Inner City Legacy – 1

As small communities grow into large towns, and as some of those towns become substantial cities, the pressure of development either squeezes out the original inhabitants, or it leaves them stranded in an alien environment.  In my lifetime, my home city of Brisbane, Australia, has grown rapidly from being a big parochial country town into a global city of  2.2 million people.  As a result, many of the old parish churches of Brisbane have been bulldozed to make way for skyscrapers and freeways.  A few still remain in the city centre, surrounded by office blocks and apartment towers, no longer dominating their environs, struggling to survive.

In Australia, the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists carried out a corporate merger in the 1970s, rationalising an oversupply of protestant churches into one ‘Uniting’ group.  So this former Presbyterian brick church is now St. Andrew’s Uniting Church.  The original St.Andrew’s was an 1860s Victorian Gothic pile across the street to the right of this picture below, but it was resumed by the city at the end of the 19thC to make way for the railway that you can see in the bottom of the picture, and later demolished.  The church fathers of the day built this one as its replacement, choosing this time a Romanesque Revival design rather than a ‘true Christian architecture’ mock gothic style.

St Andrew's Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

As old churches go, particularly by European standards, this building is relatively new.  However, although it may be little more than a hundred years old, it is not without its charms.  Unlike its predecessor, there are no arcades, no separation of nave and aisles, just a wide open space with round arches leading to a shallow chancel, and to a very short transept occupied by two chapels, one on each side.

The Romanesque interior of St Andrew's Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

The Romanesque interior of St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

A timber roof is not uncommon in Australian churches, but few hammer-beam constructions have as wide a span as this one.

The hammer-beam roof of St Andrew's Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

The hammer-beam roof of St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

St Andrew’s also has some very nice stained glass windows.  At first glance, they are not very different from many late medieval windows that can be found in churches across Europe, except these were all made in the 2oth century, mostly memorial windows funded by wealthier members of the congregation, emulating that much older style.  I doubt that any of today’s heritage leadlight window manufacturers have the skills to produce picture windows of this quality, anymore.

Stained glass window inside St Andrew's Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

Stained glass window inside St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane Australia

 

Many of the stained glass windows of St Andrew's are memorial windows, this one for a serviceman in the Great War (WWI)

Many of the stained glass windows of St Andrew’s are memorial windows, this one for a serviceman in the Great War (WWI)

Today, the church’s core congregation has dwindled to less than a third of what it was even fifty years ago, which is not surprising in an increasingly secular society like Australia.  However, the organ is apparently a magnificent instrument, and the acoustics inside St Andrew’s are also excellent, so this space is used extensively for musical performance of various kinds.  The church has a Director of Music, several paid choristers and three different choirs, and it supports a community orchestra, the Sinfonia of St Andrew’s.  So there is hope for its continuing community usefulness, even if, ultimately, that is no longer for religious services.

The organ of St Andrew's Brisbane.

The organ of St Andrew’s Brisbane.

 

Minoan Mother Goddess

Three and a half thousand years ago on the island of Crete, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, there was a flourishing Bronze Age civilisation that we know very little about, but which we call the ‘Minoan’ civilisation, after the mythical King Minos.  Minos was a king of Greek mythology associated with the legend of the labyrinth which held the half-man half-bull monster known as the Minotaur, who was supposedly killed by the Greek hero, Theseus.  The early 2oth century archaeologist, Arthur Evans, identified the remains of an extensive palace complex at Knossos as the site of this mythical labyrinth.  Knossos is near Heraklion, the modern day capital of Crete.

The Minoans thrived for more than a thousand years, but modern archaeologists have determined that they suffered tremendous devastation from a tsunami caused by a huge volcanic eruption somewhere around 15oo BC on Thera, an island to the north of Crete. All that’s left of Thera today is a caldera, the rim of the volcano, which is the island of Santorini, a popular holiday destination.  The Minoans probably never fully recovered from that natural catastrophe.

Not much remains of their artwork, but from their pottery and fresco wall paintings we know that the Minoans produced some remarkably sophisticated and oddly modern looking images.  Much of the religious imagery that has survived suggests that they worshipped a Mother Goddess figure, a goddess of fertility who is often depicted with snakes and other animals.

