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Posts tagged ‘Rome’

Compendium // Rome > Moses, the other great Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s David is one of the most cited, famous and admired sculptures in the history of art. Its image graces tea towels and teapots, erotic aprons and nodding-head dolls. And it’s no wonder. When I revisited the great marble man over Christmas, my emotions raised the nearer I got to the splendid stone musculature. We have been left with few Michelangelo sculptures in a truly finished state. Much of the works of his sculptural oeuvre have only just started emerging from their cacophony of natural stone. But in Rome there is another Michelangelo in the ecstatic state of splendid finesse, which is every bit the equal of David for its brilliance of anatomy, and for the emotions captured in marble. I am not talking of the Vatican’s La Pieta, but Moses, a mere stone’s throw from the Colosseum.

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Without a recommendation, you could easily miss San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in Chains), the church in central Rome where Moses is held (and which also hosts the chains purported to have held said St Peter in captivity). There, in one corner, the sole direction of the tourist gaze will soon demarcate where Michelangelo’s masterpiece is waiting. Had Moses sat within the mammoth marble tomb structure of Pope Julius II for which he was originally intended, there would have been no missing him. Commissioned by the Pope in 1505, the tomb was designed to hold 40 like-sized sculptures and fill a central apse of the new St Peter’s Basilica. As it was, Michelangelo soon became embroiled in the Pope’s other great commission: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and when his tomb was eventually installed at its current location, Moses took centre stage, his being the only one of the major sculptures for the tomb completed.

Perhaps it was a twist of fate which made things that way. For it would be a crying shame indeed if this truly exquisite statue had been lost in a crowd of 39 others, relegated to a tier some 4 metres of the ground in its intended positioning. Today, by contrast, the relative accessibility of San Pietro in Vincoli means you can get to almost touching distance of the great man, and the effect is ravishing.

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How can I describe an encounter with Moses? Emotional for sure, awestruck most certainly. The way in which Michelangelo so adeptly sculpts the flowing beard of Moses, twisted around his fingers in what appears to be both a moment of contemplation and rage at the idolatry of the Israelites who he finds to be worshiping a golden cow upon his descent from Mount Sinai. There is a beautiful, throbbing intensity about his musculature and his domineering presence. This Moses is both godlike to behold, and intimidating to witness.

Above all things he is a true icon of art history, and what is Michelangelo’s perhaps more overlooked masterpiece, available for all to see (for free) in the very centre of Rome.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | Trevi Fountain

It’s a Norm takeover! Rome is full of them! Sprawling in their Norm tourist masses, the sweet little one-armed blobs have truly adopted the Eternal City to their hearts, and are determined to tick off the iconic sights, one by one. So where should they venture having sipped a coffee in the Piazza before the magnificent Pantheon? From a temple of Roman architectural brilliance to a fountain of baroque splendour, the Norms have traversed the central core of ancient Rome, crossed the chic Via Corso and arrived at one of the city’s most popular baroque masterpieces: the Trevi Fountain.

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Norms at the Trevi Fountain (©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Being genetically programmed to be born with just one arm, there are many things that Norms cannot do that we two-armed humans take for granted. Happily, engaging in the tradition to through a coin into the Trevi Fountain is not one of them. This over-the-shoulder backwards coin throw is guaranteed to secure Norms a swift return to Rome. No wonder so many of them are doing it. And for those who aren’t, the good old favourite of 21st century tourists can also be held in the a Norms’ wonderful one-arm: bring on the trusty selfie-stick. The only way to ensure that the Norms capture their moment before one of the world’s most magnificent fountains.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Rome > Lateran, the Alternative Vatican

When many people think of Rome, it’s not the Colosseum they have in mind, but the soaring dome of St Peter’s Basilica at the very Catholic heart of the Vatican City. It is somewhat ironic then that the Vatican, while sitting bang centre in Rome, is not part of the Italian capital at all, but an entirely separate extraterritorial land belonging to the Holy See. Whatever the political geography, the Vatican is a must-see location for any visitor to Rome, but because of that, it’s too often heaving. Without an advanced ticket, you’ll spend far longer in a queue than you ever will inside of St Peter’s or its adjacent museum. Even with a reservation, the queues and security checks try the patience of the most earnest visitor.

