18 April 2014

San Francisco - before, during and after the 1906 earthquake

My favourite spot in San Francisco is Ghirardelli Square, created when an Italian chocolatier moved to Calif­orn­ia in 1848 to pursue the gold rush. Later his wife joined him in San Francisco and soon became his business partner. The red brick building in Ghir­ar­delli Square, which the family bought in 1893 to house their booming factory, is what remains of the Ghirardelli chocolate factory today. I mention this because the factory survived the 1906 quake and fire relatively intact. Today the old chocolate factory is being used as an antique gallery. But most people, I suppose, go there for the chocolates.

The Japanese Tea Garden was first created for the 1894 California World's Fair in the area that is now the Music Concourse. John McLaren, who did much of the overall design of Golden Gate Park, was approached by a Japanese landscape designer who wanted to convert the temporary exhibit into a permanent section of the park. They imported many plants, gold­fish, birds, statues, Shinto Shrine, wooden Buddha and bronzes, to make the space restful and green. Ironically this garden was intended only for the exposition and was to be intentionally dismantled soon after. Fortunately it also escaped earthquake destruction in 1906.

Sacramento St, San Francisco during the earthquake, 1906
Photo credit: History Today January 2014

In April 1906, an earthquake severely shook the city. A tremour started that lasted a relatively short time, and as there had been minor earthquakes in northern California over the previous decades, no-one seemed too worried. At first! In the 1906 photo, you can see groups of people who have pulled comfortable chairs out onto the street, to watch the events. 

It was fire that was so destructive. Within a couple of days of the quake, some fire-fighters used dynamite to demolish buildings and to create fire breaks. Other serious fires were caused by ruptured gas mains and destroyed water mains; the escaped gas caused the explosions and the lack of water meant there was no way to control the fires. Althogether 25,000 buildings disappeared in the explosions and fires which went on for ages. Of the city’s population which had been about 400,000 at the time, some 3,000 died. 

The army was the only organisation strong enough to take control of relief efforts in the battered city. Two months later, in the middle of a hot summer, three quarters of the population was still homeless. Refugee tent camps were in open spaces across the city.

It was urgent that the city regrow from the ashes. In hosting the Panama-Pacific World International Expos­ition in Feb 1915, San Francisco was honouring the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the Panama Canal; but the city was clearly celebrating its own resurrection after the shattering 1906 earthquake and fire.

Palace of Fine Arts, opened 1915.

The Palace of Fine Arts was specifically designed for this Panama-Pacific  Exposit­ion. Architect Bernard Maybeck created an overgrown Roman ruin, to show "the mortality of grandeur and the vanity of human wishes". Although it was meant to delight by its ex­terior beauty, its purpose was also to offer all visitors an ins­p­iring experience inside. The exhib­it­ion hall housed the art works, especially Impressionist works; its colonnade and rotunda were beautifully reflected in the surrounding water.

After the terrible earthquakes that greatly damaged the original municipal buildings in Civic Centre, a rebuilt City Hall was completed in 1915. The architect was Arthur Brown, a San Fr­ancisco architect known for a number of local land-mark buildings. Brown was the right man for the job. In the City Hall project, the Beaux-Arts focus was on a huge dome.

Apart from City Hall, buildings in Civic Centre eventually incl­uded a main library, opera house and Davies Symphony Hall. San Francisco Opera was founded by Gaetano Merola and incorporated in 1923. The Company's first performance took place in Sep 1923, in the City's Civic Auditorium. 9 years later, the Company moved into its new War Memorial Opera House, also built by Arthur Brown.

Sacramento St, San Francisco today

Brown also designed San Francisco's Veterans Building and Temple Emanuel. But his most famous site was Coit Tower 1932 on top of Teleg­raph Hill that was dedicated to the San Francisco fire fighters. The art deco un­painted reinforced concrete tower, 64ms high, was dedicated in 1933 and reminds visitors of a fireman’s nozzle. The funds were bequeathed by Mrs Coit, widow of a wealthy financier.

The earthquake did not harm San Francisco’s lovely waterscapes, both natural and man-made. Built originally at the end of a natural peninsula, over the top of hills, the city is still surrounded by the gorgeous waters of the Golden Gate, the bay and the Pacific Ocean. Since my son and his family moved to San Francisco for a few years, our favourite sights have been the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, opened in 1936, and the Golden Gate Bridge, 1937. And since we don’t eat meat, we spend a lot of time watching the fishing fleet keep Fisherman’s Wharf busy with fresh fish and tourists by the thousands.

Golden Gate Bridge, opened 1937.

It took nearly 30 years to rebuild or replace all the facilities that a modern city like San Francisco needed. But by 1937 the city looked even better than it did before the earth quake struck.

