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Architecture & its History
Travel & Destinations
Ron Gatepain is an Architectural Historian; Chartered Surveyor; Chartered Builder; Chartered Building Engineer and a Corporate Building Surveyor. A member of the Royal Historical Society; the Historical Association and the Society of Architectural Historians he has travelled extensively in pursuit of his interest in history, particularly with regard to buildings, their construction and the influence they have had on civilisation and regularly gives talks on this as a guest speaker for special interest groups and on cruise ships throughout the world.

Having obtained three degrees – two at masters’ level – Ron has worked in Construction, Property and Training at director level and has been a visiting lecturer for a number of universities and colleges. He was the Technical Expert Author Advisor and Editor to the national e-learning resource website for Higher and Further Education Institutions and is the founder and contributor to the website. He has written a number of books, magazine articles, distance learning modules and on-line study units and has been responsible for the development of Distance and on-line courses. In addition, he is a Publishing Partner with the Encyclopaedia Britannica and contributes on Historic Sites & Buildings.

A former Royal Marine Commando, Ron went on to serve with the Territorial Army reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel commanding a Logistics Regiment. He maintains his military links as a member of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association Committee of which he is a former Chairman.

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Ron’s talks relating to History and Architecture cover many of the world’s most famous Historic Buildings and Archaeological Sites.

Talks are delivered with the aid of PowerPoint presentation system and include photographs and graphics; they are given in a relaxed manner to inform, educate, and to entertain and can be related to the places that the cruise is calling at or can look at the world’s famous building as a subject in itself.

A few examples of his talks for a number of locations are shown below, for a full list and details of each talk visit

In his talks, he looks at the building or place itself and the people and events relating to its construction and takes his audience on a virtual tour. He also covers how and why they were built and provides a background to the civilisation at that time.



1. Buckingham Palace - London. Acquired by George III in 1762 it has been the home and office of the British Monarch since 1837.

2. Tower of London. In its 1000 years history, it has been a citadel, palace, prison and treasury.

3. Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) – London. Dating back to the middle of the 11th century it served as the residence of the British Monarch until the 16th century. Destroyed by fire in 1834 it was rebuilt with over 1000 rooms. It has been the seat of the two houses of the British Parliament since 1512.

4. Westminster Abbey – London. Started as a Benedictine monastery during the 10th century, it became a Royal church during the reign of King Edward the Confessor and underwent significant development during the reign of Henry III in the 13th century. The abbey contains the tombs of seventeen monarchs and many distinguished musicians, writers, scientists and political figures.

5. St Paul's Cathedral – London. Built by Sir Christopher Wren to replace the cathedral destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was inspired by the Duomo of Florence and St Peters Basilica in Rome. Today it is one of London’s most popular tourist attractions.

6. Windsor Castle – Windsor. Dating back over 1000 years, it is the largest inhabited castle in the world.


1. Eiffel Tower – Paris. Since its completion in 1889 it has become the most visited paid monument in the world. Standing 1,063 ft high it is one of the most recognizable structures in the world and has become the icon of a city and nation.

2. Palace of Versailles – Paris. From 1682, when King Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the return to the capital in 1789, the Court of Versailles was the centre of power in France as well as the home of the French Royal Family.


1. The Cathedral of Monaco (St Nicholas Cathedral) - Monte Carlo. Built in 1875 on the site of a 13th century church dedicated to Saint Nicolas. Constructed in the Roman-Byzantine style it has been used as the burial place for the Grimaldi Princes of Monaco including Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace the former American Actress Grace Kelly.


1. Sagrada Familia – Barcelona. The surrealist architecture of Gaudi’s unfinished church. Started in 1882, work is expected to continue until 2026.

2. Alhambra Palace - Granada. The Alhambra Palace and fortress complex dates back to the 9th century though started to take its’ present form under Yusuf I and Mohammed V during the 14th century when the Moors ruled North Africa and Spain. Despite being partly destroyed in the 18th century it is one of Spain's finest examples of Islamic architecture.

3. The Cathedral - Santiago de Compostela. Holding the remains of St James in a silver casket below its floor, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella has been the 3rd most important site of Christian pilgrimage since the 12th century.

