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  • Religion | Peru > Cusco > Coricancha
    Updated at Jul 3,2013

    Coricancha - Temple of the Sun – is located in the heart of Cusco, in plaza Huacapata. It was the religious center of the empire and was the home of the Sapa Inca, his family, the priests and the chosen women worshipped here.

    Coricancha - Temple of the Sun. Photo by McKay Savage

  • Religion | Spain
    Updated at Nov 30,2017

    Tip 2 - La Sagrada Familia General Information and Exterior:

    With almost 3 million visitors a year, the Gaudí’s masterpiece, which is classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site, has overtaken the Granada’s Alhambra and the Prado Museum of Madrid. It is now the most visited monument in Spain. If you plan to visit the Catalan capital, the Sagrada Familia should be at the top of your list of things to see and do during your stay in Barcelona. This church will surprise you, not only because of its massive size, but especially because of its avant-garde architecture, which perfectly shows off the genius of its architect, Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí’s conception of the Sagrada Familia is based on the traditions of Gothic and Byzantine cathedrals. His intention was to express Christian belief through architecture and the beauty of the monumental building. He achieved a synergy among size, form and Christian symbolism, with a personal architecture generated via new but thoroughly basic, simple structures, forms and geometries inspired by nature, with light and colour.

    Antoni Gaudí  has become a universal figure of modern architecture. His contribution to the discipline was a break from the established order. He was born on 25 June 1852 in Reus, in the Baix Camp, which was then the second city in Catalonia. He attended the Escoles Pies school, where he excelled in Geometry and Arithmetic, and received a traditional, religious and humanist education. Son of a coppersmith, he started learning about crafts in his father’s workshop in 1860. In 1868 he moved to Barcelona and prepared for entry to the School of Architecture, which he joined in 1873. He combined his studies with working as an assistant in an architectural practice, as well as in the workshops of a carpenter, a glassmaker and a locksmith where he learned these crafts. Gaudi was inconsistent in his Architecture studies, but stood out in the subjects of design, drawing and mathematical calculation. In 1878, after qualifying in Architecture, he received his first official commission. As his professional reputation grew he undertook larger projects commissioned by the bourgeoisie such as, amongst others, the Casa Calvet, the Casa Batlló and the Casa Milà. In 1883 he took over the design of the Sagrada Familia, while also working on other projects. In 1906, Antoni Gaudí moved into what is now known as the Gaudí House Museum, the model home at Park Güell designed by Francesc d’Assís Berenguer i Mestres, the architect’s friend and right-hand man, where he lived for nearly 20 years. He worked for 43 years on the Sagrada Familia project until 1926. In 1914 he left all other work to concentrate exclusively on this sole project until his death on 10 June 1926, the result of a tragic accident three days earlier. His funeral, which went through much of Barcelona and finished in the Sagrada Familia, was a grand event in the city in recognition of his status as the greatest architect Barcelona has ever seen. Gaudí was buried in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia.

    The tragic death of Gaudí in 1926:  Antonio Gaudí was run over by a tram while he was enjoying one of his bohemian night walks through the city (on the way to the church of San Felip Neri). He was confused by a homeless due to his careless appearance and no one helped him at the time of the accident. He died days later because of his grave wounds. After his death the temple has been postponed its completion. During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, vandalism occurred in the Sagrada Familia where the crypt and Gaudí’s workshop were partly burnt. A large part of Gaudí’s plans and models were destroyed by fire. Yet, with only a few instructions and plans remaining from Gaudí, the construction of La Sagrada Familia continued, with new architects such as Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puid and Luís Bonet. They tried to remain faithful to Gaudí’s view and also brought their own style, following Gaudí’s wish to make each generation participate in the construction. The construction of the building is still a great challenge even for the most advanced technologies after a century.

    On his death, only one tower on the Nativity Facade had been completed, but work continued after the Spanish Civil War and several more have since been finished to his plans. Work continues today, financed by public subscription. Gaudi never intended to complete the Sagrada Familia. He once said “There is no reason to regret that I cannot finish the church. I will grow old but others will come after me.” He knew that the stained glass would be designed and implemented by others. He knew that the he would never see thefirst façade completed. Hundreds of artists and architects have come after Gaudi and strive to follow his original intentions in the design. They have added their own touches and serve to make the basilica magnificent in every aspect. At Gaudi's death took over the construction his assistant, Domènec Sugrañes. Later, it has been under the direction of several architects, being Jordi Faulí i Oller director of the works since 2012.

    The Sagrada Familia is an expiatory temple, that is to say, a place made to commemorate the reparation of sins made against God or the laws of the Church. The work is directly financed by donations made by visitors and the public, which explains its slow construction progress. Gaudí even once said "the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia is made by the people and this is reflected in it. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people". Construction still continues today and its completion is scheduled for 2026, a date symbolic of the centenary of Antoni Gaudí's death. Despite not being understood by many of his contemporaries, Gaudí developed an architectonic language that has made him world-famous. Today no one contests his place in the pantheon of 20th century architects. Gaudí’s methods continue to be considered revolutionary, a century after he devised them.

    Construction Funding: The Basilica construction is not supported by any government or church funds. During the earliest stage of its building, it was funded by private patrons. During decades, La Sagrada Familia received private funds from donations only. Those funds were used exclusively to the construction of Gaudí’s dream. Nowadays, donations to the Sagrada Familia are still made but most of the money collected comes from entrance tickets.

    Opening hours: NOV - FEB: 09.00 - 18.00, MAR: 09.00 - 19.00, APR - SEP: 09.00 - 20.00, OCT: 09.00 - 19.00, December 25, 26, January 1 and 6: 09.00 - 14.00.

    Prices: : 15€ Basilica BASIC visit only,  22€ including audio guide, 24€ including a ticket for Gaudí House Museum and audio guide, 29€ including visit in the Basilica towers and audio guide, 24€ for a GUIDED tour of the Basilica only.

    Non-guided visits rates:

    Online in advance tickets:  Adults: €15,  concessions: €13, seniors: €11, FREE:children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.
    Tickets office prices:  Adults: €18, concessions: €16, seniors: €14, FREE: children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.

    Guided visits rates

    Online in advance tickets: Adults: €24, concessions: €22, seniors: €18, FREE: children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.
    Ticket office prices: Adults: €29, concessions: €27, seniors: €23, FREE: children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.

    Towers visits rates (including audio guides):

    Online in advance tickets: Adults: €22, concessions: €20, seniors: €17, FREE: children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.

    Ticket office prices: Adults: €26, concessions: €24, seniors: €21, FREE: children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.

    Basilica only Audio-guided visits:

    Online in advance tickets: Adults: €29, concessions: €27, seniors: €22, FREE: children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.
    Ticket office prices: Adults: €35, concessions: €33, seniors: €28, FREE: children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.

    Basilica + Sagrada Família audioguide + entrance to Gaudí
    House Museum:

    Online in advance tickets: Adults: €24, concessions: €22, seniors: €18, FREE: children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.
    Ticket office prices: Adults: €29, concessions: €27, seniors: €23, FREE: children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.

    Ticket Offices: c/Sardenya, for disabled visitrs:  the Group Visitor Services Centre (c /Marina).

    Public Transportation: Metro: Line 2 (purple) and Line 5 (Blue) - Sagrada Familia station, buses: 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20 and B24.

    Our tips/suggestions

    -  The lines to buy tickets for La Sagrada Familia are long. You could wait for hours, which is something you definitely don’t want to do in the middle of August in Barcelona. It’s hot, it’s sticky and it’s downright miserable. Avoid the lines and the heat (rain, cold, wind) by purchasing your tickets through Sagrada Familia’s official website:

    - Tickets can be bought online making queuing time considerably less lengthy.

