Musée National Luxembourg

Reconstruction of Gallic house (1st century BD – based on Oppidum Titelberg)

Musée National Luxembourg offers 5 floors of archaeology, presented in a beautiful way. The collection is rich and a visit feels like a discovery of old times. Also children can have a great time in this museum; there is plenty of space, interaction and objects presentations that can attract their full attention.

skull rhinoceros musée national luxembourg
Skull of prehistoric rhinoceros

Musée National Luxembourg was built in the rocks: when you enter in the ground floor, there is a nationalistic presentation about Luxembourg: since when is it a country and how does it develop it’s own identity. Then you walk to floor -1 to find yourself in the first ages of our era. You can go down by stairs or slope (wheelchair accessible). and each floor you go back in time, to end on floor -5 with the oldest known history of Luxembourg. Here and there I lost my way through the logic of the route but that didn’t matter, it just added to the joy of the discovery.

mosaic floor from villa Vichten, Musée National Luxembourg
Mosaic floor with the Muses, found in Gallo-Roman villa in Vichten

The mosaic floor that was found in Vichten is a striking beauty – in reality better than in the picture above (difficult to photograph because of the specific lights above the floor). It depicts the 9 Muses in an impressive way. The complete floor is ca. 6 x 10 meters! You can read in this (French) article how it was found and unearthed, an interesting story. Other pieces from that period that drew my attention are the altars with indigenous fertility godesses; they have fruit baskets on their lap and small animals or children on their side. They made me think of the altar findings at the coast in the Netherlands (see the blog: Meet Nehalennia!).

Indigenous fertility goddess, most probably a home altar

Apparently there was an exposition in the Henan Museum in Zhengzhou, China, under the title ‘Luxembourg: small country, rich history’. Indeed Luxembourg is small compared to China. In lots of vitrines, like here in the midst of special glasswork (left photo) and wonderful accessories from the 1st-4rd century AD (right photo), there were signs of objects gone to China. Very nice to see this special cultural exchange!

There is a lot more to tell about Musée National Luxembourg, I will limit it here to 2 more items – just go there yourself to see and live it all! 1, I did like this piece of glasswork from 40-50AD, found in graves ‘Hellange – Belsaker’:

glasswork musée national luxembourg

2. Finally, real amazing, the facial reconstruction of ‘the man of Loschbour’ based on a skeleton that dates from about 6000 BC, called the Mesolithic Period – these are the oldest finding of humans on Luxembourg’s soil – Loschbour is a small stream in Heffingen – Müllerthal, in the east of Luxembourg. These kind of video’s next to the representation of original findings make the neutral past so much more alive and close to our own lives. Well done, Musée National Luxembourg!

Celtic graveyard at Bourdange

celtic graveyard at bourdange

A Celtic graveyard can be found at Bourdange, Nospelt, at walking distance from a gallo-roman villa complex. To be fair, there is not a lot to see at the former Celtic graveyard itself: all pieces that were found there in archaeological research – and there were many – are exhibited in the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg City. However, the 0,5 kilometer walk towards this Celtic graveyard is nice. Moreover, arriving on the spot after a small path through the woods gives a good look and feel of the place. The Celts were amazing in finding spots for mystic purposes. Please follow 2 minutes of my path to the Celtic graveyard in this happy video-recording July 2022.

The Celtic graveyard was used during a few centuries, from the 1st century BD till problably the 3rd century AD. Archaeologists suppose that this graveyard belonged to the inhabitants of the nearby gallo-roman villa complex. All the objects were dug up by volunteers who were able to reconstruct especially the 5 large tumulus: the last resting place of 4 men and 1 woman, all of them probably in powerful positions. Both the men and the woman received the same kind of attributes in their tumulus: lots of pottery, weaponry and horse equipment. Apart from that, there was a mirror for the woman and 2 special statues of mother figures. On the photograph of the information board at Bourdange, you can see these statues lying in spot 1 and spot 2, somehow in the middle of a number of objects.

celtic graveyard at bourdange - statues of mother figures

On the other picture, you can see the statues in the permanent exposition of the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg.

2 statues found in celtic graveyard at bourdange

Around the grave of the Celtic woman, many coins were found and also specific bones. Apparently people worshipped her after her death. From the date of the coins, we know that the worship lasted over 150 years! She must have been very important and maybe one day we will know more about her. In the picture below you can see the presentation of the grave gifts in the Museum: it was a rich treasure that was donated to her in her tumulus in the Celtic graveyard. The Museum also shows the gifts given to the men.

woman's grave in celtic graveyard at bourdange

One thing puzzled me, apparently there is a museum in Nospelt where findings of the Celtic graveyard and the gallo-roman villa are exposed. I went to Nospelt and indeed there is a house-like building with a sign that it is a museum, but nothing shows when it is opened or how it can be visited. That is a pity because all on the site indicates that such a museum would have a story. Fortunately there is the Museum in Luxembourg.  Maybe the future will also bring volunteers for the Nospelt Museum (or the marketing of it).

