St Paul’s Cathedral

by Andrada Costoiu

I am reading a book, it’s called “Letters to the lost” by Iona Grey. It’s a beautiful love story, set in London during WW2. As I was reading it, I came across this passage that’s happening in St. Paul’s Cathedral. This sent me back to the time when I was inside it.

I didn’t know about the Whispering Gallery. I wish I knew; I would have climbed up there.

Brief history

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a magic place that goes back in time. I thought this building was the start, but no!! The cathedral building has been destroyed several times and there is so much history behind it! The first on this site was a Roman temple to Diana, but the first Christian cathedral there was dedicated to St. Paul in AD 604. That cathedral burned and its replacement (built 675–685) was destroyed by Viking raiders in 962. 

In 1087 a third cathedral erected on the site also burned! 

The fourth one, now known as Old St. Paul’s, was constructed in the late 11th century. Its spire stood higher than the dome of the present cathedral. In 1561 the spire was destroyed by lightning (and a resulting fire) and never replaced.  Then this building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London (1666), when it was caught in the flames. The lead on the roof melted and poured down on to the street like a river, or so they say. The building collapsed. 

The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It was the first Cathedral to be built after the English Reformation in the sixteenth-century, when Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of the Pope! 
It has survived the WW2 Blitz as it is (with repairs) .  What was the Blitz? It was the German bombing campaign against the UK, in 1940 and 1941. Not only London, but also provincial UK was bombed.  Much of London was lost, including many iconic buildings. St. Paul’s survived probably through a miracle (or maybe because it was protected somehow). Below it’s a picture after the bombings, with St. Paul’s towering over the ruble of London.  Since then, this building had become associated with the British resilience.

Photo credit: BBC magazine

Who was Christopher Wren and how did he came to build St. Paul’s

After the year of the Great Plague in 1665, The Great Fire of London came! The fire happened in 1666 destroyed many of the city’s public buildings, including 88 of its churches. 

Christopher Wren was commissioned to build 51 replacement churches, and that included St Paul’s cathedral. Although Wren was personally responsible for all these, probably not all of them represent his own fully developed design.  Only a few are in Wren’s hand, including St. Paul’s. 

Wren was many things, not only an architect.  He was a scientist and he was one of the founders of the Royal Society (president 1680–82), the oldest scientific society in the world! His work was highly regarded by Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.

The architecture 

The cathedralis heavily influenced by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The construction of the cathedral took more than 40 years. In 1708, Wren’s son, Christopher Wren Jr, placed the final stone on the lantern, watched by his father below.

I think the most notable feature is the dome. The dome framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, has dominated London’s skyline for over 300 years. It is still among the highest in the world.

Internally, the church is beautiful ,with impressive arches and naves.

There are famous people buried here.  

The first person to be buried in St. Paul’s Cathedralwas its creator. Christopher Wren died in 1723. His tomb is on the south aisle in the east of the crypt.

The crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral is the largest in Europe. The largest memorial on the cathedral floor belongs to the Duke of Wellington. His memorial took longer to build than the whole cathedral!!! 

Here you will also find the tombs of Lord Nelson, Florence Nightingale, William Blake, Lawrence of Arabia and many others.

Sunday mass, under the Dome

Picture snapped by my friend while going to the mass

I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral on a Sunday morning, with my friends. We were there for the mass, and it was wonderful.

I don’t like sermons that much, I don’t like when people tell other people what to do or not do. But I like when people learn from each other and I also like when people stand together, united in good thoughts.

Probably that’s why I felt overwhelmed, when the chorus and then everybody started to sing. Under the dome, our voices together sounded powerful, uplifting and hopeful. I think that is the definition of being human.

Together we stand, together we can do great things, each of us doing our own bit.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

United Kingdom’s Supreme Court, London

by Andrada Costoiu

Across the street from Westminster Abbey is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. I wouldn’t have known, if I had not been attracted by the beautiful façade.

This building has a symbolic location, chosen to represent the separation of powers in the UK.  It is located in the Parliament Square, on the south-west corner. On one side there is the Parliament and the judiciary (this building) and on the other side there is the executive (the Treasury) and the church (Westminster Abbey).  This building was built between 1912 and 1913.  

The court is open to the public, so you can visit anytime Monday-Friday, between 9.30- 16.30. If the court is in session, you could also observe cases!  

Pleasantly surprised, I enjoyed this visit very much. It was especially educative, as I wasn’t familiar with the court system in the UK! I found out that it is very different from the one we have in the USA. 

USA and UK Supreme Courts compared

The longevity

I was surprised to find out how young the UK Supreme Court was! 

The US Supreme Court was established in 1790, its existence provided for the founding documents of the United States. Its presence is firmly established in the consciousness of the American public….which prompts my surprise to find out that the UK Supreme Court had only arrived in the UK judicial scene in 2009! This was almost baffling! But I guess it was only then that the judiciary separated from the Parliament. Up until then, the Law Lords, that played the key role in developing the common law in the UK, was not totally separated from the government. 