15 April 2014

A history of the Papacy moving to France. To France??

In the book A History of God, Karen Armstrong showed how, in the history of the major monotheistic traditions, the idea of God evolved over time. Of course everything has a history.. but I had never thought of “God” having one.  Inevitably other apparently unchanging concepts must be equally open to historical analysis eg the eternal home of the Catholic Church is Rome.

Yet.. yet …the Avignon Papacy clearly did refer to a period in Church history from 1309-78 when 7 French popes and the seat of the Pope was moved out of Italy. Why did the papacy leave Rome? Perhaps because the great C14th prosperity of the church was accompanied by a serious compromise of the Pap­ac­y's spiritual integrity. Each pope seemed to acknowledge the ambitions of the French emperors.

Pope Boniface VIII (reigned 1294-1303) was a talented, Italian pope. But Boniface end­lessly meddled in foreign affairs, claiming temporal as well as spiritual supremacy. His worst quarrels were with: Emperor Albert I of Habsburg, the powerful Col­onnas fam­ily and King Philip the Fair of France, whom he excom­mun­icated in 1303. The pope was seized by agents of the Colonnas, and held cap­t­ive. The pope was released, but he soon died alone and afraid.

Papal Palace, Avignon

1] Raymond Bertrand de Got had been the archbishop of Bordeaux, and a con­fi­d­­ante of English and French kings. In 1305, he became Pope Cl­em­ent V (reigned 1305-14). Bec­ause Italy was on the verge of anarchy, he kept away from Rome. He knew Boniface VIII had died in captivity, so the French King greatly encouraged Pope Clement to move the papal court to France. Clement was cr­owned at Lyon in the pre­sence of his patron, King Philip IV the Fair of France.

The papacy had been located outside Rome before but now the papacy left Italy! And being French him­self, Clement naturally chose France. Even though the pap­acy was finally indep­en­dent, it WAS inf­l­uenced by King Philip's Fr­ench crown. Phil­ip asked the Pope to proclaim the Knights Templars heretics and hand them over to the secular au­thorit­y. The pope caved in immediat­e­ly; in 1307, all 2000 knight ­monks were delivered to Philip for burning.

Clement made Notre-Dame-des-Doms his cathedral in Avignon, complete with a magnificent tower. Pope Clement invited the great Sienese art­ists, Giotto, Simone Martini and Matteo Gio­vann­etti to come from Italy, to create Int­ernat­ional Goth­ic master­pieces for this church.

Petit Palace was built in 1317 as a cardinal’s home for Clem­ent's Grand Pen­itentiary. Like the Papal Pal­ace itself, Petit Palace’s architecture had military elements, though they softened later. In this time of great wealth, po­p­es and card­inals vied to endow ever more gener­ous holy foundations.

Petit Palace, Avignon

Clement V created 9 new French cardinals!! In an age of pa­pal nepot­ism, Cle­m­ent out-nepotised them all. Dante put Clem­ent V in­to hell in his Divine Comedy! Even if Clement had intended to return to Rome, by this time he was too old to go on the journey. In any case, Rome was still under the hostile control of the Holy Ro­m­an Emper­or, Henry VII. Clement died in France and was buried there.

2] Jacques Duese was the next French bishop to become Pope John XXII (pope 1316-34). An elderly man (72), John XXII cut down court costs, and instit­ut­ed a new fis­cal system to bring money in. This was achieved by taking control of the appointments of bishops, and splitting up large dioceses. John tried to keep the office of Holy Roman Emperor with­­in his control, but his view of papal mon­archy was problematic.

See Pope John’s Grand Audien­ce Hall which is on the ground floor of the New Palace. Half the hall was used by the ecclesiastical judges of the Court of the Holy Roman Rota; half was used by litigants and their lawyers. The Fresco of the Pro­ph­ets was Giovanet­t­i’s work. On the op­­p­osite bank of the Rhone, the nearby town of Villeneuve-les-Avignon area develop­ed as an exclusive residential district for mem­bers of the papal court. He died in 1334 while the work on the papal palace cont­inued.

3] Benedict XII (pope 1334-42) Jacques Fournier was a learned French theologian and inquisitor. He had new constit­utions drawn up for the Cist­erc­ians, Bened­ictines and Franciscans, and insisted on reg­ul­ar visitations to the monas­ter­ies. Where Benedict XII failed was in foreign policy. He com­p­letely identified the French king's priorities as his own, caus­ing great bitterness in England, Germany and Italy. Benedict was prepared to return the papacy to It­aly, but feared Rome would be chaotic. In any case the French king and the French cardinals opp­os­ed any move, so Benedict made the pap­acy even more entren­ch­ed in Avig­non via his build­ing activities.

