Friday, July 31, 2015

Small Square, Prague

 The Small Square, in the historic Old Town of Prague, is in contrast with the neighbouring Old Town Square. A fountain with a handmade hammered Renaissance latticework dominates the Small Square. The original functional water well is located below the fountain.

The hammered latticework from 1560 is most likely the work of court smith Jörge Schmidhammer. The edges of the latticework end with angels and is topped with a poppy-head and the Czech Lion. The owner of the former hardware store J. V. Rott initiated and financed the expensive restoration of the latticework.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

St Paisios in Margate

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Archangel Michael[1], in Margate, East England, welcomed, on Tuesday 28th July, a new icon of St Paisios of the Holy Mountain. The holy icon was painted in the Monastery of Gregoriou on Mount Athos. It was brought to England by Archimandrite Philotheos Gregoriatis. Fr Philotheos comes to England every summer, where he ministers a number of Orthodox communities in the Midlands.

Upon the entrance of the sacred icon of St Paisios, the Pasaclesis of St Paisios was sung. Afterwards, Fr Philotheos gave a beautiful spiritual talk on his personal experiences from his interaction with the new Saint in Orthodoxy. Many Orthodox faithful were present at this event, coming from Margate, East England, London and Birmingham. The event was followed by a small reception behind the Church, where coffee, tea and cakes were given to everyone present. St Paisios is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on the 12th July.

[1] For more information on the Orthodox Church in Margate please visit:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Battle of Britain – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The new Royal Mail First Day Cover is dedicated to The Battle of Britain, celebrating its 75th anniversary. By mid June 1940, Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France had been conquered by Nazi Germany, leaving (among other countries) Britain and her Empire undefeated. As Prime Minister Winston Churchill refused to contemplate surrender, Hitler ordered preparations for an invasion of Britain: ‘Operation Sealion’. However, ‘Sealion’ could not proceed until the RAF had been defeated.
The Luftwaffe, led by Hermann Goering, boasted 2.500 aircraft, while Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding’s Fighter Command possessed only 700 fighters. Fortunately, Dowding had created an advanced air defence system, utilising radar, which allowed him to conserve his outnumbered squadrons. This system divided Britain into regional ‘Groups’. Air Vice-Marshall Keith Park’s 11Group, defending London and the south-east, would see most of the fighting.

The Battle of Britain opened in early July with German attacks on Channel convoys. Having probed the defences, Hitler ordered the defeat of the RAF prior to the launch of ‘Sealion’, eventually set for 15 September. From 13 August – ‘Eagle Day’ – the Luftwaffe assaulted Fighter Command in the air and on the ground. The RAF inflicted heavy losses on the enemy, but between 24 August and 6 September 300 fighters were destroyed and 11 Group’s airfields were severely damaged by bombing. Worse, 230 pilots were casualties and there were not enough trained replacements. With Fighter Command seemingly near defeat, Hitler changes tactics.
On 7 September, 300 German bombers and 600 fighters raided London. The bombers caused serious damage and killed 400 civilians, but with the change of target, pressure was taken off Park’s airfields, allowing the RAF to recover and regroup. On 15 September - commemorated as Battle of Britain Day – Fighter Command repulsed two massive raids on the capital, downing 60 enemy aircraft. It was clear that the Luftwaffe could not beat the RAF. Two days later, Hitler postponed ‘Sealion’ indefinitely.
German air raids continued into May 1941, causing widespread destruction and over 40.000 deaths, but Fighter Command had won the battle in September 1940. The RAF’s victory ensured Britain’s survival as a rallying point and strategic base from which the invasion and liberation of Europe could be launched.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Forgiveness as an idea

My favourite quote on the idea and the praxis of forgiveness is one, written by C.S. Lewis, who had said: ‘Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.’ This is a powerful phrase, brining closer the theory and the action of actually forgiving ourselves and others. As all the great ideas and ideals, forgiveness is a much quoted word, which maintains a very deep exegesis. It’s not only a Christian ideal, it is a word and a virtue many people from varied backgrounds wish to promote and live by. Some wise words on forgiveness are the following:

‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ Mahatma Gandhi.
‘We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.
‘Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.’ J F Kennedy.
‘All major religious traditions carry basically the same message: that is love, compassion and forgiveness; the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.’ Dalai Lama.
‘You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, “I forgive. I’m finished with it.”’ Maya Angelou.
‘Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.’ Indira Gandhi.
‘Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.’ Desmond Tutu.
‘Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.’ Oscar Wilde.