Cases they handle 

Both courts are the highest appellate courts in their jurisdiction of domestic law. They hear cases of great importance and only a limited number of cases each year.

The Constitution and the absence of a written Constitution 

The US Supreme Court enjoys a higher domestic profile than does the UK Supreme Court. That is because the US Supreme Court is a fully fledged constitutional court.  However, Britain does not have a codified constitution but an unwritten one formed of Acts of Parliament.  In the absence of a written constitution that sets out clear constraints on the role of the UK Parliament, the UK Supreme Court is limited in comparison with its American counterpart. 

The Judges election

In the United States all federal judges must be nominated for appointment by the President.  They are appointed for life and there is no retirement age. 

In the UK they are elected by a committee and then they are recommended to the monarch for the appointment. They are required to retire at the  age of 70, although they may continue to serve until they are 75.

The number of judges appointed to the US Supreme Court varies over time. Currently there are nine Justices: the Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. In the United Kingdom there are 12 judges.

UK Supreme Court judges

The building is beautiful inside.  The courtrooms are adorned with beautiful paintings and art work.

At the lower floor there is an exhibition that details the history of the court and that presents artifacts.

This visit enhanced my understanding of the UK’s judiciary system and it enabled me to compare the way it operates with our own judicial system.  I am grateful for this visit and I think if you’re in town you should go too!

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Tower of London

by Andrada Costoiu

By Thames River, very close to the London Bridge, lies The Tower of London. This is a place where about 1000 years of history have been written, a place where medieval kings and queens have lived and a place where many people have found their death.

 I went to see it in an August summer day. I was lucky; the weather was just beautiful!!! But what do you know! The occasional London showers didn’t spare me! While I was waiting to see the Crown Jewels the rain was pouring down like crazy. I was lucky a man next to me came more prepared and offered to shelter me under his umbrella. Thank you!

The Tower is a big place and you should take your time visiting. You will need at least several hours. If you don’t plan to take a guided tour, you should get an audio guide, it’s really useful and gives you a lot of information as you move through the different buildings and exhibitions. 

The Tower! I was fascinated …….and then horrified as I discovered the place of burial for Anne Boleyn! I’ve seen the Tudors series, and this movie gave flight to my imagination about the love story between Anne and Henry VIII…. He was so in love with her and then….he ordered her decapitation.

A fortress and a palace

The construction of what is now the Tower of London started in 1070s, when William the Conqueror wanted to build a mighty castle to defend and proclaim his royal power. The Tower took around 20 years to build.

Then Henry III (1216-72) and Edward I (1272-1307) expanded William’s fortress, adding defensive walls with a series of smaller towers.

The Tower was a fortress, e medieval palace and a prison. It also controlled the supply of the nation’s money.  All coins of the realm were made at the Tower Mint until 1810. Kings and queens also locked away their jewels here and even today, the Crown Jewels are here, at the Tower.

The Crown Jewels

The jewels are displayed in the Jewel House. Waiting to see the Crown Jewels can feel like waiting in a cue for a Disney ride. It can be crowed and it can take some time to get inside, so be prepared. Also, you cannot take pictures inside; you can’t take pictures of the jewels.

This is the Jewel House, at the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels are sheltered

The Crown Jewels have been stored and displayed at the Tower of London since 1661! They are under guard and still in use…..

A royal guard by the Jewel House, Tower of London

I’m not sure what to say about the crowns and everything that it is found inside the exhibition. They are beautiful, of course! Especially the ones with the cullinan diamonds, which are the largest diamonds ever found.  Cullinan I is the largest diamond in the world and is mounted in the head of the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and Cullinan II, the second largest, is mounted in the Imperial State Crown.

This is a picture of the Imperial State Crown, Queen Elizabeth II is wearing it.

These diamonds were discovered in Culling, South Africa in 1905 and they were named after Thomas Culling, the mine’s chairman.

To me, the jewels were not as important as the history behind them. The stories of all these people that have worn them, their lives and what happened in England during their reign. Out of all the royals that have worn these jewels, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Tudors, and about their most famous king, Henry VIII.

The White Tower and Henry the VIII

The White Tower is the main building of the fortress and it is the very first building that was built for this place.

The White Tower has four floors. The entrance to the White Tower is made on the first floor by a door accessible only by a wooden staircase.  They say that at the time of construction instead of the wooden staircase it was probably a ladder….

The wooden staircase that leads to the entrance of the White Tower

“The Royal Armories” is located on the lower floor of the White Tower.The present collection took shape in the Reign of Henry VIII (1509-47).

It features many royal weapons and armor, real-size wooden horses and depictions of the different kings, set in a situation. There are few armors of King Henry VIII and also the armor of King Charles I and James II. 

I cannot imagine how it must have been to be under this mountain of iron, how could you more….how could you fight!!!

The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula

In front of the chapel is the place where scaffolds were built. Statistics say than more than 400 people were executed here.

The Chapel is perhaps best known as being the burial place of some of the most famous Tower prisoners. This includes three queens of England: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey, all of whom were executed within the Tower in the 16th century.

