Steady Girl

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Vicki holds the cruise ship Celebrity Reflection against the pier in Rhodes Harbor (Greece) while other passengers board. This and other amazing adventures will be reported here on Bible Land Explorer in the near future.

In the meantime, it’s back to work.

We returned home safely last night.


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We are cooling our heels stateside for just a moment. Next group up is New Life Christian Church from Chantilly, Virginia. We will be traveling with these fine folk over the Thanksgiving break (Nov 19-29). Brett Andrews, Sean Cronin and Pat Furgerson will share teaching responsibilities. For more on this upcoming opportunity, see New Life’s website here.

An archaeologist's rig (part 11)

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Hiding behind the camo is a 1990-issue Land Rover. She helps to keep the city of Rome free from the bad guys. The nearby soldier was protective at first but once he realized I was a true Rover aficionado, he warmed up. Bravo to Italian security!


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We have many travel experiences to Bible Lands planned in 2019 (see list here). These are often organized on behalf of educational institutions or for church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

Bubble man

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Ropes and sticks produce millions of bubbles (or even one giant one!) in the hands of an expert. This expert keeps the crowd entertained near the Fountain of Four Rivers in downtown Rome (Piazza Navona).

The area is a public plaza today, but people used to come here for a different spectacle. In the late first century this was the site of the Stadium of Domitian. People came to see the “games” or agones (the source of our word “agony”), hence its ancient name, the Circus Agonalis.

The last pilgrim cruceiro

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Over the course of the last few days we have been thinking about the monuments in northwest Spain known as the cruceiro (see here, here, and here). The one pictured here rises near the lighthouse on Cape Fisterra. It overlooks the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the zero-marker for those following the Camino to this cape at the “end of the world” (more on this another day).

A Portuguese inscription on the pedestal of this cruceiro reads, “CRUZ DA COSTA DA MORTE 1987.” It is a “Crucifix of the Coast of Death 1987,” a recent addition to the assembly of wayside crosses in the Galician hills.


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We have many travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are often organized on behalf of educational institutions or for church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

Protestant shock?

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At the entrance to the community of Fuentesnuevas I encountered a traditional Galician cruceiro. It rose from a base that incorporated a water fountain (a welcome feature indeed!), grew to a slender shaft and was topped with a crucifix bearing figures. On one side hung the crucified Christ; on the other, where I expected a Virgin Mary to reside, stood the figure of St James.

His head was lifted to the sky. In his hand he held a staff with drinking gourd attached. He was a pilgrim, like me, on the Camino de Santiago or St. James Trail.

As previously pointed out (see here) the widespread appearance of the cruceiro in Europe falls between the 16th and 18th centuries. The responsible parties memorialized loved ones and undoubtedly received indulgences from the church for their efforts. But beyond these things, one must also recall that the age of the cruceiro is also the age of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

The shock of the Protestant movement prompted reformers (like the Jesuits) to promote art as a way to reclaim public trust and to teach Catholic theology. Guidelines for these civic presentations of art grew from the final session of the Council of Trent (read the second decree of the 25th session here).* There, the purpose of religious art is defined as that which excites the adoration of God and the cultivation of piety.

Fuentesnuevas is located on the outskirts of Ponferrada, Spain.


*Just so you know, the practice of dueling was also condemned in the 25th session, so please put away your pistolas.


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The promotion of public art transcends medieval Christianity. Travel is a great way to experience its use in other cultures. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a Bible Land Study-Tour (see list of future trips here) shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.


One of 12,000

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Yesterday I shared an image of a Galician cruceiro from Sarria (see here). While it communicated the texture of the granite from which the crucifix was cut and the iconography of the Christ and Mary figures upon it, it did not capture overall sense of the monument.

I came across this more austere presentation in the town of Portomarín, Spain. It was standing in the courtyard outside the apse of the Iglesia de San Xoán (see our image of the church here). This shot captures the feature design of the traditional Galician cruceiro from ground to sky. At the bottom is the platform and pedestal. Rising from this is the shaft. Atop the shaft is the crucifix. As in Sarria, Christ and Mary are pictured on the crucifix, facing opposite directions. It is tall and slender: perhaps four meters in height.