Enter the Lateran Basilica, or to give it its full name, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran (also known as the Papal Archbasilica of St John in Lateran, and many other similar variations on the theme). Located on a diagonal 4km axis cutting through ancient Rome from the heart of the Vatican City, the Lateran Basilica is the alternative St Peter’s. Almost as big, just as spectacular, the Basilica is the ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome and such an equally important a player in Papal History that its story goes hand in hand with that of the Vatican across the river.

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As the oldest and highest ranking of the four papal major basilicas, the Lateran is unique in having the title of “archbasilica” and was, for hundreds of years prior to the dominance of St Peter’s, the home of countless generations of Popes. As the scale of Rome shrank and declined in the early second millennium AD, the area around the Lateran was reduced to a form of bucolic wasteland. Exposed and rundown, the Lateran Basilica and its neighbouring palace became disconnected from the beating heart of Rome, and during the Avignon years of the Papacy, the Lateran deteriorated and eventually suffered substantial fire damage. Thankfully, even from their new lavish seat of St Peter’s, the popes of baroque Rome recognised the importance of the Lateran, and in the 17th century, Pope Innocent X commissioned Francesco Borromini to rebuild the Lateran in the splendid image we see today.

History done, now for the visuals. As the photos show, a visit to the Lateran Basilica is the equal of the glorious Vatican. Flooded with light, the classical baroque facade gives way to an imperial loggia boasting the magnitude and proportions of an Ancient Roman temple, while inside, light floods through windows and bounces off golden mosaics, richly frescoed walls, and luxuriously marble-clad pillars. Most impressive of all things is the spectacular array of sculpted apostles created by the very best rococo sculptors and installed at the beginning of the 18th century. So lifelike, and yet so vast in scale, you feel shrunken into submission before heavenly giants, as though in a nursery rhyme immersed within the branches of Jack’s beanstalk.

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I didn’t enjoy my trip to the Vatican museum, being shunted along through bottlenecks crammed to almost scarily unsafe levels with a continuous tidal wave of coach parties. By contrast, the Lateran Basilica, with its lofty grand spaces and comparative tranquility is by far the better alternative, and every bit the equal to its younger cousin over the river.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | Piazza della Rotonda

The Norms have arrived in the Eternal City, Roma, land of Emperors, Popes and SPQR. The Norms adore it. Why would they not? It’s a caramel city, imbued with the light of earthy terracotta and dark shiny cobbles. It prioritises La Dolce Vita, something very close to the Norms hearts. And above all things, it was the location of the Norms’ favourite ever film, Roman Holiday, so now, the Norms have gone off on their very own Vacanza Romana.

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Norms in Rome | Piazza della Rotonda (©2018, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

First stop: the Piazza della Rotonda, home to the most glorious and perfectly intact of all ancient Roman temples: the Pantheon, whose single-span brilliant concrete dome complete with illuminative ocular continues to defy architects to this day, and reminds the Norms of their own rotund figures. Outside that great Temple of the Romans, the Piazza bustles to the trickle of one of Rome’s many Papal fountains, while in buildings all around, cafes spill out onto the cobbles and enable the Norms to enjoy their favourite tipples to the accompaniment of street cellists and their assistants (for Norms only have one arm – playing a cello alone would be a challenge).

When in Rome, do as the Romans do – it’s the norm retold to all visitors. Now it’s very much the norm for the Norms too, and doing like Romans is something these Norms have taken very close to their heart.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Rome > The Perfect Navona Morning

Compendium // a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication. The word says it all, and as The Daily Norm enters a new millennia of posts and travel shares, I have decided to collect thoughts and tips from my own travels in a series of Compendia. Starting in Rome.

Rome is not just a city. It is an experience ripe like an overflowing cornucopia of delicious fruit, waiting to be savoured across a broad spectrum enveloped in richly historical heritage, diva attitude and unabashed street-by-street beauty all bathed in the most glorious terracotta light. But its global reach today is as mighty as its ancient Empire two millennia ago, not so much for its political prowess but for its tourist pull. So to do Rome well, you need to avoid the pitfalls, the dodgy restaurants, and wherever possible the flag-led, headphone-donned, selfie-stick sustained coach parties. Eugh.