Anyway, the Celtic graveyard in combination with the gallo-roman villa will give you a very nice experience; worth the trip!

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Gallo-roman villa at Bourdange

gallo-roman villa at bourdange

The site of the gallo-roman villa at Bourdange (Nospelt, Luxembourg) is very interesting. Clearly there is a lot of care both for the findings of the gallo-roman (celtic-roman) villa and the information given to visitors. It is a pleasure to go and see around.

In the woods at the verge of Bourdange, Nospelt, lies a most interesting Celtic site. The road signs call it a ‘Roman villa’, locals call it ‘Miecher’. Anyway it dates from the period where Celts were adapting more and more to Roman laws and lifestyle (‘gallo-roman period’). What you see is a group of foundations, scattered around in field and forest, remnants from a large villa with many side-buildings. The foundations were dug up and made accessible so that you easily have an overview and a good impression of the extent of the wealth here in the first centuries AD. Also you can see the traces of wooden fences, made in the 3rd and 4rd century when German tribes attacked Roman sites.

gallo-roman villa at bourdange

Volunteers have run this project that the local pastor Kayser started in 1964. Pastor Kayser followed up on the local rumors that there was a lot to find in the forest. There were talks about a hidden treasure. Together with the locals, he started the first serious archaeological search, with success. What happened before when following up on local memories, happened here again: a real hidden treasure was found! Imagine to find a pot filled with 2772 ‘antonian’ coins! Alas it is not on the site of the gallo-roman villa in Bourdange but in the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg city. The treasure stood within a wall in one of the side building – maybe the administrator of the property? There is no side note on the owner or the meaning of this treasure so that is one of the secrets of history.

gallo-roman villa at bourdange - treasure

His initiative was the basis of a large archaeological movement in the region that is remarkable and that obtained government recognition and permission as per 1991. What an achievement! Every year, more than 10.000 volunteer hours are spent in ancient sites. They also do projects with young people to increase interest and love for archaeology. You can feel that when you visit. Not only were several people working there to clean the site and make it more perfect, also the proof of regular research activity is visible on several spots. The information boards are excellent – I could follow every step of the project and it is exciting. There is way to much information to mention here so go there yourself and take your time.

gallo-roman villa at bourdange - information boards

Most of the foundations at the gallo-roman villa of Bourdange were former houses or buildings, except for 2 structures: 1 is a small temple, I loved that: to have your own temple next to the house! This, of course, was only for the very rich. 2 is a former monument for the death, a small round tower. The fact that the monument was situated at the doorstep of the house, means that ancestors and death have been very present for the living.

gallo-roman villa at bourdange - temple

When you visit the gallo-roman villa at Bourdange, it is just a short walk to go to the Celtic graves further into the woods. I went there and will tell more about them in the next blog.

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Rijksmuseum van Oudheden – Meet Nehalennia!

nehalennia rijksmuseum van oudheden

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden is the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in the city of Leiden. I always thought that our country, the Netherlands, only had antiquities from foreign countries like Greece or Egypt, and that Dutch findings were rather recent. So I visited many archaeological museums especially in the Middle East (see below). How could I be so ignorant? Rijksmuseum van Oudheden has spectacular, really ancient findings from Dutch soil. Also I learned about local gods that I never heard about before. So nice!

The altars shown above are dedicated to the goddess Nehalennia. Many merchants who crossed the sea from the Netherlands to London from 150 – 250 AD erected an altar to thank her for a safe journey. People completely forgot about her until a temple and many altars were discovered in the dunes of Domburg in 1647 AD. Nehalennia is a goddess of fertility, often pictured with fruits and/or a dog, but also with (elements of) a ship. Her origin should be Germanic or Celtic. If you also never heard about her, that in itself makes it worth a visit to Rijksmuseum van Oudheden!

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden has a large collection with antiquities from many countries. It’s easy to spend many hours there! In this blog, I concentrate on the Dutch ones. Things I particularly liked:

bandkeramiek uit Elsloo - rijksmuseum van oudheden

Pottery from a settlement at the river Meuse in the south, dating from 5000BC.

ommerschans zwaard en jutphaas zwaard

The Ommerschans Sword and the Jutphaas Sword, unique pieces of bronze casting from 1500BC. The museum calls them ‘exceptional artefacts’. They were used as gifts in sacrifices. Center and northeast of the Netherlands (that didn’t exist as a country in that time yet).

bronzen nekringen - rijksmuseum van oudheden

Both men and women wore bronze neck rings. These date from the early iron age, 800-500BC. Found in the center of the country but most probably imported. Also used as offers. I particularly liked the twisted one.