‘Because forgiveness is like this: a room can be dark because you have closed the windows, you’ve closed the curtains. But the sun is shining outside, and the air is fresh outside. In order to get that fresh air, you have to get up and open the window and draw the curtains apart.’ Desmond Tutu.

Monday, July 27, 2015

St Panteleimon Orthodox Church, Methymna – Lesvos

St Panteleimon Orthodox Church in the town of Methymna, on the Greek island of Lesvos, was built in 1844 by the local population. St. Panteleimon, a doctor saint, is very much venerated across the Orthodox world, uniting Church and science.
St. Panteleimon lived around 301 AD in the town of Nicomedia in Asia Minor during the reign of King Maximianos. He learned the Greek language and studied medicine.

His father Efstorgios was a pagan and his mother, Efvouli was a devout Christian. Pantoleontas, as he was then called, was baptised by St. Ermolaos, a Christian priest at Nikomedia who later was sentenced to death for his Christian beliefs, after a period of being taught about Christianity, Jesus and the Bible. One day Pantoleontas saw in the street a child lying dead after being bitten by a poisonous snake. He immediately recalled the Christian teachings of St. Ermolaos and thought to himself: "If Jesus Christ fulfils my request for the child to rise and the snake to die I will not want any further proof of what St. Ermolaos is teaching me and I will become Christian." He then prayed for the child to rise and his prayers were answered. The child awakened and the snake was cut into pieces and vanished.
After he was baptised he went on to heal and cure illnesses both curable and incurable, receiving no money for his services and sometimes sharing any money he had with the poor. This brought hatred by the more senior doctors against him and led to his arrest by the Kings' soldiers.

The King at first tried to convert him with many promises but Pantoleontas remained firm to his Christian beliefs. This upset and angered the King who ordered his torture and eventual but painful death. Pantoleontas was ripped with iron nails, burned with candles, dipped into molten lead, thrown into the sea with a rock tied to his neck, put to the wildest of animals, tied around a heavy rolling wheel and had miraculously survived all these tortures with the help and faith in Jesus Christ. He was then tied up on an olive tree for the ordered execution but when the sword was raised it melted like butter in a hot oven. The soldiers were frightened. Pantoleontas prayed for their forgiveness. A voice was then heard saying from above: "From now on you will be named Panteleimon, because you forgave everyone including your enemies. Those who call on your name shall receive mercy and help." Saint Panteleimon then insisted that the executioner proceeds with his orders to execute him. Thus Saint Panteleimon was beheaded on the 27th July. This day has been dedicated to his memory since.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

St Paraskevi Orthodox Church, Lesvos

Saint Paraskevi Orthodox Church (depicted here) is a small church building, next to the important museum, dedicated to Theofilus, the most famous painter of Lesvos. Located within the forest area, it is surrounded by countless olive trees.
Saint Paraskevi, The Parthenomartyr, July 26th, was born in a village near Rome during the reign of Hadrian (117-138 AD). Her parents were the pious Christians Agathonikos (Agathon) and Politea. Her parents prayed fervently for a child, and God finally blessed their piety. They gave great honour to Friday, the day of Our Lord's suffering. Being born on this day, her parents named her Paraskevi ("Friday" in Greek, but literally "preparation").

