Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bologna . Loderigo d'Andalo. The Order of Glorious Saint Mary. Where, what, why, when, who.

Bologna and "Infallibility" 
Women and Warfare
Pope Sixtus V suspended what Pope Alexander IV approved:
Military Orders for Women.
Then emerged:  institutional fear of autonomy, for women Religious.
The Fallibility of Infallibility as a Doctrine
What "self-interest" occurred,
to warrant the policy's disbanding so suddenly.
Was it the program's success?
Whose self-interest was threatened by the independence of the Orders of militant women religious.
Meet the Renaissance Guerriera
Bologna is known for more than its University and excellent cold cuts and meat sauce. Its religious history is highlighted by those who expand and include; followed by those who are threatened by those ideas.  Watch the institutional roll away from the personhood of women, to their subservience as dogma evolves. There was a period, around the 12th-13th Centuries, where they excelled in theology and warfare, both.  Women had founded monasteries, for example, and were encouraged to do so.
Loderigo (Ludovico?) d'Andalo, of Bologna (a nobleman) was an enlightened man who so encouraged. Spellings vary: Is this Ludovico d'Angalo?  It is also spelled Lodoringo Andalo, see and that refers back to Wikipedia, a good source for overviews, but vet.
We are working on finding primary sources here, and lay out in the nature of a filing cabinet what we have found. We hope to organize later. What is in venerable old libraries, records not online. We are looking up several phonetics to get to original sources. Centuries change sounds and representations.
Ludovico d'Andalo
Ludovico d'Andalo established the military order of women known as the Order of the Glorious Saint Mary, or the Knights of Saint Mary, in 1233 AD.
The Pope of the Day approved: Pope Alexander IV in 1261. This was an era, the 13th Century, of female full participation in ecclesiastical  and other cultural aspects of living, see; and The Contours of Female Piety in Late Medieval Hagiography, at a journal article by Michael Goodich at;jsessionid=LhQf5gpWJvkSFlkhTms42hZpp00fVhW7y5xRGv7jMNWqyQt9pMSk!-1196327867!1517079229?docId=96511290/
The context of female full participation is broad: There was already an independent female piety back then, apart from male control. What happened to it. By the 12th Century,  half the Church's saints were women, women starting their own military and religious orders, women of independent thinking and action.  The female knight. 
  • The backdrop of the female knight:  they became too popular, too fabulous, too good at what they did. The chivalric feminine.  Chivalry, Cavalieres.  Women. 
These found their way into other areas, not just Italy.  See the female armor still (undestroyed as "heretical" in role) in Switzerland and elsewhere.
Lady Knight Bradamante. 
Earlier, consider the Legends of Charlemagne, in which the Lady Knight Bradamante, great heroine and fighter, set out on quests and overcame all sorts of creatures and perfidious people.  She was a fine role model whose stories found their way into Bulfinch's Mythology, see The story is there, with this source given: Thomas Bulfinch, Age of Fable Vol IV, Legends of Charlemagne, Bradamante and Rogero.  Rogero (Ruggiero) was last seen unable to control his hippogriff, and disappearing over the mountaintop, oh, unskilled churl. Read the mindset of Bradamante:  chivalry ideals, honor, love, the quest. The cavaliere, who surpassed the cavalier.
Was this, then, the mindset of those who roled the institutions:  Fear striking the heart of those who knew they could not prevail against such an one, and an woman to boot! Get rid of them all, now, while there is yet time. No more female knights will we tolerate. Launch the negative ads. The propaganda. Turn them into viragos. Focus on any misogyny of the past, not on whether those ideas are valid or not. Turn them into objects of jest. Disband them. Put them beneath and make them stay there. See FN 1
  • The Renaissance Guerriera. The tradition was a strong one, and complex, and manipulated as time went on:  The Renaissance Guerriera, see Bradamante and Marfisa, An Analysis of the 'Guerriere' of the 'Orlando Furioso', both new to us, at :// - and what a combination.  Beauty and "epic strength."
And in 1358, the autonomy of women was firmed by the Council of Venice declaring prostitution a necessity for the world.  See
More women in warfare, religious military orders:
Order of the Hatchet 1149, Barcelona; Military Order of Santiago 1261.  And Chevalieres, or the Equitissa 1441.  Individuals also excelled in matters of conflict and enforcement: Meet Dame Nicolaa, or Nicolla de la Haye 1150-1230, a ten-year sheriff in Lincolnshire2; and in 1552, a duel between women is the subject of art: See
Enter the Offended Pope Sixtus V.
Pope Sixtus, however, pulled in the reins on women's autonomy and decision-making:  He gave out  a) the death penalty for prostitutes (probably not followed much), and b) declared the old rule that a foetus became a person at quickening, about 20 weeks, now out and no foeti, regardless of quickening, were to be aborted, see
And in 1558, see, he suppressed the women's military orders.  Documentation of the women in military orders has been hard to find since. 
History, or at least those who refer to it, has a problem, however.  It appears that Sixtus did not become Pope until 1585.  Have to check dates for accuracy.  Another Sixtus? Did we transpose?  By the time of Sixtus V as Pope the Church already had moved to put women's religious Orders under the control of the men's, the contemplative and the military.  Attach them to the men's -- now under "supervision".  This fear of women's autonomy has nothing to do with original texts, but everything to do with the needs of a male instutition on the march.

