Bongeunsa

The first in a series of two

In the south of Seoul, in the district of Samseong, I visited the monastery and temples of Bongeunsa.  The suffix “sa” indicates temple.  The monks of this place have been instrumental in steering South Korea towards Zen-Buddhism, which has unified the faith.

One of the temples. The two-storey architecture is unusual.

The symbols in Buddhism are many though there are two of central importance.

The tri-unity on this temple indicates, with top sphere, the Sakyamuni Buddha, that is, the first and the founder.  The second indicates the Word, that is, writings that have come down from the earliest years between 600 and 500 BC.  The third is the devotee.

Most Westerners would be taken aback by this symbol because of its misuse in modern history.  It rattled me for a moment to see it around the neck of a kindly little old lady.  It designates health, physical and spiritual, the cornerstone of Buddhism.  In the West this age-old symbol was reversed, literally and figuratively.

Sacred art plays a big role in Buddhism.   The kinds of colours used are called tanch’ông which suggests to me that they are not random but have specific values.

 

In the creation mythology of Korea the supreme god Hanunim places the universe on the backs of elephants and the elephants are placed on the back of the tortoise.  This little monument tells of this.

(c) Will van der Walt 

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2018

 

My photographs

 

See also

Mitasa temple 09.09.12

Temples of South Korea  12.03.13

Three days at a temple  2.5.17

 

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Bongeunsa

The second in a series of two

At the entrance portals I saw these paintings of warriors.  This is significant for Bongeunsa.  The monks of these temples fought valiantly at the time of the Japanese incursions in Korea during the early 1590s.  It was a time of unparalleled destruction.   The valour was evident too, at the time the occupation of North Koreans during the civil war of the 1950s.  The monks stayed standing.

One of the most beautifully decorated things was the drum and the drum room.

In this space there was too, a Silla bell.  These bronze bells were cast more than a thousand years ago in the Three Kingdoms period.  They have a particularly resonant sound.

I could hardly believe the refinement of the temple decoration.  This provided a framework for paintings of episodes in the life of Buddha.

It was strange to see the world of Bongeunsa against the starkly modern backdrop of the Samseong skyscrapers.  Perhaps the closest a South African comes to this is the Castle against the highrise buildings of Cape Town.

(c)  Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2018

 

My photographs

 

See also

Mitasa temple 09.09.12

Temples of South Korea  12.03.13

Three days at a temple  2.5.17

 

Christian images in South Korea

The first in a series of two

The Christian images in South Korea were often very different to those one would, perhaps, see in Europe.  The history is profoundly different and in fact there were still extensive persecutions of Christians in the late-19th-century.  But persecution seldom achieves its aim and the art of the faith bears witness to this.

I visited the Myongdong area in central Seoul where there is a traditional gothic Catholic cathedral.  The Stations of the Cross, cast in bronze, were unusual and powerful.  I have no idea who the artist was.

Outside in the grounds of the Cathedral was this huge granite head, almost two metre high.  Note the three symbolic nails.

In a shop selling Christian symbols and paraphernalia I saw this crucifix.  I would have wanted to remove the price tag.

Against the cityscape was a figure of Christ the Redeemer.

(c) Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2018

 

My photographs

 

 

 

 

JACQUES DOLLE

They argue about his name.  He is not Jacques, they insist, it’s Joseph.  He is worthy of the attention:  he left his mark on the city of his birth, more than a mark.  Born in Antibes in 1650, he is considered by some as a master sculptor.  The work he did in the Cathedral of St Mary, the main cathedral in the city, bears out this opinion.  At the portal you see what he was capable of, as intriguing a character, as he was mysterious,  in the history of Antibes.

                 Cathedral Portal

               Portal relief figure

 

               Portal relief figure

These relief figures depict legends and stories from the Bible, detailed work in the spirit of baroque, fitting if one considers too, the classic baroque of the church façade.  In the church we see the pulpit and the baptism font, both his handiwork.