St Paraskevi obtained an excellent education from both secular and Scriptural teachers. She was also very knowledgeable in the field of philosophy. Bolstered by her Christian upbringing, she often conversed with other women about Christianity, trying to strengthen their faith in this new religion. Many distinguished families wanted this beautiful, educated and rich woman to marry their sons. Her understanding and kindness made her even more desirable. However having a higher goal in life, St Paraskevi rejected any marriage proposals.
When she was 20 years old, both her parents died leaving her as the sole heir to the family fortune. St Paraskevi did not use her fortune for herself. Filled with the spirit of Christ and Christian ideals, she sold all her worldly possessions using the money to relieve human suffering. There was a portion retained to a community treasury that supported a home for reverent virgins who stayed in a kenobion, a type of commune like a contemporary monastery. These women prayed and fasted doing charitable works. They preached primarily to Hebrew and idol worshiping women giving them an opportunity to learn about Christian salvation.

She left Rome at the age of 30 and began her holy mission, passing through many cities and villages. St Paraskevi’s activities occurred during a period that the Jews and Romans persecuted the Christian religion with the greatest intensity. Antoninus Pius (138-161) ruled Rome at this time, and he did not execute Christians without a trial. She was not caught immediately or put to death. Instead, Antoninus protected Christians against the blind mania of the Jewish and Roman inhabitants. Christians could only be brought to trial if another citizen lodged a formal complaint against them. Antoninus however had to repeal this law because of the many disasters which had befallen Rome and which were blamed on the Christians.
Strong in faith, learning, and eloquence, Paraskevi spoke persuasively to her fellow Roman citizens, leading them from idolatry to faith in Christ. Eventually, Antoninus heard of St. Paraskevi's holy mission. Upon her return to Rome, several Jews filed complaints about her and Antoninus summoned her to his palace to question her. Attracted by her beauty and humility he tried with kind words to make her denounce her faith, even promising to marry her and make her an empress. Angered by her refusal he had a steel helmet, lined with nails and compressed on her head with a vice. It had no effect on the Saint and many who witnessed this miracle converted to Christianity. Thrown into prison, Paraskevi asked God to give her the strength to face the terror that awaited her. Antoninus again continued her torture by having her hung by her hair and at the same time burning her hands and arms with torches. The Saint suffered greatly, but had the will not to submit to the pain. Antoninus then prepared a large cauldron of oil and tar, boiled the mixture and then had Paraskevi immersed in it. Miraculously she stood in it as if she was being refreshed rather than burned. Angered, Antoninus thought that she was using witchery to keep the contents cooled. Antoninus then approached the cauldron only to be blinded by the hot steam and searing emissions coming from the area. At this moment the mighty emperor asked for the intervention of St Paraskevi to heal him from this affliction to which she responded:
“Emperor, the Christian God is healing you from the blindness that was given to you as a punishment”.
Immediately, he regained his sight. Humbled by the miracle he freed the Saint, allowing her to continue her missionary activity and ended all persecutions against the Christians throughout the Roman Empire.
From this episode it is clear to the Christians that St Paraskevi has the intercessional ability to help people with visual ailments. This period was brief. After Antoninus' death in 161, a plague broke out throughout the empire. Romans took it as a sign from their gods that they were angered by the tolerance of Christianity. Under Antoninus' successor, Marcus Aurelius (161-180), the laws dealing with "non-believers" were changed and the persecutions against the Christians resumed.
Despite these dangers, Paraskevi persevered in her missionary endeavours, spreading the Gospel wherever she travelled. By authority of emperor Aurelius the provincial eparchs Asclepius and Tarasios captured St Paraskevi. Having refused Asclepius’ demands to sacrifice to pagan gods, she was thrown into a snake pit. The Saint made the Sign of the Cross over the serpent and the serpent perished. Asclepius had heard of the Saint’s previous miracles, realized that a great and mighty power guarded Paraskevi and decided to set her free while Asclepius and his court were all converted.
Tarasios however was less tolerant. St Paraskevi was tied and beaten and afterwards imprisoned and a huge rock placed on her chest. She prayed to Christ to help her be strong. The next morning Paraskevi was taken willingly to the Temple of Apollo. Everyone praised Tarasios, thinking that he had succeeded in breaking St Paraskevi's faith. However, upon entering the temple, the Saint raised her hand and made the sign of the cross. Suddenly, a loud noise was heard and all the idols in the temple were destroyed. The priests and idolaters dragged her from the altar, beat her, and pushed her out of the temple. The priests demanded that Tarasios kill Paraskevi. She was convicted and condemned to death by beheading.