    - Once you enter Sagrada Familia, collect your audio guide and go for one round of exteriors to admire the beauty.

    - Climb the towers.
    - Walk into the interiors by 14.30 -15.30 so that you can watch the spectacular sight of light coming through the stained glasses and filling up the entire central nave.

    - Buy the ticket that combines Basilica entry, audio guide, and visit to the towers.

    - Make sure the weather is good, if there is rain or wind they don't allow access to the towers.

    - The guided tours just don't leave you with enough time to stand and stare.

    - You can’t switch your date/time for another date/time. You have to go when you’re ticket tells you to, so be wise about what time you select for your Sagrada Familia experience.

    - Make sure to find the correct line for entry with a pre-purchased ticket within the allocated time slot or you won't get in.

    Exteriors: The Sagrada Familia is the masterpiece of the architect, Antonio Gaudí, (in Catalan the building is called Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família). Gaudi made the four monumental façades of the Basilica transcendental symbols to the life of Jesus Christ: his birth, death and resurrection, and glory. Antoni Gaudí knew that he could not finish the construction before his death. As a symbol, he wanted each part of La Sagrada Familia to be constructed separately so that each generation of architects could bring their own style. Gaudí designed the Sagrada Familia with pure and simple geometric forms. Therefore, he thought that any architect would understand the drawings and plans of the monument and could continue the construction even after his death. Gaudí also made a model of the Glory facade. The model was demolished in 1936  for future architects to base their work on the design imagined by Gaudí.

    The Birth / Nativity Façade:  The Nativity facade symbolizes, as its name suggests, the birth of Jesus. Built between 1894 and 1930, it is the only facade to be built almost to completion while Gaudí was alive. Gaudí saw the facade as a representation of nativity, a symbol of life and creation. The facade of the birth of Christ was completed first. It consists of three major portals - one large middle door and two smaller side doors - and four bell towers. This unit breaks above all because of the very novel towers in the Gothic style. This façade is dedicated to the birth of Christ and is designed with a very carefully ornamentation. More human and familiar than the others two facades. The is divided into three portals and porticoes dedicated to three theological themes: Hope, Faith and Charity. The main symbols in this  façade are with the Gate of Jesus and the Tree of Life. The artist Etsuro Sotoo was the last one to work on this façade (finished in 2000). Attention his sculptures of animals embedded throughout the façade. Turtles, snakes and worms run through the palm leaves at the entrance doors. This facade has doorways representing Faith, Hope, and Charity. Scenes of the Nativity and Christ’s childhood are embellished with symbolism, such as doves representing the congregation. The three portals, the tripartite facade, form a uniform sight, in which human figures are particularly noticeable. It is an allegory of the wonders of the emerging and constantly changing nature, the creator of all forms of existence. The left portal is called "Portal of Hope", the medium is called the "Portal of Mercy" and the right the "Portal of Faith". Between the portals are above the pillars angel with trumpets, which announce the end of world. About the portals, hardly recognizable, the astrological zodiac spans signs from the star, which representation as pagan view that the fate lies in the stars, actually was not allowed. Between the three gates you can recognize two very high and richly drawn pillars, which are crowned with palm trees and rest on two large stone turtles.

    The Nativity Facade depicting Jesus’ birth and early ministry. The only facade that Gaudi finished:

    High up on the Nativity facade a spire with a cypress tree symbolizes the Tree of Life. A pelican at the foot of the tree symbolizes the Host and angels at the bottom hold chalices, a reminder of the Eucharist. At the top of the tree the letter T (or Tau) stands for God (as the first letter of God's name in the Greek alphabet). It is red with diagonal bars crossing it forming an X, representing Christ's name. A Dove at the top with outspread wings represents the Holy Spirit. Thus, the three persons of the Trinity are represented at the top of the tree of life.

    in centre- top (green colour): Tree of life:

    To the left of the main entrance Portal of Hope shows scenes that are not giving reasons for hope. They show e.g. the murder of children by Herod, the flight to Egypt, a child who has a dead dove in his hand. The arch above the gate is a two-man saw, displayed are tools, with occupations as construction related to it. The portal is crowned by a rock of the mountain Montserrat.

    Virgin Mary and Joseph:

    Virgin Mary coronation:

    In the centre: Jesus and Joseph, in the left side: Escape to Egypt:

    The middle and largest portal is the Portal of Mercy. The portal is divided in two by a pillar. A snake with the apple of sin in its mouth twines around the pillar. Gaudí used death masks of diseased people and replicas of the workers' faces, that were involved in the Sagrada Familia. In a higher level above the portal you can see how Jesus crowns Maria: 

    Birth of Jesus:

    The right Portal of Faith shows some scenes from the Gospels. Above the gate is a cruel presentation of the Heart of Jesus, filled with thorns. There are several characters groups. They show Maria visiting her cousin, Joseph and Mary in adoration of Jesus. On the upper levels the main contents of the Catholicism are represented: the Trinity, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Eucharist and the wisdom of God, striking presented by a hand with an eye on it:

    The Charity Portico:

    Still, the Nativity (Birth) facade:

    The Passion Facade: The Passion Façade is austere, plain and simple, with ample bare stone, and is carved with harsh straight lines to resemble the bones of a skeleton. This bleak facade was completed in the late 1980s by artist Josep Maria Subirachs. Dedicated to the Passion of Christ, the suffering of Jesus during his crucifixion, the façade was intended to portray the sins of man. Gaudí intended for this façade to strike fear into the onlooker. He wanted to "break" arcs and "cut" columns, and to use the effect of chiaroscuro (dark angular shadows contrasted by harsh rigid light) to further show the severity and brutality of Christ's sacrifice. A controversial work, its sculpted figures, which represent Jesus’ pain and sacrifice, are often angular and sinister. The Passion Façade is supported by six large and inclined columns, designed to resemble sequoia trunks. Above there is a pyramidal pediment, made up of eighteen bone-shaped columns, which culminate in a large cross with a crown of thorns. Each of the four towers is dedicated to an apostle (James, Thomas, Philip, or Bartholomew) and, like the Nativity Façade, there are three porticoes, each representing the theological virtues, though in a much different light.

    The Passion Facade Entrance:

    The MAGIC SQUARE on the Passion Facade:  This is one of the mysteries of the Sagrada Familia Passion facade. Next to the statues of a couple kissing, you might see a 4x4 magic square of 15 numbers that has been a complete mystery so far. Numbers add to 33, the age of Jesus Christ at the crucifixion:

    Building works of Sagrada Familia started in 1882. A century later, pope John Paul II visited the church, in 1982:

    The Glory Façade: The largest and most striking of the façades WILL be the Glory Façade, on which construction began in 2002. It will be the principal façade and will offer access to the central nave. This facade is dedicated to the heavenly glory of Jesus and represents his rise to heaven. Knowing that he would not see the beginning of this facade in his lifetime, Gaudí drew only a few sketches showing his general ideas and plans: representations of Death, Final Judgment, and Glory, as well as Hell for anyone that deviates from God's path. Dedicated to the Celestial Glory of Jesus, it represents the road to God: Death, Final Judgment, and Glory, while Hell is left for those who deviate from God's will. Aware that he would not live long enough to see this façade completed, Gaudí made a model which was demolished in 1936, whose original fragments were base for the development of the design for the façade. The completion of this façade will require the demolition of the complete block with buildings across the Carrer de Mallorca. To reach the Glory Portico the large staircase will lead over the underground passage built over Carrer de Mallorca with the decoration representing Hell and vice. It will be decorated with demons, idols, false gods, heresy and schisms, etc. Purgatory and death will also be depicted, the latter using tombs along the ground. The portico will have seven large columns dedicated to spiritual gifts. At the base of the columns there will be representations of the Seven Deadly Sins, and at the top, The Seven Heavenly Virtues:

