Monday, 23 December 2013

Palace, Stirling Castle

The Palace in Stirling Castle is the one of the earliest, and most superb Renaissance buildings in Scotland. Work  began in 1530 and was completed by 1544. The palace was built for King James V to impress his second wife, Mary of Guise. What James wanted was a palace to display his power, sophistication and cultural ambition. Under the oversight of Master of Works, Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, (until his execution in 1542), his conception was realized in one of the most innovative buildings of the age.

 The architecture of the palace is French in style but the statues that decorate the facades are based on engravings by a German, Hans Burgkmair. These statues are without precedent in Scotland. Each facade presents its own complete, integrated tableau.

On the south facade  a series of soldiers stand on the parapet and there are full size figures between the windows on the first floor. These figures include  James V himself, St. Micheal and several other planetary deities and also, the Devil.

The statues on the east and north facades were intended to impress members of the court as they approached the entrance to the royal presence. Above the parapet  are cherubs, some of them playing musical instruments. The parapet  is drained  by lion -headed waterspouts. Beneath them are angels, divine protection for the royal family.

The north-east corner of the palace is dominated by a statue of James V himself. Here he is crowned by a Scottish lion, adopting an elegant  pose, beneath his foot, a lion couchant, heraldic symbol of the king of England.

Near James stand the Classical deities Saturn and Venus. Beside him is Ganymede,  cup-bearer to the gods. He is here the symbol of the golden age ushered in by James's accession to the throne. The figure of Abundance above the entrance to the palace showers the fruits of his justice upon the king's visitors.