4. The Mosque-Cathedral – Cordoba. The Mosque of Cordoba is one of the largest in the world and the only remaining one in Spain from the days of the Moors. The Mosque was converted from a church and then back again to a Christian Cathedral but retained its architectural features.


1. The Glory that was Rome. Looks at how and why some of the most famous buildings in Rome were constructed. Includes the Forum, Colosseum, Pantheon and St Peter’s Basilica.

2. Colosseum – Rome. Built by the Roman Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD on the site of Nero’s Golden Palace it became known as Rome's arena of death, where for four and a half centuries animals and people were sacrificed in the name of entertainment.

3. Forum – Rome. The Roman Forum is located between the Palatine and Capitoline hill and was the centre of political and social activity. It included temples, the senate house and law courts.

4. St Peters Basilica – Rome. Located within the Vatican City it is the greatest of all the churches of Christendom and the burial site of St Peter.

5. Pantheon – Rome. Built as a Temple by the Emperor Hadrian and dedicated to all the Roman gods, it is the best preserved of all Roman buildings and is now used as a Christian church. It is the oldest standing domed structure in Rome and was for many years the largest domed building.

6. Pompeii. Rediscovered in 1748 from under many meters of ash and pumice, Pompeii provides an insight into the lives of the ancient Romans preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD.

7. Herculaneum. The seaside resort for the wealthy contained many elegant residences as well as the businesses and facilities to provide for them; all were covered during a succession of pyroclastic surges which occurred with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD hiding it beneath 20 meters of lava, mud and ash.

8. Pompeii and Herculaneum. The two famous towns which can be visited from Naples which were covered by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD.

9. Leaning Tower of Pisa. Forming part of the Cathedral Group, the campanile (Bell Tower) of the cathedral of Pisa. Intended to stand vertically, the tower began leaning soon after construction began in 1173, something that has required considerable work to prevent it from toppling.

10. Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) – Florence. The cathedral church notable for its dome and one of the lasting symbols of the Italian Renaissance.

11. Leaning Tower of Pisa and Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) – Florence. The two famous buildings which can be visited from the port of Livorno.

12. Doge’s Palace – Venice. The building, which marked the foundation of Venice as a city, was largely constructed between 1309 to 1424, to replace earlier fortified buildings on the site. As well as being the ducal residence, the palace housed the government of the Republic of Venice. Badly damaged by fire in 1574 it was rebuilt in the original Gothic style though incorporates the classical Bridge of Sighs which links the palace to the prison.


1. Acropolis – Athens. The Acropolis marked the highlight of Greek achievement and is seen as the symbol of a civilization which gave us democracy. Its magnificent buildings and architecture has had an influence throughout the ages and is still imitated today.

2. Olympia. Renowned as the site of the ancient Olympic Games celebrated every four years by the Greeks starting in 776 BC and ran up to the end of the 4th century AD, an event which resulted in the cessation of all hostilities for the duration of the games. Olympia was purely a venue for the games with the buildings associated with their functioning and the worship of the gods.

3. Palace of Knossos – Crete. The magnificent palace complex constructed around 1,900BC, it was the administrative and religious centre of the Minoan kingdom. Under King Minos it became famed in mythology when his wife gave birth to the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull creature that was imprisoned in the labyrinth to which virgins from Athens were delivered as sacrifices until it was slain by Theseus.


1. Achilleion Palace – Corfu. Built by Empress Elizabeth of Austria, the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, in 1890, following the death of her son Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria. The palace was designed to represent an ancient Phaeacian palace with the mythical hero Achilles as its central theme.


1. Blue Mosque – Istanbul. Built between 1609 and 1616 it incorporates Byzantine and traditional Islamic architecture. Still a functional building it has a capacity of approximately 10,000 people.

2. Topkapi Palace – Istanbul. Constructed in 1459 after the defeat of Byzantine Constantinople it was he official residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1853. At the height of the Ottoman Empire it accommodated 4,000 people.

3. Hagia Sophia – Istanbul. Originally constructed between 532 and 537 AD as a church for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. In 1453 it was converted to a mosque when Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it became a museum.

