Archive for July 16, 2013

Drawn to symmetry

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Article Excerpt:
Why is architectural symmetry so satisfying? As Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawing demonstrated, it reflects the human body, which has a right side and a left, a back and a front, the navel in the very center. Du Sautoy writes that the human mind seems constantly drawn to anything that embodies some aspect of symmetry. He observes that “[a]rtwork, architecture and music from ancient times to the present day play on the idea of things which mirror each other in interesting ways.” When we walk around a Baroque church, we experience many changing views, but when we walk down the main aisle—the line along which the mirror images of the left and right sides meet—we know that we are in a special relationship to our surroundings. And when we stand below the dome of the crossing, at the confluence of four symmetries, we know we have arrived.
~Witold Rybczynski from his article Mirror Images: Why is symmetry so satisfying?

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A treasure trove

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The above is the facade of the St. John of Sahagun Parish Church in the historic town of Tigbauan, Iloilo province. Nothing really extraordinary in its Baroque-inspired exteriors, but wait till you get inside. Whoa, don’t scroll down and enter just yet! Before that, let me first share a description from Wikipedia:

Tigbauan, is one of Iloilo’s treasure trove, packed with “gems” from more than a millennium of historical significance. With one foot in the past, and the other in the present, Tigbauan allows every visitor a glimpse of its heady blend of architectural masterpieces and natural wonder, the town’s 134 years of history are on display when you look.

The town delights its St. John of Sahagun Parish. Constructed using forced labor under Fray Florencio Martin in 1867, its beautiful baroque facade in rococo finish, allow visitors a glimpse of the community’s intense spirituality. The church’s remarkable architecture with its façade and tower, survived the ravages of the Second World War and the great earthquake in 1948. Presently, the mystical beauty of its altar depicts heaven and Dante’s Inferno; the church walls with the Way of the cross, all done in intricate mosaic of colored stones is a sight not to be missed. On its churchyard remained a marker of what used to be the site of the first Jesuit boarding school for boys in the Philippines established in 1592 and renowned that time for their liturgical music during church services.

I guess you saw the key words and phrases “mystical beauty of its altar” and the “intricate mosaic of colored stones.” Let’s go inside. Below are a couple of images reflecting those key phrases.

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You have to see the place in person to appreciate fully these spectacular works of art. The Wikipedia description doesn’t even come close. According to town folks I talked to, those are not just colored stones but also shells and corals (no environmental restriction on corals during those times) shaped into tiny tiles (thousands of them), painted, pieced and placed together, one by one, by hand. They are all around on the interior walls, columns and the famous half-dome ceiling in the main alter.

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Churches are treasure troves of artifacts, relics, antiquity and extraordinary art. All are potential photographic subjects. Discover them and document them well. These are priceless – both of your images of them and the rich history that comes with them.