops. Any way you turn, there are cafes and restaurants where you can take a break and watch the rest of the world go by. Much of the old city is pedestrianized and bicycle travel is popular. Keep an eye out for buses and street cleaners though. They can go where automobiles are prohibited.

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Augustinerstraße with shops and cafes.

There is a walking/bike path along the river enjoyed by runners, bike riders and sedate strollers.

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Rhine River with city skyline and riverwalk.

On holidays you are likely to see revelers out as well. The riders of this “bier bike” provide motive power while the bartender keeps them from getting thirsty.

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If you fall off the wagon, you can ride this one.

There is plenty of interesting architecture. These fancy slate roofs remind me of dragon scales. _D6A5672 Martin of Tours is the patron saint of the cathedral. This statue on a terrace overlooking the city was made for the cathedral. Another statue that from the ground looks identical stands on the roof ridge of the west choir. This modern statue of Martin depicts the soldier dividing his robe to give to a beggar. Click on the thumbnails to see bigger images.

Boniface, the Anglo-Saxon missionary to the german lands in the 8th century was the first Archbishop of Mainz. His statue stands outside a 1000 year old chapel next to the cathedral. Gutenberg was born here and there is a museum dedicated to him. His printing press however was developed in Strassburg after his family was forced to emigrate, probably for political reasons.

There are lots of other curiosities around town.

There’s lots more. We spent hours at the cathedral and at St. Stephen’s Church but this is enough for now.

Ayers Rock aka Uluru

 

Every visit to Australia should include Ayers Rock. It stands 1000 feet above the plain in the dead center, or rather the Red Center, of Australia, and is roughly 1 mile by 2 miles in extent. It is so unique, that people just call it The Rock.

The Rock is impressive at any time, but just after sunset, it glows brilliantly. It’s not hard to get a top quality image.

There is a great walk around the base. It’s about 6 miles, but very flat, so in nice weather, i.e. not summer, almost anyone can tackle it. The variation in the rock formations are fascinating. There are actually a lot of trees and a couple of hidden ponds that add to the variety.

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The real treat though is a climb to the top. The way is steep and not for the fainthearted, but if you can handle 20 minutes on a stairmaster, you should not have much difficulty. There are some folks who try to discourage climbers, but there is a written agreement between the aboriginal communities in the area and the Australian government permitting climbers. So, I had no qualms about doing it. The climb does get closed sometimes due to rain (infrequent) or wind (2 days out of the 3 I was there) and I think also heat (most of the time in summer).

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At the top of the chains, there is a call box, if you need help. There is no cell coverage in the area. This is a nice place to rest though, because you are about half way up and have another mile to go until you reach the center.

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The top is much more rugged than the view from the ground might lead you to believe. Even once the steep part is done, there are numerous places where you need to scramble up short, steep sections.

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The view from the top is amazing. You feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. You are likely to meet people up there from almost every corner of the world. Take some lunch and wander about, but stay away from the edge. The drop off is dramatic and there is nothing stopping you if you slip.

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One last item. The formation in the distance is Kata Tjuta aka The Olgas. The highest point is 600 feet higher than the rock. You can’t climb there, but there are several nice hikes of varying lengths that meander amongst the peaks and give you a chance to enjoy the unusual landscape. It’s almost 20 miles away and worth a day all by itself.

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Edenton, North Carolina

Edenton, North Carolina

Edenton is a small town on the inner shore of Albemarle Sound that was the first capitol of the North Carolina colony. There are a several colonial era homes as well as numerous victorian homes. The main street remains unspoiled by modern chain stores and restaurants, though some of these can be found on the outskirts of town.

 

Walking around on our own, we found lovely old homes. Many have signs indicating construction dates on hundred to 250 years ago.

Once a bustling port, when the main channel to Albemarle Sound through the sandy islands was closed by a storm, the shipping business dried up and the shoreline has been converted to parkland.

We took a two hour walking tour hosted by a local guide who took us inside a number of the oldest sites and provided great stories about some of the early citizens.

As the photos show, we had a some clouds and rain during our visit, but one evening the clouds broke up enough for a nice sunset.

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