Wednesday, February 26, 2014

First outing in Malta

So, why Malta?

Several reasons:

Opportunity: the sabbatical program I'm part of in Rome is in four "modules," and each module includes a retreat. I'll take part in the retreat that goes with the fourth module, so I decided to skip the retreat in module two.

Also, while flying to Malta would be complicated from the U.S., it's easy from Rome. Would I ever get here any other way?

Another reason is I wanted to be someplace sunny and perhaps warm if possible. North Africa would be warmer, but my options there were Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco. Only the latter seems safe. Malta seemed safer.

A fourth reason is Malta's history. It's full of it. The Phoenicians dropped anchor in Malta's remarkable harbors; Saint Paul shipwrecked here. This nation withstood Arabic conquest, was liberated by the Normans, heroically withstood the wrath of Suleiman the Magnificant in the great seige of AD 1565, was home base for the great Hospitaller Knights, was plundered by Napoleon for his war in Egypt, was a key asset in the British Empire, and was besieged once again during the Second World War. Now Malta is free, and is glowing gem of Catholicism in the brilliant blue Mediterranean.

Yesterday I prowled around the fortress capital of Valletta, named after the Knight of Saint John who led Malta's victorious resistance to the Ottoman fleet. Here are some highlights that intrigued me, and may entertain you.

This is the great co-cathedral of Saint John. It has two paintings by the great Caravaggio. I arrived here hungry for lunch, so I decided to eat before paying the fee for the tour. As it happened, I ended up wandering so much, that I didn't get back here until past closing time. I have at least two more good opportunities: Friday afternoon there's a Carnivale parade nearby, and Sunday high Mass at 9:15 am.

Meanwhile, note the curious clocks on the right. If you look closely, you'll see the lower two indicate the days of the month and the days of the week.

While lunching on what was described as a traditional Maltese sandwich of tuna and tomato and olives, a street preacher I'd seen further up the street came by. You can see him in the background wearing signboards. He told us that God loves us all, especially atheists, that there is no purgatory and that our Lord is coming soon. No one seemed to mind him and a few took his pamphlet; eventually he moved back up the street. I didn't mind him either; and I'm gratified to see this expression of freedom of religion, although I hope he merely succeeds partially, of course.

I couldn't make out the name of this church, as it was in Maltese, but it had exposition of the Holy Eucharist. So I came in for a few moments. After taking one picture, I carefully set down my iPad to pray. Unfortunately, the top of the pew wasn't level as it seemed, and a moment later my iPad clattered on the floor. The devoted sister ahead of me didn't twitch a muscle. 

Here's the information I saw on the outside. Note the mention of Venerable Mother Margerita de Brincat. (FYI, Malta has been favored four papal visits: three by Pope Blessed John Paul II, and one by Benedict XVI as part of the Year of Saint Paul. On one of his visits, John Paul II beatified three Maltese.)

One of the things that makes Malta an easy place to visit is the widespread use of English, thanks to its time in the British Empire. One of the amusing things, however, has been the odd use of English in many signs and menus. For example, a clothing store near my hotel is called "Original Marine" with a stylized U.S. flag logo. Nothing in the store has anything to do with the Marines, or anything nautical -- it's clothing for kids and young adults.

Even more amusing were menus which included random references to American place names. One offered "Mississippi wings" with "Louisiana sauce," and also "Buffalo wings" with "Long Island sauce." I suppose we should be flattered.

Here, however, is a menu that was amusing on purpose. I was going to have dinner here last night, but my peregrinations took me elsewhere. I hope to get back. (You should be able to click on this to make it larger.)

Here's another menu, illustrating some curious references to places and people:

While digging in the amusing sights file, I saw this on the front of Saint Augustine Church. Make of it what you will:

Speaking of churches...Malta is 96-98% Catholic, and reportedly has 365 churches. So I came upon several yesterday. Here's the exterior of Saint Paul Shipwreck Church:

I'm sorry I couldn't get the whole facade, but the streets are narrow; I'd backed up as far as I could. Also, no inside pictures were allowed. But it was gorgeous.