While no one knows for sure how many cruceiros have survived the ravages of time and traffic in this region of northwest Spain, one estimate suggests there may be as many as 12,000 still standing (see here).

Note the lovely red flower someone left on the base.

Buen Camino!


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We have many travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are often organized on behalf of educational institutions or for church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

Cruceiro

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The monumental public crucifix or cruceiro (pronounced “kroo-THAY-EE-roe”) is a regular feature the Galician landscape. You can find these slender towers in church courtyards, busy intersections, or windswept hills. They are typically cut from granite and date to the period between the 16th and mid-18th centuries. Some are just a simple and empty cross; others are adorned with figures like the one pictured above that I found in the town of Sarria, Spain. On one side is the crucified Christ. On the other is a figure of the Virgin Mary.

The steeple of the Church of Santa Mariña de Sarria rises in the background.

The prompts behind these monuments are many. One is tied to a Catholic belief that time spent in purgatory may be redeemed by pious works. This dogma was famously defined at the fifth session of the Council of Trent in the year 1546 (see here). Erecting a cruceiro was seen as a way to earn indulgences for loved ones or for self.

Similar stone crosses are found on waysides in France and Belgium. There they are known as calvaires.

Buen Camino!


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We have many travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are often organized on behalf of educational institutions or for church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

The end of a thing has come

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The last day for signing up (without penalty) for our 2019 Jesus Trail has arrived! Registrations received after September 25th will incur a late fee of $100. Don’t be caught looking back because you missed this opportunity.

In addition to hiking in Galilee through sites like Nazareth and Capernaum, we’ll be visiting Caesarea-by-the-Sea, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. At $2,588 (including round-trip air between New York and Tel Aviv) this is truly a rich experience at a bargain price.

Dates for the trip are January 8-16, 2019.

For more information contact me TODAY at markziese@gmail.com.

For other information, including the registration form, see here.


Fountain inspection

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Bob inspects a water fountain along the road into Pamplona, Spain. Drinking water is readily available along the Camino. We filled our bottles from open fountains like this each day. Fountains without signs or fountains marked agua potable are safe for drinking. Only occasionally did we find a dry fountain or one marked non potable.

Not once in five weeks of hiking in France and Spain did I struggle with the ol’ traveler’s malady. Of course, going into it with a gutfull of bacteria from the Middle East is pretty good prep.

Buen Camino!


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The Sea of Galilee is at the end of our journey as we hike the Jesus Trail in January, 2019. Following our hike we’ll head south for a quick visit in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. You are most welcome to join us, but realize that the window for signing-up is closing very soon. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

A mountain sanctuary

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The Colegiata de Santa María church in Roncesvalles, Spain, has two origin stories. The first grows from its location; the second is anchored in a memory.

As for location, the structure was erected in the western foot of the Pyrénées to welcome pilgrims who successfully completed the mountain crossing. It was consecrated in AD 1219 as the medieval surge of Santiago-bound travelers was growing.

The memory here is connected to a Marian apparition. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary (La Reina del Pirineo, or “the Queen of the Pyrénées”) once appeared to a child; a structure was built on the spot. Roncesvalles became one of the most important Marian sanctuaries in the region. It is celebrated by folk on both sides of the Spanish/French border to this day. At another point in time (no one knows for sure) a 13th century statue of wood and silver was brought here from Toulouse. Known as Nuestra Señora de Roncesvalles, “Our Lady of Roncesvalles” it was originally hidden behind a curtain. Now it is prominently displayed beneath a canopy on the altar. You can see the canopy in the photograph above, suspended before the stained glass windows.

Buen Camino!


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This synagogue in Capernaum, Israel, is on the list of sites we will be visiting in January, 2019, along the Jesus Trail. Other stops include Nazareth, Cana, and Magdala. You are most welcome to join us, but realize that the window for signing-up is closing very soon. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

The good and the bad (and the ugly)

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With all the fine eats in Spain, you wouldn’t really go to Burger King for lunch, would you?