4. Ephesus. Its strategic location ensured it thrived as a port and important commercial centre and it played a major role in ancient times, dating back 1000 years BC. One of the ancient wonders of the world was located at Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis, built in 356BC and the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was also there.


1. Grandmasters Palace – Valletta. The Palace in Valletta was built between 1573 and 1578 to serve as the residence of the Grandmaster's of the Order of the Knights of St John: Something that it was to do for more than 200 years. The palace houses one of the World’s finest collections of arms and armour, it contains the exquisitely furnished Grand Masters apartments.



1. Pyramids of Giza. Built between 2589-2504 BC it is the single remaining wonder of the ancient world. The Great Pyramid of Giza was, until 1300 A.D., the tallest building in the world; with a base area of over 52,600 square metres it is accurate to a few millimetres.

2. Valley of the Kings – Luxor. For a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were excavated from the rocks in the desert for the burial of the Pharaohs and the Egyptian elite. This includes the most famous, the tomb of Tutankhamen found intact in 1922.

3. Temples of the Nile. Along the banks of the River Nile are some of the temples, which are the symbols of a once mighty civilisation, the temples provide a good insight into the lives and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians and the worship of their Gods,.

4. Karnak Temple – Luxor. The religious complex which developed over a thousand years where 25,000 people lived and worked for the glorification of the Gods. Now a vast open-air museum and the largest ancient religious site in the world .

5. Temple of Hatshepsut – Luxor. Hatshepsut is best known as the only woman who actually reigned as a Pharaoh even portraying herself as a man. Her temple at Deir el-Bahri near Luxor is one of the finest examples of a mortuary temple.

6. Temple of Rameses the Great - Abu Simbel. One of the great engineering projects of ancient Egypt the temple built by Rameses the Great was cut into the solid rock. In 1950 it was cut up, moved to its current location and reassembled in order to prevent it from being submerged by the construction of the Aswan High Dam.


1. Hassan II Mosque – Casablanca. Built in 1993 to become one of the largest mosque in the world, almost half of its surface area lies over the waters of Atlantic Ocean. Able to accommodate 25,000 worshipers inside the mosque, it has the capacity for a further 80,000 in the courtyard.


1. Carthage. Founded by the Phoenicians it became a major power of the Mediterranean and a rival to the Roman Empire until its destruction in 146 BC by the Romans in the Third Punic War.It is known to many due to Hannibal, one of its most famous sons.


1. Petra. The rose-red city cut from the rock it was lost and forgotten for centuries until its rediscovery in 1812.


1. Dating back to 4th century BC Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and sacred to three major world religions. It contains some of the major tourist and religious sites in the world.

2. Masada. In 70 AD a group of 1000 Jewish Zealots captured King Herod’s cliff top fortress and held out against the might of Rome for three years before choosing mass suicide rather than submit to Roman captivity.


1. Dubai City. Since the discovery of oil in 1971 Dubai has been aware of the need to diversify before the oil runs out, resulting in the staggering speed of its development. Its innovative real estate projects have resulted in it having the tallest building in the world and a ski centre making artificial snow attracting commerce and tourism.



1. Frederiksborg Castle. Acquired by King Frederick II of Denmark and Norway in 1560 as the Kings Hunting lodge. In 1599 his son, King Christian IV started to developed it into the largest Renaissance Castle in Scandinavia. Since 1878 it has been used as Denmark’s Museum of National History and contains items tracing the history of Denmark from 1500 to the present day.


1. Hermitage - St. Petersburg. One of the world’s greatest museums, it is a collection of buildings started in 1754 by Empress Elizabeth as the Royal residence. The most famous of the ensemble being the Winter Palace, the storming of which led to the fall of the Tsars and the rise of the Soviet Union.

2. Catherine’s Palace - Near St. Petersburg. Acquired by Peter the Great for his mistress in 1712 the once humble manor grew into one of the finest palaces in the world. Destroyed during World War II it was rebuilt and typifies the opulence that was the Russian Tsars.

3. Peter & Paul’s Fortress - St. Petersburg. Built by Peter the Great in 1700’s to defend St Petersburg, it includes St Peter & Paul’s Cathedral the burial place for most of the Tsars.

