Saturday, October 13, 2018

Atlanta, Georgia: Oakland Cemetery

Our sole sightseeing expedition during our time in Atlanta, Georgia, was our visit to the historic Oakland Cemetery, which was founded in 1850, during the height of the garden cemetery movement. Six acres were originally purchased, but the cemetery is spread out over 48 acres today. An estimated 70,000 people are interred at Oakland, and while the last plots were sold in 1884, there are still regular burials today.

A very helpful docent was able to suggest a kind of "highlights" walk that included the grave site of Margaret Mitchell (she who wrote Gone with the Wind); the African American Grounds; the Confederate Memorial Grounds; Slave Square; and the Old Jewish Burial Grounds.

Neither Ed nor I have read Gone with the Wind, nor have we seen the film, but we did briefly stop at Margaret Mitchell's grave (which had a lot of pennies on it) before moving on to areas that were of greater interest to us, namely the areas having (for us) more historical interest. Our first stop was the Slave Square.

In 1852, the Atlanta City Council ruled that African Americans were to be buried in a segregated section at the rear of the Cemetery, at the eastern boundary of the original six acres. (It was in 1853 that a 14-year-old boy was the first internment in Slave Square.) By the beginning of the Civil War, more than 800 people had been buried in this section, known as Slave Square. As more acres were purchased, the cemetery expanded around Slave Square (its current size is 48 acres). In 1866, the Atlanta City Council established a segregated burial ground at the rear of the 48 acres for African Americans. By the 1870s most of the burial plots in Oakland had been sold, and more were needed. In 1877, the City Council ordered that the bodies and bones of the African Americans buried in Slave Square were to be removed and reburied in Oakland's "colored pauper grounds." The old grave spaces in Slave Square were replotted and resold to whites. Legal segregation at Oakland Cemetery ended in 1963, when the City of Atlanta banned segregated public facilities.

overlooking Slave Square
The 65-foot-tall Confederate Dead Obelisk was easy to find. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest thing in Atlanta when it was dedicated in 1870.

The Confederate Dead Obelisk was dedicated on the same
day as Robert E. Lee's funeral (October 15, 1870).
The Lion of the Confederacy was carved from the then-largest block of marble quarried in America. The dying lion was copied from a nearly identical monument in Switzerland, clutching a Rebel flag in its paws, rests atop the mass grave of 3,000 unidentified Confederate soldiers, who were buried in Oakland Cemetery after losing the Battle of Atlanta.

the Lion of the Confederacy was erected in 1894.

Next to the Lion of the Confederacy are the Confederate Memorial Grounds, where more than 6,900 Civil War soldiers are buried.

part of the Confederate Memorial Grounds
We then made our way to the Old Jewish Burial Ground, which included the Burial Ground of Congregation Ahavath Achim. This section of the cemetery was bounded by the lane to the east, the sidewalk to the west, and the wall to the south, and was established in 1892 as the burial ground for Congregation Ahavath Achim, chartered in 1887 as the city's first synagogue composed primarily of Jews of Eastern European descent.

the Jewish Flat section in the Old Jewish Burial Ground
We started heading back to the Bell Tower, but circled by the African American Grounds, a section was designated for African American burials in 1866, when the City of Atlanta set aside a five-acre portion of land as an African American burial ground to separate the grave sites of African Americans and whites. Before 1866, African Americans were buried in Slave Square on the northeaster corner of the cemetery's original six acres. Until the legal segregation of public facilities in Atlanta ended in 1963, the African American burial ground remained the only place in Oakland Cemetery where African Americans were permitted to buy burial plots. The exact number of murals in the African American grounds is unknown, but in 2017 ground penetration radar was used to uncover more than 800 unmarked graves. (According to cemetery records, more than 12,000 African Americans have been buried at Oakland Cemetery since its founding in 1850.)

Many of the graves were marked with wooden crosses or
shrubs, and have worn away.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Sydney, Day 4: Sydney Harbour Cruise

Today was our last day in Australia, and we spent it in a very lazy, satisfactory manor: We got up when it suited us; we were quite lazy for most of the day; and in the early afternoon we took a two-hour Sydney Harbour Cruise. Our particular cruise included commentary and ferried us around the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Government House, some of the (very large and very lovely but of course very expensive) waterfront homes, and Fort Denison, as well as some of the lighthouses, beaches, and coves.

one of the neighborhoods we passed by

It was a beautiful last day in Sydney, with temperatures in the mid-60s,
and lovely clear, blue waters.
After our cruise, we had just over an hour before dinner reservations, so we walked around the wharf, where we saw a number of writers featured on a Writers Walk. (Despite being tempted, I did not take pictures of each author. This was just the first one I came across.)