This woodcarved figure was probably a ritual object. It was found in a well in Oss in the south and dates from 400BC. It is rare to find wooden antiquities. This one is in oak.

rijksmuseum van oudheden - speer

Spearhead, put in wooden shaft and then thrown to the enemy, apparently a real killer. Dating from
1-300BC, found in Alblasserdam, middle-west of the country. A masterpiece!

gouden helm de peel

The golden helmet found by turf-cutters in the Peel (southeast), dating from 320AD. More precious objects were found but there is no info about context (owner, offering?). An absolute wow-piece!

viking schat - rijksmuseum van oudheden

The Viking Hoard of Wieringen, north-west of the country, 850AD. 1,6 kilo of silver, most probably from a Danish owner. It was buried in spring. So maybe the owner was hiding it when he left and he never came back…

Interested in archaeological museums? You may also like:
Archaeological museum Sanliurfa
Archaeological museum Haarlem
Huis van Hilde – Hilde’s House
Archaeological museum Gaziantep
Archaeological museum Amman
Musée d’Art et d’Archaeologie d’Orléans
Muséum of Art and Archaeology Périgord
Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum

Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans

The Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans houses the great bronze treasure of Neuvy-en-Sullias – 33 art pieces from the gallic and gallo-roman period in the begin of our era. There is much more to see in this museum but the bronze treasure alone is already worth your visit.

bronze treasure neuvy-en-sullias wild boar Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie Orleans

Top pieces in the Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans are the horse (54 kilos without the bronze pedestal) and the wild boar (125 cm long). You better bring a chair to sit in front of them for a while and admire this art that is unique in Europe. Let the refined craft work and the beauty sink in…

Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie in Orleans
trésor bronze neuvy-en-sullias horse

The bronze artefacts were found 1861 in Neuvy-en-Sullias in a hidden place next to the Loire river – most probably an offer to celtic gods like Rudiobus. Recent studies reveal that they were partly restaured at that time and not always in the right way.

Probably the top of this wild boar was placed on the wrong animal and must have belonged to the other wild boar. The rings on the pedestal of the horse, that probably served to carry the horse around in religious ceremonies, might not be the right ones but the other 4 ones in the showcase…

Amazing is also the series of small figurines: with gestures and movement and mostly nude. They do not look like roman art and their signification is unknown. One assumption is that they represent the naked dancing that came with gallic carnaval.

Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie in Orléans bronze figurines gallic period

A guide in the Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans was very enthusiastic about the treasure himself and most willing to show all the details. He also gave me the website address of JF Bradu who made scientific studies about the artefacts and published his findings. It made my visit even more interesting.

There is some more to see, first of all the Hôtel Cabu that houses the Musée d’Histoire et d’Archéologie in Orléans: built in 1548 in renaissance style.

Some objects in other parts of the museum I liked:

bishop eveque saint denis

The intriguing statue of Saint Denis, the first bishop of France who was sent by pope Clemens to convert the Gauls and was decapitated by the Romans in 205. The story tells that he made it all the way from Montmartre to Saint Denis while carrying his decapitated head in his hands.

Nice plagues – very different in style and theme.

monster wild animal Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie in Orléans

The drawing of a wild animal that wreaked havoc around Orléans, with a poem-like text next to it. An intriguing story, what kind of animal was that? When you stand there you can feel the fear people had for the cruelty of nature.

alexandre joseph caboche painted by mademoiselle schmitt Musée d'Histoire et d'Archéologie in Orléans

The Loire had tremendous inundations in the past. Signs in the city remind people to that: nothing new in nowadays high waters, showing that we are not yet on the level of the old days. In 1846 Alexandre Joseph Caboche saved paintress Mlle Schmitt from the flood and she painted his portrait with the cross of the Légion d’Honneur that he received.

Did you like this blog? Then you may also like:

Vesunna Museum Périgueux

Musée d’Angoulême

Archaeological Museum Gaziantep

Archaeological Museum Amman

Archaeological Museum Haarlem

Huis van Hilde / Hilde’s House

Museum van Loon Amsterdam

Portrait of Wilhelmine and Henriette van Loon 1826, by A.j. Dubois-Drahonet
Portrait of Wilhelmine and Henriette van Loon, by A.j. Dubois-Drahonet 1826

Museum Van Loon is a special canal house in Amsterdam built in 1672 and owned by the Van Loon family since 1884. The visit is a mixed experience of beauty, amazing details and an overdose of portraits. Did people actually live here, is a question coming up when walking around.

museum van loon

Many rooms are beautiful in Museum Van Loon. This photograph is the Blue Saloon on the ground floor. The woman with the red dress is Thora van Loon-Egidius who worked for Queen Wilhelmina. The museum shows more royal connections of the Van Loon family during the ages.

More recently, President Obama had dinner in the dining room of Museum van Loon when he visited Amsterdam. These kind of high profile contacts are clearly very important for the Van Loon family, but they do not communicate why. This leaves the visitor with the impression that it is about ‘belonging’, being part of societal circles as a value in itself.

museum van loon insignia

Intriguing is the fact that the insignia of Van Loon has 2 black heads in it and they do not know where that came from. Ancestor Willem van Loon was one of the co-founders of the VOC in 1602. The black heads were added later to the original 15ht century insignia of the three crosses (‘mill irons’) and suggest a link with slavery and colonialism.