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Today’s tip for doing Rome well is to get up early, and savour the delights which come of having this stunning city all to yourself. Even in January, when last I went, the sweet seduction of Rome’s ever present sun invited an early rise and made venturing into the still quiet-streets an easy exercise. Hotel location is always important, especially on a short weekender, and my locality, mere steps from the Piazza Navona, meant that I could enjoy this most spectacular of Roman Piazzas as the first rays of Winter sunshine hit the sculptural masterpieces which have made the Square such an icon of Baroque Rome.

Baroque is certainly the word. For this oblong square, which lends its shape to the Stadium of Domition on whose foundations it has been built, is more of an artfest than it is a mere city space. For it was here that, at the height of Baroque splendour and Papal theatricals, Pope Innocent X commissioned Bernini to create the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) as part of his grand plan to put Rome firmly back on the artistic and power-map of Europe. It is, by far, one of the most spectacular fountains you are ever likely to see, and enjoyed first thing in the morning, before those damned selfie-sticks start sneaking their way into every one of your photos, it makes for the perfect commencement to your Roman day.

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Turn away from Bernini’s masterpiece, and two other fountain wonders by Giacomo della Porta depicting a Moor wrestling with a Dolphin, and a statute of water-God Neptune respectively can be enjoyed, as can the oval encirclement of the kind of russet, terracotta, pink and butterscotch buildings which make Rome such a year-round place of warmth and splendour. Then, once you’ve soaked in this highlight of Rome, sneak in another anti-crowd coup, and head to my favourite cafe in all of Rome: Caffe Tazza d’Oro on the Piazza della Rotunda, where a simple pastry and a coffee taken standing up at the bar, Italian style, takes on new Roman authenticity, especially with the immaculate ancient Pantheon stands just outside the door.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

2016: My Year in Photos

It’s beyond crazy that a year has passed since I last compiled a photographic review of my photos. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I last did it, the rush I felt at writing the post before jetting off the following day to Venice…I practically remember what I was drinking (gingerbread green tea surely… it comes highly recommended). Short of remembering the clothes I was wearing, it seems so ridiculously proximate in time that I feel almost in a state of dreamlike disorientation as I engage on the annual tradition of writing this post. Even filing through my many thousand of photos does not convince me that enough time can have passed for a year to be up already. And there was I thinking that leap year 2016 had one more day to its number.

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And yet my calendar tells me that we are once again here again, coming to the end of another year, and one which for me has been very, very busy but full of light, sunshine and happiness. All of these things have mainly been the result of my location which, for another full year, was based on the paradise island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean sea, a backdrop which provided a daily life rich in sensual pleasures, and from which other fantastic locations such as Barcelona and Granada were only a short plane’s hop away.

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Yet asides from the visual riches so inherent in Spain, 2016 was a year which provided us with the opportunity to explore old favourites such as the enduringly attractive city of Rome, and also to embrace the new: the island of Menorca, Split in Croatia and Vienna in Austria were just three of those exciting new destinations which we were lucky enough to discover in 2016. It was also a year of discovery for my young family too…One of my highlights has to be the visit to Mallorca of my sister and young nephews, and experiencing their joy as they dipped into the warm sea for the first time.

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When I look back over 2016, I remember a year of stark contrasts. Because for all of the beautiful experiences which manifest in these photos shared today, I cannot deny a feeling of trepidation as I leave a year which presented so many new dangers. As if Brexit in June was not bad enough, the Trump election in the US just 5 months later was like rubbing salt into a still unhealed wound. And in my personal sphere, the news that I will soon be leaving to Mallorca to take up life again in London likewise will come with its share of challenges. Only time will tell how this cocktail of external and personal factors will play out, and the experiences which will result. However I am confident that in 12 months time, another year will have quickly passed. I look forward to sharing with you the photographic gallery which will surely result.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 20136and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

From Illyria to Italy, Part 6: The Treasures of the Vatican

The treasures of the Vatican undoubtedly represent collectively the most famous art historical hoard in the world. Containing works such as Raphael’s School of Athens, Caravaggio’s Entombment of Christ, the incredibly preserved pre-Roman sculpture Laocoön and his Sons, the Belvedere Torso, and of course Michelangelo’s most famous masterpiece, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, there are few in the world who would enter without feeling as though they had seen something of its contents before. Indeed I had seen it all before, having first visited the museum during my art history studies, a period of absolute enlightenment which opened my eyes to the aesthetic possibilities of the present via the past. But since that trip, unbelievably some 15 years ago, I have routinely put off reentering this temple of art, for fear of the crowds who regularly collect there.