Anne, was Henry VIII greatest love, or at least one of them… She was accused of adultery and treason and she was decapitated at the tower. The place where you see the green book, it is thought to be the place where Anne is buried. 

The Tower Ravens

A group of at least six captive ravens are resident at the Tower of London. These days I think there are seven. They are tended by a Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster, who is clipping their wings and feathers in order not to allow them to fly off the grounds. The Ravenmaster releases the birds from their cages and prepares breakfast for them at dawn each day.

Photo credit: @thegentleauthor; spitalfieldslife.com

The legend has it that should the ravens leave the Tower, both it and the kingdom will fall.

There is so much more to see at the Tower: the Tower of Torture, the Yeoman Wardens and more. You got to visit! If you like history, this is truly a wonderful place!

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Gordon’s Wine Bar – London’s oldest wine bar

By Andrada Costoiu

Where to find it: 47 Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NE, England

On a Sunday during my stay in London, my good friends took me to a bar: Gordon’s Wine Bar.I really liked it so I’m sharing it with you, in case you’re in town and would like the experience….

This is an underground bar that it was opened in 1890. It’s the oldest wine bar in London and they sell only wine. They also have a food bar, where you can choose from different cheeses, homemade pies, meats and other cold eats.

These eggs have a name…..I forgot what they’re called!

The selection of wine is awesome, but what I liked the most it is the bar itself, the way it looks, the way it feels being in there. The owners have maintained the original décor! You will go in by descending some stairs; the bar is underground (there is also outside seating during the summer). Once you get in you will feel like you’re going back in time, the walls are all wood and brick and they’re covered in old historical newspaper cuttings and memorabilia. It is dark and there are candles on the tables….

Old “news” about the royal family, pictures of young Queen Elizabeth and many stories cover the walls. And all the war décor has faded with time…

The bar started in 1890, but the building where the bar is situated is a lot older and it has a history!  The building was known by various names: the York House, 14 Buckingham Street, 19 Villiers Street and then Louis Gordon.

Many personalities dwelled here at different times! Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex was one of them. He was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I; they actually had a love affair while Elizabeth was 53 and he was still in his teens! Unfortunately his life ended too early, he was decapitated at the Tower of London when we was only 35 because he lead a coup d’etat against the government. 

The house was burnt down and rebuilt in mid 1680s. If you’re interested in the timeline of this house here is a link where you can find out more : History of Gordon Bar house.

And you know who else lived here? Rudyard Kipling!!! The author of Jungle Book! He lived in this building in the 1890’s as a tenant. I didn’t see anything about him in the bar, no dancing bear….no Bare necessities song :-).

Anyway, if you’re in London, this is a nice place and is worth checking it out!

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Shakespeare’s Globe

by Andrada Costoiu

Walking the Thames river path, near Blackfriars , you might see a white building, with a roof covered in moss. If you’re not a local, you don’t really know what to make out of it. Is it a small castle? Is it an arena?  What is it?!!!

These are the questions that were running through my mind when I noticed that many people were seating on the ground, in a cue, as they were waiting for something. I went and asked ….and it turned out to be a theater. Not just any theater, but Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, which is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre for which William Shakespeare wrote his plays!

I’m a lover of arts, so of course, I wanted in!

There were no tickets for that night, but I did buy a ticket for “As you like it”, for the following night.

I had no idea what to expect, but let me tell you this: I have been inside hundreds of cultural landmarks and this one is one of a kind. When I entered, I felt like a portal to another era has opened. Shakespeare’s era!

The theater has an arena where people stand and then there is seating across the arena, in balconies and galleries. All these have benches, wooden benches! I got one of those seats and I’m so happy I got a pillow, because….let’s put it this way, you need a cushion when you’re seating on a wood bench with no back rest for couple of hours…..

The play itself was a transformative, radical experience. Ever seen those movies where they show how old theater was done? Those ones where the audience becomes rowdy and occasionally some unlucky actors get pelted with rotten tomatoes? It’s funny, but it was just like that! The audience, including me, often exploded in ovations and laughs.  Of course, there was no tomatoes or food produce throwing! 

If you go, you’ll feel as you entered the somewhat more complicated emotional world of Shakespeare. Go experience…..

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Vaults of London

by Andrada Costoiu

Under Waterloo train station in London, there is a place called the Vaults of London.  While you admire the Graffiti on the entrance, you could easily pass by this place! If it wasn’t for my two London friends, Simon and Lisa, I would have not found this UNUSUAL, INTERESTING and ….one of a kind place!

From outside, you would never imagine the immensity inside. It is a long tunnel, all covered in Graffiti.

I hear that they change the art all the time, as new artists are coming to paint or make other unusual art pieces. 

I kept looking up….I almost stumbled and fell, that’s how mesmerizing it is. 

What’s even more interesting is that the main tunnel opens up into more vaults, each with their specific purpose. They even have theatre underground!

If you’re in London, check out this place! Check out their events, you’ll have a one of a kind experience!

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.