To give you a flavor of what these churches look like inside, here's San Domenico:

And here's Saint Dominic himself:

The whole church was decorated with this splendor!

My great interest in Malta -- and Valletta in particular -- is the history. After the Ottoman seige ended, the Knights went to work building the city and surrounding it with fortifications. This story is part of a film called "The Malta Experience," which served as a worthwhile introduction to Malta. While waiting for the 3 pm showing, I sat on a patio overlooking the great harbor. Unfortunately, I simply can't get it all in one shot:

Exhausted from my labors, I fortified myself with a beer.

My strength regained, I ventured downstairs for the film. Here's the corridor, leading us deep into the fortress:

After the film, the ticket included a tour of what was the Knight's hospital; at the time, one of the best in Europe. They figured out that silver seemed to avoid spreading illness, so all the plates, bowls and cutlery were sterling silver. They had a lovely interior garden filled with orange trees, which now is a theater (the hospital is now a venue for conferences and receptions and so forth). Here's the upper hall, which the upper class used:

This photo is actually at the midpoint; the hall is 155 meters long (the guide told me the distance in feet, but I can't recall it now). Notice the windows with rounded tops? When this was a hospital, each of those had a toilet, with ventilation, and for privacy a tapestry hung over the entrance. If you look at the ceiling, you'll notice a change in color. The darker wood, toward the far end of the hall, is original. The newer section was made necessary by the bombardment during World War II -- i.e., most of the upper chamber.

This is the lower chamber for commoners, now set up for events; it runs the same length as the Knights' chamber, directly above. The guide noted that this section had an advantage: they could walk out into the garden I described earlier.

Remember I told you that Carnivale takes place this coming weekend? I chanced upon one of the floats being decorated:

While walking about, I noticed some police and folks in military uniforms, as well as some stands set up in a public square. I asked a police officer about it. He explained the stands were set up for the Carnivale parade on Friday evening; and that the large building on the left of this photo is the Parliament. You can see some of the police and military personnel in the photo.

There seemed to be a lot of officiousness going on; I wondered what was up. A few minutes later, I figured it out when I saw a procession with police escort coming down the street. After powering up my iPad and getting the stupid password in, I snapped this absurd photo of the mysterious bigwig:

If you are getting the sense I was wandering a lot, you're right. It was getting late, but not late enough for dinner -- restaurants don't open for dinner till 7 pm, and I was a bus-ride away from my hotel. Around 6, I decided not to wander about for another hour and gave up on the interesting pizza restaurant, and stepped into another place which was thankfully open; only to find it would soon be closing! I'd already ordered something, so I ate that and decided to head back to my hotel. That was my first outing in Valletta.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cardinals flock to Rome -- and I'm there!

With this post I'll finally catch up to the present. I actually returned from my Saint Paul pilgrimage on Friday; Saturday was a lazy day for your correspondent, while about two miles away, the holy father conferred red hats on a number of new cardinals, and then met with the whole college.

There are a couple of customs associated with this day, which was also the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. One is that the apostolic palace -- where, until Francis, the pope would live -- would be opened for visitors, and the new cardinals would greet people there. The other is that Saint Peter's Basilica would be especially decorated for the feast day. The church was decorated all day, I believe; but the greeting of the faithful went from 4:30 to 6:30 pm.

One of the priests joining me in Rome is also from Cincinnati, and we decided to head down to the basilica at 5 pm. In all candor, meeting a cardinal wasn't the main thing. No offense to their eminences -- but they want to greet their families and their fellow contrymen; none of the new cardinals are American. And while Father R. and I were willing to check out the pope's former digs, we mainly wanted to visit the basilica and pay our respects to the first pope.

So we headed down, and got in line. It was pretty long:

So, we got in line, and we talked awhile to pass the time. Then, realizing we might not have much time, in the basilica, to pray our office, we each got out our electronic devices and prayed our prayers silently.