Was self-interest to blame for the Papal shifts?
Whose? An individual Pope who had power to compel; or an entire group.
This is not a scholarly site, but rather a summary-dictionary site, but its attribution reflects information easily available:  The disbanding to the members of the Order of the Glorious Saint Mary was the succumbing to self interest, see
One self-interest,  control; over another, autonomy apart from those who would subserve it.  Who decided. On what grounds. The article passes the buck by saying it got its information from Wikipedia. Come on, now. Do some research, freedictionary.
What were their actions as women knights?  A Spanish group, for example, fended off the Moors.  They were no-nonsense.
We know there were women as knights, see
Back to Sixtus.

So, who is this Pope Sixtus V, what was he doing and why, and even more important, who was Loderigo d'Angelo and what the women do to warrant this military order.  Women in war is not unusual, see Women in War.  We all know the warrior side was suppressed: even our Congress shrinks.  So what went on back then? Look at the armor showing women in war, at Castle Thun, Switzerland.
Cast of Characters:
1.  Sixtus V in 1585.  Birth and death - 1520-1590, Pope from 1585-1590.  We understand he suppressed the Order of Military Women, the Glorious Order of Saint Mary as soon as he took office, in 1585. What was the problem?

Sixtus was twice an Inquisitor. Title: Inquisitor General of Venice.  He was forced out because of cantankerousness.  He was a mover, an enforcer, and a builder, autocratic and driven, an Administrator whose gift was in shaping administration (regardless of theology?) see  My way or the highway as to anything Reformation.  Not unusual for the time.
But there is no mention at the nndb site or at as to his actions or inactions referencing the military order of women. Other sites are in Italian. How to decipher those?   Keep looking.  Suppression so complete that history itself was purged? Or just no interest, not worth mentioning?  Unlikely.  What Sixtus acted against, he did decisively.
Sixtus was violent, but did bring peace to warring factions, see His other reforms were significant, and he is seen as a worthy pope.
Infallibility had not entered the picture at that stage, so there was no doctrine that said anybody was, by definition, right on anything. Jockey away.  See a doctrine timeline at!/2012/02/salvation-or-marketing-religions.html
2.  An earlier Pope, Pope Alexander IV, Pope from 1254-1261. We understand he approved the Order of Military Women, the Glorious Saint Mary.

Pope Alexander IV was kind, religious, assiduous, but susceptible to flatterers who wanted him to attack the children of Frederick II (this politicking and intrigue is beyond us) as German Lucifers.  Nonetheless, he ruled spiritual affairs with dignity and prudence, see That site is a little suspect because it keeps adding value judgments like who is odious and who is not, so we need something more objective.  You sort this out.  See We are interested in Glorious Saint Mary's Order.
Here we are:  at Women Warriors of the 13th Century, at
Perhaps not so good. That is a circular reference back to Women Knights.
But but it does add specific names, events, for women knights of the time: Countess of Pembroke, Jeanne of Navarre, Countess of Ross, Heldris of Cornwall (Heldris de Cournouaille).  Additional women noted at  But where is Glorious Mary?  Each one to be looked up.
3.  Order of the Glorious Saint Mary - Many mentions of this among military orders of women in medieval times

Knights in White Satin.  What line is that song from? Moody Blues at

Knights in White Satin. See them at  That site has an agenda, but do read its additional names and information and check it out.

At this encyclopedia site,, see again the Order of the Hatchet and the Order of the Glorious St. Mary, under the heading of military orders. Bibliographies and articles are cited.  These get overwhelming.  It takes a graduate student, or dedicated undergraduate, to read all that and sift.
Women Knights Templar is the topic at this google book at page 294 ff - see Guardians of the Holy Grail at;  it also lists John the Baptist - that brings us back to Kremsmunster Abbey in Kremsmunster, Austria, where St. John the Baptist is the patron of the queen who is the relative of the Duchess there.  Go to Kremsmunster Abbey
Read at that Guardians of the Holy Grail site about the central symbolic and actual role of women in the Templars, then and now.  Amazing.  Still looking for the Pope and the Nobleman.
Is all this history of the church merely one set of powers against another, with no relevance to a deity whatsoever. Women as independent and autonomous thinkers, religious persons, fighters. The church? Where is the theology behind the dogma that suppressed them.  All we see are jockeyings for land and power underlying those centuries.  Great. A golden age of the first 1500 years, women autonomous, ended with Sixtus.
This remains the easist read:  see - Order of the Hatchet again, Military Order of Santiago, many names, events, women are no shrinking violets, even a duel for a man; and Dame Nicolaa de la Haye, sheriff of Lincolnshire 1216-1226, had full inheritance rights.  All interesting, but where is Glorious Mary. 
4.  Lodorico d'Andalo/  He began this inquiry.  We understand he founded the military order of women, but can find no English site giving details. We are looking up various spellings.  Did he act in response to the heroism of the women in fighting back the Moors in Spain?
Search this, see,.  Hit the translate button and the option is for a download of an entire book typewritten document.
5.  Conclusion so far