    Door on the Glory Facade:

    The Towers / Spires: Each of the 18 towers has a special significance. The original design calls for a total of eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the four Evangelists (Saint John, Saint Luke, Saint Mark, Saint Matthew) and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. Eight spires have been built, corresponding to four apostles at the Nativity façade and four apostles are at the Passion façade. From wherever they are seen, once finished, these 18 towers will be an extraordinary sight and provide a sense of elevation to the central tower dedicated to Jesus Christ:

    The Basilica’s almost overwhelmingly busy exterior features numerous skinny spires; berry-topped towers; oval windows framed with writing. The words "Excelsis" and "Hosanna" are embedded in some of the pinnacles. This verticality chosen by Gaudí is intended to symbolize elevation towards God. This is achieved with: the mighty pyramidal design outside, the height of its naves, and the pinnacles on top of the towers that seem to challenge the sky:

    Decoration of the towers using the word "Sanctus", from latin, meaning "saint":

    The Lion and the Lamb: In Jewish and Christian tradition, the lion of Judah represents the Messiah, who was to be a descendant of King David.  Christianity uses the lion of Judah to represent Jesus of Nazareth. In Christianity, the lamb also represents Jesus, who sacrificed himself for the sins of mankind. In the Bible - Abraham obeyed God and agreed to sacrifice his sole son - Isaac. God rewarded Abraham with a ram stuck in a bush so, at the last moment, he would not have to sacrifice his son Isaac. The figures of the lion of Judah and the lamb were created by the sculptor Lau Feliu.

    To get a close-up view of the architectural and decorative aspects of the exterior, take the elevator up to the top of the tower (Top Views ticket required) (many of the detailed photos above - were taken from the stairs down the Basilica) and descend via the stairs. Windows in the stairwell provide viewpoints along the way. If you don’t mind heights, it’s a thrilling experience. The views from the towers are amazing. The only way to go up the towers is, currently, only via the elevators. The climb down from the Sagrada Familia towers is a non-tiring, small adventure. The stairs are adequately lit with natural lighting. The walk down is quite narrow. If you don’t like being confined to small spaces, this may not be the best thing for you. We will not recommend the tower climb for those who are afraid of heights or suffer from vertigo. Now, you can use the elevator only to climb up and have to use the spiral staircase to climb down (both on the Passion façade and the Nativity façade). To that extent, you can select either Passion tower or Nativity tower. Most of the visitors suggest choosing the Nativity facade. The towers of Nativity façade look out towards the sea while those of Passion façade face the city. Nativity facade celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ while Passion facade deals with the crucifixion. Detailing on both the towers are excellent. You have to admire the detailing from the ground and hence the detailing does not influence the choice of which tower to climb. After 13.00 there is a line for the elevators as the elevator can only accommodate six people at a time. The constant stream of people climbing down means that you have to often get into the balconies to let other visitors to pass:

    The SF at Night:

  • Religion | Spain
    Updated at Dec 1,2017

    Tip 3 - Sagrada Familia interiors:

    For some, seeing the exterior of La Sagrada Familia is enough to satiate their interest in Barcelona’s best attraction, but still many queue up, sometimes for hours, to get a peak inside. The interior is surprising due to its magnitude, light and decor, and because this incredible monument is far outside the norm. Furthermore, as with the exterior, the interior has great religious and symbolic significance, based on the Gospels and the book of the Apocalypse. The ground plan of the Sagrada Familia is made up of a classic Latin cross comprising a nave of five ships (nave flanked by double collateral sides) opening onto a transept with three naves, and an apse with a large ambulatory. It opens onto seven chapels and two spiral staircases, which give access to choirs that surround the apse. On 11/07/2010, the Sagrada Familia was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and elevated to the status of a Basilica. The completion of the interior and consecration was a great moment for Barcelona. Now, finally, the imposing, yet ingenious design of the brilliant Antoni Gaudí could be admired. And all this without scaffolding and machinery noise. The church of the Sagrada Familia is a five-naved Basilica. The central nave rises above the others significantly. To each nave a door is assigned to the unfinished glory facade.

    The Central Nave: The first thing the visitor notices upon entering is the size of the main chamber. With a stunning array of columns that are constructed to look like trees growing inside the basilica, the roof stretches far above the viewer, to a height that's almost vertigo-inspiring from below. Light pours in from windows and electric lights positioned at the top, giving the impression of the sun's rays poking through a forest canopy.It all contributes to a sensation that although one is standing indoors, one could just as easily be outside, in a crisp white forest ringed by some of the most intensely colorful stained glass windows you've ever seen. The keystones that cover the central nave of the temple were completed in 1993. At the central nave, the height of the arch is 45 metres by 30 meters. As for the height of the apse vault, it reaches 75 metres high. Gaudí planned for the light inside the Sagrada Familia to be harmonious and to accentuate the plasticity of the nave:

    Roof of the nave (Apse) where Gaudi designed the columns to mirror trees and branches:

    The other naves:

    The apse of the Sagrada Familia:  An Apse is known as one half of a dome roofed area. In a church, it is usually the area where the altar stands. Immediately after the completion of the crypt Gaudí had the apse built above. The Gothic-style apse is surrounded by seven chapels and two side stairs to the left and right.  The inside walls of the apse are decorated with angels' heads and tears that should remind one of the suffering of Jesus. The apse was completed in 1893 by a huge crowned dome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which are supported by massive columns. The entire apse and dome are flooded with light; it is very bright for Gothic Architecture:


    Immediately after the completion of the crypt Gaudí had the apse built above. The Gothic-style apse is surrounded by seven chapels and two side stairs to the left and right. These lead to spiral staircases from the crypt and continue up into the facades. As an indication of the spiral staircase you see two big stone snails crawling down the wall on the outer walls of the apse. The inside walls of the apse are decorated with angels' heads and tears that should remind one of the suffering of Jesus:

    The Altar is a block of porphyry from Iran. The altar is flanked by two large columns dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. Above the altar is a bronze version of a work by Carlos Maní:

    Columns: To avoid the use of Gothic buttresses, Gaudi created columns shaped like tree trunks, giving the feeling of being in a forest rather than inside a church. Antoni Gaudí decided to design the Sagrada Familia, like most of his works, with curved lines. According to Gaudí, straight lines did not exist in the nature, and this is why the Basilica, which reflects the Nature, life and death should not be constructed with straight lines. As a symbol of Nature, the columns of the Sagrada Famlia are built in a tree-shape to support the whole monument.The branching columns, as well as having a structural function, reflect Gaudí’s idea that the inside of the temple should be like a wood that invites prayers. To lessen the load of the roofing and bring light into the building he designed skylights in between the columns, based on hyperboloids, built using pieces of golden and green glass and tiles to reflect daylight inside:

    The result of Gaudi's research is a tree-like column structure. The columns are inclined and branched-like trees. The weight will be routed directly over the pillars in the ground - all this without bearing facade or exterior buttresses. The result of this ingenious solution is spectacular: the pillars and arches supported by them transform the interior of the temple into a stone forest of palm trees, lots of light streaming in through large windows and the vault. The columns are made of materials of different hardness. The longest and thickest columns are made of red porphyry, a very hard volcanic rock. The dark, somewhat smaller pillars are made of basalt, granite columns supporting the lighter and the outermost row of pillars in the church building consist of a relatively soft rock from the mountain of Barcelona, Montjuic. The "smallest" pillars support the chancel.