In this figurine from around 1600BC, the goddess is wearing a richly decorated elaborate garment, but with bared breasts, suggesting she was a fertility goddess. She carries snakes and has a cat sitting on her head, supposedly to show her dominion over nature, although to me it looks like the cat might be of the opinion that the dominion was the other way round.

In this figurine from around 1600BC, the goddess is wearing a rich garment, but with bared breasts, suggesting she was a fertility goddess.  She carries snakes and has a cat sitting on her head, supposedly to show her dominion over nature.

Minoan mother goddess figurine from around 16ooBC

These three goddess clay figures, depicted as usual with their arms upraised, are from around 1200 BC, towards the end of the Minoan civilisation. The one on the left has horns and two birds on her head, the one on the right just one bird, but the one in the middle has opium poppy pods growing on her hat, which could also have been a factor in the decline of the Minoans.

These goddess clay figures, depicted as usual with their arms upraised, are from around 1200 BC, towards the end of the Minoan civilisation.  The one on the left has horns and two birds on her head, the one on the right just one bird, and the one in the middle has opium poppy pods, which could also account for the decline of the Minoans.

Three clay Minoan mother goddess figures from around 1200BC

I love the blissed out expression on the face of this goddess with the three birds on her head. The stylisation of the features makes it look very modern, not ancient, and it could be a Modigliani or even a Brancusi sculpture from the early 20th century, not something made more than three thousand years ago.

I love the blissed out expression on the face of this goddess with the three birds on her head.  To me, it looks very modern, and could be an early Modigliani or even Brancusi sculpture from the early 20th century, not something made more than three thousand years ago.

Minoan mother goddess figurine from around 1200BC

These small sculptures of the Minoan mother goddess are in the very interesting Archaeological Museum in Heraklion.

Marble slicing

The walls round the massive first floor galleries of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and also right around the arcades underneath the galleries, are clad in panels of decorative stone, mostly marble, but many other multi-coloured and variegated stones as well.  The decorators who constructed these panels often made the most of the pretty striations within the stone, reversing and adjoining panels cut from the same block to make a repeating pattern.

But, here’s the thing.  As I was admiring this wonderful stonework, it suddenly occurred to me that to get the panels to line up the way they do, each panel would have to be very thin, probably only 1 0r 2 cm thick at most, or the pattern would change too much from panel to panel.  So how did they do that in the 6th century AD?  How can you slice very thin and totally flat panels one after another from a big block of stone – with NO power tools?  No carborundum saws, no tungsten/diamond cutters, no lasers.  By hand, but perfectly flat and straight and even.  Eventually, I was so intrigued, I found someone to ask, and the answer astonished me.

Silk.

Twisted strands of silk-worm silk, when held taut and rubbed back and forth across stone, wet, is apparently strong enough and durable enough to cut through marble as if it was cheese.  It takes a lot longer than slicing up a block of cheese, but it’s just as effective.  How clever is that?

In the arcades that surround the massive central prayer space of the great dome Basilica of Hagia Sophia, the walls and pillars are all clade in thin slices of variegated stone.

In the arcades that surround the massive central prayer space of the great dome Basilica of Hagia Sophia, the walls and pillars, and even the floors, are all clad in thin slices of variegated stone.

The upstairs galleries of Hagia Sophia also have marble-lined decorative walls.

The upstairs galleries of Hagia Sophia also have marble-lined decorative walls.

This marble pattern has been created by cutting and then reversing each alternate slice from a single block of marble.

This marble pattern has been created by cutting and then reversing each alternate slice from a single block of marble.

Many other types of stone have also been sliced and mounted on the walls.  The central purple stone is porphyry,.  Purple was a colour reserved only for emperors, so this stone was usually only used for imperial sculptures or for decorating imperial palaces, but this great church was commissioned by the Emperor Justinian, so he would have approved of its use here.

Many other types of stone have also been sliced and mounted on the walls. The central purple stone in this picture is porphyry. Purple was a colour reserved only for emperors, so this stone was usually only used for imperial sculptures or for decorating imperial palaces, but this great church was commissioned by the Emperor Justinian, so he would have approved of its use here.