There were women in holy military and other military orders until Pope Sixtus (who was also The Inquisitor) in 1585 or so.  Some had been brought under male orders control before then, but others did not survive at all and were suppressed until they died, for too much autonomy. Is that so?  The acts of suppression do not appear to be in Papal Bulls (enough of that), but the progress against women's orders and autonomy proceeded by other acts, more and smaller in scope, so well that it will take someone looking back at Papal decrees or whatever to find them.  The Vatican Library would be very helpful.
FN 1 
Better yet, in modern times, to be sure few people look back at once was,  turn the name "Bradamante" into "wild lover" so noone will know her true nature and calling as brave, and questing, and skilled with weapons and prevailing. Is that so? See  Brado means more than "wild" - wild has come to mean crazy, actions all over the place. Instead, brado (and brada, its feminine) it means untamed, unbroken, as in the context of a wild animal, savage - see Even that is not accurate - Bradamante was clearly disciplined. Perhaps not in love, however, and we can't have that.

Babynamesworld is an Everyperson's flip site, but it also offers other possible connections, however, including blessed maiden, sweet maiden, from the Minoan and Greek Britomartis, see Greece Road Ways, Aegina and Britomartis
The point is that there have been centuries and millennia of traditions of strong, hunting, warrior women, including groups, and suddenly in the 16th Century, she gets theologized out for the convenience of the powers of the church. Is that so?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dolomites. World War I. Memorials, Southern Tyrol. Austria, Italy

 The Southern Tyrol
The Dolomites Front

Think trenches, hard winters, endless cold and suffering, and most of us think of routine eastern and western fronts from World War II. Think back to World War I. That war defined new boundaries and changed the cultural and legal landscape of this entire area.  See ://  People raised in Austria soon found their land to be Italian. 

German is still spoken in much of the Dolomites, at restaurants, gas stations, although the land is technically Italian. Three languages are spoken at different places, including in remote spots, something called "Ladin".

Here, in the Southern Tyrol (we understand that East Tyrol refers more to the Austrian area to the north) the border mountains between Austria and Italy, the Dolomites, the hardships were magnified by the crags, the impossible task of moving men and materiel up cliffs, digging in. Tunnels. Trenches again.

This one just appeared.  Be careful - bikers may be sacking out behind, or doing other things.  We do not come upon these big sites and assume we can walk about at will out there, but so far have never had a problem.  Just mother's tapes, be careful, dear. And don't look surprised if people suddenly appear from behind, and get on hidden motorcycles somewhere near other rocks. Smile and nod, and move on about your own business.

Salzburg Castle in Austria has a series of exhibits on the World Wars, with scenes and mannequins in uniform, from the Tyrolean Front.  We were prepared, then, to see where they actually were. A forgotten front. These areas passed to Italy after WWI

The sheer size of the memorials is astounding. We think of a statue or two, a reproduction of a wall with a relief perhaps, a scene of soldiers slogging. This is enormous.

Then find the smaller, religious shrines for travelers. Our recollection is that this is also the Dolomites, but possibly it is Swiss.

The area of South Tyrol is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, see ://  The shapes of the mountains?  Originated as coral reefs 250 million years past, says the site.  Now fossilized.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Alps. Italian Side, Alps. Gran San Bernardo Pass. Great Saint Bernard Pass.

 The Great Saint Bernard Pass
The Gran San Bernardo Pass
Italian Side, Alps

Continue to Swiss Side at Switzerland Road Ways, San Bernardo Pass

The Gran San Bernardo is an ancient and treacherous pass through the Alps: Switzerland on one side, Italy on the other. Conquerors, emissaries, migrations, tourists - all have climbed or ridden very carefully, and some with great suffering, through and over and even under it. There is now an alternative for modern rush days - take the tunnel, if you must. Don't. Don't do it. Go once over the real thing. Motorcycles do, in swooping lines around blind turns; why not you.

Grand San Bernardo Pass, the approach, Italian Alps

Cliffs and hairpin turns, called switchbacks, repeat, up and up, around, then sudden street lamps mark the summit, a modern alert to vehicles that summit congestion is coming.  For foot travelers, climbers, or those on horseback or donkey, the way to the summit is marked by pyramid piles of rock called cairns. See more panoramic views of the way up at ://

At the summit, Italian side, find Saint Bernard himself, San Bernardo di Mentone, sometimes called San Bernardo di Aosta because he was born near Aosta, Italy, at Mentone, in 1023 or so.  See this translation of his life at ://  Do a search for that, and hit the translation button.

The Saint.  He lived in these mountains for years, for most of each year, set up this comprehensive shelter hostel, equipped to serve travelers for longer periods as needed. Horses, cargo, all accommodated. However, it is disputed whether he did all that or not - see ://; the dates do not gibe for the founding and when he died, and the naming came centuries later.  History is never clear, and beliefs and tradition count for more than later facts, is that so? Sure.