As a result, we were praying when we reached the point where the two lines diverged -- one for the basilica, and one for the apostolic palace. Only later did we even realize there were two lines; and when Father R. complained, "why didn't they have a sign?" I sheepishly pointed them out, now behind us, and admitted I'd seen the signs, but hadn't really paid attention. Now we found ourselves stuck in a still rather slow-moving line...for the basilica! -- while the line for the palace seemed almost non-existent. But appearances are deceiving; what we actually saw were the lines to different sets of metal-detectors; we realized, just beyond, the lines resumed; only now, the line to greet the cardinals was stalled, while the basilica line evanesced. We opted to stay where we were; but it meant that we now had to give up on visiting the papal apartments.

The basilica was all set up for Sunday Mass, at which the new cardinals would concelebrate. But we found our way forward, where we got this view of the shrine to the chair created by Bernini:

That doesn't give you much of a view, does it? Here's a close-up (you didn't know I could do whiz-bang things like cropping photos, did you? Ha!). You can't really tell, but there's a giant chair there, amidst all the candles.

Here's a pic of the statue of the first pope, all dressed up for the feast:

While inside, Father R. and I linked up with several of the other priests in our group, and several of them went off to pray at one shrine, while I walked about taking in the artwork, like this:

You never know when you'll need a spiffy image of Pope Saint Pius X, right?

Then, around 6:20 pm, the guards -- in their inimitable, Roman courtesy, very patiently yet insistently shooed us toward the doors. I thought we'd be safe sitting in the front portico, but no! They shooed us all the way out to the piazza.

Father R. and I had made plans to meet another Cincinnati priest at 7:15 pm, at the base of the obelisk at the center of the piazza; but as it was 6:30 pm, the other priests opted to head back up the Janiculum Hill to the residence for a 7 pm dinner. Meanwhile, in all the shooing-out, Father R. and I were separated. So I wandered around the square a bit, finding my way to the obelisk. There's a great story about this, but I only know a few bits and pieces. Here's what Wikipedia says, and who knows? It may even be mostly true.

And here's a clear view of the basilica as dusk fell:

Still no Father R.! Finally, around 7 pm, he sidles up -- and claims he was merely wandering around. But I know I'll never get the truth out of him.

Soon, our friend -- another Father R.! Call him Father RR -- shows up, and leads us through a maze of streets to a restaurant. I'd show you pictures, but I was too busy drinking wine and eating good food to take any pictures; besides, Father RR took a vow that forbids being photographed. (OK, that last part might not be true; but it could be. Now you're wondering, right? Ha!) But as a consolation prize, I happen to have a closer photo of the Altar of the Chair, which I took this morning, as I was showing up for Holy Mass with the pope.

Oh, yeah, I guess I forgot to mention that: the Vatican asked for priests in Rome to help out with holy communion at this Mass, so a number of us signed up. We arrived at the basilica around 8:30 (Mass was at ten), and made our way through as the choir was practicing.

Here's a shot of the tabernacle:

After awhile, a gentleman -- apparently a sacristan -- showed up and got us all lined up to collect surplices and stoles to wear over our cassocks. Then he reviewed, in careful detail, everything we were supposed to know and Italian. Here he is:

Afterward, I asked another priest, who understood Italian, what he said; and he summarized it in a few lines. Then, a priest came in and spoke to us at some length, again in Italian. Afterward I asked my translator, what did he say? "Everything the other guy said."

One of the things they told us was not to take pictures during the liturgy, and being American, I took that seriously and left my iPad in the chapel. Others, including priests with me, snapped away.

We weren't concelebrants, I ought to explain, but simply there to help distribute holy communion. How does this work at a giant papal Mass, you ask? Here's how. The communion priests are all seated during the first part of the Mass. During the intercessions, we were all given bowls of unconsecrated bread; then, as the bread and wine were prepared at the altar, we were lined up to the side of the altar in four or five rows. If you were in the basilica, facing the altar, you would have seen us to the left. We were very close to the altar -- the closest I've been during a Mass. In fact, as I mentioned afterward to one of the priests, for that Mass, we were a kind of altar, as we were holding the bread as it was changed into the Body of Christ.