But a fundamental explanation has not been found yet. Museum Van Loon is open about the family’s connections with slavery in the 18th and 19th century and had a big project on the subject – keeping the details for an online visit here: https://www.museumvanloon.nl/programma/archief/120.

When I entered the sleeping room – the Sheep Room – I felt cosiness and private life for the first time. Much of the canal house is beautiful but impersonal. The Sheep Room is different; a place where humans live and enjoy themselves – maybe also because of the bookshelves and the fact that chaos is more dominant than order there.

Some particular highlights I like to show you here:

museum van loon red saloon

The Red Saloon, an amazing room full of portraits.

The most recent portraits of women in the family – they chose a different style, very nice.

museum van loon kitchen

The kitchen – just adorable

museum van loon garden

The garden, at the ‘back side’ of the canal house.

museum van loon koets

The char-à-bancs from the begin of the 20th century that was used for pleasure drives. Imagine that you sit in there or maybe even drive it yourself over the romantic canals of Amsterdam!

museum van loon stairwell

The stairwell that has its own particular charm.

All in all, I am not sure what to think of Museum Van Loon and that is maybe why I recommend a visit; it is intriguing, an elitist impression in an egalitarian city, a place where human touch has a challenge to break through the stiff upperlip while all seem to mean well.

Are Jews White?

are jews white?

Are Jews White?, is the name of a new exposition in the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. As an expert in diversity and inclusion, I went there almost immediately after the opening. Are Jews White? is an interesting and also a bit disappointing exposition. I explain you my mixed feelings in this blog.

When you enter the expo, there are a number of signs on walls and pillars, and a short introducton video. After that, you arrive in a former synagogue which is the religious part of the Jewish Historical Museum. I was surprised: was that all? Indeed it wasn’t. After the religious part, the exposition Are Jews White? continues. Video has a central place. The exposition makers have interviewed around ten persons with different background who reflect on the theme Are Jews White?. After some nice cutting and pasting, they produced a good series of interesting comments on the subject: many aspects of the theme are thus covered from different perspectives. A disadvantage however is that this production does not elevate the theme above the average ‘circus of opinions’. I could not discover where Are Jews White? rises above existing concepts. Are Jews White? rather shows how deeply we are imprisoned in boxes, unable to liberate ourselves from them.

To me, the concept of black and white is evidently not applicable to Jews (and many others). I remember how I visited a camp with Jews from Ethiopia in Tel Aviv who newly arrived, somewhere in the begin of this century. They had been health care workers in Ethiopia and were preparing for a similar job in Israel. They had a good selfconfidence of what they had to offer to Israeli Jews – for example, more respect for the elderly – but many of them felt underestimated and discriminated upon. Therefor I wondered how the exposition would work this out. Are Jews White? failed to do so, but shows clearly that the concept of black and white has strong limits and serves rather as a concept to divide people more than to unite them.

Professor Gloria Wekker is one of the persons interviewed in the video. Her concept of intersectionality has no answer to the Are Jews White? issue. Intersectionality (in my view) was an original concept encouraging us to leave a dualistic world and enter the multifaceted one. Especially when Gloria Wekker just started as a professor and called her concept ‘kruispuntdenken’ (crossroad thinking), it was much more open to the dynamics of diversity. Something went wrong during the years along the intersectional road. Not only did intersectionality create more boxes, these boxes are also more oppressive, there is no escape from them.

are jews white? zijn joden wit?

The result, and that is very clear in Are Jews White?, is that Jews would be called black or white for political reasons, or for the opinion people have about them, or that they have about themselves. The tragedy is that this limits Jews to be who they are. And indeed this may be true for all of us: the concept of black and white limits us all. Of course I understand that the concept of black and white serves to explain the construction of society but let’s be fair: watching the video in the exposition, it is clear that the concept of black and white is more than a methodology. It serves the need of many to be part of a group or to see others as such. It provides a safe world of boxes where skin color and other aspects are all well set and clear and can be explained in predictable terms. The exposition fails to explain this need at a deeper level: why do we need to put people into categories? Why do we get upset when Jews do not fit in?

Maybe the ambition to have more answers is too high. I remember my last visit to Israel when I discussed with a scientist in the Holocaust Museum: why is there antisemitism, and why does it seem to be always there? He admitted that as a scientist, he can prove it is there and describe it, but he can not explain it scientifically.