It was customary to give the condemned their last wish. She asked to be left alone for a few moments so that she might pray for the last time. Afterwards, the Roman soldiers returned and executed the Saint.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Evil Eye

Every nation in the world has a number of superstitions, which exist thousands of years now. One of these superstitious beliefs, existing in many countries and cultures is the evil eye. The Evil Eye tree depicted here is from Cappadocia, central Turkey; however, this is a belief that many Greeks also maintain. Therefore, we see that a Christian and a Muslim culture believes in the same thing, i.e. the evil eye. 

The belief in the evil eye is evident not only in villages but also in big cities. People believe that someone can catch the evil eye from someone else’s jealous compliment or envy. A person who has caught the evil eye usually feels bad physically and psychologically. In order to get rid of the evil eye, a special prayer has to be said, relieving the person from any pain and the bad effects of the evil eye. Those who believe in this superstition also wear a charm, a little blue bead with an eye painted on it. Blue is believed to be the colour that wards off the evil eye, but it is also believed that people with blue eyes are most possible givers of the evil eye. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

"Is it important to know Greek and Hebrew when studying the Bible?"

Reading Holy Scripture in English can be problematic, especially for the Orthodox who tend to accept only one version of it, i.e. the King James Version. However, this can be contested too. With the New King James Version, do we (Orthodox) stick to the original King James Version or can we adopt the new one. When quoting Scripture, there are many ways of expressing what the original means. However, this creates problems. Therefore, is knowing the original languages used in Holy Scripture important for truly understanding the Word of God? Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, wrote the following in regard to the importance of understanding Greek and Hebrew when studying the Scriptures: "The languages are the sheath in which the sword of the Spirit is contained." God sovereignly chose to have His Word written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament).

An example of this is the "aspect" of Greek verbs. English verbs have tenses—past, present, and future. Greek verbs have these same tenses, but they also have what is known as "aspect." Present-tense Greek verbs mean more than the action is occurring presently. A Greek verb can also carry the meaning that the action is occurring continually or repeatedly. This is lost in English unless the aspect word "continually" or "repeatedly" is added to the translation along with the verb. A specific example of this is Ephesians 5:18, " filled with the Spirit." In the original Greek, this verse is telling us to continually be filled with the Spirit. It is not a one-time event—it is a lifelong process. This "aspect" is lost in the English translation.
Someone does not have to know Hebrew and Greek in order to understand the Bible. God's intended message for us is accurately communicated in English. You can have confidence that God can reveal the meaning of His Word to you without your knowing Greek and Hebrew.
Perhaps this is a good analogy: reading the Bible without knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a 20" television, while reading the Bible knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a 65" LED 1080p HDTV with stereo surround sound. You can understand what is going on with the 20" television, but the 65" LED HDTV with stereo surround sound gives added depth and clarity. With the help of the Holy Spirit, anyone can accurately understand the Bible in English. However, knowing Hebrew and Greek helps to better understand the nuances and richness of the biblical texts.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

St Anthony Roman Catholic Church, Istanbul

St. Anthony Church, also known as St Anthony of Padua, may be the most famous Roman Catholic Church in Istanbul, especially due to its prominent location near the centre of Istiklal Caddesi.  Established in 1724, the original church was unfortunately demolished in the beginning of the twentieth century to make way for the construction of a new tramway.  However, renowned architects Giulio Mongeri and Edoardo de Nani came together to design the current building, and in 1912 the church was re-opened for worship.

Constructed in the form of a Latin cross, St. Anthony reflects neo-gothic and Tuscan-Lombard styles; the crypt, situated below the main sanctuary, is of Romanesque origin.  The church is filled with various works of art, including a gilded wooden statue of St. Anthony by Luigi Bresciani, and two mosaics that depict the Baptism of the Lord and the Supper at Emmaus.