Maybe.

*Oreos are difference makers.

Buen Camino!

(Photo by Bob)


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There is some pretty good eats in Israel-Palestine if you know where to look. We’ll be walking across Galilee in January of 2019 and aim to find some local food. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

Gateway

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We posted some details about Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France in our most recent story-of-the-week (you really should check it out here). It is a beautiful mountain town located in the shadow of the Pyrénées, just a few miles from the Spanish border. The 17th century Mendiguren Citadel crowns one hillside overlooking the village.

The most celebrated gate of the citadel is the one pictured here. Porte St-Jacques, or the “Gate of Saint James,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a significant feature of the Santiago de Compostela and marks a first engagement with this historic trail for many pilgrims.


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The synagogue of Capernaum, Israel is a prominent feature of the Jesus Trail. We’ll be walking this historic trail in January of 2019. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. If you are interested in joining us click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com. But move quickly, the window for signing-up is closing soon.

Jesus Trail, 2019

  Todd Liles on the Jesus Trail, 2014.

Todd Liles on the Jesus Trail, 2014.

We are excited about walking Galilee again in January, 2019. But if you want to join us, the time to sign on is quickly running out. Our dates of travel are January 8-16, 2019. The cost is $2,588 and those greenbacks will cover your round-trip flight out of New York, all airport transfers, in-country travel, room and board (minus lunches), entrance fees, taxes, etc etc.

The brochure is available here.

Late fees begin to accumulate after September 26, 2018. The last possible moment to join will be October 25, 2018.

If you are interested, shoot me an email TODAY at markziese@gmail.com.

This is going to be fun!

For those who have far to travel

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A quiet road under the morning light stretches between the village of Hontanas and the ruins of the Convent of San Antón. The Spanish Meseta is an appropriate place to remember an Epiphany blessing by Jan Richardson titled, "For those who have far to travel.” It works on the Camino, at home, or in the Christmas story.

. . . .


If you could see the journey whole,
You might never undertake it,
Might never dare the first step that propels you from the place you have known toward the place you know not.

Call it one of the mercies of the road:
That we see it only by stages as it opens before us,
As it comes into our keeping step by single step.

There is nothing for it but to go and by our going take the vows the pilgrim takes:
To be faithful to the next step;
To rely on more than the map;
To heed the signposts of intuition and dream;
To follow the star that only you will recognize; 
To keep an open eye for the wonders that attend the path;
To press on beyond distractions, beyond fatigue beyond what would tempt you from the way.

There are vows that only you will know; the secret promises for your particular path
and the new ones you will need to make when the road is revealed by turns you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them, make them again:
each promise becomes part of the path;
each choice creates the road that will take you to the place where at last you will kneel

to offer the gift most needed—
the gift that only you can give—
before turning to go home by another way.


You can find Jan’s webpage containing this poem here.


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It is not too late to sign on for our hike across Galilee (but it will be soon). This coming January we will be walking portions of the “Jesus Trail.” You are cordially invited to come along. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

Ornamental intersections

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Be sure to look up while exploring the nooks and crannies of the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne.

The cut stones around windows and other openings are exquisitely decorated. Gothic-style demands a pointed arch (that sits nicely against the rib vaults that define the ceiling), but beneath that arch are circles or foils. These foils are perfectly symmetrical and contain still more overlapping circles that imitate leaves or cusps.

The entire opening, often containing stained glass, is called a tracery. It is possible that this name comes from the work of “tracing” out the design on the floor.

I scratch my head. I can hardly imagine the effort of the tracing—much less the work of shaping and stacking stone—to create this kind of visual display.

Buen Camino!


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It is not too late to sign on for our hike across Galilee (but it will be soon). This coming January we will be walking portions of the “Jesus Trail.” You are cordially invited to come along. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

No claustrophobia in this cloister*

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The interior of the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne (in southern France) is fabulous. The exterior ain’t too shabby either.