My guess is that the Jewish Historical Museum created Are Jews White? to open the discussion about (useless) boxes and to prevent that we lock ourselves in and that we try to lock Jews in. We have to live with a rather misty and multi-interpretable reality for ourselves and for others, even though that comes with uncertainties. All-in all, I recommend the exposition. For your notice, it is totally bilingual (English and Dutch).

benjamin en chaila cohen
kaatje cohen

And don’t forget to walk by the paintings I show on the picture here, that I adored above every object in the museum, especially the woman’s dress: Benjamin and Chaile (Kaatje) Cohen from the 18th century. There’s more info about them but you will find that when you visit…

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

Ons' lieve heer op solder altar

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is a special and well hidden treasure in the oldest part of Amsterdam. Ever seen a church in the attic of a canalhouse? For that unique experience, this museum should be on your wish list!

canal house ons' lieve heer op solder

Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) surprises the visitor who starts his tour in a ‘normal’ canal house and suddenly arrives in a church that can host quite a few visitors. You don’t feel that coming and that was exactly the point for this catholic church. In 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, the religious war between roman-catholics and protestants was won by protestants in Amsterdam. Catholicism was officially banned but in the meantime, many catholics could still go to hidden churches all over the city – as long as they wouldn’t be visible, they would not be bothered.

At that time, accepting in silence that people would not give up their faith and letting them to worship according to their own rules and wishes was seen as a strong sign of tolerance. Thus Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is a museum that shows the roots of tolerance in an intolerant world, a characteristic that was very strong in 17th century Amsterdam that also opened the door for many Jews.

Your visit to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder starts in the canalhouse, with rooms like the kitchen here on the right, with stairs leading up and down in the narrowness that is usual in canalhouses in Amsterdam. I loved the stairs maybe even more than the rooms. Pottery is shown that was found in a cesspool, as well as the bedroom of the canalhouse owner.

There is also a room with 18th or 19th century classical design to give you an idea how people lived there at the time. I particularly liked the painted ceiling that you can see at the photograph. After this look into canalhouse-life, you can climb another staircase and boff, there you are, in a church that is not at all visible from the outside.

ons lieve heer op solder organ

The colour surprised me. The guard at the entrance knew all about Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder and answered many questions, also the one on the pink paint in the museum. The church is in it’s original, 19th century state, a Victorian period where this colour was popular. Moreover there are many details and artefacts that are older, like the painting of Jacob de Wit at the altar (first half 18th century) and the organ (1794)

As you can see in the picture, the church has several floors and you can walk downstairs or go to the first floor. The church was founded by a rich German merchant, Jan Hartman in 1663.

peter parmentier priester ons' lieve heer op solder

Next to the church is the room where the priest lived: Peter Parmentier. He dedicated already decades of his life to the conversion of Amsterdam so probably it was logical that he got the job…
While making your tour through the canal house, do not forget to look out of the windows – the view on the canal is beautiful, and at one point also the tower of the Old Church can be spotted!

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is living difficult times (summer 2020) as it seems to loose it’s financial support from the government. I am sure a solution will be found as this is among the oldest museums of Amsterdam and a more than unique reflection of the religiously diverse history of Amsterdam. However, you can contribute yourself by paying a visit to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder and/or fund them with your donation. Warmly recommended!

Other places to visit in Amsterdam:
Hermitage Amsterdam
Anne Frank Huis
Adam Tower

Another very interesting museum about the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age:
Westfries Museum Hoorn

Musée d’Angoulême: beautiful!

Celtic helmet, 4th century BC, bronze, gold, silver, coral, spectacular finding 1981 Cave of Perrats (Agris)

Musée d’Angoulême has a fine collection worth visiting, with the golden Celtic helmet as a unique masterpiece. It is a mixture of archaeology, ethnography and fine arts, presented with care and good guidance.

musée d'angoulême entrance next to cathedral saint pierre

Looking for the archaeological museum of Angoulême, find the Musée d’Angoulême on the backside of the cathedral Saint Pierre. I had some struggle finding it. There are few signs indicating where the museum is. Once arrived, you go through a beautiful entrance. The 12th century roman tower of the cathedral looks down upon the visitors in all its magnificence.

musée d'angoulême bronze age presentation

Entrance is only 5 euro (in 2020) and I was told the ticket gives me a 50% reduction for the Paper Museum that I never heard of. Angoulême still has some work to do to attract interested visitors… This also goes for the language: everything is in French only. The information given is great, thorough and lively – if you speak the language. See the image here on the right about objects found in this region deriving from the Bronze Age.

musée d'angoulême prehistorical animal

The archaeological collection is on the ground floor. The website gave the warning that most of the older archaeological findings of this region are in other museums but I must say the Musée d’Angoulême presents very well what they do have. Even prehistorical items took my immediate attention. Prehistory is a period that I usually skip because I prefer the period from 10.000BC until the Romans, but not in Musée d’Angoulême.

musée d'angoulême wall with rests of dynasaure

The rock that the Musée d’Angoulême placed against the wall to show the findings of a dinosaure skeleton is very special! Moreover, the findings of the Neanderthaler and Cromagnon Humans are local: it is here that they lived. That, in combination with an excellent presentation, makes it special.

musée d'angoulême vitrin and wall prehistory

I liked a movie about the dolmen, telling that originally there was much more to the structure than just the big rocks that are left over. As the dolmen are older that the pyramids in Egypt, the Musée d’Angoulême calls them the ‘oldest architectural structure in the world’. But that is incorrect: the – presumed – temples of Göbekli Tepe are much older. Nevertheless it was new for me that dolmen were at the center of bigger constructions. The movie gives great images of what they must have looked like.