St. Anthony of Padua is perhaps the most celebrated disciple of St. Francis of Assisi.  Born in Lisbon in 1195, he was renowned as a famous preacher and worker of miracles while alive.  He is generally pictured with a book and the Infant Child Jesus, who appeared to him in a vision. Outside the church one finds the statue of Pope John XXIII, entitled ‘To Pope John XXIII, Friend of the Turkish People.’

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Conference - Unwedded Bride: Marian Hymns in the Eastern Churches

The Centre for Marian Studies and the Orthodox Network are organising a two-day conference on the Mother of God in the Orthodox and Oriental Churches, at the University of Winchester (18th-20th August 2015).
The earliest evidence for devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary comes from the Greek and Oriental churches, and the writings of the early authors of Eastern Christianity have influenced the cult of the Mother of God in both East and West. The Western church in recent decades has seen an upsurge of interest in the liturgy and theology of the East, and this conference will draw together scholars from both sets of traditions and from the secular academy to consider the rich Marian inheritance of Byzantine, Near Eastern and non-Chalcedonian Christians, with a focus on the tradition of hymnody.
Speakers who have agreed to address the conference include Andrew Louth (Durham University), Niki Tsironis (Institute for Byzantine Research, Athens), Pierre Najem (Notre Dame University, Lebanon) and Sebastian Brock (University of Oxford).

The location for the conference is the beautiful city of Winchester, which has a long Christian (and specifically Marian!) history. Winchester is easily accessible from London and Oxford, and the University of Winchester provides excellent conference facilities and residential accommodation.

Call for papers
Papers are invited on the main conference theme, but contributions on other aspects of the cult of the Mother of God in the East will also be considered. The topics may concern any period of church history, and may be in any relevant discipline – theology, liturgy, anthropology, art history, literary studies or politics.

Fee for the full conference: £230, including full board and lodging for the first day (Tuesday 18th-Wednesday 19th), and half board (without dinner) for the second day (Wednesday 19th-Thursday 20th).
Day 1 only: £90 including dinner.
Day 2 only: £70 without dinner.
Cheques should be made payable to the Centre for Marian Studies. A reduced fee may be available on request.

Enquiries should be addressed to either
Dr Andreas Andreopoulos (University of Winchester),
or Dr Sarah Jane Boss (Centre for Marian Studies, University of Roehampton),
Email:, Telephone 07977 192458.

A draft programme is the following:

Tuesday 18th
2.p.m. onwards.  Registration
3.30.  Tea
4.00.-5.00.  Sebastian Brock:  'Bride of Light:  Mary in the hymns of the Syriac Churches'
5.00.-5.45.  Bronwen Neil: ‘Mary as Selective Intercessor for Souls in Hades in Middle Byzantine Apocalyptic’
5.45-6.30.  Richard Price: ‘The Mother of God in the Russian Spiritual Verses’
6.30.  Evening prayer
7.00.  Supper

Wednesday 19th

9.15.a.m.  Stephen Shoemaker: ‘The Mother of God in the Jerusalem Chant Book’;  Olga Grinchenko: ‘Hymns to the Mother of God found in the Slavonic Kontakaria and their Byzantine counterparts’;  Ephrem Lash: ‘Images of the Mother of God in Orthodox hymns’
11.15.  Coffee
11.45.  Pierre Najem [Near or Middle Eastern texts]
12.45.  Lunch
2.30.p.m. Brian Reynolds: ‘Patristic Echoes in Dante’s Mariology’;
Kevin Alban: ‘Some Eastern theological aspects of Carmelite Mariology’; and Sarah Jane Boss: ‘Theophanes of Nicaea’s On the Holy Mother of God as a foundation for Mariology’
4.30.  Tea
5.00. Nikolaos Loudovikos: ‘Mary in the work of Nikolas Kavasilas’
6.30.  Evening prayer

Thursday 20th

9.15.a.m.  Andrew Louth:  ‘The Mother of God in the theology of Fr Sergii Bulgakov’
10.15.  Niki Tsironi:  ‘The Mother of God in the thought and homilies of Anthony of Sourozh’
11.15.  Coffee
11.45. Andreas Andreopoulos: ‘The Significance of Mary for Modern

12.45.  Lunch

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Galata Tower

Galata Tower is one of the eye catching land marks of Istanbul, being the tallest building when it was built in 1348 AD, during an expansion of the Genoese colony in Constantinople. The tower was named Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) by the Genoese, whilst being known as Μεγάλος Πύργος (The Great Tower) by the Byzantines.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the first tower in Constantinople, since it was built to replace the Old Tower of Galata, which controlled the northern end of the huge sea chain that closed the entrance to the Golden Horn Bay.

