Friday, June 25, 2010

Maps + Legends: The Summer Aquatic 2010: Turkish Rugs and Ancient Ampitheaters

View Larger Map

Ephesus (Kusadasi, Turkey)

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, 
  To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (EPH 1)

Among the old world regions of the Mediterranean, one of the most fruitful for Christian and Muslim cultures has been the site of Ancient Ephesus. It is within this region that the Apostle Paul sent word to the local churches to build ministry focused on the body of Christ through unity, and the export of missionaries into Asia Minor. Ephesus remains one of the central sites of early Christianity and has been noted as one of the 7 churches mentioned in the book of Revelation. Saint Paul spent large portions of time in Ephesus, and wrote his epistle to the church during imprisonment in Rome (around AD 62). Ephesus remains as a central site of tourism in the ancient world and hosts such sites as: St. Johns Basilica, House of the Virgin Mary (where Mary is rumored to have spent the last days of her life), Celsius Amphitheater (where Paul addressed the local people on numerous occasions), Hadrian's Temple, the Arcadian Way (where Antony and Cleopatra walked), and the ancients sites of the Temples, city walls, and markets. All in all, Ancient Ephesus seems to contain all essences of its original centrality, in that, it has become one of the biggest sites for pilgrimage outside of the traditional Mediterranean.

Some Sites:
 House of the Virgin Mary

St. Johns Basilica

Celsus Library and Theater

Temple of Hadrian

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maps + Legends: The Summer Aquatic 2010: Isles of Myth

View Larger Map
A= Mykonos B= Delos
The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece! / Where burning Sappho loved and sung, / Where grew the arts of war and peace, / Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung! / Eternal summer gilds them yet, / But all, except their sun, is set.”- Lord Byron
It is here that the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis became legend, gods and monsters rode along the seas against the seafaring, and the wealth of the Mediterranean was forged with blood and gold. Still today so many people stand in wonder at the amazing remnants of Grecian culture, and still today find themselves lost in time on these islands.The Cyclades Islands represent the true beauty of the Aagean Sea, and have become focal points for anyone sailing across the Mediterranean. Cyclades means (central circle) and contains an island chain of around 10 islands off the coast of Greece. The region has been noted for its modern hedonistic interpretation of ancient and recurring Grecian themes/styles and the flow of Greek favorites such as olives, oils, handicrafts, and pine nuts. During the ancient era, it seems that the Cyclades Islands were the focal point of power for several powerful city states, most prominently Athens. The Athenians created the Delian League somewhere around 478 BCE, establishing their control over the region and dominance over their treasury in the Temple of Apollo on Delos. Delos' power rose till it became the 3rd largest commerce point in the region (under Egypt and Syria). The Romans changed the port into a free port, thus adding to the expansion of the islands economy with the arrival of a thriving slave market (10,000). In the current era, the Island of Delos remains an extremely important archaeological site and focal point for tourism in the Mediterranean. Mykonos is noted as being an extremely modern Greek city reminiscent of island hotspots such as Hawaii or the Bahamas, and is known for having an expressive night scene.

Some notable locales:

The Terrace of the Lions
This terrace stands as the "guard dog" for the Temple of Apollo. It is the most comparable to the Egyptian Sphinx outside of Cairo. Although several of the original Lions are missing from the island, 7 of them still remain outside of the National Archaeological Museum on the island.

The House of Dionysus

Terrace of the Foreign gods

Temple of Apollo

Maps + Legends: The Summer Aquatic 2010: Strange Times

Recently I was looking over the excursion listings for this Mediterranean cruiseline, and I stumbled upon a semi phenomenon being cited as a "unique spiritual experience". Oddly enough it wasn't the first time I had read about this particular subject, and so the topic of "spiritual iconography" seemed like familiar territory for this blog entry. I know that in many locations worldwide, the iconography of spiritual importance have become focal points for all the major religions, as well as more localized spiritual beliefs/customs, and this leads one to wonder just how influential faith truly is. I was reading my friend Paul Waggoners notes as of late, and as many know he has been traveling the world in search of uncovering just where he feels led to pursue ministry. It is amazing to see how many of his notes and pictures resonate the very subject that I have been prepping for this entry, as well as this vacation. The idea that though our cultures are varied, we are all human beings living in a world that truly is expansive to the eye, but closer to others in the reality of experience.

The spiritual experience being discussed by the excursion focuses on the "phenomenon" of the "black Madonna". I say "phenomenon" because from all of the research I have done, it seems that the explanation is so straightforward that it seems strange that anyone who declare anything else as being the reasoning behind their existence. The Black Madonna's are essentially woodcut icons depicting the Virgin Mary carrying the infant Jesus Christ in her arms; but what makes them "black" is simply that the skin (as well as the coloring in the larger selection) is darker than perceived in all other personifications. Several groups have claimed this as a phenomenon, as there are numerous Black Madonnas scattered across Europe and North Africa, and the idea behind its existence creates a different interpretation than the lighter skinned Mary seen traditionally. Critics have allocated that a Black Madonna signifies power where a lighter skinned Mary simply personifies purity. This is an interesting argument, and although I believe that representations of Mary/Christ/Apostles should be more olive skinned to match their Mediterranean/Middle Eastern origins, it seems to place more emphasis on the semiotic translation of her/their depiction rather than placing emphasis on why they are being depicted in the first place. Many of these critics/scholars have placed the emphasis on distinguishing these characteristics from an anti-religious standpoint, and from the point that the iconography matters more than that which is being interpreted by the voyeur.

The explanation: So why are the Black Madonnas black? They weren't created that way, and it isn't the cause of some immense hoax, so why do these subjects stand out from the hundreds of thousands of others that are not depicted in this way? Well the explanation is actually quite simple: The woodcuts have aged, just as the materials used to paint the depictions on their surfaces. For centuries these pieces have hung in churches throughout the world and have been kept in relatively low lighting, only being illuminated by candle light. Throughout the centuries the travel of smoke, and low lighting have actually caused the woodcuts to age and take on the chemical properties of the smoke itself. Its actually quite simple once explained; but it seems that for the sake of tourism and the essence of mystery, the idea that the woodcuts would change on their own power is kind of a cool concept. I should mention that not all scholars/critics have taken the stance of anti-religious perspective. In fact in many locations in Africa and the Middle East, the idea of the Black Madonna has been adopted as the true personification of the Virgin Mary. It is interesting to note that these perspectives come from local churches and parishes that have adopted the form into their cultural heritage and just as many Western churches have adopted the "white jesus" perspective, it does not resemble the true Jewish image of Christ/Mary. Without a true accurate image, it can only be guessed at/imagined anyways and thus it should be noted that these images are just that, images. They are not the true forms, nor are they in any way an accurate portrayal, and it should be noted that the truth comes from faith, and it is through the practice of faith that we understand that which is only being guessed at in these inaccurate representations. The purpose of these pieces remains to be stated, and that can be summed up in a very simple allocation: "Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning."-C. S. Lewis

I take from this that the way in which many traditions have guided their focus has been by the use of art/imagery to depict that which cannot be seen; but can be experienced. It is not to say that their haven't been problems with that standpoint (there have been many) ; but to explain the existence of this practice, it seems to fit for this argument. I could literally write pages upon pages about iconography and representation; but ultimately it comes down to the individuals focus on God, and not the imagery that defines ones faith. That is the most important distinction I can make, and hopefully it is met well. I apologize if any mistakes are found in this blog, and please say something if you find yourself not in agreement. :)

I hope that you all found this interesting, because I have been meaning to write this for a few days and just haven't had the focus to get it out till now.