Part 2 – Sour Cherries Tour – Budapest

Part 2 – Sour Cherries Tour – Budapest

You will find Part 1 of the Sour Cherries Tour of Budapest here Part 1: Sour Cherries Tour – Budapest.

Accompanying one of the Sour Cherries, I attended a service in St Stephen’s Basilica. It was the first time I had ever heard the mass being celebrated in a language other than Latin – which shows I had not attended mass since the early 1960’s. I understood, more or less, what was being said in Latin. I do not understand Hungarian at all, but I still picked up parts of the service because of the rituals. The music took me to paradise.

St Stephen’s Basilica is relatively new, having been completed in 1905. The Basilica is named after St Stephen, the first King of Hungary. The marble, statues, mosaics and paintings and beautiful stained glass windows make for a very decorative interior. The reliquary in the Holy Right Hand Chapel displays St Stephen’s right hand, which apparently gets taken out of the Basilica to form part of a procession on August 20 each year. The main Altar, under the very impressive dome, is dominated by a life sized marble statue of St Stephen, flanked by paintings depicting scenes from St Stephen’s life. Attending a service also meant viewing the interior sans crowds of tourists, who were all queued up awaiting the opening of the doors after the service.

I lit a candle in Jonathen’s memory. Maybe I didn’t pay enough or possibly the candle only stays alight for true believers.

On exiting St Stephen’s Cathedral, we discovered a Gluhwein stall right outside, enabling a restorative beverage to be had before embarking on further adventures.

The buildings in Buda and Pest are quite well preserved, and examples of many styles can be seen. The styles include Baroque, Art Noveau, Art Deco, Bahaus, the dreaded Soviet style and in Pest some Medieval. The exterior of the Hungarian Parliament is neo Gothic and the Dohany Street Synagogue has elements of neo Moorish, Hungarian folkloric and Jewish Styles. Strolling along Andrassey, the Sour Cherries felt that we could, with a bit of a stretch, imagine ourselves in a Boulevard in Paris.

(Photo credits for most of these images – Stephen Collins – Sour Cherry extraordinaire.)

Budapest seemed to have a huge number of statues in the city. As with most cities, I found very few statues of women. Are they written out of history, or were there so few women worthy of a statue. I favour the former – women have been written out of history over the centuries – writers, artists and scientists, to name a few. Generally the only women depicted anywhere are Empresses, Queens and the like. There are a number of statues of Queen Elizabeth, a Hapsburg Empress and Hungarian Queen. The liberation statue on Gellert Hill depicts a woman, holding a palm frond – the Lady on the Hill. There is a statue of a woman riding a horse drawn chariot representing Peace, in Heroes Square. Below her are 14 sculptures of men who made significant contributions to the history of Hungary – so no women made any such contributions!

There are rather a lot of male heroes, from the very large statue “Brother in Arms”, in Pest to Heroes Square and the Millenium monument in Buda, which symbolises the anniversary of the founding of Budapest in 896AD. Soviet era statues have gone to the statue graveyard, Momento Park, so at least one is spared from the sight of huge Stalins’.

Images of many more statues can be found here Part 1: Sour Cherries Tour – Budapest.

One of the special pleasures of travelling in Europe is “coming across” an exhibition of great art. I have come across a Carravagio exhibition in Rome – in one of the old villa’s, with hand painted signs pointing the way, for example. In Budapest the Wild Cherries came across an exhibition of El Greco paintings in the Museum of fine arts. I have always enjoyed El Greco, and love the El Greco elongated figures, so was very happy to see the El Greco sign on the museum while we were visiting Heroes Square.

Photo credits – Stephen Collins.

Budapest is not just a city of fabulous architecture and sculptures. There is a very definite fun side to the city. While Christmas did provide a seasonal boost, it did not account for a gin corner here, an upside down bathtub containing ceiling lights there, and a fat policeman statue of no particular artistic merit for example.

Innovative ceiling light.

Five days in Budapest is not enough. This Wild Cherry could easily have spent another five days in the company of my fellow Wild Cherries, wandering along the banks of the Danube day and night, visiting many more museums and galleries with many more cocktail bars and restaurants to investigate.

Budapest turned on a most memorable sunset on our last evening in the city – a fitting farewell to the Wild Cherries from a beautiful city.

Farewell Budapest, farewell fellow Wild Cherries.