Some very dramatic patterns can be constructed when the contrasting colours and striations within the stone are so pronounced.

Some very dramatic patterns can be constructed when the contrasting colours and striations within the stone are so pronounced.

Alternating panels of blotchy blue-green and cream-purple stones, with a feature strip of swirly stripes.

Alternating panels of blotchy blue-green and cream-purple stones, with a feature strip of swirly stripes.

The facade of St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice is decorated with similar panels of multi-coloured stone, many of which were stolen from this church in 1204 AD during the disgraceful 4th Crusade.  In some places inside Hagia Sophia, later restoration efforts have replaced some of the missing panels with painted facsimiles, trompe l’oeil illusions that are so well done they are quite hard to pick until you get very close.

Minarets

Like a tall spire on a gothic church, the towers known as ‘minarets’ emerging from, or standing next to, Islamic mosques, provide a focal point of location to the surrounding town or countryside.  But that is not their only function.  In Islam, followers are required to pray at five specific times of the day: dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. Each mosque has a person called a ‘muezzin’, whose job it is to summon the faithful to prayer at these times.  So that no-one could miss hearing the call, traditionally the muezzin climbed up to the circular gallery of his mosque’s minaret and called out the vocal reminder to all four points of the compass.  These days, of course, the muezzin usually makes the call from inside the mosque and his voice is amplified and broadcast from speakers installed in the minaret gallery.  With all of the no longer necessary climbing up and down the stairs, muezzins in older times were probably a lot fitter than those of today.

For centuries, the Ottoman empire ruled the Islamic world from Constantinople (now the city of Istanbul in modern Turkey), and in Ottoman architecture, the number of minarets a mosque displayed denoted the mosque’s importance.  Most mosques have a single minaret.  Important mosques, such as the New Mosque, or the Suleymaniye, Suleyman the Magnificent’s own mosque, have two.  The great Hagia Sophia, the former centre of the Christian world until the fall of Byzantium, has four minarets.  Near to Hagia Sophia is the superb Sultan Ahmed, better known as the Blue Mosque, and only this mosque, in all of the former Ottoman Empire, has an unprecedented six minarets.

Here is the typical single minaret next to the Küçükayasofya Camii (‘camii’ is Turkish for ‘Mosque), in Istanbul.

The single minaret and the entrance to Kucukayasofya Mosque in Istanbul

The single minaret and the entrance to Kucukayasofya Mosque in Istanbul

The New Mosque, next to the great Spice Bazaar, has two minarets.  Incidentally, the very popular Spice Bazaar complex is owned by the New Mosque and rents from all the shops in the bazaar pay for the maintenance of the mosque.

The pair of minarets outside the New Mosque, near the Galata Bridge in Istanbul

The pair of minarets outside the New Mosque, near the Galata Bridge in Istanbul

Only two of the four minarets that surround Hagia Sophia match each other, because they were added to the former Christian Basilica at three different times.  The first to be built was the red brick minaret (foreground) in the south-east corner, soon after Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered the  Byzantine city in 1453 AD.  The second and more slender stone minaret (on the right) was probably added by Beyazit II, the son of Mehmet II, somewhere around the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th centuries.  The great Islamic architect Mimar Sinan built the final pair of minarets (left and behind) while he was adding buttresses and strengthening the foundations of the ancient structure of Hagia Sophia towards the end of the 16th century.

The mighty former Christian church, former Islamic mosque, and now museum known as Holy Wisdom (in English), Hagia Sophia (in Greek), or Ayasofya (in Turkish).

The mighty former Christian church, former Islamic mosque, and now museum known as Holy Wisdom (in English), Hagia Sophia (in Greek), or Ayasofya (in Turkish).

Not only is Sultan Ahmed, the Blue Mosque, the only mosque to have six minarets, each of the minarets has multiple galleries.  Look closely (or click the picture to enlarge it) and you can see the banks of public address speakers facing outwards from most of the galleries.

The magnificent Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, with its six minarets.

The magnificent Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, with its six minarets.

