Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

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Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Fri Apr 15, 2011 5:29 pm

Old ATU thread revivified.


Last edited by eddie on Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:33 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:22 pm

The Reformation of the Landscape by Alexandra Walsham - review

Despite the reformation, Britain's most ancient holy sites never lost their power

Graham Parry The Guardian, Saturday 30 April 2011


Divinity in nature . . . Avebury in Wiltshire. Photograph: David Pearson/Rex Features

If we think about the effects of the reformation on the landscape of Britain, we're most likely to conjure up images of ruined abbeys, but the monasteries were only the most prominent casualties of the reforming zeal that swept through the country in the 16th century, as the change in religion aroused a fierce passion to eliminate what Protestants saw as the corrupt and superstitious practices of the Roman Catholic church.

Alexandra Walsham's book reveals the ways in which the whole countryside had to be purged of the traces of false devotion, for a thousand years of Christianity had turned Britain into a holy isle dense with sacred places. Sites associated with the Celtic saints who first spread the faith though the land, sites where Christians had been martyred by Romans, Saxons or Danes, or where people had witnessed miracles or apparitions – all such locations were now devalued by the rigorous Calvinism of the reformed religion. Salvation depended on the message of the scriptures, and on preaching and prayer. Those who worshipped at the old centres of pilgrimage, or visited hermitages, holy wells, sacred trees or wayside crosses were committing idolatry according to the reformed faith. The land was full of idols that needed to be destroyed, among them the remains of paganism – standing stones and barrows that still retained a mysterious power. These too had to be overthrown, but they were so numerous, especially in the remote Celtic regions, that many were left alone. An attempt to level Stonehenge was soon abandoned. Nevertheless, fired with examples from the Old Testament about the need to cast down idols, the English reformers set about making the land fit for their purified religion.

Walsham's aim is to chart the changing relationship between religion and the landscape in the first two centuries of Protestantism, tracing a continuous tension between church teaching and popular belief. What her research demonstrates most compellingly is the enduring magnetism of the natural world as a source of spiritual fulfilment. However vigorously the dominant parties in the reformed church tried to erase the vestiges of ancient veneration, they failed to prevent people resorting to them. The magic of the saintly sites or of pagan monuments met a need not satisfied by organised worship. The ideology of the reformed religion, driven by radicals, was always coming up against a deep-rooted attachment to the old faith and a primitive instinct to seek divinity in nature. Take the worship of water, for example. All over the country there were holy springs and wells which had been associated with saints, and in pre-Christian times had been places of pagan devotion. They had an irresistible attraction as sources of faith and healing. Preachers denounced them, asserting that only the water of baptism was necessary to health, but they retained such a loyal following that eventually they were rehabilitated as medicinal waters, finally becoming spas in Buxton, Bristol, Bath and elsewhere.

Sacred trees and groves abounded in the numinous countryside: they were cut down by reformers, but miraculously grew again to meet popular demand. Ancient yew trees led charmed lives in churchyards. At Glastonbury, where the holiest tree in the country grew, the thornbush that flowered at Christmas to honour the birth of Christ, the contest between veneration and denunciation swayed to and fro. It was hacked about, cut down and regenerated from a seedling. People would not leave it alone. The ruins of Glastonbury, too, continued to attract men and women in search of contact with the spiritual. The tops of hills where St Michael had once alighted, or where hermits had led ascetic lives, were still held in forbidden reverence. Stone outcrops in Cornwall or the Peak District had holy associations that continued to exert their power in reformed communities, as did fissures and caverns which were feared as ways into the underworld, haunts of the Devil. The most notable of these fearful places was in Ireland: the island in Lough Derg known as St Patrick's Purgatory. With its caves and pilgrimage stations, it gave Catholics opportunities of penance to mitigate the torments of the afterlife.

The interweaving of religious and local history in this book produces a most stimulating effect. Based on research as broad as it is deep, it conveys an understanding of the habits of belief and desire that drove generations of men and women all over these islands to feats of destruction and preservation in the cause of religion. As zeal diminished after the civil wars, the religious potency of the landscape faded, faith gradually became folklore, and the abbeys, chapels and shrines that had aroused so much contention declined into picturesque scenery. But this volume shows you what intense conflicts had to take place before the land could settle into a state where all could live in relative peace.

Graham Parry's Glory, Laud and Honour: The Arts of the Anglican Counter-Reformation is published by Boydell Press.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 10:55 pm

Precautionary replication of the material in the first post of this thread before the link to the old ATU cache expires:

********************************************************************************


Picasso believed we haven't learned much since these images were created.

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 10:56 pm


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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 10:57 pm



Petroglyph: an image carved into rock.

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 10:59 pm


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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 11:01 pm



The Cerne Abbas giant, England.

The figure looks ancient but may only date from the mid-1600's.

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 11:02 pm



The White Horse at Uppington.

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 11:04 pm



The Long Man of Wilmington. 17th c. again, apparently.

