See the real Downton Abbey at Dunster Castle

We used our National Trust membership to pay for parking and entrance into Dunster Castle (saved about £25 by using our membership).  This is a real castle that has survived since 1066 when William the Conqueror gave William de Mohun the area of Somerset to defend.  De Mohun built a timber keep that was soon replaced by a stone keep.  But by the end of the 14th century the de Mohun family had to sell the house to the Luttrell family.  This clever and resourceful family managed to keep the castle until  1976, when they gave it to the National Trust and the people of England.Dunster castle small The castle was kept in the same family for over 600 years.  They continued to add on and improve the inside of the castle over time.

They only damage from war was incurred in 1650 during the English Civil War. The defensive walls of the castle were torn down by 300 men so that the castle could not be a problem again to Cromwell. This is what happens when you chose to support  the wrong side of  a civil war. Luckily, the Luttrells convinced the new government to leave the great gatehouse ( medieval construction ) and a couple of  wall towers. From the size of the gatehouse you can guess how big the walls were.Dunster guard house  small Here is all that is left on one of the tower walls.Dunster guard tower smallThe inside of the castle was turned into a Victorian manor house in the 1860s.  You can tour the inside of the house and see how upstairs compared to downstairs life.  Upstairs, the rooms are large and well furnished.  Here is the drawing room where the family would read and talk.Dunster drawingroom small There are bell ringers around the room to call the servants upstairs to wait upon them.  Here is what that system looked like downstairs in the mud room.Dunster castle  call board smallYou will recognize this bell board from Downton Abbey on TV.  Each bell had a slightly different tone and the poor hall boy (who worked cleaning everything in the mud room) would have to run to get the person who needed to respond to the bell.  If you look, you will see that there is a pendulum that is attached to the bell.  It would swing for about a minute in case the boy did not recognize the tone, or was out of the room for a moment!

Upstairs when there was a dinner party the butler and footmen would set the table.  Here is the crystal , china and the silverware at each place setting.  Dunster castle place setting smallThere must have been a lot of cleaning up for the scullery maid that night.  Here is her sink.Dunster castle downstairs sink small If she broke any of that expensive dinnerware it came out of her tiny wages.  But she only had 1/2 day off every month, so she did not have much time to spend it anyway.  They did eventually install a dumb waiter so the footmen did not have to climb so many stairs.  It had to have a steel door because of a fire that happened in another great home.Dunster castle dumb waiter small  But even if they were rich upstairs, they only had one toilet and one bathtub for the entire castle.  It was the first flushing toilet in Somerset.Dunster castle toilet small  It was an eyeopener to compare how each half lived in the castle/manor home.  It was great fun to see it all in person.    It was a time of graceful living if you were in the upper class.Dunster castle fountain 5x7 small We were off the next day to Tonbridge for our next pet sitting assignment.

St. Zita’s mummified body in San Frediano Cathedral in Lucca, Italy

Today I went to the San Frediano Cathedral here in Lucca to see St. Zita’s body in the church.  I have to admit I had a morbid curiosity about seeing an actual body in a glass coffin.  I had to borrow a photo from Wikipedia because my pictures were too dark.  So here she is.  1024px-Lucca_Zita_San_Frediano  I thinks she looks pretty good for a 700 year old body.  I like her story; she was a house maid for a rich family in Lucca and she was always doing her job really well.  The other servants did not like her too much because she worked hard, was cheerful and holy (a difficult combination for anyone to win a popularity contest),  She was so good the family made her head housekeeper, and she worked for them until she died when she was 60 years old in 1272.

After one hundred and fifty miracles were attributed to her, she was canonized in 1696.

Her body was exhumed in 1580, discovered to be incorrupt, but has since become mummified.”  (Wikipedia) She is the patron saint  of domestic servants.  It is also said that she is good at helping you find lost keys, that is something I could pray for.

The outside of the cathedral  has a stunning 13th century golden mosaic designed in a Byzantine/medieval style.  My photo does not do it justice.  It glitters in the light.Lucca San Frediano church mosaic small Here is a photo of the entire facadeLucca San Frediano church outside small.  Inside the church is a 12th century baptismal font that is quite beautiful. Lucca San Frediano church 12th cent  Here are some other photos from inside the church. -ucca San Frediano polyptych of the Virgin and the Child smallLucca San Frediano Elisa Trenta tomb smallLucca San Frediano virgin Mary small It might seem like looking at all of these churches (Lucca is supposed to have 100 churches!) it would get boring.  But each of these edifices has its own story to tell, and it is interesting to find out what it is.  I would never have researched the story of St. Zita without going to this church.  It was cool to see her still together and dressed so nicely.