Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bruges & The Church of the Holy Blood – Sunday September 29 2013

20130928_101329 blogMost travelers (and movie goers) seem more familiar with Bruges than Ghent. For those of you who didn’t see the recent quirky movie with Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes, In Bruges, it gives you a pretty good idea of the place, although I offer this recommendation with a “violence and explicit language” warning (can’t remember if there was much explicit sex). Anyway since Bruges does not feature in the novel (at least so far), I will make this brief.

Bruges is beautiful and you can see why movie makers, especially makers of movies set in medieval times, love to use it as a backdrop. Most recently I believe the Starz miniseries The White Queen Continue reading Bruges & The Church of the Holy Blood – Sunday September 29 2013

The ‘Burbs of Ghent – September 27 2013

Countryside around Ghent - Castle of Ooidonk
Countryside around Ghent

Looking for a good medieval battle site amidst 21st century suburbs is no easy matter I discovered – well, looking for anything medieval in this context. A general rule of thumb, in Europe at least, is to start by identifying the oldest church in the neighborhood, especially if the name of that church corresponds to the oldest known name of the village or district. Even if the church itself is relatively new, chances are, it sits on a medieval foundation and at one point in time was the center of life in a medieval village.

My site also had to be within half a day’s riding distance (at most) from the center of 12th century Ghent Continue reading The ‘Burbs of Ghent – September 27 2013

St. Peter’s Abbey – September 26 2013


St. Peter's Abbey
St. Peter’s Abbey

St. Peter’s Abbey stands on one of the highest points of the city in what used to be the village of Saint Peters (in the 12th century). Today, it lies in the heart of the student district of Ghent about a 15-minute walk from the center of town. Not much remains of the original Abbey founded in the 7th century by Amandus, a missionary sent from Aquitaine to Christianize the region, but it is still an impressive building consisting now mostly of an 18th century architectural superstructure with much earlier foundations and even earlier ruins – all well worth the visit (as always do not miss the crypt which is where you get the real sense of what an abbey, ancient church or cathedral was originally like). Continue reading St. Peter’s Abbey – September 26 2013

Ghent – September 26 2013 Part 2

St. Nicholas Church
St. Nicholas Church

Amazing – from my hotel window I can see five ancient churches and the famous Belfry tower of Ghent (Belfort) built in the 14th century to house a host of massive cast iron bells that would ring out a warning to the citizens of an impending attack or a fire blazing away in one of the districts (actually a far more frequent occurrence in the Middle Ages than attacks from enemies!). These bells continue to ring out across the city today every hour – charming when one is awake: not so much at midnight. Last night for example, Continue reading Ghent – September 26 2013 Part 2

Ghent – September 26 2013

20130926_GravensteenI must be still thinking of Canterbury and those intrepid Pilgrims because I can’t think of Ghent without recalling the Wife of Bath who, in addition to having outlived five husband, was also a smart business woman who, when it came to cloth-making “Had switch an haunt she passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt”. “Gaunt” was the way the English pronounced Ghent in the Middle Ages – hence John of Gaunt, third son of King Edward 111, so-called not because he was emaciated but rather Continue reading Ghent – September 26 2013

The Church of the Knights Templar – London September 23 2013

2013-09-22 15.52.47With only a few hours left of my time in London, I was determined to visit the elusive Church of the Knights Templar before leaving for Belgium. This time I decided to take the District line tube to Temple station rather than the Piccadilly line to Holborn, as in my previous foray. This proved to be a better decision, although it is no wonder that few people have even heard of this hidden gem of a church*, let alone know how to find it – save of course for those bewigged denizens of the legal profession who inhabit the historic buildings that surround it.  With names such as Lincoln’s Inn, Kings Bench, Middle and Inner Temple, these so-called Inns of Court go back to the Middle Ages, and occupy a small patch of the City of London between Fleet Street and the river Thames. Today, as in former times, the top brains of the legal profession hang their gowns in these chambers (the great Thomas More, Chancellor of England under Henry VIII – and famously martyred by him during the Reformation – was a member of Lincoln’s Inn in the early 16th century).

2013-09-22 16.11.23*When I say few people are familiar with this Church, I exclude of course those fans of Dan Brown’s da Vinci Code who will certainly remember this Church as the setting for one of the plot twists in Langton and Sophie’s hunt for the Holy Grail. Continue reading The Church of the Knights Templar – London September 23 2013

Canterbury – September 22 2013

Site of Murder in the Cathedral
Remember Murder in the Cathedral? This is the shrine of Thomas Becket

Today I was what the Brits call a “day tripper” (remember that old Beatles song? Although, upon reflection, that might have been about some other sort of “tripper”). Anyway, my own trip to Canterbury today could not have been more innocent. I was, in time-honored manner, making a pilgrimage to the great cathedral and shrine of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, that holy blissful martyr I spoke of in yesterday’s post, murdered in his own cathedral by a bunch of knightly thugs in 1170.

Thanks to a total upgrade in what used to be British Rail,

Continue reading Canterbury – September 22 2013

London – September 21 2013

The good news about wandering around the  City of Westminster on a Saturday (agoraphobes note) is that the streets are virtually empty: the bad news is that nothing, well almost nothing, is open.

My goal today was to visit the ancient Church of the Knights Templar – a place almost impossible to find on any map because it is tucked behind a massive black iron gate Continue reading London – September 21 2013

Embarking on a Journey

My fascination with the Shroud of Turin goes back to the early 1980s when I first read Ian Wilson’s book, The Turin Shroud.  At the time this book seemed to answer the question I had often pondered, “Why does everyone think they know what Jesus looked like?”  “Everyone” does not of course think they know, but it seemed to me as if there must be some compelling reason why so much art, from at least the first millennium, depicted the face of Jesus in much the same way – the face we see today on those famous photographic negatives first taken of the Shroud in 1898 by Secondo PiaContinue reading Embarking on a Journey