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Haddon Hall - A Glorious Country Manor House

Visiting historic houses is one of my favorite things to do in England and Derbyshire is a county that  offers an  extraordinary triumvirate of sites; Hardwick's Elizabethan glamour, the palatial splendors of Chatsworth and Haddon Hall, described by Simon Jenkins as "the most perfect English house to survive from the Middle Ages."  The joy of a visit to Derbyshire is that in visiting all three you can see the English country house through a variety of lenses and periods. 
In his definitive tome, England's1000 Best Houses Jenkins goes on to say of Haddon, "It has none of Hardwick's promiscuity or Chatsworth's bombast. It has not changed because it never needed to change". 
Indeed the house has remains in the hands of the Manners family since 1563 and is currently occupied by the Duke of Rutland's brother and his family. As they say on the website it has avoided, " fire; warfare;  family misfortune and changing fashions" and as such provid…

The Crypt of Original Sin, Matera

While we were in Matera we were lucky enough to go and see one of the Rupestrian sites known as the Sistine chapel of rock churches. This is a very worthwhile trip and these sites are part of the wider World Heritage designation of the area. You can see the world heritage site here.
The Crypt of Original Sin (or Cripta del Peccato Originale in Italian) was highly recommended by Nadia our guide and without her encouragement we would have missed one of the best stops of our holiday. You can find Nadia's contact details in the previous post. Dating to the Ninth Century the frescoes, which are painted on the walls of the cave, are extraordinarily rich and beautifully executed in a naive style with wonderful floral embellishments. With three shallow arched chapels carved from the soft rock this served as a church for a monastic community. It was subsequently abandoned and more recently it was was used by local shepherds.
Recently restored this is a spectacular site which gives you a real sense of these small religious communities, their artistic heritage and the nature of their religious expression. As part of the restoration blackout shutters have been installed to shade the murals from sunlight and a excellent 'son et lumiere' show (which is offered in various languages including English) runs for about fifteen minutes, explaining the history and lighting the images  in turn. 

This site is well worth a detour. If you're interested in more pictures there is a great 360 degree view of the Crypt  here.

When they briefly raise the metal shutters this is the view of the paintings in the day light. You can see the arches that have been carved from the rock face inside the cave. 

Here you have Adam, below the hand of God on the left, with Eve emerging from him. The snake makes an appearance too, but the apple (which you can see in either photo) looks suspiciously like a pomegranate. 
Finding your way here is quite an experience. We called on the same day and were given a time to meet at a local petrol station  seven miles west of Matera. After meeting at the petrol station we followed the guide for several miles onto private land and having parked the car we followed him down a series of steps which you can see in the photo below. The crypt/cave entrance is on the right. As you can see it is situated in  a small gorge and caves that served as cells for the monks can be seen scattered on either side of the small river.

Tip: Make your bookings in advance here. Tickets are a very reasonable eight euro.


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