Breage Church, Cornwall
The 15th century church of St Breaca at Breage (pronounced Breeg) in Cornwall contains some early and well preserved wall paintings that have survived both the iconoclasts of the reformation and the Victorian restorers. They are painted secco (on dry plaster) rather than the fresco technique that is more common in continental Europe. The two most prominent figures either side of the north door are St Christopher (on the left) carrying the infant Jesus and Christ (on the right) bearing the wounds of the crucifixion and showing the tools of local tradespeople. By St Christopher's feet is the figure of a mermaid combing her hair. There are also images of four saints: Ambrose, Christopher, Corentine and Hilary.
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Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.
The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.
Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".
Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.
Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights.
In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states.
Text by Steve Smith.