Then, as the time for communion approached, we were led this way and that to take our stations. I was taken to a group of dignitaries nearby, then to several other spots, further and further back. We'd been told to give holy communion only on the tongue; so outstretched hands or not, that's what I did. At one point, a woman approached and was asking for something in Italian, I don't know what; one of the ushers shook his head and so I left him to handle it.

After this, I took the hosts I still had back to the Blessed Sacrament chapel where it was reverently gathered up in a very large bowl, and the vessels were carefully cleansed of all remaining particles of the Lord. If you're wondering, as one of the priests did, what becomes of so large a quantity of consecrated hosts, my guess is they were distributed to area churches, where they would be distributed at Masses in the coming week. That's what happens in similarly large Masses in Washington D.C. for the March for Life, I was told one year.

After this, we returned to the basilica as the final blessing was given and the procession out began. When I saw the holy father was approaching nearby, I stuck my iPad up and clicked away. But I can't seem to find one that shows him. Well, you know what he looks like. Anyway, here's a picture of everyone taking pictures:

Don't stop reading now -- there's more!

On Sundays at Noon, the Holy Father has the weekly Angelus address; and so we all hung around for that. As with his homily at Mass, he spoke entirely in Italian (except for the Angelus), so you'll have to go elsewhere to find out what he said. But here's a shot of the scene:

If you're wondering where the pope is, do you see the window with the red cloth hanging below it? That's where the holy father spoke from. But they also broadcast it all on big screens in the piazza; so when he gave his blessing, lots of people bowed, not toward the window, where the Successor of Saint Peter actually was! ... but toward the video screens. Weird, but oh well.

After this, our group found our way to a restaurant, had some prosciutto y melone, some pasta, some vino, and even though it broke the rules, cappucino. Then we found our way back up the hill, and I've been working on this post since!

But I must stop now, as I have to get my room in order and get packed.

Oh, didn't I tell you?

Tomorrow, I fly to Malta!

The city of Mary, Paul and John

Let me wrap up my account of our travels in Turkey with a report on our last two days in and around Ephesus.

Ephesus has a triple distinction. First, it was important to Saint Paul, who spent a fair amount of time here, addressed one of his precious letters to this church, and who very much wanted to visit with the church a last time before returning to Jerusalem, where he faced a very uncertain future. Second, it was important to Saint John, for two reasons: he addressed comments to this church in his Apocalypse; and second, it was here he brought the Blessed Mother. John was buried here. And so, Ephesus' third distinction is as the home of our Lady, perhaps even to her death (unless, as one tradition attests, she returned to Jerusalem and died there).

Enough chit-chat, let's see some pictures.

Here's a lovely statue of our Lady that greets you as you drive up a small mountain to her house. This was made possible by the American Society of Ephesus, the project of a gentleman from our Archdiocese: George Quatman. A copy of this statue graces the campus of Lehman High School in Sidney, Ohio.

Mary's House. This structure was built many centuries later, but the foundation dates to our Lady's time. No photographs are allowed inside, but it is a chapel now. Very peaceful.

This is an amazing sight, once you realize what you're seeing. First, on the right, is a spring of water; it's potable. I had a sip. But what's on the left is what is astonishing. Earlier in our trip, we came upon some trees with strips of paper tied to the branches, and we wondered why. Our guide explained that it is a custom of Turkish people to tie prayers in this fashion, originating in paganism, but carrying forward with Muslims. See all those strips of paper? Those are likely to be mostly Muslim Mary's house.

This is the theater in Ephesus. You can read what happened here -- here! -- with Saints Paul and Luke, in Acts 19. It's gripping story. 

