#thursdaysspecial

The Spectacle of the Roman Baths

It’s the strangest feeling to be surrounded by senators and looking down on Roman baths, and probably the only time I’ll be in the company of Julius Caesar, Hadrian and Constantine the Great, simultaneously.

Aquae Sulis was the Roman name for Bath, named for the waters of the goddess Sulis.  This natural phenomenon has caused 240,000 gallons of hot water, at 46C, to rise on this spot daily for thousands of years.  Spa water has been used for curative purposes for 2,000 years, originally involving bathing, and then in the form of drinking water from the late 17th century. This Walkthrough will take you step by step through the complex.

The Roman Baths are below modern street level and comprise the Sacred Spring, Roman Temple and Bath House, with finds from the baths carefully preserved and displayed in the museum.  After the ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen…’ moment on the imposing terrace you descend stairs to the interior, glimpsing the Sacred Spring through glass windows.

The Romans identified Sulis with their goddess Minerva.  It is likely that her gilt bronze statue would have stood within her temple, beside the Sacred Spring, and may well date back to the first century AD.  Gilt bronze sculptures are very rare finds in Roman Britain.  This head has six layers of gilding, two by a process known as fire gilding and the later four applied as gold leaf.

The Temple pediment and Gorgon’s Head is likely to date from the same period.  It would have been supported by four large, fluted columns. Another fascinating detail of Roman life are the 130 curse tablets, which would have been rolled up and thrown into the Spring.  They were petitioning the goddess for justice or revenge for petty crimes, including theft of their possessions from the baths.

Every effort has been made to turn the Roman Baths into a Spectacle .  Animated projections bring to life the cold plunge pool and the heated rooms.  Evidence of the hypocaust system the Romans used is clearly visible in this amazing subterranean world.

The spa waters contain 43 minerals, and are said to have a distinctive taste.  You can sample them from a fountain in the west baths, or from the Georgian Pump House, next door.

Pop over and see Debbie’s extraordinary owl, and don’t forget that Thursday’s Special.  This week Paula weaves her magic on Venice.

Speak to me of Spring

Bristol’s incredible Floating Harbour has many faces.  Just downstream from Bristol Bridge lie Castle Park and the haunting ruins of St. Peter’s Church.  On the night of 24th November, 1940, this area was almost completely destroyed in the first major bombing raid on Bristol of the Second World War.  These days it’s a place for strolling and letting your cares drift away.

The church is no longer accessible to the public, but I was delighted to find, wrapped around it, a tiny physics garden.  Magnolia, fraying tulips and iris, all vernal creations if ever I saw one.

I often manage to link to Paula because Thursday’s Special, isn’t it?  Her version of Spring is exquisite.  But I’m very mean with Ailsa.  Let her take you for a walk in the Garden this week.

Six word Saturday

A tale of two birthday cakes!

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In case you wondered just where I was flying off to last week, I can now reveal all.  It was to a surprise birthday party.  My friend of many years, Joan, had no idea that a party was planned, and even less that I would be there.  I almost didn’t make it because I forgot to take her daughter’s phone number with me.  I couldn’t phone Joan, and spoil the surprise, and I had no idea how to find the house.  Thoughts of wandering around the outskirts of Bristol, asking ‘does anyone know Belinda…?’  Fortunately resourcefulness won and I ended up in Bristol’s very beautiful Central Library, accessing the Internet.  For once, technology was my friend.

After all that, some celebrating was called for, and celebrate we did.  A party last Saturday evening, and a family affair on Monday, which was Joan’s actual birthday.  Two cakes!  I think you’ll agree, it was a Momentous occasion?  And one I simply had to share with you, in just a few more than Six Words.  Thank you Paula, and Debbie, for being such lovely hostesses and providing the stage, and thanks also to Joan and her family, for being the stars of the show. Happy Saturday, everyone!

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Confined

Paula’s Thursday’s Special is full of wonderful images this week.  Life around here has been exceptionally busy and, scrolling back through myriads of photos, I chanced upon the above.  To me, it says ‘confined’, within those windows.  How about you?  I’d better explain that I was at the Sage, Gateshead, attending a song and dance show entitled ‘Remembering Fred’.  Astaire and Rogers always put a twinkle in my eye.  Quite a few people were confined, very happily, in the theatre that night, along with reflections of the Millennium and Tyne bridges.

I think this is a good fit for Dawn’s Lingering Look at Windows too.  I’m hoping Paula won’t mind.

A glass menagerie

What can I tell you?

Whisper it very softly

Watch her like a hawk!

She doesn’t mean any harm

Don’t cry fish!  It’s not so bad.

I always find fascination in the National Glass Centre at Sunderland.  Sometimes I can find Juxtaposition too.  But today I wanted something to please my Lazy Poet friend, Gilly.  She’s been sad lately.

LLanbadrig- Church of St. Patrick

A place to turn up your coat collar and watch the sun’s rays lengthen the shadows, St. Patrick’s Church at Llanbadrig sits on a lonely headland. Dating back to AD440, it’s one of the oldest sites on Anglesey.  The Welsh name Llanbadrig means ‘Church of St. Patrick’.  Legend has it that Patrick was shipwrecked on Ynys Badrig, found refuge in a cave and water in a nearby well and later founded the church to give thanks to God.

I love that feeling of remoteness and serenity, and there’s something wonderful and unfathomable about the Welsh language too.  I suspect that it will appeal to my friend Paula, who is patiently Waiting over at Thursday’s Special.

What was I waiting for?  Why, the church to open in May, of course.

Wishing you all a blessed Easter.  Fuller details and a peak inside the church can be found at Anglesey-Hidden-Gems.

Scaling the heights

It had never occurred to me to think of Florence as a walled city, so it came as something of a surprise to find that the city walls had been rebuilt as many as six times.  Florentia, as a Roman garrison, came into being around 59BC.  The first wall would have encompassed the area of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio, with Piazza della Repubblica at its centre.

With the rise and fall of the city’s fortunes, in a chequered history, the walls were redrawn a number of times.  The second wall covered a smaller area than the first.  The third extended to the River Arno- previously considered unstable marshy ground.  In the 9th century Florence was increasingly prosperous and the walls were extended again.  As new villages mushroomed south of the Arno, the defence system needed to include them, and in 1172 work was begun on a fifth wall.  By 1333, Oltrarno finally received complete protection and the walls were 8.5 kilometres long, with gates 35 metres tall.

In sweeps the Black Death in 1348 and the city’s population, in common with most of Europe, was decimated.  In the 16th century additional fortifications were added to face the army of the German Emperor Charles V, and the Fortress of Belvedere was commissioned.  All of the city gates were pollarded to make them less vulnerable to artillery, save for San Niccolo.

The tower that marks Porta San Niccolo

Looking down on the walls from the cemetery at San Miniato al Monte

Florence became the provisional capital of Italy between 1865 and 1871.  And after all that building?  The walls were demolished in order to establish a new ring road.  Today, only the walls in Oltrarno have survived.  For a more complete history, this is an interesting site.

Still in Italy, you absolutely must see the magnificence of Mantua in Paula’s Traces of the Past.