North Americans in Europe often define their travel as a lot of Churches and Museums.  We didn’t take many museum pictures, so what does that leave?  But since the Church was, for so many centuries, intimately connected with state and armed power, it makes sense to lump the fortresses in the same category as the church edifices.   So, here’s a typical North American vacation scrapbook:









In days of old when knights were bold…

In eastern Portugal many old towns are dominated by the hilltop fortress put there by a young and feudal country afraid of domination by Spain.

Trancosa, Portugal

Castello da Vide, Portugal

Marvao.  That’s Castello da Vide on the next hill.

Tomar, Portugal.  This fortress was headquarters for the Knights Templar

Tomar.  The Knights’ fortress included a grand church





Monastic life was not only common in the Middle Ages, it appears to have been well funded.  Often we found ourselves in cloisters of ornate stonework, with Avi telling Ruth to stand over there for a picture.

Mosterio dos Jeronimos, Belem, Portugal.  Built with $$ from the spice trade.





Great books abound which give you a taste of the magnificence and opulence of Europe’s great cathedrals.  This is just a fraction of a fraction.  We struggled to learn the characteristics of Romanesque, Gothic, etc,  to read the stories of Jesus in the stained glass, to appreciate the carvers’ art in the choir stalls and the metallurgists’ art in the treasuries.  And we never stopped asking what was the social and financial cost of this beauty, and who ultimately paid.

Cathedral,  Seville


Holy Toledo.  Find the hanging red cardinal’s hat. The Cathedral contains the hats of all the former cardinals, left to dangle forever in the place of their choosing

Another part of the Cathedral in Toledo

Cathedral, Cordoba

The Great Mosque in Cordoba was converted by the Christian rulers to a Cathedral.  Note the paintings and iconography on the unadorned Muslim architecture.

Tilework in a church in Tomar, Portugal

Detail of tilework in Batalha, Portugal

Often the religious tilework was outside, on street walls.  This one appealed to me because we had been learning about virgin olive oil.

Of course, stained glass windows were everywhere.   These, in Tours, France, date from the 13th century

Unfinished church in Batalha, Portugal.  (The king decided to put his money into a different project).  Examine the door detail.

Another view of the Mosque-turned-Cathedral in Cordoba

Old stone church in a Basque village.  Notice the keyhole-shaped grave stones – a Basque tradition for thousands of years.

Interior of a Basque church.  Though there are floor seats, most folks sit in the vertical balconies.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  Antoni Gaudi’s “art moderne” masterpiece.

View of the interior of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. This church has been under construction for 80 years, with an estimated 50 more to go.

A chapel of skulls and bones!  The remains of 5000 people from the cemeteries of Evora, Portugal, put to reuse and recycle by some monks who wanted the living to be aware of what’s really ahead.

Didn’t believe me about the chapel of bones?  Take a closer look.

Thousand year-old Visgothic chapel (the tile is 16th century) built inside a paleolithic dolman several thousand years older.   Pavia, Portugal

Cordoba   Not really a church – probably a Temple to Diana.   Roman.