There are a number of buildings at the summit: for coffee, for rescue equipment, bad weather lay-overs, a good stretch.   Before starting up the Pass, put your fleece or sweaters at the top of your stuff for an easy put-on at the top.

 Weather changes fast.  Here is the alpine lake at the summit, looking back at the Italian side with its hostel, the statue of Saint Bernard, and rest stop.  Sun breaking through, but that did not last.

Looking at the lake, there is a cross out there. Does it mark an event, or serve as a symbol for the monastery's activities. It does not stand out, but is there.

Fast weather changes. Still above freezing, but cold, windy.

We had periodic rain and hail on the way up, not serious, then back to sun part-time. See an overview of history and weather and famous people passing this way at :// 

Just around the lake is the passport checkpoint for Switzerland.  The border is not open because Switzerland is not part of the European Union.

This Pass is part of the ancient Via Francigena way of the pilgrims, coming from as far away as Canterbury, England, and other parts of Northern Europe, all the way to the Vatican. In the 900's, towns along the way were sizable.  See ://  You can walk it by yourself.  See

Now:  see the second half of the travel over the Gran San Bernardo, the Swiss side, at Switzerland Road Ways, Gran San Bernardo Pass.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Lucca - Volto Santo, Holy Face, Black Christ; Duomo di San Martino

 Exploring Charlemagne Era Connections - Austria and Italy

Duomo di San Martino, or Cathedral of St. Martin:
Lucca, Italy.

We are looking at roots of the old wooden sculpture of the Black Christ in the Cathedral of St. Martin at Lucca, Italy.   The Volto Santo.  This figure appears on the net in two forms we have found, so far:  a plain and a fancy.

1.1  The Plain Volto Santo.
See full size image

People's photos conflict: here is one, in a plain white robe with border, see ://  Here is a fair use thumbnail.

2.  The fancy Volto Santo.

Then there is the "Volto Santo" or "Holy Face", the photograph of a different figure, or is it the same but clothed differently, as is customary in many places, as liturgical seasons change.

Both are black, see  Here is a fair use of the Volto Santo from that site, do an images search for volto santo lucca to find it.
Lucca, Italy, is inland and northeast from Pisa, not far from the coast, in Tuscany. Florence is to the northeast.

Lucca was off our path for visiting this time, but old Lucca, in its Charlemagne era prominence (700s?), appeared by chance in two of our Austrian stops during our most recent trip. What is the history of the Lombards, of Lombardy.  How did Charlemagne, from Aachen, Germany (no boundaries in those days) figure so prominently.  His is a fascinating biography - see :// For more of Charlemagne, curl up with something like ://

We first found Lucca mentioned during a road trip to Austria:  at Austria Road Ways, Kremsmunster Abbey. Its founding dates from Charlemagne's time, and there is a Chalice from that period, with connections to the Queen of Lucca; who turns out to be one wise, gracious, pious and effective Queen Theodolinda of the Lombards, see ://,9171,872284,00.html; a/k/a Theodelinda, see ://  Sixth Century.

    Then we found a correspondence by name and image of Christ, between little old St. Martin's Church from Charlemagne's time in Linz, Austria, at Austria Road Ways, Linz, St. Martin's Church, Martinskirche.  And the Cathedral of St. Martin in Lucca. 

    This Linz Martinskirche has a faded fresco inside that seems to resemble the Black Christ from that period, or earlier; that is kept at St. Martin's Cathedral in Lucca, the Duomo di San Martino. Better photo needed of the Linz fresco.

      • So, we look at the figure of a Black Christ, knowing that there are many Black Madonnas, but this is our first exposure to an early Christian Black Christ.
      Why is the history of this figure not better known; it has a long history, even if conflicting. People go there and never even look it up, see :// Guide books do not even translate it.  See://

      Here is a start.  Note that this is history-based, not faith-based. We leave what people believe about something  to them. We are looking for factual context, origins, place in the middle ages and earlier, and after, and any legends or stories about it. Others can derive significance or not.

      • Why are there two figures: one plain, one fancy, at the Duomo di San Martino, Lucca
      Dressing the figure looks like the answer - as occurs at other shrines as different festivals and seasons turn.  Here is the plain Volto Santo again, from another site. See ://  This one is plain.

      • What is the history of The Duomo di San Martino 
       This, as seen now, was built in the 12th-13th Centuries, see ://  See also :// 

      There was already a church in the town in the 6th Century, a time of San Frediano (an Irish bishop), a Roman basilica style. 

      Earlier, there was a more "primitive" church of San Reparata, a 4th Century girl saint, perhaps 11, persecuted, survived first attempt to kill her in fires, survived, then was indeed killed (beheaded) but suddenly a dove appeared and flew up to heaven.  These are wonderful stories, adding to - not detracting from - a fact-based look.  Perhaps with all this detail you will not forget Reparata, as was part of the probable teaching purpose in embellishing and making these stories memorable.

      Saint Reparata figures prominently in other areas of belief and politics at the time, see ://  Do a find for Lucca there, to see the regional view. Lombards, politics, all.