There are many nice objects, I show 3 of them here that I particularly liked:

heads of jarnac musée d'angoulême
  1. The Heads of Jarnac, images meant to keep ancestors close. The faces have their own individuality. West-Celtic (Gaule de l’Ouest) dating 1st or 2nd Century BC.

bronze age bowl musée d'angoulême

2. One of those ‘simple’ but very beautiful pieces to be found in Bronze Age collections. The fine art work on top would seduce me to buy it, if available in shops today…

chess and trictrac pieces from the Xth century, musée d'angoulême

3. Chess came to Western Europe from India via the Arab world in the 10th century. These are among the oldest pieces ever found. Trictrac was also a known game. Both were played with dice at the time.

On the first floor, a large collection of ethnography can be visited, mostly from Oceania, the Maghreb and some African countries. No opinion on that from my side. I paid a visit to the second floor for the ‘fine arts’ of the Musée d’Angoulême. It appears to be a mixture of art objects like porcelain and many paintings, some valuable, some not worth to be put into a museum. 3 paintings took my attention:

rosa bonheur jeune taureau sautant la barrière painting

Jeune taureau sautant la barrière, by Rosa Bonheur (19th century). Rosa Bonheur lived in a time where women were not allowed to go to art schools, however she found a way to learn how to paint. She made a great reputation with paintings of horses and cows. To go to animal markets and slaughter houses, she dressed up like a man to have access – just like the contemporary female writer George Sand was doing to be accepted. Rosa Bonheur was the first woman to be decorated with the great cross of the Legion d’Honneur.

van der helst painting of young gentleman and woman

Amid the many paintings of very different value, suddenly a real 17th century Van Der Helst painting. It is called ‘Portrait of a young Dutch gentleman and his wife‘ , not sure if this was the description or the real title. Anyway a surprising work of art in the collection.

And last but ot least, an intriguing piece of work by Pierre Auguste Vafflard, made in 1804: Young et sa fille. This is an incredible story about the English poet Edward Young who went to France with his daughter while she was ill, in the hope to get her cured. Helas, she dies at the age of 18 in Lyon. Being protestant in a catholic country, he is only allowed to bury here at night in the graveyard of the Swiss colony – and he has to do it himself. So here is the painting where he carries his deceased daughter to her grave at night. A true masterpiece – with apologies for the imperfect photograph.

edward young burrying his daughter at night, painting by Pierre Auguste Vafflard

Other places to visit in this region:
Vesunna Museum Périgueux
Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord
Aubeterre Underground Church

Aubeterre Underground Church

aubeterre underground church

Aubeterre Underground Church of Saint Jean is an amazing site. The church was carved out of the rocks from the upper side downwards. The crusader Pierre II de Castillon lived in the castle above it and reserved the best spot for himself, with view on the copy of the Holy Grave in Jerusalem. Now you can visit this spot and see what he saw in the XIIth century.

aubeterre underground church 2

Aubeterre Underground Church of Saint Jean is also called the Monolithic Church as it was carved out of the limestone rocks, however not out of a single rock. Still it is one of the largest rock-hewn churches in Europe. There is some discussion about the origin but the main carving job was done in the XIIth century by Benedictine monks. The way to carve it, from the upper side downwards, was influenced by early churches that can still be found in Turkey’s Kappadokia. On their way to Jerusalem the crusaders must have past this region and be inspired by the way they were created and brought this idea back to France.

baptismal font aubeterre

The work took 10 years. 9000 m3 of stone was removed! The church  is  27 meters long, 20 meters high and 16 meters wide. In the middle of the floor you can find a beautiful baptismal pool, carved in the form of a Greek cross. Aubeterre Underground Church was hidden for centuries by a rock fall, and only rediscovered in the 1950′s.

aubeterre underground church entrance

Imagine the first people entering the site; their mouths must have fallen open. They might have lived next door for years without any idea of the miracle that was created there in medieval times. See also this photograph I took at the entrance: if that had not been built, one could easily pass the church unnoticed.

aubeterre underground church from above

Aubeterre Underground Church has enormous high rounded vaults which tower above a monumental reliquary in the form of the holy sepulchre in Jerusalem. The religious artifacts are no longer there. They were brought to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne from Jerusalem by Pierre II de Castillon, crusader and lord of the castle situated above the church. There is an entrance through the rocks to go from the castle down to the deambulatory in the vaults of the church.

aubeterre underground church view ofjerusalem sepulture

Visitors actually enter the church from downstairs and take stairs to go up to the deambulatory that is perched beneath the vaults. Here is the perfect spot where Pierre II as the lord of the castle could overview the whole church. Seeing the holy sepulchre from here creates a highly spiritual ambience. However, the deambulatory is also home for bats. Don’t let it influence your spiritual experience!
Aubeterre-sur-Dronne lies on the road to Santiago de Compostella and always had many pilgrims passing to see the relics.