                        The Pulpit

                             Baptism font

He attracted attention, especially if one considers the competition at the time from many Italian sculptors.  The Sun King, Louis XIV, came to hear of him and he went north for a few projects.  In Antibes there is too, his master work The Portal of France, a majestic Gate with a finely-fashioned pediment, that we know from a postcard.  But, the tourist office informed me, it is in a state of advanced neglect, with buildings around it making it virtually impossible to see.  On the reverse side of building, as a kind of compensation for the neglect, a pediment in full view of the street has been constructed, but the detail, I’m told, is clearly inferior to Dolle’s original work.  To add insult, it is recorded in the archives that he was never paid for this work.

It is also a story of creeping hatred.  For certain reasons he was not popular amongst the aristocracy, perhaps because of his humble origins.  Badmouthing poisoned his life.  He was stained with supposed paranormal activities.  One piece of scandal had it that, in the garden of a wealthy marquis, Dolle trafficked with white female spirit.  It was subsequently found that the “white spirit” had in fact been a marble Venus figure, from the time of the Romans.

His health deteriorated and he withdrew from life to the Monastery of Laghet where he dedicated himself to God.  Shortly before his death, − it was the year 1730 − he returned to Antibes, to the white marble figure in the garden of the marquis, the Venus that he had never forgotten, the figure that haunted him yet.  The next day they found him lifeless at her feet.

                                       Venus

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017

 

Source

Pierre Tosan : Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins. HEPTA Antibes, 1998.

Images

Portal panels – my photos

Pulpit, baptism font – Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins

My drawing.

 

Coventry Cathedral – contemporary sacred art

Coventry Cathedral, a 14th-century gothic church, was bombed during the Blitz in the Second World War.  For me, it was an unusual experience to stand in those ruins which they have preserved.  I can’t express the many emotions I experienced, from anger to sadness, from wonder to inspiration.  The modern cathedral abuts these ruins, almost as if the new has grown out of the old and the building began from 1950.  Amongst the engineers was a team of young Germans.  

                          Cathedral ruins

 

      Cathedral ruins with reconstructed cross

The modern cathedral, remarkable architecture, is a treasury of contemporary sacred art.  Everything has been carefully considered.  The baptism font is a hollow rock from the hills near Bethlehem.  One chapel is approached through a crown of thorns.  A moving likeness of Christ was made from the torn metal of a car accident.

                               Baptism font

                                      Chapel

Above the nave is the tapestry Christ in Majesty by Graham Sutherland, one of the largest of its kind in the world.  In every aspect there is majesty, except, for me, in one, which has left me uneasy over the years.  It is the expression on the face of the Christ visage.  Perhaps it is my Rorschach, but for me there is a creeping cynicism in the faint smile.

               The Cathedral nave with tapestry

                              Detail of tapestry

Amongst these art works in the cathedral there is a figure of Christ by Jacob Epstein in the ruins of the old cathedral, sculpture of the 1950s. (Observe to the far right against the wall in the photograph of the ruins.)  This work is a radical departure from the usual portrayal of Christ as a wrung out, vulnerable figure on the cross.

    The Epstein Christ figure

What came up for me was the word primitive, with exclusively positive connotations.  This mode, it seemed to me, takes its cue from the jungle cultures – the Congo, the Amazon, Indonesia and even Easter Island.  I grapple for words to contain this – winter clouds over night mountain ranges; the deep voice of a coming volcano … This prehistoric figure, I feel, will burst through his bonds and stride the curve of the earth in thunder.  It is sacred art that stirs much in me.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

July , 2016

 

Source

Wikipedia

 

Images

Cathedral ruins – mapio.net

Altar with nail cross – cathedrallicking.wordpress.com

Baptism font – tripadvisor.co.uk

Chapel with crown of thorns  –  stopprocrastinatingandjustdoit.blogspot.com

Cathedral nave – lovelyoldtree.wordpress.com

Detail of tapestry  –  blog.arthistoryabroad.com

Epstein Christ figure  –  source lost

 

Dedicated to my niece Dawn Denton for the support she has given me. 

 

  

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