4. Yusupov or Moika Palace - St. Petersburg. Built in the 1770’s on the banks of the River Moika in the heart of St Petersburg, the Palace was acquired by the Nickolas Yusupov in 1830 when it became known as the Yusupov Palace. Although the façade with its classical six-column portico is striking it does not indicate the beauty and affluence of the interior. The Yusupovs who could trace their lineage back to Ivan the Great and whose wealth rivalled that of the Tzar. It was the place of the murder of Grigori Rasputin by Prince Felix Yusupov that took place in 1916.

5.Kremlin – Moscow. Kremlin is the Russian word for "fortress", "citadel", or "castle", the one in Moscow has been the seat of Russian Power since the 15th century and includes Palaces and Cathedrals.


United States

1. Statue of Liberty - New York. One of the most recognizable icons of the USA it has an overall height of 305ft and is made of copper sheet on a framework of steel. The Statue was presented to the United States by the people of France in 1886.

2. Empire State Building – New York. One of the world’s most famous buildings which lead the way in the development of the Skyscraper.

3. Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco. The suspension bridge opened in 1937 and is one of the most famous bridges in the world.

4. Alcatraz - San Francisco. Situated 1.5 miles offshore from San Francisco it has served as the base for a lighthouse and a military fortification before being used as a federal prison to house the United States most dangerous and notorious prisoners. During its 29 years as it prison it is claimed that no prisoner ever escaped from it.

5. Las Vegas – Nevada. Developed from a watering hole for the railway on its way to California in the 1880s to becoming the entertainment centre of the world showing the attractions and architecture of one of the most exciting cities of the world.

6. Hoover Dam - Nevada/Arizona. Built in the great depression of the 1930's as a concrete arch-gravity dam to provide irrigation and power for the Western USA it was named after President Herbert Hoover. Its design and construction marked it out as a great piece of civil engineering.

7. The Alamo – San Antonio, Texas. Built around 1718 by Spanish settlers as a mission it became known as the Alamo at the beginning of 19th century when it was used to station Spanish troops. In 1835 it was taken over by Texan Forces in the Texas Revolution but was made famous for a stand made there by around 200 personnel against the army of Mexico in 1836. This resulted in the deaths of all the defenders who included Davy Crocket and Jim Bowie, and its fall became a rallying point leading to the independence of Texas.

8. Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon – Charleston. Built between 1768-1771 as the office of the King’s Customs Collector, a public meeting place and a place for entertainment, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon was one of the last formal structures built by the British Colonial Government in the American Colonies.


1. Cities & Civilisations of Mesoamerica. A number of civilisations dominated Mesoamerica from the 1st to 16th century though their architecture and cities and had an effect on the development of the region.

2. Cities of the Maya. Many magnificent cities were constructed by the Maya between 300 – 650 AD and which are now in the process of being recovered from the jungle.


1. Tikel. Situated in the jungle in Guatemala, Tikel is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the Maya civilization with an estimated population as high as 90,000. At its’ height it was one of the most important Maya cities and dominated much of the Maya world politically, economically, and militarily.


1. Chichen Itza. Covering an area of over 5 square kilometres Chichen Itza is one of the most popular Maya cities. Built on artificially levelled terrain it contains a number of different architectural styles in its building and includes the Pyramid of Kukulcan, The Temple of Warriors, Observatory and the largest ball court in the Americas.

2. Palenque. The Mayan city, which contains some of the finest architecture produced by the Mayas, reached its height in the 7th century AD under the rule of Pakal. His tomb was found intact at the site and is one of the best preserved discovered in the Americas.

3. Uxmal. Covering an area of around 150 acres the centre of Uxmal is one of the best preserved Maya sites, something that is due to the high quality of the buildings which are constructed of well-cut stones set in concrete. The site provides a good visual impression of what the city would have looked like at its height.

4. Teotihuacan. In the first century AD Teotihuacan was the largest city in the Mesoamerica with a population of more than 200,000 inhabitants, placing it among the largest cities of the world during this time. It is known for its pyramids and is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico.

