Traveling with Art: Shrewsbury, Ireland

 

A town with mostly medieval architecture, Shrewsbury, Ireland’s rich history includes being founded around 800 AD and being the center of wool commerce. Evidence also suggests that Shrewsbury had its own mint in its early days, making it an especially important area. The site also saw a number of battles and conflicts in the Medieval era.

 

The postcard image you see above is a color photo lithograph of some of Shrewsbury’s mansions, a view from around the 1900’s showing a building that was built in 1596.

 

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Shrewsbury Castle Keep in Ireland. (Via Rev Dan Catt CC 2.0)

If you want to see a piece of royalty first hand, the town’s Shropshire Regimental Museum at Shrewsbury Castle has a locket with a lock of Napoleon’s hair. (Yes, THAT Napoleon.) To add to the list of famous names, Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury and grew up there.

 

 

A grave for the character Ebenezer Scrooge even exists in a Shrewsbury graveyard, made for a movie version of “A Christmas Carol” and never taken out.

 

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A watercolor scene of Shrewsbury, signed ‘Louise Rayner’.

The town also contains “the grandfather of skyscrapers”, the Ditherington Flax Mill, the oldest iron framed building in the world.

 

 

Shrewsbury has many more claims to fame than you can really keep track of! Today the town has a refined culture and plenty of architecture from various time periods, especially the Medieval era, that make the town a sight to behold.

Traveling with Art: Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

We take a trip once again to Paris, where history and modernity intermingle in a perfect balance of past and present.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France is a piece of rich history near the middle of the famous city, standing as the hub of radiating avenues like spokes of a wheel. It’s been an important landmark to Paris for many years, ever since the beginning of its construction in 1806, despite numerous setbacks on its design.

The painting you see above is an oil painting by Antoine Blanchard titled “Le Champs Elysees”, showing the famous street in Paris with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.

An illustration of Victor Hugo's tomb under the Arc. Many were devastated at the famous author's death.

An illustration of Victor Hugo’s tomb under the Arc. Thousands were devastated at the famous author’s death.

The Arc was commissioned as a representation of a victory by Emperor Napoleon. The foundations alone took two years, foreshadowing a construction schedule that would take a while. In the following years, it witnessed further setbacks: the first architect, Jean Chalgrin, died; construction was halted during the Bourbon Restoration until 1833, then switched between two more managing architects until its completion, finally, in 1836.

Many famous people have passed under the arch, both alive and dead. The body of Napoleon passed under the arch on the way to his final resting place, and Victor Hugo’s body was viewable under the arch before his burial in the Pantheon.

For France’s Bastille day on July 14th, the military parade begins at l’Arc de Triomphe, although parades now avoid marching through the arch out of respect for the Unknown Soldier’s tomb.

In 1916, an idea was presented to suggest creating a tomb for an unknown soldier. The idea was picked up quickly, and a tomb underneath the arch was created, saying only “A Soldier” and dating it “1914 – 191?”. In 1920 the first eternal flame in Western and Eastern for over a thousand years was lit in honor of the soldiers who were never identified after dying in the midst of war.

A picture taken right during the action as Godefroy flew his plane under the arch.

A picture taken right in the midst of the action as Godefroy flew his plane under the arch.

In 1919, the pilot Charles Godefroy successfully flew his biplane under the arch for a victory parade marking the end of WWI hostilities. This was following the death of Jean Navarre, the pilot first chosen for the ceremony who crashed his plane and died while practicing for the flight.

The arch has clearly been the site of many important events, and today it still stands at its impressive 164 feet (50 meters) high. The bustling lanes in the roundabout circling around the arch are a driver’s worst nightmare, but for those visiting the arch itself, the top offers a spectacular view, looking out over its spot in the famous Champs Elysees.

Don’t forget to visit our other post about Paris. Have you visited the Arc de Triomphe in Paris? What did you think of it?

How a Shipwreck Changed History: Part I

In 1784, a Spanish warship called El Cazador sank to the bottom of the ocean…

…And caused the United States to double in size, forever changing history.

It all concludes with coins at the bottom of the ocean, but let’s start at the beginning.

The Territory

In the 1700s, Spain won the battle over control of North American territories by gaining the biggest plot of land: almost a million square miles in North America, the Louisiana Territory.

It was a big prize, but the port of New Orlean’s economy started to fail in the 1760s and ’70s and paper currency began to lose its value.
It didn’t help that scheming New Orleans revolutionaries created counterfeit bills that were useless to the Spanish Crown.

A Spanish four dollar bill for "The United Colonies", issued by the U.S. Continental Congress.

A Spanish four dollar bill for “The United Colonies”, issued by the U.S. Continental Congress.

Spain had to come up with a plan to appease the colonists in Louisiana, especially those near the vital shipping port of New Orleans. Carolus III, Bourbon King of Spain, made a key decision to exchange paper bills for silver coins, which would provide actual value to their currency.

Carolus III would send the coins to the New World, supplying New Orleans with a solution for the troubled economy.

El Cazador means “The Hunter” in Spanish.

The Plan in Action

The ship El Cazador was sent off from Spain, destination Vera Cruz, Mexico. After stocking up on more than 400,000 Spanish Silver Reales in Mexico in January 1784, the ship left for the New Orleans port.

Who knows what happened next: maybe a strong storm or pirates took over, but either way El Cazador never reached the shore of the New World, instead finding itself at the bottom of the ocean.

The ship was declared missing in June of the next year.

The loss was devastating to Spain and Louisiana’s economy, and though Spain dispatched more coins, the Spanish Crown began to wonder at the value of the Louisiana territory. They were never able to stabilize its economy.

The Territory Changes Hands

In 1800, the king of Spain finally agreed to give up Louisiana to France. But France was also having economic trouble, and soon afterward, Napoleon sold the territory to Thomas Jefferson in the Louisiana Purchase.

The shipwreck of El Cazador led the Louisiana Purchase, the treaty that doubled the size of the U.S. and changed the fate of the world forever.

There’s a Part II to this story, centuries later in 1993, when a vessel named “Mistake” found itself in the same waters as the shipwrecked El Cazador.

But that’s another tale to tell: don’t forget to check back for the story next week!

Sources:

How Stuff Works

El Cazador

Hats off to you, Wikipedia