Amidst a fairly busy schedule in Turkey this week, managed to occupy a day off with a trip into the mountains above Antalya to the abandoned city of Termessos. It’s power and wealth derived from controlling the only local pass through the mountains – but its construction, so high and so elaborate (temples, theatre, agora, civic buildings, many houses etc), must have been an astonishing feat of engineering and endurance. Read more
Have been spending this week in Cambridge for the CICCU main events. It’s been a really encouraging time. But I had a lovely time on Tuesday afternoon wandering around with my camera, revisiting old haunts and generally taking it easy. Marvellous. Even more marvellous was the fact that the sun actually came out. Hard to believe when the south-west seems afflicted by hurricanes and tsunamis. Read more
Thanks to the generosity of some friends, Rachel & I were able to have a few days in their Paris flat last week (and were even able to cover most of our Eurostar tickets with Nectar points). All in all: a result. But the highlight for both of us was actually 80km north-west of Paris in the little Normandy village of Giverny. Neither of us had ever been before. But I felt was as if I’d been going there all my life. In fact, every nook and cranny felt so familiar it was as if it was a childhood home. For this was the home of Claude Monet, and the subject of decades of paintings. Read more
I believe in words. I believe in the importance of words. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I believe in the primacy of words. But words can never be exclusive media of truth, understanding and communication. Please note: they are the primary (i.e. supreme) means, not the only means. I’ve touched on this issue before. Words are still essential.
As I mentioned then, the great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov attacked the myth of the image by saying:
It has been a schoolboy dream to visit this place (yeah, I know; I was, and am still, a bit of a classics geek): the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion (the southern tip of Attica, just below Athens). There’s not a lot of it left sadly. But it is one of the most spectacular spots for any building, let alone one of such antiquity and distinction. Having had an action-packed but positive few days doing some Langham teaching in Athens, it was a joy to get out to the cape for Monday morning, followed by a great seafood lunch with good friends overlooking the Aegean. Read more
With both children away on camp, Rachel & I ventured out on rather a road trip from Wiltshire along the South Downs and up. Marvellous.
At the start of the week, we had a chance to visit the original Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney’s imagination (see right for poet pic) – Wilton House near Salisbury, home of the Earls of Pembroke. Read more
It was a joy to be able to spend a couple of hours with members of the CU at London’s University of the Arts on Thursday evening, giving a talk on this subject. Sarah Dargue has already done a really good job at summarising the key points over at the Interface Arts page (if you’re an arts student, definitely worth keeping an eye on that blog). But here is my talk outline, so that you can get some of the key quotes and references, plus my slides. Read more
I had one day to sightsee in Turkey last week which was fabulous. I even came back a bit sunburnt (much to the chagrin of every rain-drenched colleague on my return). Quite fun to be able to say that I got a tan at Laodicea. So here are a few photographic highlights. For the full Flickr set, click here. Having been based in Antalya (ancient Attalia) had a chance to visit Perga and Aspendos (along the coast to the east), and then travelled inland to the north west to the Lycus Valley (where Hierapolis, Laodicea and Colossae are).
First a general map and few panoramas from the trip… Click on each image for a closer view. Read more
It is a privilege to spend time with friends in Antalya – right on the south Mediterranean coast of Turkey. (Incidentally, and quite interestingly, in Turkish, the Med is called ‘Akdeniz’ which means ‘the white sea’ in symmetry to ‘Karadeniz’ (The Black Sea) at the other end of the Bosphorus). And Antalya was of course the ancient port city of Attalia in the apostle Paul’s day. Read more
So at last, the time has come. The time for the announcement of the prizes. The Virtual Crunchie can be printed off and enjoyed at your leisure.
There were some excellent entries. And so I felt duty-bound to aware a number of prizes in two categories: Topical and Exegetical. Runners up are honour-bound to share their crunchie with someone else. I’ll know if you eat the whole thing yourself.
Am in Greece this weekend for the launch of Langham Greece. It’s gone really well so far – lots of great discussion. Around 35 attending the conference and around 15-20 watching streaming of it online. REALLY encouraging.