Stained glass aircon

Several years ago, a young friend of mine was a student at the Qld Conservatorium of Music, and I went one afternoon to the nearby St Andrew’s Anglican Church in South Brisbane, to hear a concert recital in which she played viola with her string quartet.

It was a typically hot sub-tropical Queensland summer’s day, and as the performance progressed inside this Victorian colonial mock-gothic church, it was becoming increasingly stifling for both the musicians and the audience.  At some point in the recital a verger emerged from the sacristy and went round the church doing something I had never seen done before in any similar church, anywhere in the world.

He opened the stained glass windows.

All of the lancet windows on both sides of the church had panels that pivoted from a central point, some vertically, some horizontally, so that whatever breeze was around could be deflected into the interior of the church on hot days.  A uniquely Australian solution for a problem generally not faced by gothic church builders in more temperate Europe.

A pivoting stained glass window from St Andrew's Aglican Church, South Brisbane, Australia.

A pivoting stained glass window from St Andrew’s Aglican Church, South Brisbane, Australia.

A pivoting stained glass window from St Andrew's Aglican Church, South Brisbane, Australia.

A pivoting stained glass window from St Andrew’s Aglican Church, South Brisbane, Australia.

A pivoting stained glass window from St Andrew's Aglican Church, South Brisbane, Australia.

A pivoting stained glass window from St Andrew’s Aglican Church, South Brisbane, Australia.

How ‘cool’ is that?

Santorini bell towers

Yesterday’s Australian country church bell tower reminded me somewhat of the similarly exposed bell towers that are so often attached to the small Greek Orthodox churches of the Mediterranean.

Here are a few examples of these from the Mediterranean Greek island of Santorini.

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Greek island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Mediterranean island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Greek island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Mediterranean island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Greek island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Mediterranean island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Greek island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Mediterranean island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Greek island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Mediterranean island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Greek island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Mediterranean island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Greek island of Santorini

A Greek Orthodox bell tower on the Mediterranean island of Santorini

Santorini was a quite large and thriving island community until a volcanic eruption destroyed most of it around 1600 BC, leaving only part of the circular caldera, which is the rim of the volcano, and a central volcanic island plug sticking up above the surface of the sea.

No, these images are not chromatically Photoshop enhanced.  The sea and the sky really are that hue of blue, but in photographs they sometimes seem to be a deeper and darker blue than could ever be possible because of the contrast with the glaring whiteness of the buildings.  In most shots where everything is painted bright white, it’s better to underexpose the sky than to overexpose the buildings.

St Columbans’ Church, Cudal

This is the tiny Catholic Church of St Columban in the village of Cudal, near the town of Orange, in inland New South Wales (NSW), Australia.  I say ‘near’ but that nearest town is still 40 kilometres away.  When this church was built, in 1880, that was a day’s ride on horseback or in a buggy.  And the nearest big town, Sydney, is another 260 Km past Orange, so Cudal was a pretty remote country outpost from civilisation in 1880.

I really like it because it’s trying so hard to be a ‘gothic’ church. That was the ‘proper’ Christian architecture of its day, no matter how limited your resources or your materials.  The roof is of lightweight tin – ‘corrugated iron’ to the rest of the world – so you know that the buttresses are decorative, they aren’t needed to hold the walls up against the outward pressure of the weight of the roof, even if its timber frame was probably originally clad in slate.

The church of St Columban, in Cudal, NSW, Australia

The church of St Columban, in Cudal, NSW, Australia

Although very small, this 1880 church echoes medieval European Gothic churches in its design

Although very small and simple , this 1880 church tries to emulate medieval European Gothic churches in its design

The windows in the single space church, and the door into the porch area at the north-west end, follow the typically pointed gothic shape, but the theme breaks down a little at the south-eastern presbytery where there is a simple bell tower, with both the single bell and its rope exposed to the elements.

The presbytery and bell tower of the St Columban's, Cudal, NSW

The presbytery and bell tower of the church of St Columban’s, Cudal, NSW

The presbytery and bell tower of the St Columban's, Cudal, NSW

The bell is exposed, and is in a bell tower reminiscent of a Greek Islands Orthodox Church

St Columban’s was built from what appears to be black basalt, an igneous rock formed as lava within volcanoes.  Inland NSW around Cudal is pretty flat country, and there’s no sign of even an ancient extinct volcano within several hundred miles, but according to Geology.com, basalt is the most common stone underlying the earth’s surface.  Obviously, some of that underlying ancient lava is near enough to the surface, and near enough to Cudal, for its late Victorian residents to quarry some and build their very own place of worship from it.