      • Some guidebooks are useless in some areas.  Frommer's, for example,  thinks it is stylish to make fun of old things, that it thinks only strange people would believe in, and passes the Volto Santo by, almost entirely, except to be derisive. 
       Finally, there it is. Scroll down here and find its condescending reference, fair use quote:
      "This thick-featured, bug-eyed, time-blackened wooden statue of Jesus crucified was rumored to have been started by Nicodemus -- who would've known what he was carving since he was the one who actually took Jesus off the Cross -- but was miraculously completed. Hidden during the persecutions and eventually stuck on a tiny boat by itself and set adrift, it found its way to the Italian port of Luni in 782, where the local bishop was told in a dream to place it in a cart drawn by two wild oxen, and wherever they went, there the Holy Image would stay. The ornery beasts, miraculously submitting meekly to the yoke, wandered over to Lucca and hit the brakes, and the miraculous image has been planted here ever since."

      See //

      Perhaps it is a "fraud" in that it is not the original.

      Frommer's suggests it was carved in the 13th Century.  But, if it also was made at that time to replace an 11th Century rendition "that may have been copied from a Syrian statue from the 700's", then its history is consistent with preserving what to the people there is an important relic. This is apparently the only representation of the face made by someone, or derived from a representation by someone, who was there. That is an interesting point. What if he were dark skinned? What would white-faces around the world do.

      Maybe he was bug-eyed.

      At least this next site notes significance: that this is the only early figure we have that shows dark skin color on Christ; and it has the wits to make this comment: as probably he was. See :// And trace the origin to the sculptor, Nicodemus himself, say the legends. He took Christ down from the cross, so he would know. Is that so?  Can myth coexist with science. Here we go.


      Frommer, with all your profits, why not finance a carbon dating and historical research review of the Holy Visage statue here, and wipe the smirk off.  Proposed:  Facts, and respect, courtesy in opinion, but not condescension in guide books.  

      A confirming Frommer fact:  The figure indeed is dressed for festival procession on September 13 and 14, and May 3, of each year.  But get the tone again:  "The Luccans dress their Christ up ...."  Luccans used in this way and in this context sounds like Skywalkerans?

      Ugly americans at Frommer these days? Tour guide opinions and points and side stories can indeed be made to enhance a tour experience, add to the fact-base or legend surrounding a figure, but the tone matters.

      Monday, November 02, 2009

      Aosta - To the Alps. Romans and Castles. Aosta Valley.

      Romans captured Aosta from the Gauls in about 25 BCE, and made Aosta into a legion post on the way to the Italian side of the Alps. There is a great deal of gray stone, streets in grids.

      Signs are terrible. Aosta is a place on the way elsewhere, to the San Bernardino Pass, and yet try to find the ruins easily, with some idea of how much farther to go. We stop at towns like Aosta mainly for a gas-up and snack, and take a quick look around, but if sights are not well marked, take what we get and move on. The weather is looming and time passing,  and the signs, again, are awful. Aosta tourism, you are losing business.

      Then, Charlemagne (fast forward) passed through on the route Pilgrims used from more northern Europe to the Vatican. Read this fine description at :// Peasants, crusaders, royalty, all funneling through.

      Aosta, on the way to the Grand San Bernardino Pass. FN 1

      First, see the castles and vineyards, and terraced other things growing, on the way to Aosta and out the other side.

      Some castles along the way are identifiable by their silhouettes.  This one, Fenis, like Verres, were feudal military outposts, but also offered luxury to the higher-ups.

      The Bard Castle as a site dates from the 11th Century, perhaps parts earlier.  The Savoys occupied it in the 13th Century, and its site has housed a fortress since the first century - Romans set up there. See ://  Austrians also holed up there until Napoleon broke through its defenses, and then the entire castle was dismantled.  What we see now is a reproduction from the 19th Century, the castle then was decommissioned, and is now a museum complex.

      Above the D'Ael Bridge is a small tower castle, the Montmayer, by the Valgrisenche valley. Think broody. This could be Ussel's Castle - both lone towers, but the Ussel is a rectangle, and I do not recall seeing a rectangle.

      The castle at Verres is 14th Century, and was not only defensive. It also offered the good life - opulence, a palace atmosphere.

      Then start the climb and the switchbacks up.  You can choose the tunnel, but then you see a tunnel. There are tunnels now that whisk the motorcars as an alternative under and through, rather than switchback, peril and up and down. We avoided the long tunnels. Short ones are unavoidable - some being just a few thousand feet to a few miles, or mere roofing buttressed up, with open sides.

      FN 1  Passes.

      There are two particular historic passes over the Alps, among many, with names that have become household:

      1) The Grand San Bernardino Pass, here, from Aosta to Martigny, Switzerland; and
      2) Hannibal's route. More lateral, from France.

      The Grand San Bernardo Pass is a more north-south, from Switzerland into Italy or the other way, of course, with the monks at a hostel at the top, and the St. Bernard dogs to rescue the frozen, broken, traveler in the old days. Napoleon went this way.

      The Grand San Bernardino is usually routed as from Aosta, and the Aosta Valley, as the gateway, over the  to the Swiss town of Martigny.

