Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cardiff II: Castell Caerdydd

Cardiff Castle is by far the coolest thing to do in the city. Photography inside the buildings is prohibited, so I had to resort to my old standby of photographing items in the gift shop, but the quality on these is only so-so. Anyways, the building's last owners were the Bute family, most notably the 3rd Marquise of Bute in the 19th and early 20th centuries. To this day, Bute still holds the distinction of being one of the all-time wealthiest people ever to attend Oxford University. The family used Cardiff Castle as a vacation home for six weeks out of the year, and because they spent such an unbearably long time there Bute opted to have the entire building redone by architect William Burges. I'm a little fuzzy on what Burges did for the architecture of the building, but his interior decorating makes Cardiff Castle a mandatory stop for anyone within a 100 mile radius of the city.

Outside the Castle

1) The main gate.

2) The rear gate as seen from the courtyard.

3) The Norman keep, one of the oldest parts of the castle. The dungeon is also in this building.

4) The Victorian house where all the good decorations are.

5) Looking down at the moat and well from the top of the Norman keep. This is the first moat with water in it I've seen.

6) Inside the Norman Keep.

Inside the House

5) Inside the clock tower, aka the smoking room. This room is covered in green, red, and 22 karat gold lief, combined with elaborate carvings, tiles, paneling, and some pretty cool hiding places where Lord Bute kept his cigars and brandy. The theme of this room is time, and the ceiling showcases the seasons, the phases of the sun, the signs of the zodiac, and the birds / butterflies of Wales in each season. To put it simply, it's absolutely breath taking. The mantle has an image of Eros over a relief of young lovers, and it reads "Love Conquers All so Yield to Love" in Latin.

6 & 7) The image of twilight - daylight and the moon are also present. Actually, I'll put the daylight woman on here too. They really are lovely carvings.

8) Thor's window - the smoking room shows all of the Gods used to inspire the days of the week on its seven windows. Isn't it cool? And all the rooms tell stories with themes like these. Why don't we do this any more? Such a waste...

9) The Chaucer Room. A horribly low-res, badly tinted picture of the Chaucer room. Sad, I know. The room starts with stain glass windows of the Canterbury Tales (#10), and moves down in tiers. Next comes "The Parliament of the Birds," and "The Legend of Good Women." My favourite part were the good women - Burges took women who killed themselves for the sake of love and placed their busts (and methods of suicide) around the room. Even though it's not clear, this photo has Dido and (I think) Cleopatra in it. The mantel is a statue of Chaucer, and the floor has a labyrinth puzzel printed on it in tile.

11) This is the children's nursery. The Butes had four children - three sons and a daughter - which was a remarkably small family by Victorian standards. The mantle features Chaucer again, namely the proverb that "Him who blows his own horn grows asses ears." Don't ask me to cite the original middle English, it's not going to happen. The walls have scenes from various stories around them; in this photo you can sort of see St. Michael and the Dragon, Aladdin, and Rapunzel, to name a few. The most famous image on the nursery walls is that of The Invisible Prince (#12). You can see his hair in the leaves and a twig outlining his profile.

13) The small dining room. The theme of this room is the life of Abraham. The mantle has images of him, Sarah, and several angels. The stain glass windows also tell Old Testament stories, and the paneling conceals several buttons to ring for various servants. Sorry, that was non sequitur. The table had a hole in the middle and a support on the bottom because a full grape vine was cultivated where the vase is today. For the six weeks the Bute's lived there, guests could pick fresh grapes as they had tea.

14) The ceiling in the Arab room, done almost entirely in 22 karat gold lief.

15) This is the library. The only books in there now are Cardiff city council minutes, but the decorations and shelf carvings are still fabulous. The mantle features five scholars that represent the five dead languages Lord Bute spoke. The rest of the room is dedicated to the other 17 languages he spoke.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Still looking for the correct middle english on the Chaucer piece - I'll let you know when I get all 22 languages down... geez! - Elise