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Posts tagged ‘Catholicism’

Visiting Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity

As I listened to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the radio yesterday, for the first time in my life I didn’t picture huts and palm trees like some cartoon Christmas TV special.  I thought back to the actual Bethlehem in the West Bank which I visited in the Spring.  The old stable of my imagination has been replaced by a drafty Byzantine basilica and the straw by Orthodox icons and lamps.  The shepherds and wise men in the Bible story are now an equality diverse group of international visitors.  But with all that, the Church of the Nativity still maintains some of the midnight atmosphere and anxious stillness of the first Christmas which is remembered here.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Interior of the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, before restoration began. (Photo: Nick Thompson, flickr)

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The Isenheim Altarpiece – Art for the Ill

I enjoyed last week’s virtual visit to the incredible Ghent Altarpiece but it got me thinking about other major church pieces I would like to see in person.  While this may not be the most intuitive work of art to bring up, I have always been impressed by the suffering, twisted and tortured Cruxification of the Isenheim Altarpiece now in the Alsatian city of Colmer, France.

Matthias Grunewald, Isenheim altarpiece in situ, Colmar, France

Isenheim altarpiece in situ at the Musee d’Unterlinden, Colmar, France

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The Florence Baptistry, or How I Happened to Earn a Indulgence

Procession at the Cathedral and the Baptistry ...

Procession around the Florence Cathedral and Baptistry during the 18th century

Apparently circling the Duomo in Florence as part of the Feast of Corpus Christi procession earns you a plenary indulgence.  I didn’t so much choose to participate as I was swept up into the crowd.  If anything, our triumphant entrance underneath the gleaming mosaics of the Baptistry was reward enough.  But the nuns at the convent where I was renting a room insisted I had earned some spiritual extra credit by taking this walk, so it must be true.  Looks like travel really is good for the soul!  Here’s how it happened.

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Italian Good Friday Procession Art

It is traditional in Spain, Italy and other Catholic countries to stage elaborate religious procession on Good Friday and Easter.  While in Erice, a village on the Western tip of Sicily, I found a Museum of church objects that had a series of statue used to commemorate the Passion story of Jesus on Good Friday.

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