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Posts tagged ‘churches’

The Convent & the Hidden Ruins: Where to Stay in Jerusalem

Walking through the streets of Jerusalem crowded with believers of several faiths, you know you’re in a holy place.  During my visit, I wanted to stay in the heart of the old city so that I could experience this energy and spirit.  My early morning walks with mothers taking their children to school and evening strolls among the prayerful were everything I had hoped for.  While in Jerusalem, I stayed at a guesthouse for pilgrims run by an order of nuns which was located on the Via Dolorosa (or the Way of the Cross).  Besides being a welcoming home, the convent had a surprisingly beautiful but quirky church and a basement of archaeological remains dating to the Roman occupation of the city.  What more could I ask for?!

Via Dolorosa and Ecce Homo arch, Jerusalem

The Franciscans and Catholic pilgrims heading down the Via Dolorosa for the Friday afternoon Stations of the Cross. Note the aptly named alley (“The Nun’s Ascent”) and the public entrance to the Lithostrotos at the right.

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Exuberant Hungarian: The Art of Matthias Church, Budapest

Art Historians are very good about categorizing art.  Everything gets organized into bucket of a particular period or movement, but throughout Hungary, I just found the usual labels to be lacking.  While Magyar art and design of the late 19th century draws from several sources, the result is so much more than simple Historicism repeating old designs.  They created something unique and truly amazing.  It just really resonated with me and so I had to give this style its own name: Exuberant Hungarian.  I absolute fell for the Matthias Church in Budapest, with its wild but totally coherent decorative scheme.  Take a look and tell me if you’ve ever seen anything like this before, and whether or not you think the “Exuberant Hungarian” moniker fits.

Arts & Crafts lamb door

An incredible mix of color and pattern at the Matthias Church, Budapest.

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Back from Hungary

I’ve been quiet for a little while because I’ve been in Hungary!  The trip was filled with amazing food, beautiful architecture, and some of the most wonderful late 19th century art I’ve ever seen – like the elaborate Crypt of the Cathedral in Pécs below.  Looking forward to sharing more soon!

Pecs Hungary cathedral crypt

A Song to the Shepherds in Bethlehem

Not all the churches in the Holy Lands are old.  The Church of the Shepherds’ Fields in Bethlehem was  constructed in 1954 over some small caves on the outskirts of the city.  Traditional holds that these caves were used by Shepherds even in ancient times hence the connection of this site to the Nativity story.  The Church has a simple, contemporary ascetic, but by far has the best impromptu choir I’ve ever heard.

Exterior angel from the Church of the Shepherds' Fields

Exterior angel from the Church of the Shepherds’ Fields

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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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