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 11:05 pm



Aylesbury stone circle.

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 11:07 pm



Stonehenge, England.

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 11:09 pm



Cave painting of bison in Altamira, Spain. 15,000-10,000 BC.


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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 11:11 pm

Nash wrote:



Chalk horse at Osmington, we have a number of white horses dotted about the UK.

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 11:13 pm

Arthur Askey wrote: We do, Nash. Here's the white horse at Kilburn (not THAT Kilburn ) in the Vale of York:


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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Sat May 28, 2011 11:14 pm

Nash wrote:

Quote:
We do, Nash. Here's the white horse at Kilburn (not THAT Kilburn ) in the Vale of York:




Cor, that's a big un.

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Re: Cave art, hillside art and standing stones

Post  eddie on Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:35 pm

Why illuminating Stonehenge is an unenlightened idea

Introducing more light pollution to show off these ancient stones would only disconnect us further from the landscape they inhabit

Ian Vince

guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 December 2011 16.35 GMT


A comet over Stonehenge. Photograph: Getty Images

A suggestion on the letters page of the Times that Stonehenge should be tastefully illuminated at night has stirred up a debate both there and on the Radio 4 Today programme, kickstarting a long-overdue conversation about the treatment of our ancient relics. The letter, written by Lady Mimi Pakenham of Warminster, has not only cast a light on our attitudes about conservation and heritage, but also illuminated a rift in our understanding of our landscape and environment.

At the risk of sounding like a maiden aunt from Downton Abbey, I have no doubt that Pakenham's intentions are entirely honourable, but I also think that she is entirely wrong. While the proposal stands little chance of any success – Stonehenge was lit up during the 1970s and early 80s and caused enough slack-jawed awe for it to be objectively audited in terms of the road accidents it caused on the nearby A303 – it is, at least, useful as a thought experiment to test how we feel about the crown jewels of our ancient culture. We might then find out why it is such a bad idea and, perhaps, come up with better ones.

The reasoning behind Pakenham's proposal was to "add some magic" to the stones to engage the public and kick-start the interest of children and, despite your better judgment, you can see her point – inconvenient road accidents aside – an illuminated Stonehenge would look fabulous in a prog-rock, turn-it-up-to-11 kind of way. But it wouldn't be Stonehenge, it would simply be an icon from our heritage reduced to the status of a billboard. Stonehenge hardly needs advertising – over a million tourists visited it in 2010 – and it doesn't need any added magic, either; it needs a restoration of the magic it once bristled with before all the trappings of 20th- and 21st-century life impinged upon it. It needs, as Clive Ruggles, professor of archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester explained patiently on the Today programme, an effort to "restore Stonehenge to its landscape and part and parcel of that is restoring Stonehenge to its sky, to keeping it as dark as possible".

Unfortunately, that effort will never wholly succeed until the A303 is removed from the vicinity, and there's the rub. Since the days when motoring was still fun – approximately the date when this stretch of the A303 was last improved – the act of driving a car has become steadily more tiresome while motorists have become progressively more insulated from the landscape they drive through. In that regard, modern cars are merely a microcosm of modern life as a whole, a metaphor for our isolation from nature, an isolation that colours our view of the world to such an extent that we have become – in comparison to the builders of places like Stonehenge – intuitively dim. Lighting up those stones, introducing a few more lux of light pollution, will only make us marginally dimmer, more disconnected from the celestial calendars that Stonehenge, in all probability, was constructed to observe. This, as any sane observer of our insane treatment of the environment knows, is exactly the wrong way to go.

Just as we box ourselves into cars, seemingly immune to the outside world, we also box up the landscape between the roads. Modern highway building, and its representation on maps, has conspired to make us view landscapes as the interstitial blocks between roads, the white spaces in the road atlas. The dominant feature in the Stonehenge landscape, as revealed by a glance at any route map of the area, is that of a pennant pointing east formed by the A303 and two other major roads; it is only the neolithic and bronze age remains, spattered like grapeshot across the white spaces of an Ordnance Survey sheet, that break this uncompromising geometry.

On the ground, the single most irksome modern contribution to Stonehenge's plight is made by a car park which has actually covered the oldest archaeology yet discovered in the entire Stonehenge landscape with tarmac – 10,000 year-old Mesolithic post holes are now marked by what look like a line of mini-roundabouts. Add a tawdry ticket booth and a dank subway jollied up by pictures of a monument they won't let most of the visitors anywhere near and you'll be overcome with sufficient industrial-strength ennui to floor a neolithic warlord.

There are plans for a new visitor centre and a more appropriate car park, while closure of one of the roads in 2012 will help considerably, but all of this is a long way short of being able to experience the landscape as a contiguous whole. We have to do better than this, and to do so we have to treat the efforts of our ingenious ancestors with a little more respect and reverence. That is the mark of a truly enlightened civilisation.

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