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Australian Catholic Churches

One of the nice things about being Catholic is the relative ease of finding a Mass no matter where you go. The language may be different (and so far, we've heard Masses in Polish, Estonian, and Swedish) but the Order of Mass is identical. When a Mass is said in a language other than English, we usually use an app to follow along so we know what readings are being read; the rhythm of the prayers in different languages are also different, and it's oddly easy losing one's place.

Participating in a Mass in English-speaking countries is obviously much easier, and during our travels throughout Australia we've been lucky enough to participate in Mass in three four different churches, although one of those was a weekday Mass. However, even when the Mass is identical, the differences in parish cultures can be quite interesting.

The first weekend we were in Australia, because we were taking a very early Sunday morning flight, we attended a Saturday Vigil Mass when we happened to be in Cairns, in Queensland, the northeastern state. St. Monica's Cathedral was sparsely attended, as Saturday Vigils often are, and the Mass was celebrated by what I think might have been the bishop; there were no alter servers and no singing, although an organist played throughout the Mass at times when there normally would have been singing. The Mass was short, perhaps about 40-45 minutes, and as soon as the service was over, the priest exited through a side door (as opposed to greeting parishioners afterwards), and the parishioners quickly dispersed. I had no real sense of the community (not surprising; it can be difficult to get a sense after a single Mass), but I liked the church building itself immensely.

St. Monica's Cathedral, Cairns
a side chapel in St. Monica's Cathedral, Cairns

Our second weekend found us in Devonport, Tasmania, where we attended a Sunday morning Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes. It seems to be a small parish that has three priests (one of whom is retired) who serve four parishes. This was, I'd say, the single friendliest parish I've ever attended, either as a regular parishioner or as a visitor. We were immediately recognized as visitors and greeted several times - including once by the retired priest who was celebrating Mass - who wanted to know where we were from, how long we were staying in the area, and how long we'd be staying in Australia. One older gentleman introduced himself, and halfway through the Mass quietly approached us and told us he'd offered a special prayer for use and for our safe travels; at the end of Mass, he once again told us how welcome we were, and that he was glad to meet us. This was also one of the most actively engaged congregations I've ever been a part of; everyone sang; everyone greeted each other; during the Sign of Peace, everyone made a point of making contact.

I don't think there are many Americans, or international travelers, who make their way to Tasmania; in several cases throughout our travels we were greeted with (very welcome) surprise.

Our Lady of Lourdes in Devonport, Tasmania

This morning we attended our last Mass in Australia, at St. Canice's Church in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains. St. Canice's is one of three churches in the St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop Upper Blue Mountains Parish. I'd never heard of a St. Canice.

Saint Cainnech of Aghaboe (515/16–600), known as Saint Canice in Ireland, Saint Kenneth in Scotland, Saint Kenny and in Latin Saint Canicus, was an Irish abbot, monastic founder, priest and missionary during the early medieval period. Cainnech is one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and preached Christianity across Ireland and to the Picts in Scotland. He wrote a commentary on the Gospels, which for centuries was known as the Glas-Choinnigh or Kenneth's Lock or the Chain of Cainnech.

The Mass itself was fine, but we had trouble hearing the priest - the microphone wasn't very good - and for most of the Mass there were a number of small children running around upstairs and in the back of the church, which led to a lot of thumping noises and screeching, so we had trouble following the homily.

St. Canice's, Katoomba

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Australia: Blue Mountains

We had a full day in the Blue Mountains today. The Mountains are a dissected plateau carved in sandstone bedrock, and are now a series of ridge lines separated by gorges up to 2,490 feet deep. The highest point in the Blue Mountains, as it is now defined, is an unnamed point with an elevation of 3,901 feet, about 4.3 miles northeast of Lithgow. However, the highest point in the broader region that was once considered to be the Blue Mountains is Mount Bindo, which has an elevation of 4,469 feet.

Mostly because of its location, our first visit was to the Three Sisters,  a rock formation formed by land erosion on the north escarpment of the Jamison Valley, in Katoomba. The sandstone of the Blue Mountains was eroded over time by wind, rain and rivers, causing the cliffs surrounding the Jamison Valley to be slowly broken up. When Europeans arrived in Australia, the Blue Mountains had already been inhabited for several millennia by the Gundungurra people. The commonly told legend of the Three Sisters is that three sisters, Meehni (3,025 feet), Wimlah (3,015 feet), and Gunnedoo (2,972 feet), lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from the neighboring Nepean tribe, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters. A major tribal battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back.

our view of the Three Sisters from the Queen Elizabeth Lookout
Queen Elizabeth II had viewed the Sisters from this lookout in February 1954.