It’s rough built.  The blocks are crudely hand-hewn.  Whatever mortar the builders originally used to hold the stones in place, they seem to have been repointed by amateurs at some later date.

St Columban's church, Cudal, NSW, is built from rough-hewn basalt rock

St Columban’s church, Cudal, NSW, is built from rough-hewn basalt rock

St Columban was an Irish monk from the 6th century AD.  He was a teacher and a great travelling missionary, founding monasteries all over Europe, which at that time was most of the known world.  The first settlers to Cudal may well have been poor Irish immigrants, who would have felt some affinity with their compatriot itinerant saint.  The church they built may be crude and small, but it is well-maintained, and there are enough parishioners in this little community to hold weekly services in it, so it is still doing the job it was built for.

A worn monument

At the back of the ambulatory in Lausanne Cathedral, in Switzerland, set into the floor, is this very old un-named memorial to someone who appears to have been a senior cleric, judging by his mitre hat and his staff.

It didn’t look to me as if it had always been inset into this particular bit of floor, and it seemed like a strange place to put it, anyway, all alone and jutting out into the circular walkway behind the altar.  But the most puzzling thing about it is the fact that it is so worn down that the facial features are completely smooth and well… featureless.

Lausanne slab

How could this have happened?  The feet of countless pilgrims over the centuries, you might say?  But why would they step on it, and not walk around it?  It’s someone’s grave, or at least their memorial, surely they deserved more respect than that, whoever they were.  And if that is indeed how it became worn it means that thousands of people must have trampled all over it when it was new and freshly carved and not yet worn down.  That would have been a lot harder to do when it wasn’t nearly as flattened as it is now, and considerably more disrespectful.  Even if it was set into a busy path, so you had to step over it and you couldn’t walk round it, you wouldn’t carelessly scuffle across the poor dead man’s face, would you?

If anyone has any other ideas about how this funeral sculpture might have become so worn down, and worn down so smoothly, I’d love to hear them.

An unconventional celestial maiden

Of the 1,796 bas-relief sculptures at Angkor Wat in Cambodia of apsaras and devatas, the celestial dancers of Hindu mythology, one of them defies convention, and is probably a sculptor’s private joke.

This is the only celestial maiden in any of the Khmer temples – so I was told by my very knowledgeable guide – who is depicted with her mouth open, revealing her teeth.

This is the only apsara out of nearly 2000 at Angkor Wat whose lips are parted, showing her teeth.

This is the only apsara out of 1,796 at Angkor Wat whose lips are parted, showing her teeth.

It's possible that the site construction supervisor never noticed that this apsara's face had been carved in this unconventional way.  The teeth are more noticeable now, from being touched by the greasy fingers of countless visitors to Angkor Wat.

It’s possible that the 12th century site decoration supervisor never noticed that this one apsara’s face had been carved in this unconventional way. Her teeth are more noticeable now, darkened from being touched by the fingers of countless visitors to Angkor Wat.

You might have noticed that her earlobes are elongated from the heavy jewellery they carry.  Curiously, pierced and elongated lobes are also seen on all the Khmer warriors in the many battle scenes depicted on other walls at Angkor Wat, even though the men aren’t shown wearing anything dangling from their ears as they go into battle .  I’m pleased to say that this body modification is no longer a fashion for either the young men or the young women of modern Cambodia.

You can click this picture to enlarge it and see the details.

Khmer warriors charging into battle, trampling the dead bodies of their Cham (Vietnamese) enemies.  Their generals ride on battle elephants behind.

Khmer warriors charging into battle, trampling over the dead bodies of their Cham (Vietnamese) enemies. Their generals ride on battle elephants behind.

