Haiku Wednesday: Dream Parlors

You southern charmer!
Like Sooki’s home from TrueBlood.
Multi-textured warmth.

My medieval lust
flares hot at this chamber’s sight;
a fortress-sized “want”.


I dream of woodwork:
of ornate oak filigree…
and Persian rug fields.

A room with a Clue.
I’d study you all day long,
Nirvana of tomes.

Frosted angel cake –
the Marie Antoinette room;
Privilege in White.

Tell me a story,
of longing and dark fated
Great Expectations.

My Big Fat Greek Revival

The Biography show Haunted History, a Saturday afternoon delight, has introduced manse after decadent southern manse of delicious Plantation, Classical, and Greek Revival architecture styles which cause my pulse to quicken. Seeing these Plantation-type homes has ignited something O.C.D. and primal in me, as I would imagine a past-life suddenly recognizing something familiar (if I believed in that sort of thing). I get stuck on a style and drift off into a hazy maze of lustful reverie for months or years. I’m on year 30 of my obsession with old ships, year 33 of obsession with castles. All I can do is swoon and seek real estate outlets online to drool over. And I found my treasure trove at a little site called OldHouses.com – I could indulge for hours on this site, scheming of how I could sell my Chicago loft and move out of state…to the middle of nowhere…away from family and friends…with no job…and this is the part where practical reality painfully seizes my vision, inserts the knife, and twists. Ah well, a girl can dream[home], can’t she, Rhett?

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You Lighthouse My Life

When I was very young, whenever we would pass a particular cemetery in Joliet, Illinois, without fail I would point to the limestone entrance which was a single castle-esque cylindrical cupola with a door, and say “That’s my house. I’m going to live there.” For years this went on. And when I pass it to this day I secretly think to myself, “That’s mine.” I dig the single cupola look, which is why I adore lighthouses. Being enamored with the ocean and old ships, a love of lighthouses comes naturally (must I always contend that I was born in the wrong era?). In high school I went through an actual “lighthouse phase”, trying to figure out just how I could eventually live in one. I had drawn out all these plans in Drafting class for the different chambers and designated levels. Ah, I was such a dreamer – and with one unaccounted for problem: I suffer from a SEVERE fear of open heights. Looking at photos of great heights or just talking about them makes my hands sweat, so living in a lighthouse would require the top to be capped. That would come at an extra expense. I would write that check to the contractor from my very imaginary bank account of millions.

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A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for pilots at sea or on inland waterways. Lighthouses are used to mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals and reefs, and safe entries to harbors, and can also assist in aerial navigation. Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined due to the expense of maintenance and replacement by modern electronic navigational aids. Thank you, Wikipedia.

Technology has made these gorgeous structures obsolete, and many are under the protection of historical societies. As with churches, I envy those who can buy them and make them into their homes. Practicality or feasibility will never dampen my envisioned romanticism about living vertically along the ocean coast, listening to the waves crash against the shore while watching a storm roll in. It’s there waiting for me, located somewhere between Port Heaven and My Dreamsville.

Craving St. Basil’s Onion Domes

America isn’t known for its breathtaking architecture. There, I said it. I live in a Daniel Burnham-designed loft building that used to be a paper binding factory. It is as close to era-inspired as I could get (or afford) in Chicago. Seems that ours is a young nation hell-bent on beauty-free, modern efficiency. There are few castles here. Churches look more and more like Costco warehouses [insert sarcastic statement about capitalism and religion here] and the few Victorian Gingerbread homes left are weak and cookie cutter [why do I suddenly crave gingerbread cookies?].

I want structures that will serve my imagination.  And  to fulfill this desire I have to cross oceans of time. I raved over the Kostnice (Sedlec) Ossuary and St. Barbara’s Cathedral in Kutna Hora outside of Prague, I loved strolling through Notre Dame in Paris and I  attended mass at St. Peter’s in Munich. I just stood there with my jaw hanging open looking around in awe at these places. If architecture was an animal I’d be a constant hunter, if only I could match my trips with the ever-growing number of arrows in my quiver.

Me at the Sedlec Kostnice Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

If you’ve ever “experienced” Dr. Zhivago you know that Russia simply drips with tragic historical romance in both its literature and architecture. The Romanovs, czars, czarinas, Rasputin, Lenin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, nesting dolls, the beautiful characters that comprise the cyrillic language, etc. It is that velvet-y revolution of mind to which I’m drawn. Near the top of my Bucket List, which consists entirely of travel destinations and architectural delicassies is the Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat (phew!) a.k.a. St. Basil’s Cathedral.  This magnificent onion-domed church was built bewteen 1555 and 1561 by Ivan the Terrible in honor of the capture of the Kazan Khanate, part of the former Golden Horde. It stands on the edge of Red Square in Moscow.

Until 1600 it was the tallest building in the city and marks the geometric center of the city.

According to FamousWonders.com, legends have it that the builder of this Cathedral was blinded so that such a beautiful structure could never be built again. The Cathedral is vividly colorful and contains redbrick towers that add to its beauty. The church’s design consists of nine chapels, each mounted with its individual dome that marks the assault on the city of Kazan.

The Cathedral provides a strong religious symbolism and is based on architectural designs found in Jerusalem. Eight of the domes make a circular form around the ninth dome, forming a star (if viewed from the top). The number eight is considered an auspicious number according to Jewish calendar. There is a deep contrast between the interior and the exterior of the Cathedral. The interior contains modest decorations and is not that spectacular. The corridors inside are narrow and don’t have adequate space for worshippers seating.

Many times in history, the Cathedral has suffered damage due to violent communal incidents. If stories are to be true, the French ruler Napoleon wanted to take St. Basil back to France with him, but due to the lack of such technology, he ordered his army to destroy it so that no one else could occupy the church. His army had prepared to attack the church and had also lit up the gunpowder, but a mysterious rain shower prevented the explosions. These are legends, but people really believe in St. Basil’s mysterious powers and there are a lot of committed worshipers.

The small dome on the left marks the sanctuary of Basil the Blessed (1588).

According to our friend Wikipedia: The building’s design, shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky, has no analogues in Russian architecture: “It is like no other Russian building. Nothing similar can be found in the entire millennium of Byzantine tradition from the fifth to fifteenth century… a strangeness that astonishes by its unexpectedness, complexity and dazzling interleaving of the manifold details of its design.”  The cathedral foreshadowed the climax of Russian national architecture in the 17th century. The church has operated as a division of the State Historical Museum since 1928.  It was completely secularized in 1929 and, as of 2011, remains a federal property of the Russian Federation. The church has been part of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. It is often mislabeled as the Kremlin due to its location on Red Square in immediate proximity of the Kremlin.

The church acquired its present-day vivid colors in several stages from 1680s to 1848.  Russians’ attitude to color in the 17th century changed in favor of bright colors; icon and mural art experienced an explosive growth in number of available paints, dyes and their combinations.  The original color scheme, missing these innovations, was far less challenging. It followed the depiction of Heavenly City in the Book of Revelation:

  “And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.”

Color scheme of the cathedral is best seen by night.

I think I would either cry or faint if – nay, WHEN – I behold this cultural gem. It resembles a whimsical jewel-like castle from my dreams. Or like a sandcastle made by God. All I can do until I step foot in Red Square is to swoon and swoon. Additionally, I would also make time to travel to St. Petersburg to visit the St. Basil-inspired cathedral, The Church of Our Savior of Spilled Blood.

Inspired by St. Basil's Cathedral.