This tower has functioned as an observatory and a prison, during the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. Nevertheless, today it is a popular tourist attraction, with a restaurant and a café on its upper floors, which command a Panoramic view of Istanbul and the Bosporus.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Prophet Elijah Orthodox Church, Athens

Prophet Elijah Orthodox Church in Pagkrati, near the centre of Athens, was built between 1929 and 1950. It is a Cross shaped Basilica with a dome. In 1942 it was consecrated by Archbishop of Athens and Regent Damaskinos.

An interesting fact, especially for the Pontian Greeks (i.e. the Greeks who lived in modern day Northern Turkey, before the population exchange of 1922) is that the priest who served at this Church, during the 1920s, is the one who travelled to Pontos (Northern Turkey) and retrieved the holiest icon of the Pontian Greeks, i.e. the icon of the Mother of God of Soumela (Panagia Soumela). This was a great achievement, allowing for millions of Greeks to be able to relate to their lost traditions, culture, language, music, which they had whilst still living in their homeland, in Pontos, uniting them in their new homeland, in mainland Greece.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Person and the Individual: Solitude and Loneliness, Study Day in Oxford

The Women’s Ministries Initiative is organising a Study Day Series on Anthropology and Theology. Its next event is entitled ‘The Person and the Individual: Solitude and Loneliness’. The event will take place on the 17th October 2015 in Oxford, Lady Margaret Hall. There you will be able to enjoy a real coffee with Sister Vassa in Oxford!
You may be familiar with the YouTube sensation “Coffee with Sister Vassa” but now is your opportunity to have a real cup of coffee with her. You will also learn from two of the most eminent Orthodox Theologians in the UK, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware and Father Andrew Louth of Durham University. The Women’s Ministries Initiative is hosting its second study day, looking at themes of Personhood, Individualism, Solitude and Loneliness.

Speakers: Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (Oxford),
Sister Vassa Larin (Vienna) and Prof Andrew Louth (Durham)
From 10am – arrivals, registration, tea and coffee ( Talbot Hall, LMH )
10:30 – Welcome and Presentation on Women’s Ministries Initiative
11:00 – Metropolitan Kallistos Ware – Introduction to the Topic
11:30 – Sr Vassa Larin: ‘Solitude vs. Loneliness in the Age of the Internet’ + discussion afterwards
13:00 – Lunch
14:00 – Prof Andrew Louth: ‘Philosophical Approaches to Personhood: East and West’ + discussion
16:00 - Departure

The cost of the study day without lunch/coffe is £15, (£10 for students) or £5 for subscribed members of Women’ Ministries Initiative (with just coffee and tea at LMH +£3.60 or with coffee/tea/refreshments and sandwich lunch +£18.72). For registration and membership enquiries please contact Dr Elena Narinskaya. Please register in advance ( Membership forms can be send via e-mail on request

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Basilica Cistern, Constantinople

The Basilica Cistern in Constantinople, located next to the imposing Church of Saint Sophia, was constructed in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinian. It is one of the most delightful and in many respects magical treasures in the city. Amazingly preserved, despite centuries of conflict and siege, the cistern was built 532 AD in order to store fresh water for the palace and nearby buildings. Nicknamed Yearbatan Sarayi, or “The Sunken Palace” in Turkish, it is known in English as the “Basilica Cistern” because of its location on the site of an ancient basilica.