But yesterday we had a free morning and so headed off to Corinth (obviously). I’d no idea that it was only an hour or so from Athens, which was great. We clambered up the Akrocorinth, and wandered around the remains of Ancient Corinth – which are extensive but in parts hard to imagine as intact buildings. You can see the snaps here. Read more
It’s not every day that one gets to sit around the same table as representatives of Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Humanist networks with the chance to pick brains and question of the most senior leaders of the BBC. But that is exactly what happened today, as I’d been invited to attend a small group that meets twice a year on Religion and Belief in broadcasting. I certainly felt both out of my depth and a fish out of water (if that’s possible) – still, it was very interesting indeed (not least because the BBC is our next door neighbour) and a privilege to be present. Read more
I really don’t think this book lives up to its hype, but I did work my way through roughly 3/4 of Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s epic Jerusalem, The Biography. It is a very uneven and, at times, curiously flat read. It is also (perhaps inevitably) littered with sweeping statements and an over-reliance on just a few partisan scholarly perspectives. This was especially frustrating when it came to plumbing the huge depths and breadths of biblical and archaeological scholarship. But there were clearly some gems and insights. And so thought I’d share just one or two. Read more
Thanks to a brief profile in Wired last month, I’ve been mesmerised by the ‘hyperphotos’ of French photographic artist Jean-Francois Rauzier. It is definitely worth spending some time exploring his worlds. And they are worlds – each image is deceptively simple but like all great art, draws you in with a summons to contemplate and wonder. Read more
I was very struck by this fascinating article (“Building Blocks” from the latest Royal Academy magazine) about post-revolution architecture and art in the Soviet Union. Never having visited Russia itself (despite having travelled fairly extensively through its former cold war satellites), my presumption was that architecture in that era was full of monolithic, brutalising and depersonalised buildings. But it seems was that this was primarily the result of Stalinist totalitarianism and did not characterise the confidence of the brand new revolutionary state that held (to some extent) its ideals intact. Read more
Just 3 nights in Istanbul hasn’t given a huge amount of time to see sights but I’ve had a few hours in between meetings. Managed to get to the old Chora Monastery (the most important remaining Byzantine church in the city, after the Hagia Sophia) and the vast Basilica Cisterns. Read more
I’ve been in Lund, Sweden since Wednesday, as a guest of Teofil to speak for Langham at 2 conferences this week. It is a real thrill to be here for the first time, since my late Grandmother was Swedish and the country has always been part of our family’s folklore.
Lund is a lovely, ancient University town right in the south (only 40 mins by train, in fact, from Danish Copenhagen). It is dominated by the magnificent cathedral, which dates from AD1080. So with a couple of hours to spare before things kicked off on Thursday, I was able to go for a wander. It is an impressive building – I was especially taken with the wonderfully atmospheric crypt, the extraordinary astronomical clock and the severe grandeur of the original Romanesque architecture.
But a nice surprise was a temporary sculpture exhibition in a lady chapel of contemporary Swedish sculptress Lena Lervik. There were no explanations in English so I can’t be 100% sure what they were all seeking to suggest – but it was possible to make a pretty good stab. The photo above shows 2 installations – one in the foreground is clearly a pregnant Mary – it is stunning because the back is covered in gold leaf which shimmers in the subdued mediaeval light. But facing her is what I can only assume is the bronze serpent of Numbers 21 and John 3:14, observed in the shadows by a number of penitent believers. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition – for of course, John’s use of the serpent imagery points to the lifting up of the Son of Man on the cross (and probably also the resurrection). In other words, the suffering of the Christ. And the way these pieces were installed (who knows if it was intentional – I’m inclined to think it was) Mary looks on, bearing the child who will suffer in this way. There is a profound poignancy here.
Here are a few other snaps from around the building (to see the whole set, click here).
Finally, I encountered this curiosity on the choir stalls. What can it mean?! 2 earnest pilgrims seeking God – only find that he’s a squirrel…?!? Or what? Not exactly the sort of piety you’d expect from a devout mediaeval carpenter… Any suggestions?
After a really successful 48 hours in Sofia in the first half of the week, have been in Athens for similar meetings for the last few days. In between meetings with various church leaders, we had a free morning yesterday so my fantastic host Constantinos showed me the ancient sites. We did all the A’s – Agora, Areopagus and the Acropolis. Fantastic. I’ve waited decades for the chance to come here – ever since being at one of those completely weird establishments that insists on 9 year olds learning classical Greek. A dream come true.
Here are some happy snaps. Click here for the whole set.
180° View of Athens from the top of the Areopagus (Mars Hill)
The Erechtheion on the Acropolis
The Parthenon & Theatre of Dionysus
The view back from the wonderful, new Acropolis Museum