    Views of side aisle with the arborescent columns, branching to support the vaults. In contrast to former cathedrals, whose vaults were robust and had to support a lot of weight, Gaudí wanted Sagrada Familia's vaults to be light-weight and illuminate the temple interior. The vaults emerge from tree-like columns and form palm leaves which represent the symbol of martyrdom. The assembly point of the leaves, some concave and others convex, also allow the filtering of light into the temple:

    Spiral Staircases: Viewed from the top, these spiral stone stairways resemble snail shells. The steps allow access to the bell towers and upper galleries:

    Gaudí made great use of light to endow his architecture. The rising sun lights up the portals of the Nativity facade. On the Passion facade the interplay of light and shadow produced by the setting sun heightens the sparse and severe character of the facade’s theme. The Glory facade receives the mid-day sun that will shine on the 16 lanterns of the monumental porch and light up the main entrance to the Basilica. Inside, apart from the colour provided by the actual construction materials used, such as the different types of stone and tiles in the vaulting, there will be many coloured symbolical features, such as the stained-glass windows and the inscriptions on the lights located in the capitals of the columns in the central nave and crossing, as well as the skylights in the vaults:

    Light coming through stained glass onto columns leading into the apse:

    The effect of the sunset, afternoon natural light is overwhelming:

    The stained glass windows are an essential feature of the church. Gaudí gave them the same expressive status as the architecture of the carvings. The brilliant stained-glass windows are a 21st-century addition, though they help complete Gaudí’s vision of a “church of harmonious light.” All the stained glass windows in the apse follow a plan of graduated tones to create an atmosphere suitable for introspection. The windows are a focal point of the construction, with some stretching more than two stories high. They are designed to draw the eye upwards and inspire meditation on the divine. The beautiful attention to detail and the sheer magnitude of the windows naturally accomplish this. The stained glass designs also capture and filter colored light that not only illuminates but also adorns the striking architectural details. The main window in the transept, where the sculptures depicting the Passion are, is supposed to represent resurrection. Stained glass windows in the sides and main nave area will symbolize local important shrines and saints that are of particular importance to the people of Barcelona and Catalonia. The upper stained glass windows on the side naves will have an important phrase from Catholic scripture incorporated into them, while the central nave window will have no color and be made with simple, clear glass that will either be translucent or opaque to symbolize purity, which is also practical, as it will allow a large amount of natural light to illuminate the interior. From 1999 onwards, the painter and glassmaker Joan Vila i Grau has been in charge of producing the stained glass windows. He employs traditional techniques, setting the glass in lead strips in order to play with the shape and rhythm. Here in the church, he has followed the guidelines set out by Gaudí, who left several documents explaining how the stained glass windows should be arranged in order to achieve a symphony of evocative light and colour:

    Outside design of stained glass, where light comes into the church inside:

    Internal Facades' Doors: The Eucharist Door at the Glory Facade will be the main entrance when La Sagrada Familia is complete. The relief shows the Lord’s Prayer in Catalan and “Give us this day our daily bread” in dozens of languages. The repeated letter is one of the most emblematic techniques he used in order to turn message into a work of art, paying thus a tribute to typology. The middle part of the main access doors is inscribed with the Lord's Prayer in Catalan with relief letters, and highlights the fragment 'Give us, o Lord, our daily bread' (Translation from original Catalan: 'el nostre pa de cada dia doneu-nos-el avui') in Catalan and 49 more languages (in alphabetic order: Albanian, Arabic, Aramaic, Aranese, Basque, Berber, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Coptic, Croat, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, Gaelic, Galician, German, Greek, Guarani, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Quechua , Rumanian, Russian, Sanskrit, Sardinian, Serb, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog , Tibetan, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, and Wolof). The great gateway door to the main nave of the Basilica can be visited from June 2009. The huge façade door is facing Carrer Mallorca. It was created by the sculptor Josep M. Subirachs in collaboration with Bruno Gallart, Subirachs' assistant during the works on the Passion façade. The sculptor completed acomplex formed by two doors, five metres wide and five metres high.  Josep M. Subirachs work history is comprised of many other previous forged bronze doors:

    The Organ: In 2010 an organ was installed in the SF by the Blancafort Orgueners de Montserrat organ builders. The instrument has 26 stops (1,492 pipes) on two manuals and a pedalboard.
    To overcome the unique acoustical challenges posed by the church's architecture and its vast size, several additional organs will be installed at various points within the building. These instruments will be playable separately (from their own individual consoles) and simultaneously (from a single mobile console), yielding an organ of approx. 8000 pipes when completed.

    In year 2015 the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia has extended the tour for visitors with the opening of the ground floor of the sacristy of the west. In the space of the cloister it has placed the ‘Way of the Liturgy’, an exhibition of pieces Antoni Gaudí designed for the Catholic liturgy. The pieces are: wrought iron candlestick, a cross with candles, a lectern three sacral, a mobile chair two couches, three banks and a chair. Within the sacristy there are two closets: one to keep the liturgical vestments worn by the celebrant and ministers of celebrations and another for the various liturgical objects such as chalices and patens. All parts that are part of the Way of the Liturgy are original or reproductions of designs by Antoni Gaudí:

    Drawing of the walls of Jerusalem on the floor at the Passion Facade Entrance:

  • Religion | Austria
    Updated at Nov 23,2014

    Augustinerkirche (Church of the Augustinian Friars):

    We already passed-by this church at the "Vienna - from the Hofburg to the State Opera House" blog.  There is so much to see in this church. Erected between 1330 and 1339. In the court church St. Augustin, on the west side of the Imperial Palace, numerous weddings of the imperial family took place: Here, Empress Maria Theresia married Franz Stefan von Lothringen in 1736. Even the French Emperor Napoleon married the Austrian Princess Marie Louise here in 1810. In 1854 was THE wedding of Emperor Franz Joseph and his Sisi. Today, this church is highly considered because of its music. One regularly hears the great masses by Mozart, Haydn and Schubert at the High Mass. If you have one Sunday in Vienna - do not miss and attend the Sundays mass (in German) at 11:00 am. Better come at 10:30 am as many people will come !!! Terrific acoustics and absolutely beautiful music. Free entrance.

    Especially noteworthy is the memorial to Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria sculpted in 1805 by Antonio Canova, a masterwork of classicistic architecture built between 1798 and 1805 made from white Carrara marble, which mirrors the great mourning of the widower:

    The Gothic St. George’s Chapel (built in 1337; access through the Loreto Chapel) was where the Knights of the Order of George once met. The Loretto Chapel in the Vienna Augustinerkirche was once adorned with silver, but that had to be melted down during the Napoleonic Wars. The beautiful wrought iron railing dates from the 18th C. In the Loreto Chapel, one finds the so-called Herzgruft (heart burial vault), where 54 hearts of Habsburgs are kept in silver urns. The first heart, belonging to King Ferdinand IV, was placed in the Augustinian Church on 10 July 1654, according to his wishes. The last heart, belonging to Archduke Franz Karl of Austria, was placed in the crypt on 8 March 1878. Here rest the hearts of nine emperors, eight empresses, one king, one queen, 14 archdukes, 14 archduchesses and two dukes. The bones are interred in the Imperial Vault of the Kapuzinerkirche, the internal organs in the catacombs of the Stephansdom:

    Two organs have added to the prestige of the church in the music world. Not only did Franz Schubert conducted his Mass here, but Anton Bruckner’s Mass in F minor also had its world premiere here:

    From this church - you can continue to a very special attraction in Vienna - the Prunksaal. It is situated a few steps from the church in Josefsplatz.