5. Tenochtitlan. Founded in 1325 as the capital city of the Aztec civilization it became the largest and most powerful city in Mesoamerica dominating the other tribes around Mexico. Destroyed by the Spanish in 1521 few traces now remain as it lies under Mexico City.


1. Panama Canal. Completed in 1914 it has been described as the eighth wonder of the world though cost the lives of over 25,000 men to construct. Numerous difficulties had to be overcome to construct and to ensure its’ functioning.



1. Machu Picchu. Built by the Incas in the 15th century it was deserted 100 years later to remain lost to the world until it was brought to worldwide attention in 1911. Today it is one of the most famous sites in South America.

2. Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire until destroyed by the Spanish following their arrival in 1533. In this talk Ron looks at its history through its archaeological remains and at the lives of the Incas and the Conquistadores who brought about its downfall.



1. China. One of the oldest civilisations, China has produced some great construction works such as Tombs, Temples and Palaces and a Great Wall.

2. Forbidden City – Beijing. From the 15th to 20th Century it served as the home of the Emperor of China and his household and as the ceremonial and political centre of government. It has nearly 1000 buildings with almost 10,000 rooms and is spread over 186 acres, which prior to the abdication of the emperor in 1912 was for his exclusive use. Since 1924 it has been the Palace Museum.

3. Great Wall of China. Built between the 6th century BC and the 16th century AD to protect the northern borders of China it stretches over 4,000 miles and cost in the range of 2 to 3 million lives to construct.

4. Summer Palace – Beijing. The summer residence of China's imperial rulers from 1750 built in gardens dating back to the 12th century.

5. Terracotta Warriors - Xi’an. More than 8,000 individual life size terracotta figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and include warriors, horses, chariots, officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians to protect and entertain the emperor in the afterlife.


1. Taj Mahal – Agra. Completed by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a Mausoleum for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal around 1650, it has come to be known throughout the world as the symbol of India and of eternal love. In this talk Ron will look at the background to its construction and the resources that went into it, which nearly bankrupted a nation.

2. Red Fort - Agra. Built between the years 1565-73, the Red Fort contained 500 buildings and was one of the largest fortified residences of the Mughal Empire. During 1631 to 1640 it was partially converted into a palace by Shah Jahan with the Musamman Burj built as the palace of Mumtaz Mahal. It was here that Shah Jahan was imprisoned until his death and was to provide the only view of the Taj Mahal that he was allowed.


1. Temples of Angkor Wat & Thom - Siem Reap. Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is a masterpiece of Khmer architecture and the largest religious monument in the world.


1. Grand Palace – Bangkok. Built in 1782, it was for 150 years the home of the Thai King and his Court and the administrative seat of his government. Also within its walls are housed the Thai war ministry, State departments and the mint.

2. Temples of Bangkok. Bangkok contains a myriad of Temples scattered around the city. In this talk Ron looks at some of the most famous including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.


1. Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur. Until 2003 the world's tallest building which identified Kuala Lumpur as a commercial and cultural capital. Requiring a depth of 120 m for the foundations the 88 floor concrete towers has a design influenced by Islamic traditions in art and architecture and a bridge between the two towers at 558ft above ground.


1. Hiroshima. On the 6th August 1945, the aircraft Enola Gay dropped a nuclear weapon on the city of Hiroshima killing instantly an estimated 80,000 people and marking it as one of the memorial events in world history. By the end of the year the total number of casualties had risen up to 140,000. Today the city has a Peace Park and museum which commemorates the event.


1. Sydney Opera House – Sydney. Situated close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the building has since its completion in 1973 become one of Australia's best known icons due to its distinctive pre-cast concrete shell roof structure.
Holder of the following:

Seaman's Discharge Book
Travel Insurance
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Viking Star ST190314 Mediterranean Odyssey 12 Barcelona Thursday, March 14, 2019
Viking Star ST171228 Iconic Western Mediterranean 7 Barcelona Thursday, December 28, 2017
Viking Star ST171221 Southern Mediterranean Discovery 7 Civitavecchia (for Rome) Thursday, December 21, 2017
Viking Sea SE161213 Christmas in the Mediterranean 14 Venice Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Oriana X620 Caribbean Cruise 34 Southampton Saturday, October 22, 2016