The Lichen Basilica

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Looking at the picture below, and having no idea what premises these are exactly, one would say … yet another church or basilica. Quite a big one. Indeed it is one of the largest European churches quite close or even within the European top ten as per size. For people, who travel Europe accustomed to the huge and splendid cathedrals, it is nothing unusual. Yet another one. Let us visit it.


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Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows, Poland, the front view


This would however not be that easy as it looks like. This huge basilica is located among fields and nature with only small villages surrounding it. The closest city, not even on a tourist itinerary is located around twenty miles away. The other interesting fact is that it is practically brand new. The construction works ended just 2004.

The basilica is officially called Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows, Queen of Poland. It is located in a village Old Lichen in central Poland. It was build quite close to a place where people had visions of Mother Mary in the XIX century. A short explanation for non-European readers: Mother Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ, central figure of the Catholic religion. In Poland, that besides Ireland and some southern European countries is told to be the major Catholic nation in Europe, many pilgrims visit spots where she appeared to people with a message.

The basilica is subject to some controversy in Poland. It is one of at least three major sacral objects constructed present-day in the country. The projects consume ten of millions of Euro, what in the country with dropping down churchgoing rates is by many considered as squandering. Contrary to other projects, this one was however financed by private means. So no issue here. The names of donors are displayed on walls at the basilica ground level. These are thousands but thousands of people.

The other controversy is about its architectural style. For some reason, many people are of the opinion that new sacral objects should be designed modern way, with interesting concept and be of minimalist style. The building materials should be natural and qualitative. If classic in style, there should be no place for opulence. The Lichen basilica is none of these. It imitates traditional opulent design simultaneously having the style of its own.

As I had the opportunity to do so, I decided to visit this place to make my own opinion of the Basilica. Below some photo impressions. I made the photos in the early afternoon on a working day, a cold autumn day. The interior was almost empty.


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The front look onto the altar

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The side look. The right hand side of the photo above.

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The front look yet again, this time vertically to show the dome located just in front of the main altar. To comprehend the dimensions look at the man kneeing there. Continue reading

Beurse. The very roots of exchange trading

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For many English speakers the word ‘beurse’ would not arise any thought. But many Europeans will quite quickly associate it with exchange trading (commodity or stock trading).

The first official exchange (with written down rules and official building) for commodities and bills of exchange was established in Antwerp in the mid XVI century. Quite quickly other European trading centers followed. Half century later in 1602 the Dutch East India Company issued the first equities that quite quickly were introduced into the Antwerp trading. For further two centuries commodity exchanges shared also securities trading, till around 1800 first pure stock exchanges had been established.

However, the first official exchanges did not emerge from nowhere. In the early middle ages commodity trading at seasonal fairs was practiced in may European countries from South to North. But only at few places the trade was truly international. Later on the so called entrepot cities emerged where trade was thriving all year long. One of the main harbours that serviced that time the trading routes in Norhern Europe was Brueges. (Due some natural sea movement Bruges lost however its position to Antwerp in XVI century). So, merchants from all around Europe met in the city of Bruges to perform their trades.

Quite naturally the local inns (taverns) were their meeting point. Innkeepers provided food and shelter to foreign merchants, but also warehousing space, commercial credit (even standing surety for their debts) and references. They connected foreigners with buyers or sellers and helped to negotiate deals. One of them was an inn called ‘The Three Purses’.


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The restored Van der Beurse family house, that replaced the original Three Purses tavern building. The building was sold to the Venetians and became their nation house. Although by far it was not the first and only trading place in the medieval Europe, its name is widely used in Europe to describe commodities and securities exchanges.


In front of it, at a little square local and foreign brokers met to perform their trades. If it was raining they moved inside. Or, they did so if they wanted to make their trade private. Trading in the opening was that time a condition by the local authorities, who wanted to oversee trade to later collect taxes. Trade was by far not free in the middle ages. With time the trade took place within preset hours and no non-traders were allowed to the place while the trading was taking place. The price quotations were displayed on the inn front wall. Soon foreign traders’ representations called ‘nation houses’ emerged in the vicinity of the square. The word ‘purse’ became the synonym for trading. With time the family owning ‘The Three Purses’ tavern changed their name to Van der Beuerse. (‘Beurse’ in Dutch means ‘purse’ in English).

With time, the word purse (beurse) as synonym for commodities and securities trading spread into many European languages: Börse (German), bolsa (Spanish), borsa (Italy) and bourse (French). Even the English used the word burse for almost two centuries till it was replaced with ‘exchange‘.


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11.11 at 11

Just Moving Around

November the 11th is in a number of European countries (as well as in the US and the Commonwealth countries) the national holiday, or even if not a holiday it is the day when different kinds of celebrations and commemorations are taking place. In the UK and the Commonwealth it is called the Remembrance Day, in France and Belgium it is Armistice Day, Independence Day in Poland and Veterans Day in the US. In each of those countries the celebrations or commemorations differ, but all of them have the same origin.

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 The 11th November is a symbolic date of the end of the World War I. On this day on in 1918 in an early morning an armistice (a formal agreement to stop fights) was signed between the allied forces and Germany. The agreement was supposed to enter in force on the same day at 11.00.

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