Our plan had originally been to visit Scenic World, but we decided we weren't in the mood to be surrounded by swarms of tourists; instead, we had lunch, and turned our car (and GPS) towards Lithgow, a town about 20 miles north of Katoomba, and took a drive through the Blue Mountains. The Greater Blue Mountains Area is inhabited by over 400 different forms of animals - among them rare mammal species like spotted-tailed quoll, the koala, the yellow-bellied glider, and long-nosed potoroo; there are also some rare reptiles, like the Blue Mountain water skink. We decided we'd stop if we saw anything interesting, and we did, although we saw nothing animal-related: We came across a series of lookouts that required driving over some extremely bumpy (sometimes unpaved), hilly, ever-narrowing paths.

Our first stop was Govett's Leap, so named for William Romaine Govett, an assistant surveyor who first came upon this particular point in June 1831. As with nearly everywhere we went, the lookout was well maintained, included benches (other lookouts we visited had picnic tables), trash cans, and signs that provided historical background.

our view of Govett's Leap; off to the side (not in this particular picture)
is a waterfall, which at the moment seemed to be rather dried up

We hopped back in our car and followed the signs to Hassans Walls, the highest lookout in the Blue Mountains at approximately 3,600 feet above sea level. A metal walkway was constructed over pagoda rock formations, a combination of the soft Narrabeen sandstone underneath overlaid by ironstone. Not much research has been done on these formations, but they're classified into both plated and smooth pagodas, both of which are represented in Hassans Walls.

some of the pagoda rock formations at Hassans Walls

While traveling along the newly constructed Western Road in 1815, the governor, Major General Lachlan Macquarie, was reminded of the hill forts of Northern India, where he had seen active duty in 1803-1804; and so Hassan Walls was named. (Macquarie served as the fifth and last autocratic governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821.) We were able to look out to Mount Wilson, Mount York, Mount Tarana, and Mount Blaxland and the whole Hartley Valley below. Evidence of Aboriginal activity exists in the form of middens and rock art.

our view from the Hassans Walls lookout

We backtracked a few kilometers and followed the signs for the apparently recently revamped Bracey Lookout, which gave a 180-degree view of the Lithgow Valley. Lithgow itself sits on the western lip of the Sydney Basin bioregion and at the western extremity of the Greater Blue Mountains area. Erosion has cut through sandstone creating the canyons; in some places (such as Airly Mountain), diamond and gold have been mined from the granite tops and oil shale from the sandstone below.

our view from Bracey's Lookout, looking down at Lithgow

Our trip is winding down; tomorrow we head back to Sydney, and then back to the States on Tuesday. We're not sure yet if we'll find anything much to do in Sydney during our last full day there, but we'll hope to find something interesting to celebrate our last nights in Australia.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Canberra: the Royal Australian Mint, Parliament, and the Australian War Memorial

We spent the day exploring Canberra, the Australian Capital, in the Australian Capital Territory, which marks our second territory visit. Ed especially had a list of places he'd wanted to visit; our first visit of the day was our trip to the Royal Australian Mint, the the sole producer of all of Australia's circulating coins. We learned about Australian coin history (not surprisingly, convicts were involved in their production); the minting process (we were able to see the Circulating Coin room, the Proof Coin Room, and the Tool Room); and its shift to decimal currency (in 1910, a decade after federation, Australian coins were introduced; pounds, shillings, and pence were used until 1966, when it adopted the decimal system with the Australian dollar divided into 100 cents).

Ed at the Royal Australian Mint

Our next stop was the Parliament of Australia. Parliament wasn't in session, but we were able to poke around. The dome was under refurbishment, and we couldn't view the House of Representatives Chamber because of a sound check was taking place, but we were able to view the Senate Chamber from the gallery. It was a rather short visit, so we moved on to the Old Parliament House, where we were able to sit in both the House of Representatives Chamber and the Senate Chamber.

the Senate Chamber inside the Old Australian Parliament 

Known formerly as the Provisional Parliament House, the Old Parliament House was the seat of the Parliament of Australia from 1927 to 1988. The building began operation in May 1927 after Parliament's relocation from Melbourne to Canberra. (In 1901, when the six British colonies in Australia federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia, Melbourne and Sydney were the two largest cities in the country, but a long history of rivalry between them meant that neither could become the national capital.) Construction of Australia's permanent Parliament House was delayed while its location was debated. Parliament House contains 4,700 rooms. The main foyer contains a marble staircase and leads to the Great Hall, which has a large tapestry on display. The House of Representatives chamber is decorated green, while the Senate chamber has a red colour scheme. Between the two chambers is the Members' Hall, which has a water feature and is not open to the public.