He supervised building the Old Pap­al Pal­ace, seen as an impregnable fortress. The Hall of the Consistory became the supreme council of all Christen­dom. With great pomp the card­inals filed in when sum­mon­ed by the pope; here the pope received kings and ambass­adors, canon­ised saints and con­d­em­n­ed heret­ics. The return to Italy became unlikely, this time by def­ault. Ben­edict appointed only French cardinals to the curia, thus en­sur­ing that the future of the papacy was even MORE likely to rem­ain in France. His tomb is in Notre Dame Cathedral.

Ch­ar­t­­er­house of Val-de-Benediction

4] Clement VI (pope from 1342-52) Frenchman Pierre Roger had a doc­torate in theology, became a dip­l­omat and then chan­c­el­l­or of France. He was arch­bish­op of Sens and Rouen, then had been cardinal at Avig­n­on. This very cultiv­ated cardinal, who was King Philip VI's favour­ite, lived like a secular prince. His palace in Avignon looked like any mil­it­ary fortress with narrow op­enings, impen­etrable de­fences and moats. But INSIDE it was full of decorat­ion, fre­s­coes and tap­est­r­ies, art and the court­ly life.

 In 1348, the Avignon territ­ory was BOUGHT from the papacy. But this was a stor­my period when Clement VI tried to pre­v­ent the invasion of France by Edward III ag­ainst Ph­ilip VI of Val­ois. He was very involved in sup­port­ing the claims of Charles IV of Luxembourg to the Holy Roman Emperor’s imperial throne against Louis of Bav­aria.

5] Innocent VI (pope 1352-62) In the conclave after Clement V's death, the cardinals tried desperately to limit the incoming pope's ability to cre­ate heaps of new cardinals. The non French cardinals were most anx­ious to prevent the papacy from continuing under the control of the French king. Etienne Aubert was a French lawyer and judge, before taking holy ord­ers. He had been a bishop, cardinal and adm­inist­rator of the Avignon see, then became Pope Innocent VI.

He founded the Ch­ar­t­­er­house of Val-de-Benediction near his re­s­idence in Villeneuve-les-Av­ig­non in 1356, the excl­usive residen­t­ial district for members of the papal court. The Avignon papacy was booming.

Papal throne
in the sanctuary of the Avignon Cathedral

6] Urban V (pope 1362-70) Guillaume de Grimoard came from a nob­le French family. This aus­t­ere, deeply religious Bened­ictine pope sh­unned a luxurious cor­onat­ion and foc­used on reforming the worst of the church­'s corruption. Ur­b­an continued the re­forms st­ar­ted but not completed by his predecessor, Innoc­ent. As a schol­ar, he was most inter­est­ed in reform­ing old univ­ers­­ities and found­ing new ones.

By 1363 Urban tried to transfer his court back to Rome. Ev­en­t­ually in 1367, under the protection of Holy Roman Em­p­eror Ch­ar­les IV, Ur­ban and a very reluctant Curia made the move to Rome, but the Lat­eran was in ruins. So he lived for 3 years in the Vat­i­can itself while St John Lateran was re­built. Meanwhile the French cardinals cons­tant­ly pres­sured Urban to return to Av­ig­non, and he did so because he needed to negotiate with both the Fren­ch & English before any crus­ade to Turkey could go ahead. And Urban created 7 new cardinals in Rome, 6 of them Fren­ch.

7] Gregory XI (pope 1370-8) Pierre Roger de Beau­fort was from a noble Lim­oges family. He made a card­inal by un­c­le Pope Cl­ement VI, when he was still a teen­ and made pope at 42. Greg­­or­y was ruth­less­ in repress­­ing heresy in France, Germany and Spain via the Inquis­it­ion. Every aspect of Ch­ris­tian life and church org­an­isation needed definit­ion: marr­iage, sacra­m­ents, ordinat­ion, canonisation, electoral proc­edures etc. Recourse to the papal courts grew at a phenomenal speed. By the C13th, universities in Bologna, Paris, Ox­ford, Cambridge etc made theology, philosophy and especially law im­portant.

By the 1370s, the Babylonian Captivity seemed unending. Many of Europe's troubles were felt to be due to the long res­i­d­ence of the popes at Av­ig­­non, wh­ere the Curia was now lar­g­ely Fren­ch. Pope Greg­ory wanted to send a crusade to the east that would reun­ite the eastern and west­ern church­ under the leadership of Rome. Also he believed Rome was the only true home for the papacy, and, due to the recent successes of the papal armies, he felt safer about going home. But there was still vigorous opposition of the French card­in­als.

The frescoes on the ceilings in the St-Jean chapel, as well as the walls of the Grand Audience Room, were painted by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti.