      2) Hannibal's route; a lateral way from the French side of the Alps into Italy.

      We tried to do this. But just try to get to the town of Susa from Turin on a Sunday, and soon quit. Traffic impossible, no easy through route to find. We don't often give up, but did here. Next trip, start from France. There is a dispute as to which route he did take with his elephants, some say not on current roads at all, and vast archeological treasures are to be found in the ravines elsewhere. We quit and aimed back to Aosta.and

      Wednesday, October 21, 2009

      Turin. Shroud, Duomo, Piazza. Romans. Best City by Foot. Follow Along as the Sun Goes Down

      Walk Along As the Day Ends

      Impression of Turin:  Should be high on anyone's list. Contrasts in people, architecture, a balance of finance (the industrial north of Italy is money-minded, we sense) and culture. The entire way in by our odd route, to the Old Town section, took us through large international sections: markets, Asian, Middle Eastern, African. Follow tracks of any sort, and you get to the center. The main attraction remains the Duomo, with the Shroud, but we want to see more of the other sections next time.

      Read about the scope of Turin, Fiat and all,  at :// Scroll down to Turin.

      1.  Architecture.  

      The Cathedral Bell Tower or Campanile in Turin is Romanesque in style, 1470.  But this site says later - in 1723. See ://

      2.  Theological matters.  Chapel of the Holy Shroud.

      The Shroud of Turin, Chapel of the Holy Shroud at Cathedral, Duomo di Torin, Turin Italy (replicated, original in vault)

      Historical proofs. Some sites avoid the issue of results of the carbon-dating, simply saying that the controversy rages. See ://  Others find flaws in it. See also :// The study itself, however, offers its conclusions leaving 5% uncertainty (reasonable), so anybody can choose to live in that 5%.

      Vet it all. Here is the radiocarbon dating report, at Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin at ://  Their conclusion with 95 percent certainty, is that it dates within this range: 1260-1390, give or take 10.

      Processes of faith and actions of institutions in fostering what they want to foster in dogma: different issues from historical proofs. People will choose what they need.

      Chapel of the Holy Shroud, Duomo, Turin, Italy (Cathedral)

      2.  The World Intrudes Itself, into Secular and Religious Discussions

      Macho fountain square-off, Turin, Italy.
      Smack down approaching. Attitude counts. Issue here: the gustatory superiority of Piazza Castello, Turin, Italy (Castle Square)

      Families out for an evening.  Bikes, and, on the sidelines at the cafes, the watching dater hopefuls.

      Turin, Castle Square, Italy, mime

      See this piazza in panorama at ://

      4.  The Stroll.  Have a bite of doner kebab to hold you until the 10PM dinner.

      Doner kebab, on the way, Turin, Italy

      5.  Reconnoiter at the Hotel - prepare for the 10PM dinner forage.
      Evening Cathedral view, Turin, Italy, from hotel

      Night stroll, cafe for dinner, Turin, Italy
      Where next?

      6.  A yen to redo the office.

      Window display, office interior, Turin, Italy

      Lady with waif's rose, from table next, Turin, Italy

      Children, some dark and raggy, others light and raggy, often sell single roses table to table.

      Buy one, have the little vendor take it to the next table where four ladies, between, say 70-90, are carousing - bottles, big portions, lots of fun, waves, a great way for seniors to enjoy life.  A Turin friend says many elders live on their own, walk all around, largely because the extended family system still works.  Family stops by, keeps an eye, live nearby.  However they do it, these folks were enjoying a good time. And all the walking - we know that's good.

      She waited for us to finish, then came up with another thank-you.

      7.  And the Romans.

      An archeological-dig park, also a dog park - let them run, all fenced in. See statues, ruins, just outside the Hotel.

      Turin Doner Kebab - The Global Fast-Food Feast

      Doner kebab. A global viral spiral delight.
      World Wide Kabab
      Kebap sometimes.
      From a distance: the doner kebab.  Smell it yet?

      Doner kebab, fast food, side street, Torino, Italy (Turin)

      The new world's fast food - the doner kebab.

      Kebabs can be meat bites threaded on little wooden sticks as we think of shish, kebab, or metal sticks; or this - a vertically roasted, rotating mutton-derived and pressed wonder, which is shaved before your very eyes, and served with a white feta sauce, tomato, lettuce, pita, add the fries, see  www://  The doner part means the rotation technique, the vertical merry-go-round of solid pressed meat, being shaved away, customer by customer.

      Up closer. The doner kebap. Sometimes spelled with the "p".

      Quick. In.

      Doner kebab has even reached the eyes and ears and, yea, even the wagging tongues, of the New York Times - here an article on the doner kebab invasion of Milan.  See In Italy, Sign of Defiance in a Kebab and a Coke, by Elizabetta Povoledo at ://   Does size matter?  Where is the biggest one.  See ://

      Doner Kebabs are also in Hanoi:  the banh mi doner kabab. Banh mi by itself means only "bread."  This Vietnamese variation is made of the big wad of shaved pork from the rotating machinery, pickled vegetables, and chili sauce, and a warm baguette. Turkish kebabs, on the other spit, would be "halal" or lamb or other meats, but no pork. See New York Times, November 8, 2009, travel section page 5. A banh mi iluke-bab boasts sprinkled cilantro and sliced red chiles. The Hanoi German variation on a theme displays a virtuoso pickled red cabbage and onions.