Our last stop of the day was the Australian War Memorial, Australia's national memorial to the members of its armed forces and supporting organizations who have died or participated in wars involving the Commonwealth of Australia. The Memorial consists of three parts: the Commemorative Area (shrine), including the Hall of Memory with the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier; the Memorial's galleries (a museum); and Research Center (records).

The Roll of Honour was remarkable. Long cloisters contain a series of bronze plaques naming the 102,185 Australian servicemen and women killed in conflict or on peacekeeping operations. The plaques include names dating back to the British Sudanese Expedition, the Second Boer War, and the Boxer Rebellion. The entire long wall of the west gallery is covered with the names of the 66,000 who died in World War I. The east gallery is covered with the names of those who died in World War II and conflicts since. As we were walking down the corridor, children listed individual names and ages of soldiers who had been killed. These Rolls of Honour led us to the tomb of the unknown solider.

The Roll of Honour, which contains the names of over 102,000 members of
the Australian armed forces who have died during or as a result of war service.
Those are poppies attached to the bronze plaque.

Plans to honor an unknown Australian soldier were first put forward in the 1920s, but it was not until 1993 that one was at last brought home. To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the body of an unknown Australian soldier was recovered from Adelaide Cemetery near Villers-Bretonneaux in France and transported to Australia. After lying in state in King’s Hall in Old Parliament House, the Unknown Australian Soldier was interred in the Hall of Memory on November 11, 1993. He was buried in a Tasmanian blackwood coffin, on which were placed a bayonet and a sprig of wattle. Soil from the Pozières battlefield in France was scattered in his tomb. The tomb lies directly beneath the dome, where the souls of the dead are shown ascending to heaven; it's covered with a slab of red marble inscribed with gilded lettering. The slab is set into a recess of black granite (meant to suggest the grave within the earth); a sloping marble border sets the tomb apart from the floor (meant to mark a physical division between the living and the resting place of sacred sacrifice). The inscription on the tomb reads, “An unknown Australian soldier killed in the war of 1914–1918.” At the head of the tomb is inscribed “Known unto God” and at the foot, “He is all of them and he is one of us.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Melbourne, Day 2: St. Patrick's Cathedral

We had tried to visit St. Patrick's Cathedral yesterday, but it had closed after the 1 p.m. Mass, so we came back today and had a proper look inside before hitting the road for Canberra. 


It is, of course, like so many other cathedrals, a beautiful church. I was half hoping to hear the bells ring (although no such luck), but did learn a lot about the history of the bells in particular and the church in general. The peel of eight bells were imported in 1853 from Dublin, were cast by Murphy's Bell Foundry, and are believed to be the only ring of eight bells cast by Murphy that are still in operation today. They were designated for St Francis’ Church in Lonsdale Street, but as there was no tower at this church they lay idle until 1868 when they were installed in the finished south tower of St. Patrick’s. The bells are dedicated to the Sacred Heart, the Most Pure Mother of God, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St Joseph, St Francis Xavier, and All Saints. The bells are unique in that they were cast unturned and ring in an anti-clockwise direction. They're set in the key of F natural and the whole peel weights 3.5 ton.

some of the flooring

In entering the Cathedral, the main altar is at the center, with seven chapels surrounding the sanctuary in a semicircle behind: chapels that feature altars dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Souls, St. Joseph, the Ladye, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Brigid, and the Sacred Heart. I said a particular prayer at the chapel of St. Brigid (today is my mother's birthday).

the Chapel of St. Brigid

This chapel was originally called the Chapel of the Irish Saints but later became known as the Children’s Chapel dedicated to St Brigid. Children contributed to the cost of the chapel’s completion. On the archway over the chapel is inscribed a text from the 44th Psalm: ‘Omnis Gloria eius filiae regis ab intus’ (All the glory of the King’s daughter is within). The altar is constructed of alabaster, its frontal panel features small mosaics of St Patrick and St Columbanus. A marble statue of Saint Brigid is located in the niche of the reredos. Carved images of four Irish saints from the sixth and seventh centuries are also represented in the reredos – St Dympna, St Reyna, St Ita and St Bees (Bega). The stencilled motifs on the walls depict the clover leaf, an Irish symbol of the Blessed Trinity. On my way out, I paused to take a look at the Stations of the Cross, but I had also noticed an outside Station of the Cross.