  • Religion | Russian Federation
    Updated at Aug 25,2015

    Tip 2: Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, ulitsa Volkhonka, 15. Nearest Metro: Kropotkinskaya (Кропоткинскаяmore) (Line 1, RED, Sokolnicheskaya Line). If you are coming from city center, take the exit on the right.

    Duration: 1-2 hours.

    The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Храм Христа Спасителя, Khram Khrista Spasitelya), originally built in the 19th century in commemoration of the Russian army's victory over Napoleon. When Napoleon Bonaparte retreated from Moscow, Tsar Alexander I signed a manifest on 25 December 1812 declaring his intention to build a cathedral in honor of Christ the Savior - as a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people. The cathedral took many decades to build and did not emerge from its scaffolding until 1860. The cathedral was consecrated on 26 May 1883, the day before Alexander III was crowned. The original church was the scene of the 1882 world premiere of the famous 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. It was destroyed in 1931 on Stalin's personal order. The demolition was supposed to make way for a colossal Palace of the Soviets that was never built. Under Khrushchev, the space was transformed into the largest swimming pool in the world. Miraculously, after the fall of Communism, an agreement was made with the Orthodox Patriach to rebuild the church to its original design using modern materials and introducing modern comforts, such as an elevator to a superb observation deck. So the cathedral was rebuilt in the 1990s on the same site. Thus, the current church is the second to stand on this site. It is on the northern bank of the Moskva River, a few blocks southwest of the Kremlin. It is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world (103 metres). It’s the 3rd highest cathedral in the world after the cathedral of St Peter in Rome and the cathedral of St Paul in London. It is the largest church in Russia housing 10 000 praying persons at the same time. It has the largest and heaviest door in the world (see picture below). It has a towering position overlooking the Kremlin (to the north-east from the Cathedral back side). This was the spot Pussy Riot girls performed before getting thrown in jail. It is the church of the Patriarch (head of the Russian Orthodox Church) and the administrative center of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Open: TUE – SUN 10.00 – 18.00, MON 13.00 – 18.00. No entrance fee. There is a WC below the Cathedral (the Soymonovskiy street, Соймоновский пр-д direction). Note: there is a security check in all entrances to the Cathedral.

    Tips: Try to get lucky and be there by the time of the mass (Everyday - in the Transfiguration lower church: 08.00 or 17.00. Sunday - in the Nativity upper church: 10.00 or 17.00. It is really interesting and beautiful. You hear choir singing, beautiful mature voices which you can't forget. The smell of incense and candles, singing and locals standing around and all that make this visit unforgettable! Don't miss it when you are in Moscow!

    Ladies need to keep head & shoulders covered, (headscarves can be rented in kiosks nearby) and no shorts. This is a holy place and many Russian travelers make this a pilgrimage.

    In the Orthodox’s churches the faithful people remain always standing; there are no benches like in the Catholic cathedrals, where you can sit down.

    You are not allowed to take photos (or videos) inside the church. The Cathedral is so huge - that you can, easily, take photos without being caught...

    The cathedral's exterior is very impressive - mainly, due to its five golden towers / domes. As most things in Moscow the exterior is magnificent with its huge golden domes and pristine white walls.
    At nearly 350 feet tall, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is so staggeringly large that it can hold up to 10,000 worshipers for any given mass. The cathedral fills to capacity during religious holidays like Easter or Christmas.

    The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour stands in beautiful environs – to the right are huge statues of Alexander II and Nicholas II and all around are several chapels.  When you stand on the Patriarchal footbridge and in front of you looms the imposing facade of the Cathedral, look to the right and an imposing vista of the Kremlin meets your eyes. To the left and a little over your shoulder flows the Moscova river with an imposing statue of Peter the Great. The external walls are covered with bronze high reliefs, depicting scenes from the Bible. One could call the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a symbol of the triumph of spiritualism over atheism in Russia:

    The door frame of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour:

    Angels adorning the doorframe of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour:

    Decorated doors with sculptures around the main door frame of the cathedral:

    Christ sculpted on a wall of the Catheral of Christ the Saviour:

    Decoration in bronze above a door of the cathedral:

    Bronze relief of mother Mary with Christ, adorning the wall of the cathedral:

    Bronze relief scene on a wall of the cathedral:

    If you get access (for example, with a guided group) to the roof terrace (by elevator) - you have great 360 views of the city and river and Peter the Great statue:

    The interior matches with vast murals climbing up the walls and exploded across the ceiling. The cathedral has become a symbol of the Russian people to return to their roots and religion. It was built in two part. One upper is beautiful gallery with grand altar. Lower part was real church with altar where priest serve the liturgy. Don't forget to go down to the Crypt which is even more impressive: take time to finding your way to the basement where there are more chapels and rooms to visit. The ceiling is covered with frescoed of Christ, Virgin Mary, angels and toward the front is like a small church decorated with frescoed and statues, and even have a spiral with dome. The height of its inner space is 79 meters. Every square inch of the inside has been hand painted with icons and artwork. Right on the axis of the main entrance there is a unique iconostasis in the form of white marble octagonal chapel crowned by a gilded dome. The main shrines of the Temple are the icon of the Nativity wrought by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy from Bethlehem, six original restored canvases by Vereshchagin and the authentic throne of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon in the main altar. The silence (even when it is very crowded) and the open spaces are relaxing and invites you to walk around this big place. The general atmosphere inside is one of quiet are and respect:

    Before you turn to the east side of the cathedral and walk through the Patriarchal Bridge - try to visit the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour Gardens. The Monument to Alexander II (the Liberator Tsar) is located to the left of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in the garden area. Alexander II is honored here because he helped lay the foundation for the original Cathedral and was Tsar of Russia during that time (destroyed in 1931 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin) and ruled during its construction. Completed in 2005 and partly inspired by a destroyed imperial monument from 1898, the statue itself was paid for by private donations, with the rest of the monument mainly financed by public funding. On June 2, 2004 Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov signed a decree about the erection of a new monument to the emperor Alexander II in Moscow. The memorial was designed by professor Alexander Rukavishnikov, a member of the Russian Academy of Arts and national sculptor of Russia. At first, the monument was supposed to be set by the Kremlin's Kutafya Tower; however, a new place was found for it around Christ the Savior Cathedral. DO NOT MISS THE WONDERFUL GARDENS AROUND THE MONUMENT !

    Behind the church is the  Patriarchal Bridge (Patriarshiy most) over Moscow River: Go there for a nice view. Worth the walk. The church/cathedral can be accessed from the bridge (crossing Moscow river from south to north). The large-tiled plaza surrounding it is beautifully designed and maintained, fringed by lovely flower beds during the spring and the summer. As you walk along the bridge - you'll face several wedding parties along it. That bridge also affords some great views of the Moscow River and the Kremlin:

    View from the bridge to the Statue of Peter the Great:

    View from the bridge to the Kremlin:

    In case - you decide to move from the Catedral and its bridge - straight to the Fallen Monuments Park (or vice versa - if you chose the reverse route from south to north) - use the Metro, the Red line # 1: from/to Kultury Park to/from Kropotkinskaya (Кропоткинскаяmore).

