The grave of Caesar

Today is the 15th of March, the so-called Ides of March. On this day  2060 years ago (44 BC) a number of conspirators led by Brutus assassinated Gaius Julius Caesar, one of the most prominent historical figures of the ancient time.


On the site of Caesar’s cremation in the Forum Romanum a temple was built as a tribute to a comet that appeared shortly after the Caesar’s death. The comet was believed by some to carry Ceasar’s soul. The temple was named the Temple of Divus Iulius, now called simply the Temple of Ceasar. On the picture above a part of its ruins traditionally believed to be the Julius Caesar’s grave.

On picture below a view onto Forum Romanum from the Palatine Hill. The location of the Caesar’s grave is marked with a black ring.


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The Benedictine rule

JMA_Mount_StMichel_mediumAn austere Benedictine abbey and red roses. A view onto the Mt. St. Michel Abbey in the French Normandy >>>. But the first thought: ‘The Name of the Rose’, a book by Umberto Eco (and the film based upon it) about a series of murders taking place in an isolated medieval Benedictine abbey somewhere in the Northern Italy.


The book plot took place in a library full of ancient manuscripts and the so-called scriptorium – a room adjacent to the library where the Benedictines made copies of the old as well as contemporary manuscripts. As printing was not invented yet, the monk scribes rewrote those books manually. To make one copy of a book they needed months or even years. Like those monks in the novel, also the Benedictines at the St. Michel monastery rewrote manuscripts. With patience and diligence.

The tradition of diligent and patient work in the Benedictine orders (and other offspring orders) began in the VI century AD when the Benedict of Nursia wrote book on rules to be obeyed by those living in religious communities. He formulated those rules in great detail dividing them into 72 book chapters.

Among others, the monks had to live according to a strict timetable, pray and perform manual labour. The hours of labour varied with the season but it was never less than five hours a day. By manual work he meant housekeeping, farming and crafts. However, with time the Benedictines started to focus more on the intellectual work like reading, copying manuscripts and teaching. As the ‘original’ Benedictines did not always strict obey the Benedictine rules, a group of French Benedictine monks in XI century AD set up an offspring community that wanted to more strictly follow those rules and concentrate on ‘real’ manual work. This community was the predecessor of the Cistercian (otherwise Bernardine) order. Cistercians were indeed ‘the workers’ (>>>). Besides field work, they specialised in hydraulic engineering and metallurgy. The Benedictines were intellectuals. The Cistercians – the agriculture and technology masters. Benedictines could had been recognised by black choir robes worn over a habit, and the Cistercians – by a white one.

The orders maintaining the Benedict rule tradition use today the motto ‘ora et labora’ that means ‘pray and work’.

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Le Roi Soleil

Luis XIV the King of France (1638-1715) is one of the most prominent monarchs in the European history. As his reign lasted for over 70 years (technically it was around 60 years as he inherited the throne at the age of 6), he was able to influence the French policies and social life for many centuries ahead. He was known for running wars with basically all neighbours, using his family ties to actively run the foreign policy, reforming taxation and the state finances, sponsoring medical treatment and social work as well as promoting the art. Having moved from Louvre to Versailles he arranged for Louvre to be the art museum. I am sure historians would point out many other policy moves that changed the country for good or for bad. We should not forget however that only seventy years after the king’s dead the French revolution began overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the Republic.


Luis XIV, statue by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, standing in front of the Louvre

For years writers and film makers have been fascinated by intrigues and plots of the French royal court initially in Louvre and later in Versailles. Very few realise however that the fact that Luis XIV established the French court as we know it was in itself a handy political move. In past times noble families from all over Europe, basically no matter the country fought for influence making wars with each other. They often plotted against own kings. The move by Luis XIV was simple. He invited the noble or aristocratic families under his reign to practically live at or in the neighbourhood of the royal premises. Having them instantly around he controlled the plots and intrigues. Many years ago a friend of mine, who have lived in the Paris fashion world for sometime explained to me that Luis XIV is told to be the inventor of the fashion seasons. He encouraged the courtsmen to change the garment according to newest fashion trends. Besides the whole fun around the trends in fashion, this requirement was quite a political one. Instead of spending money on plots, the whole court had to constantly spend it on expensive clothing. The king controlled purses of those, who lived at the court but also filled in their itineraries. Another important side effect was boosting the fashion manufacturer’s business (clothing, shoes, various appliances and perfume) in France and abroad. The fashion industry is now a global business, but still the fashion week in Paris is the major fashion event in the world and Paris is the capital of fashion as it used to be in times of the Roi Soleil.

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