Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy in Italy

The nine Sacri Monti (Sacred Mountains) of northern Italy are groups of chapels and other architectural features created in the late 16th and 17th centuries and dedicated to different aspects of the Christian faith. In addition to their symbolic spiritual meaning, they are of great beauty by virtue of the skill with which they have been integrated into the surrounding natural landscape of hills, forests and lakes. They also house much important artistic material in the form of wall paintings and statuary.

Criterion ii: The implantation of architecture and sacred art into a natural landscape for didactic and spiritual purposes achieved its most exceptional expression in the Sacri Monti (‘Sacred Mountains’) of northern Italy and had a profound influence on subsequent developments elsewhere in Europe. Criterion iv: The Sacri Monti (‘Sacred Mountains’) of northern Italy represent the successful integration of architecture and fine art into a landscape of great beauty for spiritual reasons at a critical period in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Downtown Montreal from Mount Royal

The lookout on top of Mount Royal is an excellent goal for an urban walk. It's in Mount Royal Park, laid out long ago by Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for landscaping New York's Central Park. From the beautifully appointed lookout terrace, downtown Montreal is at your feet, with a view to the river and beyond to the Monteregian Hills. Sight lines to landmarks are marked. The chalet by the lookout is open in the daytime with bathrooms and snack machines. Another chalet, the one overlooking Beaver Lake, now has a café with decent food. In season, you can also picnic – and don't forget you're never more than a few minutes from downtown Montreal and its many restaurants.

The top of Mount Royal is divided between the park and two large cemeteries, the Catholic Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery and the nondenominational Mount Royal cemetery. Both can be interesting walks for those of gothic tastes and together they form a necropolis among the largest in the world.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Maruyama-koen Park, Japan

Maruyama-koen Park is located in the western suburbs of Sapporo on the dome-shaped Maruyama hill, 226 meters above sea level. This huge 60,000-square meter area contains virgin woods with oak, 'katsura' (Japanese Judas tree), magnolia, maple and other varieties of trees, and is a designated natural monument.

In spring the park is busy with visitors who flock to see the blooming of the more than 1,700 Hokkaido wild cherry trees. At Hokkaido-jingu Shrine on the hillside, there are giant elm and cypress trees where woodpeckers gather, making it a great place for bird watching.