    From the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour - we can continue to the the main building of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts which is opposite Christ the Saviour Cathedral (see our blog "Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts") OR we can continue to the Fallen Monument Park (see 4th Tip below). It is a 1.5 km, (20 mins) walk to the Fallen Monument Park. From the Cathedral head northeast, 10 m.  Turn right onto Patriarshiy most / bridge (Патриарший мост), 260 m. Continue straight to stay on Patriarshiy most another 300 m.
    Turn right onto  Krymskaya nab. (наб. Якиманская), 300 m. Continue onto Krymskaya nab. (наб. Крымская), 230 m. On your right - you'll see another 'you can't miss it' landmark - the Peter the Great Statue (Pamyatnik Petru I) (see Tip 4). This giant statue was designed by Zarub Tsereteli, apparently mayor Lushkov's favorite architect (he was also responsible for the Christ the Saviour Cathedral and the Okhotny Ryad shopping mall). The statue is  96 m. high, the highest in the world, and stands on the banks of the Moskva in front of the Krasny Oktyabr chocolate factory. On September 5th, 1997 the giant monument to Russia's first emperor was erected on the Yakimanskaya Embankment in Moscow. The monument by prominent sculptor Tsereteli was unveiled during the celebrations of Moscow's 850th anniversary and was dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the Russian navy. From the time it opened, some Muscovites hated the monument and were clamoring for its removal. They have been no less unkind to the statue of the Russia's Westernizing tsar, who disliked the city so much he moved the capital to St. Petersburg. But due to Tsereteli's close relationship with Moscow's longtime mayor, Yury Luzhkov, the statue, ugly or not, was untouchable. In the next few years there were a number of petitions to remove it and even bomb threats. The monument is a massive structure retaining artistic graceful lines with form emanating a sense of power and grandeur. It may not suit everyone’s sense of art but that's what art does:

    Turn left, 190 m. Turn right, 220 m and the Fallen Monument Park will be on your left.

  • Religion | Peru > Pachacamac
    Updated at Jul 3,2013

    The temple of Pachacamac, some 40 km southeast of Lima, wasn't built by the Inca, but they maintained it as a religious shrine and allowed the Pachacamac priests to use it after the Inca Empire conquered the area in the middle of the 15th century. Presumably, the Inca priesthood consulted the oracle of the temple.

    Most of the sight was built between 800-1450 CE, but the Incas modified the already existing structures and temples to suit their needs. They built new pyramids and temples, like the Temple of the Sun (Templo del Sol) next to a temple dedicated to his "brother" Pachacamac, the Acllahuasi, also known as "Mamacona".

    Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 9.00-17:00. You should confirm opening hours on public holidays.

    Pachacamac Templo del Sol. Photo by Charles Gadbois

  • Religion | Hungary
    Updated at Dec 5,2014

    Budapest Centre:

    Tip 1: Dohany street Great Synagogue and Jewish Museum,

    Tip 2: Jewish Quarter (VII) walk.

    Dohany street Great synagogue & Hungarian Jewish Museum, Dohany utca 2: The Synagogue stands in the intersection of 3 streets: Károly körút (where the Synagogue front is), Dohány utca ((Tobacco road) (where the Jewish Museum facade and wall are) and Wesselényi utca (the Synagogue back side).  The Dohany Synagogue and the Jewish Museum are, actually, in the same building. The Synagogue and the museum are testimonies to the important place that Jewish heritage has in the history and culture of Budapest. The Synagogue is also known as the great, or main Neologic synagogue. The synagogue on the Dohany street of Pest is not only the most impressive one in the country, but it's the largest synagogue of Europe, the second largest one in the world. (The largest is in NY, USA). The restoration of the Synagogue started in 1991 and ended in 1998. It was restored, magnificently,  celebrating 150 years of existence,  in year 2009 - with the presence of Israel's president Moshe Katzav. It is among the top 10 sights of Budapest. With your face to the Synagogue the wing with the arcades on the left is the Jewish Museum. The wing of the Hungarian Jewish Museum added to the Dohany synagogue building in 1931 has the same architectural design, however the facade hides two buildings.

    History of the Synagogue:  Frigyes Feszl and Ludwig Förster created their masterpiece in the middle of Budapest using the Oriental-Byzantine (Moorish) style influenced by Muslim architecture. The consecration of the synagogue was a major event on September 6, 1859. During the inter-war years, anti-Semitism grew quickly in Hungary. A series of anti-Jewish policies were passed, and fascist groups like the Arrow Cross Party started to attract more followers. Hungary became an ally of Germany and the Synagogue was bombed by the Hungarian pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party on 3 February 1939. Used as a base for German Radio and also as a stable during World War II, the building suffered some severe damage from aerial raids during the Nazi Occupation but especially during the Siege of Budapest. The siege of Budapest began on 29 December 1944. The Red Army and the Romanian Army surrounded the city. The siege ended when the city unconditionally surrendered on 13 February 1945. During the Communist era the damaged structure again became a house of prayer for the remnants of the Jewish community. 

    Scope: It can hold 3000 seated and approximately 2000 standing people. Major events took and take place here, like the celebrations part of the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian Conquest in May 1896, memorial services for important Hungarian personalities in the 19th century, Christian and Jewish musical concerts nowadays.

    History and scope of the Hungarian Jewish Museum: At Dohany street nr. 2. there used to be a two-story Classicist style house right next to the synagogue. The Jewish Museum was constructed, between 1930-1931, on the plot where the house used to stand, adjoining the Dohany synagogue. It contains a rich collection of religious relics of the Pest Hevrah Kaddishah (Jewish burial organization), ritual objects of the Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays and ceremonies, a Holocaust room, a historical exhibition. It hosts also temporary exhibitions of famous Jewish artists (Chagall, Modigliani, Soutine, etc.). Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), the founder of Zionist idea and movement was born and raised there. The little square in front of the Dohany complex memorizes the name of Herzl:

    Transportation:  subway M1 (yellow) / M2 (red) / M3 (blue) to Deák Tér station, then walk southward on Károly körút and a bit westward.
    OR:  take subway M2, tram 47, 49 or bus 7, 78 to Astoria station, then walk on Károly körút towards Deák Tér.
    Opening hours: on the Jewish and Saturdays the Synagogues and the Museum are not open for visitors (there are services). NOV-FEB Sunday - Thursday: 10.00 - 15.30, Friday: 10.00 - 13.30, Saturday: closed. MAR - OCT Sunday - Thursday: 10.00 - 18.00, Saturday: closed. MAR - Friday: 10.00 - 15.30, APR - OCT Friday: 10.00 - 16.30. Note: no entrance with:  shorts or miniskirts, cameras or videos, any kind of backpack. Kippah (small caps) are supplied just before the entrance to the Synagogue for men to wear, this is required. There is a security check in the entrance. I would suggest you to go early in the morning. Otherwise, you'll queue for 15-20 minutes (including security check). You have the option to take guided tour and it lasts approx 2 hours. Tour Includes the Synagogue, the newly restored courtyard cemetery and also the moving tree of life made of silver medals. Each leaf had the name of Jewish victim of holocaust. Admission also includes visit to the adjacent Jewish museum which is well worth another hour to see all exhibits and read about the Ghetto experience in Budapest. If you don't have that much time at hand - opt to tour on our own. Don't miss visiting this place even if the entrance fee is a little expensive  (admission fee - 1400 HUF, guided tour - 2850 HUF). You can buy tickets online. You can also sign up for a tour of the Jewish Quarter that is linked to your tour of the Synagogue. You're allowed to take photos everywhere.