On this year’s trip to Rome, we decided to break the stalemate. Dominik had never been in, and my last trip was too confined into distant memory to be of proper value. Besides, as far as the Sistine Chapel stakes went, I was no longer satisfied to content myself with the (albeit rather good) replica in Goring-by-Sea, nor the probably computer generated scenes in Angels and Demons. While we found the entrance to be a good 20 minutes walk in the merciless heat around the enormous outer perimeter of the Vatican City, upon our arrival at the museum, we were surprised to find our pre-bought ticket entitled us to immediate entrance without so much of a hint of a queue…That was until we got inside.

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To say that there were crowds inside the museum would be suggest a beach is endowed with a few grains of sand. It was packed, rammed! There were so many coach parties, each plugged into headphones bearing the monotonous tone of their flag-bearing guide, that at times we felt as though we might be forcefully parted by the tidal wave of tourists, rather like that traumatic scene in Empire of the Sun. Just as one wave was swept along the corridors in search of the predetermined scheduled “highlights” another would sweep into the vacuum left in its wake. Moments of reflexion and breathing space were few. Once we got up to the corridor of maps, the bottle necking effect was so intense that we had no choice but to continue with the flow of the coach tours. Turning back was no longer an option. Finally we shuffled into the Sistine Chapel. So too did the coaches. And any attempt to enjoy the serenity of Michelangelo’s masterpiece was resolutely destroyed, not so much by the crowd´s chatting, but by the screaming guards shouting into the microphone “SILENCE!!!!”, the words booming out of the speakers so loudly they practically cracked the great work. Lord, I think the shock of it shaved at least 5 years off my life.

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Despite all of this, the Vatican museum remained an immense treat to behold. There are elements of the collection so arrestingly beautiful, and so incredibly well known, that one can’t help but get lost in the historical aura given off before them. However, knowing already what famous pieces lay in store, I actually found myself more happily drawn to the lesser known objects… the gallery of over 1000 marble busts was disarmingly beautiful, as well as some of the frescos painted in the Galleria deli candelabra for example, or in the long corridor of maps. And even better, since the works weren’t marked on the tourist trail, most of the hoards left them alone!

Somewhat surprisingly, we were allowed to take photos, so the images featured on this post were taken by yours truly. Don’t expect to see the Sistine Chapel though. Photo (and indeed bare knees and shoulders) were strictly banned there… so it looks as though you may need to rely on the Goring-by-Sea replica after all.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Roman Holiday

There was something intrinsically Roman about the place we briefly called home in Rome. We were staying in the Relais Leone, not so much a hotel as a converted apartment, whose reception was open only a few hours a day, and which otherwise bore all the appearance of a series of private apartments. This, together with an entrance through a very grand (and extremely heavy) great gilded door and up three flights of marble stairs, made the whole adventure feel all very colloquial, as though we were residents of that great Italian city. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, or so the great adage goes, and in our little corner apartment, we felt Roman to the core.

While we immediately fell in love with a bedroom decorated in a simple yet instantaneously lavish baroque design, together with the kind of free-standing bath which makes frequent languishing appearances in my dreams, the highlight of the room was its views. Not the most spectacular – here we did not exactly have Diocletian’s palace as in Split – but whose grace was founded in the simple expanse of the terracotta building ahead, elegant in its embellishment of pale blue shutters. And if the building itself were not enticing enough, beneath it, the bustling Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina spread out before us, two cafes spilling onto its cobbled pavement, and a little press-pergola crowning its centre.

