Photo Of The Day: Parc Güell In Barcelona

Parc Güell is one of artist Antoni Gaudí‘s masterpieces: a 17-hectare garden complex with whimsical architectural elements overlooking the city of Barcelona. One of the park’s many highlights is the preponderance of Gaudí’s famous tiled mosaics, one of which is captured in all of its multicolored glory in today’s Photo of the Day from Flickr user Gus NYC.Do you have any great travel photos? You now have two options to enter your snapshots into the running for Gadling’s Photo of the Day. Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool, or mention @GadlingTravel and use hashtag #gadling in the caption or comments for your post on Instagram. Don’t forget to give us a follow too!

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Gus NYC]

Exploring The Abstract Murals Of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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“Art should not be segregated in museums; it needs to live free among us”- Isaiah Zagar

While most travelers to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, spend time exploring rich history, colonial architecture and delicious cheese steaks, there’s another facet to the city worth getting to know: its detailed murals.

Walking down the streets of the city, it will immediately become clear Philly has a creative side. One major reason for this is the existence of the Mural Arts Program, which “unites artists and communities through a collaborative process, rooted in the traditions of mural-making, to create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives.” One of their most successful projects is the “Mural Mile,” which showcases Philadelphia’s most iconic murals along a walking route in the downtown area. Additionally, they put on a “Restorative Justice Program,” which incorporates the concept of justice into the art process and gives inmates, juvenile delinquents and ex-offenders a chance to do something good in the community. My favorite way to explore mural work in Philly, however, is through the work of local artist Isaiah Zagar.

%Gallery-167758%Isaiah Zagar’s work can be found on more than 120 public walls in Philadelphia. At 19, he discovered the world of art in outdoor environments, and was inspired. After receiving a B.A. in Painting & Graphics from Pratt Institute in New York City and completing the Peace Corps in Peru, he went back to his home city and settled down on South Street. From here, he turned the area into his own outdoor mural museum, and opened one of the most creative spaces in Philly, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG).

Open seven days a week, this creative and colorful space features gallery-style rooms as well as an outdoor mural mosaic labyrinth. It’s a place where the community can access and interpret the artist’s mosaic art and public murals. The works are bizarre creations from Zagar’s fantasies, with poems, bottles, cycle tires, paintings, glass and more. Along with putting on creative programming, like mosaic workshops and music and mosaic concerts, PMG incorporates the work of other locals artists into their exhibits and murals for a collaborative experience. The labyrinth is the most exciting part, as you walk through narrow tiled halls, down shiny steps and abstract twists and turns to immerse yourself in a world of avant-garde mosaic art.

For a more visual idea of Isaiah Zagar’s mosaic murals at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, check out the gallery above. Click here to see a map of where else you can find Zagar’s work on the streets of Philly.

[All images via Jessie on a Journey]

Archaeologists in Syria discover Byzantine mosaic

ByzantineJust when you thought all news coming out of Syria was bad, an archaeology team has discovered a Byzantine mosaic in a medieval church.

The mosaic was discovered last week at the Deir Sounbol Church on al-Zawieh Mountain. Syrian investigators say the mosaic measures 4×5 meters (13×16 ft.). While portions are damaged or missing, floral and geometric shapes are clearly visible and there are inscriptions in Greek. These are prayers that include the names of the owner of the church and the person who supervised the creation of the mosaic.

The Byzantine Empire was the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Long after the Western Empire collapsed, the Byzantines continued Roman culture with a distinctive Greek flair. Syria was Byzantine territory and was the battlefront in the Empire’s grueling war with Persia.

The war weakened both sides so much that they were easy pickings when the followers of Mohammed burst out of the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century. Persia quickly fell, but Byzantium held on, shrinking gradually until the end came in 1453. In that year the capital Constantinople, modern Istanbul, fell to the Ottoman Turks.

One of Byzantium’s greatest achievements were its sumptuous mosaics. Made of little colored tiles called tesserae, they depict elaborate scenes and some have tesserae made of gold. A copyright-free image of the Syrian mosaics was not available. You can see them here. This picture, courtesy of Berthold Werner, shows a mosaic floor in Jerash, Jordan. It’s interesting in that it contains swastikas, a symbol of peace and harmony for centuries before the Nazis twisted its meaning.

I love the fact that Syrian archaeologists are continuing to dig despite the chaos and repression going on in their country. These guys obviously love their work and won’t let anything stop them from doing what they feel is important. It reminds me of a literary journal that was published in Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war. The offices were right next to the no-man’s land between two factions, and yet they still managed to publish literature on a regular basis. The name of the journal escapes me. Any Lebanese out there remember it?

Roman ruins in Turkey to be flooded by dam project

One of the most important Roman archaeological sites in Turkey will soon be underwater.

The Roman spa town of Allianoi will be submerged beneath a reservoir once the nearby Yortanli dam becomes operational. The town was built in the second century AD near Bergama (ancient Pergamon) and has remained remarkably preserved. Archaeologists have uncovered baths, sculptures, artifacts, and elaborate mosaics that are giving them insights into Roman medicine and culture.

The site has become a battleground between archaeologists and European Union cultural officials on one side, and the Turkish government and farmers on the other. Local farmers are eager to see the dam finished because it will irrigate almost 20,000 acres of land. The EU has weighed in on the controversy because Turkey hopes to become a member state, yet the construction goes against both EU and Turkish heritage preservation laws.

Ironically, the site was only discovered because of an archaeological survey conducted in anticipation of the dam’s construction.

Only a quarter of the town has been excavated so far. Workers are currently burying the site in sand in order to protect it when it gets inundated.

[Photo courtesy Cretanforever via Wikimedia Commons]

Museum Junkie: Museum of the Good Samaritan opens in Israel

One of the world’s largest mosaic museums recently opened in Israel.

The Museum of the Good Samaritan displays artifacts from the many cultures that lived in the region. The main attractions are the intricate mosaics found in synagogues in the West Bank and Gaza.

The museum is located on the highway between Jerusalem and Jericho near the ancient town of Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank, believed to be the site of the inn where the parable of the Good Samaritan took place. According to the story, told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37) a man is beaten up by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. Nobody will help him but a Samaritan, a member of a rival Jewish sect that was persecuted in ancient times. His act of mercy has become synonymous with the kindness of strangers and the ability of goodness to reach across social boundaries.

This being Israel, history is politics, and officials were quick to put a spin on the museum’s opening. In an article in the Jerusalem Post, Knesset Speaker Reuvlen Rivlin said the museum underscores Israel’s historic ties to the West Bank and Gaza and its devotion to keeping a presence in them. The Knesset is the Israeli parliament, and Rivlin is one of the most powerful members of the ruling Likud party, so his words carry significant political weight.

Some of the mosaics come from Samaritan synagogues, offering a rare look at a faith that few people know still exists.

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