The Basilica Cistern is 70 m. in width and 140 m. in length. The dome, covering an area of 9800 m2, is supported by 336 marble columns arranged in 12 rows, each consisting of 28 columns, placed at a distance of 4m 90 cm from one another. The columns, which support the whole underground Basilica Cistern, follow mainly the Corinthian styles, with the exception of a number of Doric columns. The Cistern’s water was provided from the Belgrade Woods, 19 Km North of the city, via aqueducts built by Emperor Justinian.

The two giant Gorgon-head pillar bases at the far end of the cistern are an intriguing mystery. It is suspected that they may have been pulled out of an older pagan temple, where motifs of the famous Gorgon Medusa were used as a protective emblem. It is possible that the placement of these two faces – upside down and sideways, at the base of pillars – may have been a deliberate display of the power of the new Christian Empire. Or it’s possible that the stones were just the right size. According to another theory, the Medusas and some columns found in the cistern came from the Temple of Artemis in Asia Minor, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Old Town Square, Prague

The Old Town Square is one of two main squares in Prague. With its ancient buildings and magnificent churches, this is one of the most beautiful historical sites in Europe. The Old Town Square is undoubtedly the true heart of the Czech capital, dating back from the 12th century and started life as the central marketplace for Prague. Over the centuries buildings of Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styles were erected around the market, each bringing with them stories of wealthy merchants and political intrigue.

At the centre of the Old Town Square is the Jan Hus statue, erected on the 6th July 1915 to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformer’s death. The rise of people supporting his beliefs during the 14th and 15th centuries led to the Hussite wars.  It shows two groups of people, a young mother symbolising national rebirth and the figure of Hus emphasising the moral authority of the man who gave up his life rather than his beliefs. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow

St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow is a unique museum, exploring the significance of religion in people’s lives across the world and across time. The Museum is named after Glasgow’s patron saint, who brought the Christian faith to Scotland in the 6th century AD. The museum’s objective is to promote understanding and respect between people of different faiths and of none, offering something for everyone. The museum sits across from Provand’s Lordship, which is the oldest house in Glasgow, and alongside the medieval Glasgow Cathedral. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Importance of the Body

A number of heresies have occurred whereby they state that Christ did not actually have a body. These docetic and monophysitical (by this I mean those who believe in his humanity alone and not the reality that He is the Son of God, the Second hypostasis within the Trinity) views have existed since the first centuries of Christianity. On the other hand, many within the Church still promote the importance of the soul in contrast to the significance of the body. However, this does not coincide with the soteriological and anthropological importance of the human being, as seen in Orthodox Theology. A human is not just body or just spirit, we are a combination of both body and soul. Fr John Behr, in his book The Mystery of Christ,Life in Death, gives an important explanation on the centrality of the body, claiming that

‘The body is our means of knowing the Word of God, for he has revealed himself in and through the body. In doing so, the Word of God, the crucified and exalted Jesus Christ, has also demonstrated a way of being embodied, being human, towards which we must strive to become human ourselves. As such, the body is of prime importance in the spiritual struggle and is ultimately itself the “handiwork” fashioned by God in and through the struggle, and so, that in which God is glorified.’ (p.151). 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Daniel Pantanassa Church, Cappadocia

Many Orthodox Churches in Cappadocia are named by the Turks, who had to find names, since the original dedications to each Church were not known. This has created many misunderstood names and many unique ones. One way of naming them was to find an icon (or icons) of a Saint, or an event from a Saint’s life. If this was not possible, they woThe Church is a uld make up a name. This is the case in this Church, whereby we have to very different dedications, i.e. St Daniel and Pantanassa, the latter being one of the epithets given to the Mother of God. In fact the official name given by the Turks is Pantonassa, understanding the title given to the Theotokos wrongly.

The Church of Daniel Pantanassa is located in Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia. The Church is cruciform in plan. The central part is covered by dome with high drum and cross arms are covered by tunnel vaults. Some pre-iconoclastic frescoes exist, where the cross is dominant. Additionally, there are more frescoes dating from the 9th to the 11th centuries, depicting a number of occasions from Jesus’ life, whilst also depicting St Daniel among the lions in the pediment.