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Roman Holiday (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

One year ago, at about this time, I completed a collection of small gouache views onto the various bedrooms, or honeymoon suites, we had enjoyed after our marriage. A year later, it felt only appropriate that I should capture this Roman bedroom in gouache on paper, with the various dimensions of the room, its view, and of course that all important free standing bath included. It’s a scene which for me sums up both our experience and the elegance of this Spagna region of the city – lined with boutiques and posing Romans sipping Aperol Spritz in the shade, it felt iconically Roman, and us very comfortable guests within it.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

From Illyria to Italy, Part 5: The Colours of Rome

Campo dè Fiori, Piazza della Rotonda, the Via del Corso and the Lungotevere. The names of Rome’s russet coloured streets resonate with the same romantic euphony which make the city unique. Uniquely ancient, with the potency of history bleeding from every crack and cobble; uniquely passionate, its tempers flared by the heat and its vivacity for living played out in its food, its art, and in its attitude. Roma. Even the name’s mellifluous voyage across the tongue recalls a thousand stories of Emperors and Popes, Michelangelo and Bernini, pomp and glory, ascent and fall.

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Rome has an energy which infects and conquers. It’s tiring for sure, manic in places, rammed full of tourists and trying to cross its roads is frankly a deathly pursuit. But who cannot be seduced by the smell of freshly ground coffee wafting through the streets; by the fashionista ragazzi slowly wafting through the strada of Spagna with their newest accessories on show; by the slowly melting gelati, the magnificent marble fountains and the restaurants spilling out onto Piazzas with their red Vichy tablecloths and mountains of spaghetti.

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But perhaps above all things, Rome is a city of art. On every corner, at the centre of every square, and in even the smallest of chapels, there sits a masterpiece whose magnitude marks out an entire chapter in the pages of art history. Rome is for art what Manhattan is for skyscrapers. A living museum with an astonishing collection at every turn.

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So when we eventually made it from Croatia to Italy, from Split to Rome, we drunk in the infectious atmosphere of Rome like someone devoid of water after a week in the desert. We went to galleries, we went to cafes, we even endured the coach-party crush of the Vatican Museum. But our favourite pursuit was simply to be in Rome. To wander the streets and let the city wash over us, tantalising each of the senses in turn. Smell: a rich creamy coffee propped up at the bar of the Tazza d’Oro or outside the illustrious Caffe Greco. Taste: dinner by candlelight on the Via Condotti. And for our eyes, the simple feast of colour which adorns every street and building. It is this palette of colour, the terracottas and ochres, deep sanguine red and golden custard, which is the focus of this post. A collection of photos which need say nothing more than narrate the story of a city whose heart is worn so explicitly on its multi-coloured sleeve.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Norms: The Saints Collection | St. Peter

Next up in the continuing Norm Saints Collection is Saint Peter, on whose rock the very foundations of the modern day Catholic church are built. Yes, Saint Peter is the saint we most associate with holding the grand double keys of the Vatican, cloaked elegantly in a Romanesque toga-like getup, with his curly hair and beard all in the Roman vogue. But of course this important Norm Saint was not always so grand. Born “Shimon”, Saint Peter was in fact a fisherman heralding from Galilee. Hence why in so many artistic representations, he is shown with the paraphernalia of his former trade, as is this little Saint norm here.

But later in life, Shimon was to become an integral member of the Twelve Apostles of Christ, and in that role was the apostle who, famously, denied Christ before the cock crowed three times. Hence why in other artistic representations, said cockerel is to be found somewhere round abouts. Sadly for my Saint Peter Norm, the proximity of these representations has made for something of an inevitable conflict, as the recently caught fish spill out of Saint Peter’s net only to be pecked to within an inch of their lives by the rather zealous cockerel standing in wait. Oh well, at least Saint Peter Norm can calm himself in the knowledge that in the background a great church, the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, has been built in his honour. Of course historically, the real Saint Peter, who founded the first church of Rome, would never have known to what grandiose extent this church would later develop. But I believe that is the great benefit of artistic license.

St Peter Norm (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and gold paint on paper)

St Peter Norm (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and gold paint on paper)

I commend to you, Saint Peter Norm. Who’s next?

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown’s new solo exhibition, When (S)pain became the Norm, will be at London’s Strand Gallery from 13 – 18 May 2014. For more details, click here.