      And Quebec. Search.

      Common sense:  Food safety, storage, shipping, shelflife, street food conditions, manufacture of pressurepushedmanymincedmuttonedmysterymeatsmolded, same problems as anywhere. See :// /.  Still, delicious, except for the Doner King's variety.

      It's the mesmerizing movement that gets you. Around and around and up and down.

      So make your own:  

      Look at gyro recipes for various sauces. 
      • Compare the doner kebab to Gyros. Greek gyro compared to kebabs. Gyros, as we understand them, are the Greek sandwiches not necessarily from the rotating vertical spit, and can be in chopped chunks.  See
      • Shaped kebabs:  a first recipe for the shaped minced mutton kebab, ground, in little meatball form on the little sticks, not the rotating Humungous Wonder.  Go to Mutton Kebab Cuisine, ://  
      • This second recipe: combines pounded and marinated lamb slices with ground lamb, and uses a "doner kebab broiler" or rotisserie, see
      Compare the shaped mutton kebab to a Western meatball? 

      Both use seasonings, but the kebab is minced, not ground as in the shaped kebab.  And it takes a lot of flour in the mix; and then the shaped muttonballs are fried, then skewered.  If your pot is big enough, perhaps you could skewer then fry.  Or do a quick broil after frying and then skewering so the stick gets charred a little. Mutton, the grown sheep, has a stronger flavor than lamb, and is tougher. The marinade in #2 would be important as a tenderizer if mutton is used..

      Also enjoyed in Switzerland, see Switzerland Road Ways, Fribourg, Doner Kebabs; and in Slovenia, Croatia, Canada, etc. In Croatia, the process for cevapcici looks similar. Is it?

      Tuesday, October 20, 2009

      Milan - The Ouija Board System of Navigation. Santa Maria presso San Satiro, Duomo and Risotto Milanese


      First, find your way in.
      Second, enjoy the rewards:

      Architecture, history, risotto, and a great Piazza

      The goal:  Central Milan.  How to get there?

      The first - driving in - is not as easy as it sounds.

      1.  Maneuvering. The Ouija Board System of Navigation.

      There is no way in to Milan. There is no way out of Milan.  Remember that, Grasshopper, and you will be wise.  "The urban layout of Milan is curious." That from ://

      The rings of autostrasse routes end without a clear through-way to the old town center. They show on a map, but, once there, look like any other street. Look out the window and see nothing but squares and roads,
      hubbing off, all ending in other squares, or circles.  We asked for a driving directions map on our way out, and were handed 19 turns through and around impossible squares with sillyzillions of streets coming and going.

       We shelved the driving directions;  that was only page one,. the nineteen.   More followed.
      Solutions when maps fail:   
      • The Ouija board.  Lay lay fingers gently on the steering wheel, tap this pedal or that, scan horizons, and go. Eventually, you will see something that makes sense. 
      • The Steeple chase.  Look for steeples. Look for the sun. Go in those directions - basics of north, south, east, west, aim for the belltowers.
      When you are there, remember this is a huge financial hub. Money before tourists. Few low-budget hotels in the center. Just take the big hotel, let them cope with the car (guidebooks warn of break-ins and theft consistently) and belt-tighten elsewhere.

      Exit strategy. 

      When you leave, go ahead and ask for a Driving Directions internet printout, but prepare to skip it.

      You will get at least a dozen directions, all useless because they direct you to .2 to this square, then take the third right at rotary and go .3 to that square, etc.

      This is where you need faith.

      Use the Ouija board and follow the sun. Find any big steeple and aim for it, on the theory that it may lead you to a better life. Finally there will be a ring. Rings upon rings with transverse connectors, so you are not out of trouble yet. Signs are for immediate towns, not ultimate big ones, so learn the route first, then get on one.

      2.  The Sights

      Milan Cathedral, a Rayonnant style of architecture - more French than Italian, highly decorated, see :// - is overwhelming. Where to begin to look.
      Expect disbelief, that this arises from a gritty city so suddenly.

      Then see detail, those individual features on the figures, the pinnacles and flying buttresses, over and over, and still each of the figures unique in expression, clothing, attitude.

      Side view, figures, Duomo, Cathedral, Milan, Italy

      Figures everywhere.

      Milan Cathedral, figure detail
      The Milan Cathedral, the Duomo, was begun in 1380 and is white marble over a core of brick. The color changes with the time of day, and quality of light. Parts were not completed until the 19th Century. See ://

      The Cathedral and Risotto Milanese: Pass the saffron-laced Italian rice, that slow-simmered absorbing stock, warmly coaxed vegetables - a soffrito - ladle by ladle, gentle stir but don't startle it. Inhale.Tender but separate. A little like porridge-making, but rescued in time. Italian rices: arborio, vialone, carnaroli.  Large grains, lots of starch. Add butter and parmesan. A tiny bit pasty. Perfecto.