Myths and Legends – in search of St George and the Dragon

Myths and Legends – in search of St George and the Dragon

I had always assumed that St George was English. After all, he is the patron Saint of England and the English flag is the St George Cross. He apparently rode at the head of a group of Crusaders on their way to wreak havoc somewhere.

It was not until I started travelling that I began to notice images of St George in numerous countries other than England. St George also patronises lots of other places and organisations. He is the patron saint of Russia, Georgia (Caucasus), Ethiopia, Greece, Lithuania, Portugal and Venice, and other countries. The list varies.

St George is apparently one of the most venerated saints in many religions, including Catholicism, Anglican, Orthodox, East Syrian and Miaphysite Churches. He may, or may not have been born in Cappadocia, and was possibly a member of the Praetorian Guard for the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

Diocletian had St George executed in AD303 for refusing to recant the Christian faith.

Although St George is mythologised in the story of him slaying the dragon, the dragon was only recorded in the 11th century. He was quite obviously much more than a dragon slayer.

I do enjoy looking at the dragons, and the variation of dragons is vast. In fact it really was the dragons which initially caught my interest. Were the artists influenced by their culture and the period during which they lived? Or were they having a Hieronymus Bosch moment? Were there dragons about, on which the artists based their images? I have yet to come to any conclusion.

My hunting ground for St George is generally in churches and galleries, although not exclusively. A recent stroll around Stockholm produced a most interesting sculpture, with a very fearsome dragon.

A visit to the Italian Chapel in Lamb Holm, Orkney Islands, constructed by Italian POW’s during WWII, yielded a war memorial sculpture of St George slaying a less than fearsome looking dragon.

The Cathedral of the Assumption (Dormiton Cathedral) in the Kremlin in Moscow has one of the oldest icons, the 12th century red clothed St George, which came from Novgorod

The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow contains numerous images and icons of St George, including what is believed to be the oldest known icon, from around 1030AD. A stone relief carving of St George slaying the dragon, adorns the entry to the Tretyakov Gallery.

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St Petersburg is a glorious confection. On a dull day it resembles an extremely decorative gingerbread castle. When the sun is shining, it resembles a brightly coloured marzipan creation. Mosaic portraits of saints, including St George adorn parts of the exterior.

St George could not be ignored in Georgia. He was everywhere. Murals, icons and glittering in gold atop a pole. There were several murals depicting St George slaying Diocletian, who looked like a very colourful dragon. Artists revenge.

Ethiopia is pretty big on St George. He is the patron saint of the country and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and appears frequently in religious art and iconography. I found images in Addis Ababa, Lake Tana, Aksum and Lalibela. One of the 11 rock hewn monolithic churches in Lalibela, Bet Giyorgis is dedicated to St George.

Religious art and iconography in Ethiopia is joyful and a riot of colour. The dragon generally has a black devil sitting on it somewhere. A dragon, in the Middle Ages was often used to represent the devil, so adding a devil to the image is perhaps visually reinforcing the battle of good against evil.

Stone carved St George slaying the dragon are fairly common above church entrances in Sicily.

The 9th century Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo was not somewhere I expected to find a St George slaying his dragon. Ben Ezra was constructed on the site of a 4th century Coptic place of worship, El Shamieen, but only a shell of the church remained.

Etching of St George and the dragon in Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo.

The St George legend came to Australia with the British in 1788. After colonisation, the British in Australia used St George’s name for churches, suburbs, streets, rivers and regions in the Colony. It may be time to change the names of rivers and regions back to the names used by the First People. Clearly St George was not part of their story.

St George’s Cathedral in Perth, WA has a most interesting modern sculpture, titled Ascalon. “Ascalon was the name of St George’s lance in mediaeval romances, and is derived from the city of Ashkelon in Israel.”

Ascalon – “an abstract interpretation of the of the story of St George and the dragon.” Perth WA.

In case it is not immediately apparent that this sculpture depicts St George slaying the dragon, the description plaque on the sculpture reads “The angled pole, white billow and black base are reminiscent of the lance of St George, the cloak and steed of St George and the defeated body of the dragon.”

St George has, in today’s terms “huge market penetration and brand recognition” in numerous parts of the world. I do not recall any other Saint having such recognition. I like to think the dragon assisted. Without the dragon, St George may have remained a local saint, confined to the areas he inhabited.