    For Jews and non Jews this is a must see as we must be continually reminded so we never forget. It's not a "happy" attraction. However, you'll leave there a better person than when you went in.

    Background: Neologic Judaism is a kind of reformist movement within Judaism, mainly in Hungarian-speaking regions of Europe, which began in the late 19th century. They were more inclined toward integration with the local Hungarians during the Era of Emancipation in the 19th century. They arose in the behind-the-climax of the  period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At those times most of the Orthodox Jewish communities fiercely objected any modern innovations, so even these modest reforms had led to sharp condemnations. Communities that aligned with neither the Orthodox nor the Neologics were known as the Status quo. Between 1868-69 the Jewish Congress took place, where the 3 major Jewish organizations of Hungary were founded. The largest became the more modern Neologic, the extremely conservatives joined the orthodox movement, and the middle-of-the-roaders became known as the designated-above, the Status Quo. Most of the Jews (nearly all Neologics and even most of the Orthodox) adopted the Hungarian language, rather than Yiddish as their primary language and viewed themselves as "Hungarians with Jewish religion". After the rise of Communism in post-World War II Hungary (after the Soviet invasion in 1956), all Jewish organizations were forced to unite into single organizational structure - but, still had resumed their separate religious customs (Orthodox, Neologic and Status Quo). The Neologic community is the largest grouping among Hungary's Jews today. There are, approx. 100,000 jews in Hungary - 80,000 of them living in Budapest.

    Picture of the Synagogue in year 1897:

    Picture of the Synagogue in year 1931:

    Picture of the Synagogue in year 1945:

    Exterior: The Synagogue looks like an oriental, Moorish building. Having been the first synagogue made in this style, it was so successful, that synagogues built later around the world were often designed in the same style. The onion shaped domes with gilded ornament of the Dohany Synagogue are the main reason why this monument looks so Oriental-Byzantine (the same style as the Aya Sofia in Istanbul). Due to the special Moorish influence, many think at first sight that the Dohany synagogue is in fact a mosque. Two onion-shaped domes sit on the twin octagonal towers at 43 metres. A rose stained-glass window sits over the main entrance. The monument  was constructed between 1854-59 according to the plans of Ludwig Förster. Next to the entrance on a pillar the inscription in Hungarian memorizes this architect. Andrassy avenue (north-east to the Synagogue) and its environs (7th district, Elisabethtown - the Jewish Quarter) became part of the World Heritage. It's huge, and surprisingly pretty considering it's made of brick:

    The Museum: The Jewish Museum was constructed on the plot where Theodor Herzl's two-story Classicist style house used to stand, adjoining the Dohány Synagogue. Do see the museum if you have the time. It features Jewish traditions, costumes, as well a detailed history of Hungarian Jews, including information about the Holocaust. It is well documented and very informative about the Jewish community in Hungary. Except of the museum - there are other areas, adjacent to the museum, to see - the memorial garden for Holocaust victims, Jewish Cemetery (where thousands of Jews were buried during the Holocaust), the courtyard (Raoul Wallenberg Park with the moving Memorial to the Hungarian Jewish slaughtered victims) with the Weeping Willow Tree of Life and stained glass memorial as well as small memorials to the Christians who helped the Jews during WW2.

    The Jewish Cemetery: The cemetery is located in the backyard of the Heroes' Temple. The Nazi authorities of the time forced the Jews to live in the enforced Ghetto. The Synagogue was part of the Jewish Ghetto and many Jews found shelter here. Approx. 2000 Jews who died from hunger and cold in 1944 are buried here, in mass graves:

    Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park: At least 400,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered by the Nazis. In memory of those who had died, there is a memorial by the sculptor, Imre Varga, depicting a weeping willow (also known as the Emanuel Tree) with the names and tattoo numbers of the dead and disappeared just behind the Synagogue, in the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park. The tree with thousand metallic leaves (each leaf has the name of a person or family slaughtered in the war) is very beautiful and also touching. The impressive memorial tree can be seen from the street behind the synagogue/museum through the complex railings. At the front of the tree is a black double archway memorial with the words - "Is there a bigger pain than mine?".

    There are also several plaques to those people who helped save many thousands of Jewish people during the times of unbelievable sufferings: there are four red marble plates, commemorating 240 non-Jewish Hungarians who saved Jews during the Holocaust. One of the most heroic figures of the Holocaust in Hungary was Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who prepared Protective Passports under the authority of the Swedish Embassy, saving the lives of thousands of Jews:

    The memorial was sponsored by the Emanuel Foundation of New York. The foundation was created in 1987 by the cinema star Tony Curtis in honor of his father, Emanuel Schwartz, who emigrated to New York from Mátészalka in Hungary:

    The Archiving site:

    Heroes' Temple: The arcade and the Heroes' Temple, which seats 250 people and is used for religious services on weekdays and during the winter time, was added the Dohány Street Synagogue complex in 1931. The Heroes' Temple was designed by Lázlo Vágó and Ferenc Faragó and serves as a memorial to Hungarian Jews who gave their lives during World War I:

    Interiors: As you enter look for the large Menorah which is marked out on the pavement. The Synagogue inside is much like a church and is very different from other synagogues that I've visited in other parts of the world. It is very ornate and elaborate inside and differs from the exterior. I would call it a temple rather than a synagogue. It can seat 3000 people in the central hall. The architecture is stunning. The little attention to detail is what makes the whole design of the Synagogue so admirable. Just sit down and swallow it all in your eyes: the ceiling, the oriental ornamentation, the organ, the colored windows, painted walls, many chandeliers and and lots of gold details.... The Torah-ark and the internal frescoes made of colored and golden geometric shapes are the works of the famous Hungarian romantic architect Frigyes Feszl. Franz Liszt and Camille Saint-Saëns played the original 5,000 pipe organ built in 1859. A new mechanical organ with 63 voices and 4 manuals was built in 1996 by the German firm Jehmlich Orgelbau Dresden GmbH... The seats on the groundfloor are for men, while the upper gallery has seats for women:

    The Jewish Quarter (district VII.) hides many treasures so devote enough time to explore it.

  • Religion | Russian Federation
    Updated at Nov 11,2015

    From the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood to the Summer Garden.

    Tip 1: The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood - If you are going to visit only one church is St. Petersbourg, this is the one!:

    Tip 2: From Mikhailovsky Garden to the Arts Square.

    Tip 3: Market Place Restaurant, Nevsky Prospekt 24.

    Tip 4: From Bolshaya Konyushennaya to the Summer Palace.

    Tip 5: Summer Garden.

    Tip 6: Opera Evening in Mikhailovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre.

    Main Attractions (most of them - north to Nevsky Prospekt): Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, Mikhailovsky Garden, First Engineer Bridge, Panteleymonovsky Bridge, Mikhailovsky Castle, Peter the Great Monument, Manezhnaya Ploschad, Statue of Ivan Turgenev, Malaya Sadovaya Street, the Arts Square (Ploshchad Iskusstv), The Russian Museum (Mikhailovsky Palace), Russian Museum of Ethnography, Monument to Alexander Pushkin, Mikhailovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre, Market Place Restaurant (Nevsky Prospekt #24), Bolshaya Konyushennaya, the Green Bridge, the Red Bridge, Bolshaya Morskaya Street, Arch of the General Staff Building, Winter Canal, Palace Embankment, Marble Palace, Vladimir Palace, Summer Garden and Palace.

    Distance: 13 km. Duration: 1 day.