Ephesus was the site of an enormous temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Thus, worship of the goddess was a major business for the city. Irked by Paul's preaching, the craftsmen who made copies of the famed, massive image of the goddess housed in the shrine became alarmed and at the behest of Demetrius, a local silversmith, gathered in this theater to protest. Here's what Saint Luke tells us: 

[Demetrios] called a meeting of these and other workers in related crafts and said, “Men, you know well that our prosperity derives from this work. As you can now see and hear, not only in Ephesus but throughout most of the province of Asia this Paul has persuaded and misled a great number of people by saying that gods made by hands are not gods at all. The danger grows, not only that our business will be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be of no account, and that she whom the whole province of Asia and all the world worship will be stripped of her magnificence.”

When they heard this, they were filled with fury and began to shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

The city was filled with confusion, and the people rushed with one accord into the theater, seizing Gaius and Aristarchus, the Macedonians, Paul’s traveling companions.

At this point, Paul arrives on the raucous scene, ready to face the crowd; "but the disciples would not let him"! And Luke tells us, 

Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing, others something else; the assembly was in chaos, and most of the people had no idea why they had come together. 

Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, as the Jews pushed him forward, and Alexander signaled with his hand that he wished to explain something to the gathering. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison, for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Finally, the very cool-headed "town clerk" came forward, and in effect told the crowd, knock it off! Do you want the Romans to come here?

At this point, I can't illustrate the rest of our investigation of these sites with pictures, because my iPad ran out of juice. Which is too bad, because after this, we visited the ruins of the basilica erected here, and which is famous for being the site of the third ecumenical council, at Ephesus, in AD 431. This was the council that condemned the errors of Nestorius, and affirmed the true humanity and divinity of our Savior by affirming Mary the theotokos: God-bearer, or as we usually say, Mother of God.

St. Cyril of Alexandria was at the council, and here's what he described (from the Liturgy of the Hours):

The whole population of the city, from earliest dawn until the evening, stood around in expectation of the council's decision. And when they heard that the author of the blasphemies had been stripped of his rank, they all began with one voice to praise and glorify God.

When the bishops came out of the church, the people led them in torch-light parades, swinging incense, and singing, "Praised be the Theotokos!"

A little later, we visited the site of a basilica erected in honor of the Apostle John. At one time, it was one of the largest churches in Christendom. Now it is a ruin. The grave of the apostle is there, and it's marked; but his remains are not there.

We also stopped to see how Turkish rugs are made and view some of the rugs; but I regret I got no good pictures there. Sorry about that!

I debated telling this next story, but because it gives you a flavor of what Christians face in Turkey, I will. As our group was passing through "passport control" in Istanbul, I presented my passport at one of the desks. The official, in uniform (and with me in my clerical attire) smiled and said, "Martin, you look like a Muslim." I took it as a friendly thing, and smiled uncertainly. My main focus, after all, was to get my passport back and be on my way. Then -- as he's handing back my passport (where all my focus is), he says, Inshallah, one day, you will be." (Inshallah is Arabic for "God willing.")

Since I was focused on my passport, already out of my mouth was "thank you." But I didn't want that to be my response to his second comment. All I could think to say was, "God bless you."

Well, you can imagine many of the things I thought of, later, to say -- but it was too late. Scripture says, don't worry what you say, the Holy Spirit will prompt you. Perhaps, in my case, the Holy Spirit was preventing me from saying any of those other things I thought of! As I say, I'll let you imagine. But as you can guess, I was pretty frosted about that. There's no doubt he said that precisely because I was dressed as a priest.

That said, I want you to know that that -- on our last day -- was the first, and only, adverse thing that happened to us because we were Christians. It won't keep me from returning, and I hope it doesn't keep you from going. But if you go -- and I hope you will -- realize that the Turkish government is hostile to Christianity, despite all attempts to present a different front.

Let me close out my pilgrimage with Saint Paul by returning to two sites we actually visited, here in Rome, before we left for Turkey: first, the church on the site of Paul's martyrdom, and then the place where his body remains to this day.