necropolis aubeterre underground church

Once back downstairs, don’t forget to have a view at the ‘cemetary’, on the side of the church: a complete necropolis that is also hewn out of the rock. It shows the popularity of the church and the holiness it had for visitors and inhabitants. All the graves head in the direction of Jerusalem.

road sign aubeterre underground church

Westfries Museum Hoorn

westfries museum hoorn

I often went to the beautiful city of Hoorn but I never visited the Westfries Museum Hoorn. That was a mistake! When I finally took the step to visit last week, I saw how beautiful it is, both the ancient building and the collection; I should have gone there before… Learn about the Dutch Golden Age, the 17th century when the Netherlands were a brandnew state, full of ambition in wartorn Europe. Enjoy the attractive presentations!

westfries museum hoorn

Westfries Museum Hoorn is like the Frisians are: it won’t easily show from the outside what is in it. I was never aware that behind the walls of the indeed beautiful ancient building, a wealth of antiquities awaits the visitors. Rooms are decorated like they were in the 17th century. The picture to the left shows a wood carving in a chimney (oak), of men catching a whale: a wonderful picture. This is in the ‘tavern’, a real nice room where you can imagine how people sat together for eating and drinking.

westfries museum hoorn

17th paintings are everywhere. The museum has got magnificent pieces and they have a lot of them. Moreover it is far less busy than museums in Amsterdam so you have all the time you like to watch them in peace and silence.
It is incredible how this 17th century ‘beginning’ country The Netherlands that was threatened from all sides, both by real ennemies like England and Spain, and by natural ennemies such as sea and rivers, built up an imperium with little means, by joining forces together and showing guts and re-thinking trade. It made cities like Hoorn thrive abundantly. Look at this wonderful painting Hoorn View by Hendrick Vroom in 1622 – admire the colours, the details…

westfries museum hoorn
westfries museum hoorn

Another painting I particularly liked is the Kitchen maid who cleans fish in front of farm with dog by Egbert Lievenzs. van der Poel (1621-1664). It is so different from the paintings of all the important guys (Westfries Museum Hoorn has many in this kind). Ordinary life with ordinary people can be as interesting or even more than the endless row of portraits on all the other walls.

westfries museum hoorn

Now I show you some other pieces that attracted my attention. It is only a selection, to give you an impression of what to expect and indeed I was deeply impressed. Enjoy the variety of what the Westfries Museum Hoorn has to offer!

westfries museum hoorn

The best piece for book lovers: chronicles of Hoorn, published in 1740. Telling the begin and the growth of Hoorn, and in particular the events (the ‘troubles’) until the year 1630. Written by Theodorus Velius, a doctor and a well know chronicler who wrote this in 1704. You can find the tekst of the first pages (in Dutch) on this site. The 1740 version has annotations by another expert, what a joy. Imagine how they produced this, in a time that a book was printed page by page!

westfries museum hoorn

Cutting art, art produced by cutting with scissors; it was difficult to photograph because of the glass reflection as you can see but hopefully you can get a good impression. De Faem was made by Gilles van Vliet, a vinegar maker and wine merchant in Rotterdam 1686. This was only his hobby! But his work had a certain fame because of his ‘excellent curieuse pieces’. Absolutely amazing work and you wonder where someone finds the patience for this art…

Down in the cellar, a lovely niche is reserved for this wooden Maria statue. It dates from 1450 – 1500, is made out of oak, the crown is made of gold with silverthread, pearls and gemstones. A sign mentions that it is called a ‘Maria in sole’ because she stands on a crescent moon, and she is lit by the sun and the stars, as described in Johannis’ Revelations. The cellar was totally quiet when I was there; it is a good place for meditation and prayer. Two chairs in the little niche facilitate visitors to do so.

westfries museum hoorn

Also in the cellar are these tiles, deriving from a farm in Andijk, not far from Hoorn in Westfriesland, dating from 1700-1730. The whole piece forms a ‘wall heater’ and depicts biblical scenes. There are more ‘wall heaters’ in the cellar as well as other interesting tiles. So do not forget to visit the cellar – if you skipp that part of the museum, you really miss something!