      Rice arrived probably in the 15th Century, and from Spain, see Risotto History at ://  Arabs would have brought it to Sicily, and to Spain earlier. The Arabs may have grabbed it in India before that.

      Meet Valerius, an apprentice working on the Cathedral in 1574, says the tale, teased for using a shortcut and using saffron to up the ante on color for the stained glass. So he got back at his teasers and added saffron to the rice at his Master's wedding - and delicious it was. Saga of the rice. See the Anna Maria Volpi site; and meet the mondine - young girls and women who came from home in the villages and from distant towns to clean and pick the rice, until about the 1960's, for the 40-day season, knee-deep in the water, bent over, hot sun. And they sang. See ://  Search for mondine and find that site, and click on translate. Youtube has the songs. Economy dependent on women. What were they paid?

      Milan, Duomo Piazza, Italy. Cathedral Square.

      The Duomo Piazza is huge - the Cathedral dominates one end.

      Piazza del Duomo, Milan, shopping arcade, galleria

      This leads to the opera house, La Scala.
      Piazza del Duomo (Piazza, Milan Cathedral), central statue, Victor Emanuel II (Vittorio Emanuele II) plus pigeons
      Here is Vittorio Emanuele, 1820-1878; unifier of Italy, and its first king, 1861-1878.  His statue in the center of the Piazza del Duomo in Milan is the place to meet and greet, and view all.  Note the pigeons. Tuppence.
      Go ahead. Feed the birds.

      With a hotel just a few blocks away, enjoy an evening. And a view of Old Milan from the window.

      The ouija board exit strategy took us past fine old palaces. This is symmetrical, with an identical left and right side. Camera lens too small.
      Milan, Italy. Outer rings; palaces.

      Monday, October 19, 2009

      Lake District: Lazise, Lake Garda; Como, Lake Como; Ispra, Lake Maggiore

      1. Lake District

      a. Lazise, on Lake Garda - northwest from Verona

      The name means "place on the lake", see ://

      Little stairs walk you right down into the water, at spots along the promenade. The easier to get into a boat with, my dear, Pick a step, Set a spell.

      Lasize, and Lake Garda is close to Milan, and an easy drive from Verona. It is full of sunning people. See ://

       Little Saint Nicholas Church is on the water, at the docks. Find boats at the clock tower.


      The old walls with crenellated tops for defense date from the 12th Century, but the earliest castle built on the site dates far earlier, in the 9th Century as defense against the Hungarians. The Scaligeri castle ruin, modified and expanded from the earlier structure, is there.

      San Nicolo is patron saint of fishermen and of schools, and this church was built in the 1200's.  It evolved into secular uses, and then was reconsecrated.

      We have seen a recurrent theme in Italian early frescoes - the Madonna openly nursing the child.  Mary as Mother used to be emphasized in a realistic way. See also this fair use thumbnail of the pregnant Mary, Madonna del Parto, at Monterchi, Tuscany; by Piero della Francesco, from http://www.
 full size image

      Or this one of the pregnant Mary, by Taddeo Gaddi
 full size image

      see :// /.  That site shows another pregnant Mary as well.

      Back to San Nicolo in Lazise, the naturalism compared to our later concealments is striking. Here also, the breast being extended to the child. See Saint Anastasia in Verona for another. The theology here was apparently rejected, or diminished out of existence lest woman be elevated, is that so? - the dependence of the child upon the woman for survival. There were centuries of Mary central to worship, as mediator, as mother of God, often expanding on indigenous religious beliefs in a deity as female, in Europe. See discussion at Martin Luther's Stove, Vetting Roots, Centrality of Mary. Fresco Course Correction?

      This church was built by a group following Origen, of The School of Alexandria, 2d and 3d Centuries we believe, in early Christianity. See ://

      Research, as a start on Origenism, at Origen of Alexandria at ://; and at ://  His ideas were later deemed to be heretic, see ://  That's a little extreme. Just because one web is spun for the ease of some does not mean others cannot find sustenance outside it. And Origen precedes the web - is Pre-Web. PW in time, and closer to the Life (and farther from the politics) than the later dogma-developing ones were. Is that so? Is it time to look again at the rejected ones, seeking truths.

      Of particular interest to theology's political evolution: The church became more and more entrenched as masculine, is that so, and is that why this kind of depiction of Mary as necessary, on whom even the male God depended, was shunted aside?

      b.  Como, Lake Como, Italy

      Lake Como, Italy; residence views

      Lake Como from Como point, Italy

      Get through the crowded town and market and go out as far as you can. The road narrows and narrows, but you will end up at a private club, venerable residences, and public access to enough to enjoy.
      c.  Lake Maggiore

      Through Varese, past Lake Varese, to Ispra.

      View from lovely waterside restaurant, local, small town. Ispra. We followed a wedding party here, then the bride and groom took off in their own car, leaving the guests who had been following, in the parking lot - the guests whooped and hopped back in their cars for the chase and we enjoyed our clams and spaghetti.

      On to Milan. Ready for the Autostrada. Cross country is impossible. Nearly. Stop stop stop.