CEILING OVER NAVE, AMIENS CATHEDRAL, FRANCE: Amiens’ Cathedral of Notre Dame sits atop a gently rising hill above the peaceful River Somme in northern France. While the actual date of completion is somewhat disputed, most historians agree the church was completed around 1270. It took approximately 50 years to build— in an era of no motors, cranes nor any electrical or gas powered tools. It was built with brains, brawn and stone using clever hoists, ramps, levers and fulcrums. Amazing, really. Although Amiens is not the tallest Gothic cathedral in France (that’s Beauvais, although it remains incomplete), it is the largest. The nave ceiling rises 139 feet above the floor, roughly the same height as a modern fourteen storey building.
In the First World War, the town of Amiens sustained heavy damage during the “Kaiser’s Battle,” the last major offensive of the German Army. The battle raged within miles of the cathedral. It sustained some heavy bombardment and several chapels were damaged. The main structure remained sound. I like this photo for its geometric patterns and the various gradients of pink and yellow colour cast by the sunlight beaming in through the upper windows.
Shot handheld and braced with a Nikon D300, 16-85 DX zoom lens at 16mm, ISO 3200, 1/80 sec., f11. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CLOISTERS, BRESSANONE (BRIXEN) CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION, ITALY: The word ‘cloisters’ is derived from the Latin ‘claustrum’ or enclosure. It’s an open space surrounded by covered walks, usually in the form of a square. It is open space in a monastery or nunnery that still affords much privacy. If you’ve ever heard or used the word ‘cloistered’—meaning a sheltered existence—that’s where it originates. This cloisters is attached to the Cathedral of the Assumption. It was were built around 1200 A.D. in the Romanesque period. There are many beautiful frescoes on the vaulted ceiling, mostly from the 14th to 16th centuries, many of which have been restored. While the town is officially Bressanone, it is also popularly known by its Austrian name, Brixen. More that 70 per cent of the peole there speak German. Shot with Nikon D3100 with 10-24 Nikkor lens at 12mm at 1600 ISO, 1/25 sec, f/6.3, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
BRESSANONE CATHEDRAL, ITALY: Bressanone is also known as Brixen, its name when the town was part of Austria. It was annexed by Italy following the First World War. The Cathedral is a major feature in the town, located on a large public square. It was first built in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 13th. The current Baroque structure dates from 1745. Walking through the town, it feels more like Austria than Italy. Most people speak German and the restaurants tend to feature German fare. This photo was taken at dusk, before a huge storm that brought hail and heavy rains.
Shot using a tripod with a Nikon D3100; Nikkor 10-24mm lens at 10 mm; f7.1, 1/2 1600 ISO. Photo by John Ecker, Pantheon Photography.
TOMB OF CLOVIS I, ST. DENIS, PARIS: The Abbey of St. Denis is about roughly four miles north of Paris. St. Denis was the first bishop of Paris and martyred in 270. In 630 King Dagobert founded an abbey for Benedictine monks and built a large basilica on the site. In 750, Charlemagne began construction of a new church which, according to popular belief, was constructed with the assistance of Jesus Christ. In person. Around 1140, Suger, the Abbott of St. Denis, commenced the building of the current structure, one of the earliest Gothic churches. The remains of virtually all of France’s Kings and Queens now rest here. Their locations in building are on this Map of St. Denis Tombs. This photo is of the tomb of Clovis I, (466 – 511) first King of the Franks and a convert to Catholicism. Also see my photo of the beautiful St. Denis Rose Window. Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm at 55mm, 1/60 sec. f10, 3200 ISO. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CANDLES, NOTRE-DAME DE REIMS, FRANCE: Most, though not all Roman Catholic churches, have places where visitors can light candles. It’s believed that the practice began with people lighting candles at the tombs of martyrs in the catacombs. The candles were lit to show solidarity—a silent vigil— with other Catholics. They became known as vigil lights. Lighting a candle is a way to extend prayer. Candles are also symbolic of Christ—“I am the Light of the World”. In major Catholic cathedrals, the lighting of candles is very popular with visitors– pilgrims to the church. These candles were shot in Reims Cathedral. The solitary red candle serves as a focal point in the photograph. Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 16-85 mm lens at 16m, 1/10 sec. f.3.6 ISO 800. Photo by John Ecker | Pantheon
BASILICA OF ST. JOHN LATERAN: December 27th is the feast day of St. John the Evangelist. This church is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and John the Baptist. It is one of the four major basilicas in Rome. And, while most may think that St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is the “Pope’s Church”, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is actually the Pope’s ‘home’ cathedral. Built by the Emperor Constantine the Great in the 4th century, San Giovanni in Laterano was the first church to be officially built in Rome. The cathedral was dedicated on November 9, 318. It was embellished with decorations given by Constantine, including seven silver altars with seven gilded candlesticks inlaid with images of the prophets. The building has undergone many changes over the centuries following periods of neglect, invasion (Vandals) and natural disasters. Arches are adorned with reliefs of angels, including those shown in this photo. No two angels look alike. Shot handheld with a Nikon D70s, Nikkor 18-55mm lens at 51 mm, f4.2 1/13 sec.
Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CATHEDRAL OF NOTRE DAME, LAON, FRANCE: This beautiful early Gothic Cathedral in northern Champagne is visible from kilometres away. It sits on the highest point of the ancient town. The steep drive to the top is exhilarating in itself, via narrow roads with many switchbacks. We arrived late in the day and found the building was locked. We’d have to await the next day for a visit inside the massive cathedral. With the western sun on the massive red doors, the beauty of the steep gables and statuary were aglow like no other time of the day. Notre Dame was completed in 1225 after nearly seventy-five years of construction. The interior is magnificent. My favourite feature is the 13th century crossing lantern. And, on the west façade you can see the memorial to World War I Commonwealth war dead. Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 16-85 mm at 39mm, f5, 1/50 sec., ISO 800. Photo by John Ecker