    Start: metro line #2 (blue line) Nevsky Prospekt (Невский проспект), OR metro line #3. (green line) Gostiny Dvor (Гостиный двор). The The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood resides between the (north to )Nevsky Prospekt avenue and (south to) the Neva river.

    End: Summer Garden. From there - walk to Mikhaelovsky Castle, Field of Mars or Spilled Blood Cathedral and catch a bus nearby to the city centre.

    It is 800 m. walk from Nevskiy prospekt or Gostiny Dvor Metro stations to the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood. Head west on Nevskiy prospekt avenue, 240 m/300m. Turn right onto Griboyedov Canal Embankment (наб. канала Грибоедова) and walk along it for 600 m. The Savior on the Spilled Blood Church is in front of you - all along your walk northward:

    Duration: 1/2 hour to take photos of the exteriors. 1/2 hour to queue-in for tickets and 1/2-1 hour to explore the stunning interiors of the cathedral.

    Introduction: Alexander II, the eldest son of Tsar Nicholas I, was born in Moscow on 17th April, 1818. Educated by private tutors, he also had to endure rigorous military training that permanently damaged his health. In 1841 he married Marie Alexandrovna, the daughter of the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt. Alexander became Tsar of Russia on the death of his father in 1855. At the time Russia was involved in the Crimean War and in 1856 signed the Treaty of Paris that brought the conflict to an end. The Crimean War made Alexander realize that Russia was no longer a great military power. Tsar Alexander II, the ruler of Russia since 1855, did much to liberalize and modernize Russia, including the abolishment of serfdom in 1861. His advisers argued that Russia's serf-based economy could no longer compete with industrialized nations such as Britain and France. Alexander now began to consider the possibility of bringing an end to serfdom in Russia. The nobility objected to this move but as Alexander told a group of Moscow nobles: "It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below. In 1861 Alexander issued his Emancipation Manifesto that proposed 17 legislative acts that would free the serfs in Russia. Alexander announced that personal serfdom would be abolished and all peasants would be able to buy land from their landlords. The State would advance the the money to the landlords and would recover it from the peasants in 49 annual sums known as redemption payments. Alexander also introduced other reforms and in 1864 he allowed each district to set up a Zemstvo. These were local councils with powers to provide roads, schools and medical services. However, the right to elect members was restricted to the wealthy. Other reforms introduced by Alexander included improved municipal government (1870) and universal military training (1874). He also encouraged the expansion of industry and the railway network.

    On the other end - evolved the People’s Will, a movement organized in 1879, which employed terrorism and assassination in their attempt to overthrow Russia’s Tsarist autocracy. They murdered officials and made several attempts on the Tsar’s life. When Alexander II authority was challenged, he turned repressive, and he vehemently opposed movements for political reform. The revolutionary “People’s Will” group, finally, assassinated Tsar Alexander II on March 13, 1881. He was killed in the streets of St. Petersburg by a bomb thrown by a member of the group. Ironically, on the very day he was killed, he signed a proclamation–the so-called Loris-Melikov constitution–that would have created two legislative commissions made up of indirectly elected representatives. He was succeeded by his 36-year-old son, Alexander III, who rejected the Loris-Melikov constitution. Alexander II’s assassins were arrested and hanged, and the People’s Will was thoroughly suppressed. The peasant revolution advocated by the People’s Will was achieved, at last, by Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1917.

    History: This marvelous Russian-style church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood (Церковь Спаса на Крови, Tserkovʹ Spasa na Krovi) was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. The Church is prominently situated along the Griboyedov Canal; paved roads run along both sides of the canal. The church was officially called the Resurrection of Christ Church. The construction of the church was almost entirely funded by the Imperial family and thousands of private donators. Construction began in 1883 during the reign of Alexander III. The church was dedicated to be a memorial to his father, Alexander II. The construction was complete during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907.

    The church was closed for services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary graveyard for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes. It remained closed and under restoration for over 30 years. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship. The Church of the Saviour on Blood is a Museum of Mosaics. In the pre-Revolution period it was NOT used as a public place of worship.

    Exterior: Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow. Interestingly, despite the church’s very obviously Russian aspect, its principle architect, A. Parland, was not even Russian by birth. Both the interior and exterior of the church are decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists of the day (M.V. Nesterov, V.M. Vasnetsov and M.A. Vrubel). The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood resembles a bit the St. Basil Cathedral on the Red Square in Moscow. The church is a perfect example of how you expect Russia to be: the golden onion domes, and fantastic colors, are so typical of the country, and are absolutely exquisite. What a colorful place to visit ! The views from the Griboyedov Canal are stunning ! I took thousand pictures of this cathedral !!!

    The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood from the Griboyedov Canal:

    Kazan Cathedral from the Griboyedov Canal:

    Interior: Absolutely beautiful - words cannot describe this masterpiece. The interiors walls are covered with what looks like paintings, but upon a closer look are actually tiny mosaics. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are COMPLETELY covered in intricately detailed mosaics and It might be the most beautiful mosaic mural decoration you have ever seen. The mosaic work is AMAZING. Every inch of space seems to be covered with huge religious mosaics, soaring upward to the ornate vaulted ceiling, where the face of Christ looks down in a blaze of light. The sheer scale of the building is impressive enough, but the detail is just as amazing, with gold and precious stones glittering out here and there. The main pictures being biblical scenes or figures.

    Christ the Pantocrator, mosaic in the central dome designed by Nikolai Kharlamov:

    Practicalities: the Church is amazingly busy, thousands flock here everyday. Beware of pickpocketing.

    There are long lines to get in, so book ahead. Be prepared to elbow your way to get a ticket and (sometimes) to enter the church.

    There are nice markets (mainly, souvenirs - good prices) to browse around and close by. There are also good restaurants on both sides of the Griboyedov Canal - leading to the church.

    Many people say that photo-ops during the late afternoon hours or sun setting time - are far more appealing. Transportation: it is easily accessible from the Nevsky Prospekt metro station.

    Opening hours and admission prices: daily 10.30  to 18.00. Last admission is at 17.30. Evening openings of the Cathedral in the summer only (May 1 - September 30): 18.00 to 22.30. Closed: Wednesdays. Admission: Adult: RUB 250. Children: RUB 50. Audio-guide (in Russian, English, German, French, Italian or Spanish): RUB 100. Evening openings of the Cathedral in the summer only: RUB 400. Photo and video: free/included.

  • Religion | Montenegro > Manastir Morača
    Updated at Jul 2,2013

    We drove on the road crossing the lake and the strong winds blew the water in every which direction and it seemed like they were going to flip the car over. We continued in the direction of Podgorica, and before passing by Morača Monastery we stopped for a view of it and the nearby waterfall. On the way we also saw the Morača River, which enchanted us with its turquoise colors. We visited the monastery, and it reminded us of the monasteries in Romania, both from the outside and from within.

  • Religion | Peru > Cusco > Chinchero
    Updated at Jun 27,2013

    We also reached the town of Chinchero, where we saw a church built on Inca ruins. Inside there were life sized statues dressed in glory fit to kings - statues of christian saints, the local people have embraced and gave different names to integrate them in the culture they knew. 

    Jesus for example, became here the mountain patron, and Santiago, the Indian Slayer became, Santiago, the slayer of another rival tribe. 

    It's amazing to see how quickly the Inca has embraced the religion of the people who quashed them and enslaved them, but I learned that in poor places, religion is sometimes everything. You don't have anything to wear or eat, but for the saints statues, you'll bring velvet and jewelry, fruits and flowers. You give, and hope that you'll accept something similar in the after life.