I'm afraid you'll find me talking about the trip we took at the end of July for some time to come. My eyes beheld beautiful, splendid things in Turkey and Greece. Rome and Israel provided arresting images too. These places captured my heart and disturbed my spirit to the point of earnestly seeking to be renewed. I got the chance to do just that with Jason and Hayden (who were also baptized)and with old friends and new at the Jordan River where Jesus too was baptized.
The following is a mixture of the inconsequential (yet delightful) as well as those things I experienced which have brought new meaning to life.
The Pudding Shop found in Istanbul right across the street from the Blue Mosque was once known as a famous hitch hiker bar. It was a place where hippies who had lost their traveling buddy could meet back up. Those who visited could meet other travelers and study maps. It was also a place where notes could be left for those following behind.
If you look closely you can see a hand behind the bars being placed in the "Mouth of Truth" /"Boccaccio Della Verita" , a movie made famous by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the movie "Roman Holiday". Sorry for the lousy picture. It was taken from a moving bus. Tradition says that if you put your hand in its mouth while telling a lie, your hand will be bitten off. In the 90's movie "Only You", Robert Downey Jr places his hand in its mouth but gets to keep his hand even though he's a liar, a dreamy liar.....but a liar.
Here are Umbrella pine (also called stone pine) which have been used ornamentally in Italy for the past three hundred years but are described as an invasive species in South Africa. What some consider trash, others consider treasure. Pine nuts come from the umbrella pine and small species are used for Bonsai.
If you're looking to adopt an exotic feline or canine there are plenty of both roaming ....everywhere. They seem pretty happy though, and pretty well-fed.
Here's the Sistine Chapel. I told you in my last post that picture taking on the inside isn't allowed. This shattered my life's hopes and dreams (we'll at least one of them) so I just took a picture of the outside. By the way, you should check out my last post with more riveting facts and awesome pictures if you haven't yet.
Michelangelo painted its ceiling on his back wearing a crown of candles at times to help him see. After painting much of the ceiling, he was escorted back twenty-five years later to paint the altar wall depicting the second coming. It took four years to paint.
Most characters including Mary were painted nude which motivated the Cardinal and Monsignor Sernini to start "The Fig Leaf Campaign" which would have the work removed or censored. A quick study revealed that the Pope's Master of ceremonies, Cesena, also condemned Michelangelo's work for its nudity saying it was better befitted for a bathroom.
Michelangelo executed his revenge with a well-placed fresco using Cesena's face on the body of Minos. He included donkey ears and and painted a serpent around the body. That lady and gents is still on the altar wall in the chapel.
Michelangelo's most treasured work wouldn't be the phenomenal paintings found in the chapel, but a sculpture chiseled from marble depicting Mary holding Jesus after his death. It's the only piece he ever signed, which he said he regretted later. It stands in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican with bullet proof glass in front due to a crazed man hacking up Mary's arm and nose years back. Her nose has been restored with a piece from her back. It's a powerful piece called Pieta.
We learned that Necropolis is an ancient cemetery whose name derives from the term "city of the dead". Those buried were buried outside the city as opposed to tombs within the city. The word "cemetery" in Greek means "sleeping place". When I go, I'm glad I'll be placed in the latter.
Here's another statue of Peter in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. A constant line of people flowed wishing to rub his feet. Hayden noticed that his toes are barely noticeable at this point having been rubbed smooth. Peter is my favorite.
In our arrogance we think we've advanced so far because of our intelligence. But let me just say that the work of the ancients was pretty brilliant too. I stayed humbled on this trip. This is part of a Roman bath house. The stones were covered by a floor. Hot water underneath brought about steam through these stones providing a sauna for the men.
The mosaic pictured here (which looks more like a painting) is on the Basilica of St Paul and was made using more than one million pieces.
The devotion evident in sculptures, paintings and architecture we saw makes me question my five second prayers, quick scripture reads and my attention to God which is so quickly diverted. These artists seemed to know better how much is due such a beautiful magnificent God.
Besides a quick blog post, a breath of thankfulness, a Sunday at church, singing along with songs of worship on the radio....
What is due?
As the old hymn says so well...
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all