Another underground treasure: this painting that is part of a large piece, a tryptich, the Hoorn Panel of Justice. It used to hang behind the judges at the wall of the court room of the old townhall and shows the assumptions of jurisdiction. Most probably several painters worked on it from 1521 – 1530 and it contains 5 stories. I loved story number 4 (on the photograph), the Verdict of Herkenbald. Herkenbald of Bourbon was very ill in his bed when he ordered that his cousin had to be locked up for assaulting a maid. His order was not followed. Therefor Herkenbald cut the throat of his cousin all by himself. Whew…. I stood there thinking what this meant for the court room and the judges that were sitting in front of this painting in the 16th century… What could be the right interpretation of this story?

westfries museum hoorn

This is one other of those incredible museum pieces. The painting dates from 1589, that is now exactly 430 years ago. And what do they show here? The Westfries Museum Hoorn does not just have the painting, it also has the original box that is depicted in the painting. Isn’t that wonderful? I stood there in surprise and believe me, it matches: the box is exactly the box that was painted 430 years ago. Little is known about the painting, the sign mentions ‘two members of the Saint Joris Guild’ – oil painting on linen. OK, so far what we can know about it. As said knowing is not always the most interesting part.

westfries museum hoorn

Another very interesting piece, the gold plated silver Bossu Goblet: I did not find this beautiful or so but it served as a trophy for Hoorn and that is intriguing. It once belonged to the Spanish admiral Maximilien de Hénin-Liétard, the earl of Bossu. In the eternally ongoing war at that time (the 80 year war) the admiral was defeated in 1573 in a war on the water (or sea) close to Hoorn. The goblet in the hands of the people of Hoorn symbolized the new power of the city of Hoorn (and Enkhuizen, also in Westfriesland) that thrived after this heavy battle against the Spanish that they won. I find it so interesting in the Westfries Museum Hoorn, that every object has a story with historical relevance.

westfries museum hoorn
westfries museum hoorn

A coffin dating from 1658: who knows how many bodies were transported in this coffin? Intriguing that it has been preserved during centuries. The four corners are decorated with silver plate angels. I did not find any further explanation about this piece (feel free to comment below!) such as until when it was used and whether it was for the rich only or also for ordinary people. However, very beautiful…

How often do you see table ware with a hare? Here they are, in different shapes and colours. I loved them! Just for the motive.
But if you like to know more, this is berretino-style faience from Liguria, Italy, 1580 – 1620. It appears that the coloured one is a local copy of the Italian work – quite a succesfull one, imo 🙂

Last but not least, I found this silver miniature, dating from 1751. The name of the maker is Arnoldus VAN GEFFEN – not really family I guess but I rarely hear my family name in this region far ‘above the rivers’ > Geffen is a village below the large Dutch rivers.
So I was happily surprised! Well done Arnoldus, I love your silverwork 🙂

You may also like these Dutch special places:
* Hilde’s House
* Adam Tower
* Anne Frank House
* Archaeological Museum Haarlem

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House of Dionysos in Paphos

house of Dionysos in paphos

House of Dionysos in Paphos, Cyprus, has floors full of mosaics. It dates from the 2nd century AD but there is evidence it was built upon a much older building. The mosaics are worth your visit all by themselves, although they lie in a larger archaeological parc next to the seaside of Paphos, with much more to see.

house of Dionysos paphos phaedra and hyppolytos mosaic

The Phaedra and Hyppolytos mosaic for example form a refined work. Hyppolytos is there with his hunting dog and he reads the love letter his stepmother Phaedra sends him. An explanation says he ‘looks embarrassed’ and she is ‘waiting anxiously for his reaction’; I leave it to you to decide whether these observations are correct… Cupido directs a burning torch to her heart as a sign of her passion.

Platforms above the mosaics walk you through or better to say ‘over’ the mosaics. Signs are in Greek and English ànd braille: very customer friendly!

house of Dionysos in paphos animal mosaics
house of paphos Cyprus bear mosaic

There are also great mosaics showing animals, and other aspects of nature, like the animals here: a wild boar purchased by a tiger (?), a bear, a deer, a bull for example.

house of Dionysos in paphos deer mosaic
house of dionysos paphos bull mosaic

All together the House of Dionysos in Paphos has 556 m2 in mosaics so there is a lot to enjoy. Also the more figurative mosaics are very fine, I loved them.

house of Dionysos in paphos figurative mosaic

The House of Dionysos in Paphos lies within a larger archaeological parc called Kato Paphos with more interesting remains to see. Some interesting floors in the open air were covered with protective carpets when I visited, alas. Also the weather was very hot: if you go during the summer, be early to be able to look around the archaeological site without a burning sun over your head. The mosaics of the House of Dionysos themselves are covered with a roof but of course not the whole area is.

house of Dionysos in paphos graves
house of Dionysos in paphos graves

Further on in some corner of the site lie interesting tombs. There was nothing to explain them so if you have information about it, please comment here. They seem to be different from the Tombs of the Kings mentioned on wikipedia, but maybe they were part of them. Some of the tombs were a bit of a mess, as you can see on the photograph to the left.

house of Dionysos graves
house of Dionysos in paphos graves

As said, the House of Dionysos in Paphos was built in the 2nd century AD upon more ancient remains; the oldest one was a sanctuary carved into the natural bedrock. It was destroyed most probably by an earthquake in the 4th century. The leading role Paphos used to have in Cyprus was then transfered to Salamis, also a very interesting site to visit. The coins found on this site can be seen in the Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage in Nicosia.

You may also like these blogs about other mosaic treasures:

Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia
Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep, Turkey
Agios Trias Basilica in Northern Cyprus