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Durham Castle, England

August 25th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 

Durham Castle is a Norman castle in the city of Durham, County Durham, England, which has been wholly occupied since 1840 by University College, Durham. The castle stands on top of a hill above the River Wear on Durham's peninsula, opposite Durham Cathedral.

The castle was originally built in the 11th century to protect the Bishop of Durham from attack, as the population of England in the north remained "wild and fickle" following the disruption of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It is an excellent example of the early motte and bailey castles favoured by the Normans.

It remained the Bishop's palace for the Bishops of Durham until the Bishops made Bishop Auckland their primary residence and the castle was converted into a college.

The castle has a vast Great Hall, created by Bishop Antony Bek in the early 14th century. It was the largest Great Hall in Britain until Bishop Richard Foxe shortened it at the end of the 15th century. However, it is still 14 m high and over 30 m long.

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St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, Kent, England

August 25th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 

St Augustine's Abbey was a Benedictine abbey in Canterbury, Kent, England.

Early history

In the year 597, Saint Augustine arrived in England, having been sent by Pope Gregory I, on what might nowadays be called a revival mission. The King of Kent at this time was Ethelbert, who happened to be married to a Christian, Bertha. Whether or not his spouse influenced him, he allowed Augustine to found a monastery just outside the walls of Canterbury. Already standing on the site were three Saxon churches, dedicated respectively to Saints Pancras, Peter and Paul, and finally Mary. The Saxon-phase remains of the church of Saint Pancras are still extant, however, the other two churches were rebuilt by the Normans into one building. One of the main purposes of the abbey right from the outset was as a burial place for the Kings of Kent and the Archbishops of Canterbury. In 978 a new larger building was dedicated by Archbishop Dunstan, to the Saints Peter, Paul, and Augustine.

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Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England

August 25th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 

Blenheim Palace is a large and monumental country house situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England. It is the only non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title "palace". The Palace, one of England's largest houses, was built between 1705 and circa 1722.

Its construction was originally intended to be a gift to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough from a grateful nation in return for military triumph against the French and Bavarians. However, it soon became the subject of political infighting, which led to Marlborough's exile, the fall from power of his Duchess, and irreparable damage to the reputation of the architect Sir John Vanbrugh. Designed in the rare, and short-lived, English baroque style, architectural appreciation of the palace is as divided today as it was in the 1720s. It is unique in its combined usage as a family home, mausoleum and national monument. The palace is also notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

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Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

August 19th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 

Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England and forms part of a World Heritage Site. It is the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of All England and religious leader of the Church of England. It houses The Chair of St. Augustine As well as being the mother church of the Diocese of Canterbury (east Kent) it is the focus for the Anglican Communion. The formal title is the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury.

The Cathedral is currently in a major fundraising drive to raise a minimum of £50 million to fund restoration.

A curious bird's-eye view of Canterbury Cathedral and its annexed conventual buildings, taken about 1165, is preserved in the Great Psalter in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. As elucidated by Professor Willis, it exhibits the plan of a great Benedictine monastery in the 12th century, and enables us to compare it with that of the 9th as seen at the abbey of Saint Gall. We see in both the same general principles of arrangement, which indeed belong to all Benedictine monasteries, enabling us to determine with precision the disposition of the various buildings, when little more than fragments of the walls exist. From some local reasons, however, the cloister and monastic buildings are placed on the north, instead, as is far more commonly the case, on the south of the church. There is also a separate chapter-house, which is wanting at St Gall.

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The Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Canada

August 12th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 

The Rideau Canal, also known as the Rideau Waterway, connects the city of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on the Ottawa River to the city of Kingston, Ontario on Lake Ontario. The Rideau Canal was opened in 1832 and is still in use today, "with most of its original structures intact". The canal system uses sections of major rivers, including the Rideau and the Cataraqui, as well as some lakes. It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and in 2007, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At the time it was proposed, shortly after the War of 1812, there remained a persistent threat of attack from the United States on Britain's colony of Upper Canada. To impede and deter any future US invasions, the British built various forts (eg. Citadel Hill, La Citadelle, and Fort Henry) and canals (eg.Grenville Canal, Chute-à-Blondeau Canal, Carillon Canal, and the Rideau Canal) to defend their territory. The canal's initial purpose was military - to provide a secure supply and communications route between Montreal and Kingston, Ontario. Westward from Montreal, travel would proceed along the Ottawa River to Bytown (now Ottawa), then southwest via the canal to Kingston and out into Lake Ontario (and vice versa for eastward travel from Kingston to Montreal). The intent being to bypass the stretch of the St. Lawrence River bordering New York State which would have left British supply ships vulnerable to attack or a blockade of the St. Lawrence.

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Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, Rome, Italy

July 20th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 

Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura — known in English as the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls or St Paul-without-the-Walls — is one of five churches considered to be the great ancient basilicas of Rome. The Roman Catholic Church counts among them St. John Lateran, St. Lawrence outside the Walls, St. Mary Major, and St. Peter's. Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, named in 2005, is the current archpriest of this basilica.

The basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over what was believed to be the burial place of Saint Paul, where it was said that, after the Apostle's execution, his followers erected a memorial, called a cella memoriae, over his grave. This first edifice was expanded under Valentinian I.

In 386, Emperor Theodosius I began the erection of a much larger and more beautiful basilica with a nave and four aisles with a transept; the work including the mosaics was not completed till the pontificate of Leo I. In the 5th century it was even larger than the Old St. Peter's Basilica. The Christian poet Prudentius, who saw it at the time of emperor Honorius, describes the splendours of the monument in a few, expressive lines. As it was dedicated also to Saints Taurinus and Herculanus, martyrs of Ostia in the 5th century, it was called the basilica trium Dominorum ("basilica of Three Lords").

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Notre-Dame de Reims, France

July 15th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Rheims) is the cathedral of Reims, where the kings of France were once crowned. It replaces an older church, destroyed by a fire in 1211 and built itself on the site of the basilica, where Clovis was baptized by saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. The cathedral was completed by the end of the 13th century, with the exception of the Western front. That portion was erected in the 14th century after 13th century designs—the nave having in the meantime been lengthened to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. The towers, 81 m tall (approx. 267 ft), were originally designed to rise 120 m (approx. 394 ft). The Southern tower holds two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by the cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg (approx. 11 tons).

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Sabratha, Libya

June 30th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 

Sabratha, in the Zawia district in the northwestern corner of modern Libya, was the westernmost of the "three cities" of Tripolis. It lies on the Mediterranean coast about 65km (40 miles) west of Tripoli (ancient Oea). The extant archaeological site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

Sabratha's port was established, perhaps about 500 BC, as a Phoenician trading-post that served as a coastal outlet for the products of the African hinterland. Sabratha became part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. The Emperor Septimus Severus was born nearby in Leptis Magna, and Sabratha reached its monumental peak during the rule of the Severans. The city was badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th century, particularly the quake of AD 365. It was rebuilt on a more modest scale by Byzantine governors. Within a hundred years of the Arab conquest of the maghreb, trade had shifted to other ports and Sabratha dwindled to a village.

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