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Ferrebeekeeper has a longstanding obsession with Gothic concepts and forms.  We have explored the long strange historical roots of the Goths (which stretched back to the time of the Roman Empire and the northern corners of Europe), and looked at Gothic aesthetics ranging from clocks, to beds, to gates, to houses, to alphabets, to cathedrals.  Today’s Gothic-themed post straddles the divide between literature and architecture.  We already saw such a two discipline dynamic at work with the beginning of the Gothic revival, an aesthetic movement which grew up out of a popular novel The Castle of Otranto.

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The term “Steamboat Gothic” is sort of a reverse case.  In 1952, Frances Parkinson Keyes published “Steamboat Gothic” a long-winded romantic novel about the lives and loves of a riverboat gambler and his progeny as they pursue their fortunes over generations beside the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  After the novel came out the great 19th century wedding cake mansions of columns and porches which stood along these rivers came to be known as “steamboat gothic.”  This beautiful filigree style was thought to resemble the many tiered decks of great southern steamboats from the belle epoque of river travel.

Steamboat Color Litho Oval Color Cooled Down

Many different Victorian design trends come together in “steamboat gothic”–the Italianate, Gothic revival, and Carpenter’s Gothic mix together with style trends like Greek revival and “nautical.” The mixture simultaneously evokes the beauties of classical antiquity, the ante-bellum south, and 19th century middle America.

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Look at these beautiful porches and porticoes.  I wish I were on the veranda of one of these beauties sipping lemonade and looking out over the river (although really I would probably be being bitten by mosquitoes as I desperately painted yet another layer of snow white paint on a big empty house).

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The silver-gilt coronet of the 14th Earl of Kintore (you could have bought it at Christie's for less than a used Trans Am)

The silver-gilt coronet of the 14th Earl of Kintore (you could have bought it at Christie’s for less than a used Trans Am)

A coronet is a small crown which is worn by a nobleman or noblewoman.  In the European tradition coronets differ from kingly crowns in that they lack arches—they are instead simple rings with ornaments attached.  Different ranks of nobility wear different coronets.  For example, in England the various ranks are denoted as follows:

Prince/Princess: The Coronet of a Child of the Sovereign (decorated with crosses and fleurs de lis)

Prince/Princess: The Coronet of a Child of the Sovereign (decorated with crosses and fleurs de lis)

Duke: has eight strawberry leaves of which five are seen in two-dimensional representations

Duke: has eight strawberry leaves of which five are seen in two-dimensional representations

Marquess: that of a marquess has four strawberry leaves and four silver balls (known as "pearls", but not actually pearls)

Marquess: that of a marquess has four strawberry leaves and four silver balls (known as “pearls”, but not actually pearls)

Earl/Countess: eight strawberry leaves and eight "pearls" raised on stalks

Earl/Countess: eight strawberry leaves and eight “pearls” raised on stalks

Viscount: sixteen "pearls" touching one another

Viscount: sixteen “pearls” touching one another

Baron: six "pearls"

Baron: six “pearls”

If you bothered counting the “pearls” and strawberry leaves on the above illustrations, you will recognize that certain adornments have been left out (which is to simplify the heraldic representation of coronets).  I wish I knew what the strawberry leaves represent!  If I was a sinister & bloodthirsty nobleman, that is not the sort of decoration I would choose for my fancy fancy hat, but maybe I am not thinking like a peer. Other western European nations have differently shaped coronets with different ornaments, but the same sort of rank-by-decoration pertains.

Coronets are largely symbolic—many nobles do not even have them made.  By tradition they are worn only at the coronation of a monarch.  Coronets are important however in heraldry, and the peerage rank of a noble house can easily be determined by looking at the little crown drawn on their shield.

The Coat of Arms of Baron Audley (featuring a mean swan and a coronet)

The Coat of Arms of Baron Audley (featuring a swan and a pearl coronet)

 

 

A large Victorian gingerbread house created by the Disney Corporation as a centerpiece

Since the winter solstice is only a few days away, now seems like a good time for a festive holiday post to warm up the long cold nights. Long-time readers know about Ferrebeekeeper’s obsession with all things gothic.  To cheer up the dark season here is a post which combines the beauty of gothic architecture with the sugary appeal of candy!

Like gothic art, gingerbread has a very long tradition which stretches back to late antiquity.  It was introduced in Western Europe by Gregory of Nicopolis (Gregory Makar) an Armenian monk and holy man who moved to France in 992 AD.  Whole communities would specialize in gingerbread baking and nearly every European country developed its own intricate traditions and recipes.  In Germany and Scandinavia it became traditional to make two sorts of gingerbread—a soft gingerbread for eating (which was said to aid digestion) and a hard gingerbread which could be stored or used for building.

Here then is a little gallery of some gothic gingerbread constructions which I found around the web.  They really look too good to eat, but if you are interested in making your own version, the cooks/artists who made the gingerbread cathedral immediately below have also put up an instructional webpage.

Seriously, if you follow that link you can make this!

Another Disney Gingerbread House from the "American Adventure" Pavilion

(Image:thoughtdistillery.com/2004/12/13/74)

Even in sugar, icing, and gingerbread, the beauty of gothic architecture shines through! Best wishes for sweet thoughts and happy dreams as the nights grow long and the wind blows outside the door (unless, of course, you are in the tropics or the southern hemisphere, in which case, can I come stay with you?).

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