Here's a view of the church as we were walking toward it. You can't tell, but there are two other churches nearby: on the left is a church used by the Benedictine monks who take care of this site; and on the right, a small church whose reason for existence I can't recall just now. But how Roman! Why have one church on a holy site, when you can have three?

Here's a painting in the sacristy of the church. If you look closely, you can see something a bit gruesome: Paul's head, after it's cut off, bouncing three times. And the result is three springs, giving the site its name: Tre Fontana. You will also see the artist included another tradition: that when Paul's head was severed, what came forth was not blood, but milk.

In any case, there is almost no reason to doubt the whereabouts of Paul's remains. Since antiquity, the faithful have venerated his grave, which became the site of a church erected by Constantine, and modified down through the centuries. Sadly, that church was mostly destroyed by fire in the 19th century, and largely rebuilt by Pope Blessed Pius IX. Here is that church:

And here are the great doors of the basilica. Note they tell the story not only of Paul, but Peter; and though you can't see it in the picture above, Peter is in a niche on the left of the front of the church, balancing a statue of Paul on the right, which is visible. And, yes, that's Paul also in the center of the courtyard.

And here is where Paul's bone lie -- under the high altar.

(FYI, if you're wondering why some are wearing earphones, that's a system that allows a tour guide to give guidance more quietly to his group; these folks aren't listening to iTunes!)

You may wonder, how do we know these are Paul's very bones? Well, there's no absolute proof -- such as a copy of his will; but a test of the contents of the grave reveal human remains that date to the time. And the place has always been venerated as his grave. Someone from his time is buried there.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Journeys in Turkey

Sorry for the "radio silence" this week; our group of priests was moving about quite a bit, ultimately covering about 2200 kilometers/1300 miles, from Antakya (Antioch), in south-central Turkey, near the Syrian border, to Kusadasi/Selcuk area, which is where the (well preserved) ruins of Ephesus are.

We're actually back in Rome now; it's about 9 am on Saturday, the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter; yesterday was a travel day, and we arrived back at the residence between 6:30 and 7 pm.

So let me pick up the thread of the journey where I left off, and see what I can pull out of my collection of photos...

Here I am, offering Holy Mass at the Church of Saint Anthony, in Mersin, Turkey, on Sunday:

It would have been lovely to have offered Holy Mass in Tarsus, Saint Paul's birthplace, but that's not allowed. The church there is a museum. There are three sisters there; the government graciously allows them to live there, and look after the pilgrims, but that's it.

Here we are visiting an historic mosque in Konya (called Iconium in Saint Paul's time), next to a shrine to a revered Sufi philosopher and poet. As you can see, we're removing our shoes before entering. The entryway was curious. Behind the rug is a proper door, but this was open, and they had a wooden stand of some sort that props up the rug as you can see. The rug itself was very heavy.

Here's the inside of the mosque. It was not prayer time when we visited, and our guide explained various things. As you can see, the building is having some work done; as a result, he couldn't point out to us the special niche that tells worshippers which way to Mecca. Muslims, when they pray, face Mecca.

Here's one of the many rugs that covered the floor. Note the illustration, showing the Ka'aba, in Mecca, the holiest of Muslim shrines.

(By the way, despite the rugs, the floor was very cold.)

After this, we visited the shrine of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, also known as Rumi.

This complex was, at one time, a kind of monastery for the sect commonly known as the Dervishes, or the Whirling Dervishes, for a kind of dance they do; it is actually a kind of prayer.

If you think the secular government of Turkey is hard on Christians -- and it is -- consider this; since 1925, this religious group had it's one and only sacred site confiscated by the government (and turned into a museum); and the group itself is outlawed. Oh, they're allowed to perform their a tourist attraction only. Imagine being told, "oh, you can have Holy Mass--but only for tourists."

Hmm...apparently I didn't snap any other pictures from the complex, other than this. Can you guess what this is?

My understanding is that Muslims will wash their feet before prayers; and that's what this is for. No, it's not a baptismal font; but wouldn't it make a splendid one?