Station 6: Jesus carries his Cross (John 19:17)

Over a number of years Melbourne City Churches in Action (MCCIA) worked on a project to initiate an ecumenical walk through the Melbourne on Good Friday. The walk is marked by a series of 14 bronze sculptures which tell the story of the journey of Jesus from the Last Supper to the Cross. The 14 Stations are placed outside various city churches with two in the grounds of St Patrick's Cathedral.

And with that, we left Melbourne, and made our way to Canberra, the capital of Australia, in the Australian Capital Territory.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Melbourne, Day 1: Crime, Books, and Money

Today was our only full day in Melbourne, but we did a little exploring last night as well, and we managed to cram a lot in. Last night, for example, we briefly visited St. Paul's Cathedral and the Flinders St. Station, but didn't get many good pictures. There was a service in progress at St. Paul's, during which time no photography is permitted, so we only stayed perhaps about 10 minutes; and it's largely the outside of Flinders St. Station that's architecturally impressive.

Our first stop of the day was the Old Melbourne Gaol, which, when it was built in the mid-1800s, dominated the Melbourne skyline as a symbol of authority. Criminals were held alongside petty offenders, the homeless and the mentally ill. Between 1842 and its closure in 1929 the jail was the scene of 133 hangings, including Ned Kelly. Many of the cells were open, allowing visitors to enter, and often included history of the prison or stories of individual prisoners, as well as their death masks.

looking down the first floor; there were three floors of cells

The part of the jail we visited was originally known as the Second Cell Block. The other major surviving sections are the entrance gate, Chapel, and boundary walls. These can be seen around the corner but aren't open to the public because they form part of the campus of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).

A series of bells  measured the prisoners' days: when to eat, pray, work, exercise, or sleep. When prisoners were locked in their cells at night, total silence prevailed; during the day, they worked in silence. At least until the 1870s prisoners were first placed i solitary confinement, and were then gradually allowed to mx with other inmates, and finally, closer to the time of their release, shared cells and worked in teams. Towards the end of the century the various penalties imposed on the prisoners for misdemeanors committed in jail  were gradually reduced; overcrowding and the constant movement of prisons in and out of the jail meant that any strict work routines gradually broke down. Workshops were used inefficient; the stone-breaking yard did not provide enough work and the prison was often treated as a home away from home.

looking inside one of the cells

After the closure of the jail in 1924, the site was set aside for educational purposes. As early as October 1924, approval was granted for the construction of a College of Domestic Economy on the site of the Remand Yard. In the 1930s, the Female Ward and buildings south of this cell block were demolished to make way for extensions of the Working Men's College (now RMIT University). The ail was briefly reopened and used as a military lock-up during World War 2.

We then moved on to the State Library of Victoria, established in 1854 as the Melbourne Public Library, making it Australia's oldest public library and one of the first free libraries in the world. The Library's vast collection includes over two million books and 350,000 photographs, manuscripts, maps and newspapers, with a special focus on material from Victoria, including the diaries of the city's founders, John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner, and the folios of Captain James Cook. It also houses some of the original armour of Ned Kelly, whose cell and story we happened to learn about in our visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol.

Ed wanted to go to the Library specifically to see the Domed Reading Room, which had opened in 1913. Its octagonal space was designed to hold over a million books and up to 600 readers. It is 114 in both diameter and height, and its oculus is about 16 feet wide. The dome was the largest in the world on completion.

a view of the Reading Room from the 6th Floor

A college friend had moved to Melbourne several years ago; I haven't seen her in close to a decade, but she happens to work down the road from our hotel, and she was, quite happily, able to take some time out of her busy day to meet us for lunch. Afterwards, Ed and I tried to go to St. Patrick's Cathedral, but it had closed after the 1 p.m. Mass; we tried to visit the Parliament House but were told that the only way to do so was by going on a 50-minute tour, which we weren't interested in.

We did make it to the Old Treasury Building, though. It's not an especially big museum, but we did wander through an exhibit on the Gold Rush ("20 Objects, 20 Stories," described as "the turbulent tale of Victoria’s gold rush through the individual stories of just 20 objects"); another ongoing exhibit, "Growing Up in Old Treasury," included a recreation of the living quarters of the Maynard family who, in the 1920s, lived downstairs in the Old Treasury building. The father was the Superintendent, in charge of security, maintenance and the cleaning staff; his wife would prepare morning and afternoon tea for the Governor's regular meetings. (They had eight children.)