Angkor Wat’s celestial maidens

Many religions have within them the idea of ethereal beings of great beauty inhabiting the heavens. The three religions of The Book share the notion of Angels; the old Norse gods had their Valkyries; the ancient Greeks had the Muses; and south-east Asian Hindus have Apsaras, the celestial maidens who dance magnificently to the music of the heavens and sometimes seduce both gods and men.  When the main religion in the Malay-Indonesian peninsular changed, formerly Hindu apsaras were co-opted into Islam, so that they are now seen as the heavenly maidens described in the Q’uran, given as a post-mortem reward to devout Muslim males.

On the walls of Angkor Wat, the enormous temple complex in Cambodia, there are 1,796 bas-relief carvings of Apsaras and Devatas, the celestial maidens of the Hindu religion, all of them unique and different.  Many of the smaller figures show the maidens dancing, in which case, they are known as Apsaras. Most of the larger figures, up to life-size sometimes, are shown standing, either in preparation for the dance, or as sentinels, in which case they are Devatas.

Almost every surface of every wall at Angkor is elaborately carved into relief decoration of great complexity, with many representations of gods, kings, battles, and historical and religious narratives, as well as many celestial maidens.  This devata is surrounded by a typical example of purely decorative relief work.

This approximately half-size devata is surrounded by ornately patterned relief designs

This approximately half-size devata is surrounded by ornately patterned relief designs

The stylised four-petal lotus flower design is one of the most common repeating motifs in all south east asian art, buddhist and hindu.

The stylised four-petal lotus flower design is one of the most common repeating motifs in all south east Asian art, Buddhist and Hindu.

This double pair of devatas have elaborate hair styles rather than ceremonial gilded head-dresses, which are more typical. The formal way the lower body garment was folded and secured changed over time.  A documented chronology of these changing apsara fashions is one way that helps archaeologists to date the construction of a temple, or at least, put a date on when the sculptures were carved.

These devatas have very elaborate hairstyles rather than formal head-dresses.   The one on the right is holding up a lotus bud, the model for the shape of the stone towers of Angkor Wat.

These devatas have very elaborate hairstyles rather than formal head-dresses. The one on the right is holding up a lotus bud, the model for the shape of the stone towers of Angkor Wat.

During the period when these figures were carved, the conventional way of showing the feet was always pointing sideways, as they were in ancient Egyptian art, but here they are seen from above not side-on.

During the period when these figures were carved, the conventional way of showing the feet was always pointing sideways, as they were in ancient Egyptian art, but here they are seen from above not side-on.

This devata is wearing the more typical ornate headdress with its three golden spires.  On her upper body she is wearing an elaborate collar piece and upper arm bracelets, a gold belt-chain around her neck that crosses over to go round her waist, and nothing else.  Celestial maidens are usually depicted bare-breasted.

This image has worn well, and still shows the intricate gilded decoration of the head-dress and body jewellery traditionally worn by apsara dancers

This image has worn well, and still shows the intricate gilded decoration of the head-dress and body jewellery traditionally worn by apsara dancers

This is a typical apsara dancing pose.  Traditional Khmer Apsara dance as it is performed today is quite slow, very balletic, and very controlled, with  the dancers’ open hands and fingers curving backwards at what appears to be an impossible angle.  I spoke with a young woman who had trained throughout her youth to be a dancer, but she could no longer perform since her dancing instructor broke two of her fingers in the continual process of training them to bend further and further backwards.  One of these fingers had healed at an unattractively crooked angle, which ended her potential career as a professional Apsara dancer.

In this carving of an apsara dancing, you can see the last three fingers of each hand bending back in a steep curve, a position that takes a long time to develop in trainee dancers.

In this carving of an apsara dancing, you can see the last three fingers of each hand bending back in a steep curve, a position that takes a long time to develop in trainee dancers.

And here is a modern group of traditional Khmer ‘Apsara Dancers’ posing with tourists at the end of their performance in modern Angkor.  The costumes they wear are quite faithful facsimiles of the originals as depicted on the walls of the many hundreds of ancient temples nearby, except that, to avoid offending foreign tourists, the dancers no longer perform topless.

A contemporary Apsara Dancing group, with some tourists from their audience after their show

A contemporary Apsara Dancing group, with some tourists from their audience after their show