In the background, you can see two sides of the courtyard; the door on the left leads to the common refectory/dining room; the doors toward the right are to the various cells/rooms used by the members of the order.

Because we were trying to connect with the world Saint Paul knew, we visited lots of ruins. LOTS of ruins. I've always been fascinated with the Roman world, but I think I've had my fill of them for awhile.

When you see the grandeur of what they built, you can't help be in awe. But then when you consider how they were built -- with slaves working, well, like slaves -- it's very sobering. Imagine someone looking in a thousand years admiring the ruins of, say, Beijing or Pyongyang; the difference being that the Romans were much better builders than the communists of our time.

Here are some of the ruins we saw:

Listening to Acts 13, describing Saint Paul's sermon to Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia. I didn't take any more interesting pictures!
The gate of Sardis. This is one of the seven cities to which Saint John addressed admonitions in the Book of Revelation.
Sardis has a fascinating history, which you can read at Wikipedia here. In Sardis we visited one of the best preserved, ancient synogogues of that period:

Courtyard leading to the synogogue. Beyond it, you can see just the top of the remains of the gymnasium, partly reconstructed.

This niche may have been the ark for the Torah Scrolls.
After Sardis, we visited the ruins of Hierapolis. This is noteworthy for a fairly recent discovery
: what may be the grave of Saint Philip the Apostle. Here's a photo:

(Sorry not to get a closer look--but it was really, really far up the hill! Saint Philip's remains are now in Rome, in the Church of the Twelve Apostles.)

One of the curious things about Hierapolis was the way the local water sources both wrecked the city and also created a natural wonder. The water is heavy in calcium, with the result that it leaves heavy deposits wherever it goes. The ruins of the city were caked in heavy layers of the stuff, and you could see where the water -- that once fed massive fountains in the city -- had created new channels across the area in the centuries since.

But the water also created a wonder: cliffs and terraces of brilliant white carbonate. Here are some pictures of this.

This series of pools, fed by the hot springs, leads down to the bottom of the hill. The pools, however, are extremely slippery.
Another view of Pamukkale ("Cotton Castle" in Turkish). The stone formations are extremely painful to walk on in bare feet!
Most of us paused to soak our feet in the hot springs that create this wonder; one chose to soak his head.
I don't recall just where I took this picture, but this is a striking contrast. In the foreground is an ancient Roman road, built over an even more ancient road belonging to the Kingdom of Lydia. To the left shows several feet of soil and stone that accumulated over the road in the millenia since. And in the background is the current road, that runs along the same route, just shifted slightly to the south. (The second picture gives a fuller explanation.)

To close out this post, I'll share this last image. If you look closely, you'll see one of our priests standing in the shadows to the right. That gives you perspective.

Let me explain this image. This was a temple, and these two columns were the only ones left standing. All around the temple were stumps of columns, as you see here, as well as the pieces of them. We stood here a bit, puzzling over what we saw:

Were these two pillars reconstructed? If so, it would have taken some serious equipment to do it, and it wouldn't have been easy to get it up onto the hill where this was. If they were reconstructed, why did someone go to the trouble of lining up the stones so exactly, yet not line up the two capitals (note the right one is lined up properly, while the left one is askew). That led us to think that these two were the only ones not knocked or pulled down.

Why knocked or pulled down? Two reasons. First, it was a pagan temple. (The small, brown structure in back, on the right, is a Byzantine-era church.) Second, it was quite common to plunder the ancient sites for building material. That's why the Colosseum in Rome is no longer covered in marble.

As we gazed up at these pillars, we wondered at how hard it would be simply to bring them down. I suppose with quite a lot of horses, maybe? The best leverage would involve having someone climb up those pillars to get a rope toward the top. But all these ages later, those seams between the blocks are remarkably tight. Not an easy climb.

But one more puzzle before I close out this post. (My next post will describe our amazing experiences in Ephesus.) If those columns weren't reconstructed, but are still standing where they were built so long ago, then why is the one capital askew?