Cath­er­­ine of Siena arr­iv­ed in Avignon on June 1376 to bring the Pope back to Italy and was graciously rec­eived. But died in 1380 at 33, and was bur­ied in Rome’s Dominican Church of Santa Maria sopra Min­er­va. Anyhow Pope Greg­ory XI acted on Catherine’s pleas and in 1376, he risk­ed a trip to Rome. Gregory and 2000 merc­en­aries arr­ived in Rome in Jan 1377 to take up resid­ence in the Vat­ican. But Gr­eg­ory was mobbed by jeering Flor­entines and thous­ands died, so he fled to a safer city. Gregory eventually limped back into Rome, and the Bab­yl­on­ian Cap­tiv­ity was over. He died exhausted the next year and was buried in the Rom­an Forum. 

Street mobs dur­ing the fun­eral thr­eat­ened to burn any cardinal who voted for a non Italian pope. No French­man was ever el­ec­ted pope again! France would never steal the papacy away from Rome again!

12 April 2014

Museum of Oliver Cromwell: 17th century hero or villain?

Who in their wildest nightmares thought that there would ever be a civil war in England? Who believed that a British king would ever be executed on the lawful orders of 59 judges? Who envisaged that the British Parliament could ever pass endless restrictive laws to regul­ate citizens’ moral behaviour, to close down theatres and to enforce strict observance of Sunday? The years 1642–1659 were part of a very difficult, very stressful era.

 Oliver Cromwell, 1656
by ? Samuel Cooper

Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) was one of those rare and controversial figures in history who still excite mixed emotions, hundreds of years later. Everyone has a different opinion about him, depending on whether our families were Catholic, High Church, Low Church, no church, Irish, republican, pro-monarchy or military. Yet despite the ambivalence, his face is one that every school student across the old British Empire would have known.

The Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon (near Cambridge) is in a building that was originally part of the C12th Hospital of St John the Baptist (c1170-90). The hospital was an alms house for the poor. It had been succeeding in its mission very well, but with the the suppression of Catholic institut­ions in 1547, the hospital building had to find a new purpose in life. It was modified and used as Huntingdon Grammar School.

After a temporary exhibition held in Huntingdon in 1958 to mark the 300th anniversary of Cromwell's death, the city council collected objects to celebrate the man’s life in old grammar school. Thus the town became a perfect location for the museum; Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon in 1599 and lived there until he left home to go to univ­er­sity. And the museum is in a perfect building since it was the grammar school where Cromwell had been a pupil.

It was decided that the Museum would go into the hospital’s Norman Chapel, just a single-room, but big enough for the job at hand. Imagine the excitement when the builders started removing the detrit­us of centuries and found a perfect Romanesque doorway and five decorative arches on the west front. By the time the museum opened in 1962, Huntingdon had saved the oldest building in the town and were starting to bring in thousands of visitors.

Founded in 1962, the museum contains hundreds of objects, paintings and printed material describing the mid C17th. The objects have been passed down by the descendants of one of Oliver Cromwell’s sons, and include portraits of Cromwell and his family, including two by Robert Walker and Sir Peter Lely, and several Samuel Cooper miniat­ures. 

The museum also has coins which can be described thus: Until the death of the King in 1649, all coinage bore his head. After the establishment of the Protectorate, new coinage appeared which depicted Cromwell as a regal figure. The museum collections include examples from both eras.
Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon

But the real treasures are the personal items that visitors would never have seen before e.g the hat Cromwell wore at the dissolution of the Long Parliament in 1653; his personal gunpowder flask; his apothecaries cabinet; his family seal and jewellery. Perhaps surp­risingly for a family that valued austerity, there is a Florentine pietre-dure inlaid cabinet, containing its glass pots of soaps and cosmetics, given to Cromwell by the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

This month the museum curator put on display an amazing death mask of Crom­well. It is a copy from the bust used for the figure of the Lord Protector, the focus of his state funeral at Westminster Abbey in 1658.

The museum does hold a number pamphlets and copies of key texts of the period, such as The Humble Petition & Advice of 1657, which clarified the organisation of Parliament and the duties of the office of Lord Protector. But most Cromwell documents are located in the nearby Huntingdon Library and Archive building. Thus students will want to visit both sites.

The museum was proposed for closure in the next year or two, I had ass­umed because Oliver Cromwell was somewhat of a divisive chap and the County Council did not want any controversies to arise. I believed the Council had read the hot debates canvassed in the article called Reluctant Regicides: why do modern Britons still find it so hard to acknowledge their revolutionary past?

Now it is becoming clear that the Council only wants to save £20,000 a year, presumably preferring to improve the town’s traffic lights than improving the minds of students. I would rather they start charging visitors an entry fee… than close this fascinating museum.