As described yesterday (see here), the complex is Gothic in its original design. However, the effort to complete it extended well beyond the 16th century, when the irregularities of the Gothic style gave way to the symmetry of Renaissance architecture. Here in Bayonne the steeples were the last of the pieces to rise, finished only in the 19th century. It is truly a multigenerational accomplishment.

Note the row of flying buttresses between the cloister and the drip-edge of the nave.

I shot this view to the steeples from the cloister that adjoins the cathedral. From above, the cloister is a perfect square; a grassy yard is surrounded by covered walks. That was convenient on this day. The rain began to fall from grey skies as Bob and I admired this triumph of stone and glass.

Buen Camino!


*The old Latin term for cloister is claustrum, “enclosure.” The same root gives us our word claustrophobic, “a fear of being closed up.”


It is not too late to sign on for our hike across Galilee (but it will be soon). This coming January we will be walking portions of the “Jesus Trail.” You are cordially invited to come along. Stops include Nazareth, Cana, Magdala, and Capernaum. Click here for more information or email me directly at markziese@gmail.com.

Gothic is not what you expect

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The phrase “Gothic” often conjures up images of a post-punk subculture. Whether it be music or fashion, the term lends itself to all things dark, morbid, pagan, and probably lacey.

All that goes out the stained-glass window when you stand in a Gothic cathedral.

While the play of light and dark are part of the ambience, the architecture is nothing short of brilliant. What we call “Gothic” was “modern style” in 12th and 13th century France. This “modern style” came about as creative solutions to the engineering problems of heavy earthbound structures were explored. Flying buttresses and rib vaulting made it possible for medieval stonemasons to stack stones to to new and dizzying heights. Thinner walls meant more windows to welcome sunlight through millions of colored panes.

A fun way to learn about the development of church architecture from the Romanesque to the Gothic style is to read Ken Follett’s 1989 novel, The Pillars of the Earth.

But if you really want to experience Gothic for yourself, forget the music, the fashion, and the books. Visit a place like Bayonne, France. In the center of town you’ll find the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne. Stand in the crossing where the transept meets the nave and let your eyes soar!

Buen Camino!


We are getting close to finalizing our Jesus Walk planned for January 2019. If you are interested, have a look at the link here. We’ll be trekking through parts of Galilee, experiencing hills and valleys, churches and ruins. At the end of the walk we’ll also spend time in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Send any questions you might have to me at markziese@gmail.com.

Peaceful Bayonet-ville

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This town in southern France may have received its modern name from the Basques. They were the first to use the bayonet, a thrusting blade attached to the end of a firearm. It is possible that this musket modification was sharpened in this peaceful place, hence its name, Bayonne.

Archaeologists have poked the ground here a few times retrieving coins, potsherds, and the remains of what was likely a small Roman fort built along the riverbank (for a POTD on the river and its folk in the time of Julius Caesar see here).

Before it was Bayonne, the place was likely known as Lapurdum. Lapurdum is mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum, a document that describes the Western Roman Empire in the early 5th c AD. At that point in history the region was writhing in the throes of crisis, overrun by Germanic tribes. In case you’re curious, the name of the region at that time was Novempopulania. Take a stab at pronouncing that one.

Buen Camino!


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We have a busy end-of-year scheduled for 2018 and an ambitious travel season planned for 2019. For a sample of what we are cooking, have a look here on our Explorer website. Know that it is often possible to join one of our groups even if your journey originates in a different place. Shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com if you have questions.

The river of a galling folk

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The River Adour is born in the snow of the Pyrénées and flows down to the Bay of Biscay. Here in Bayonne, France, it is broad and powerful. It surges under the bridge where I am standing and in just a few miles will mix with the salty Atlantic.

In the Roman period this was the homeland of a salty people-group known as the Tarbelli. They called the river Aturis. Their land was desired for its gold. Strabo tantalizes us with the observation: you can pick up nuggets here "as big as a fist." They are easily found and require very little refining (check out this link to Strabo's Geography 4.2.1).

According to Julius Caesar, the Tarbelli are one of several groups in Gaul that surrendered to Crassus in 56 BC and sent hostages to Rome (De Bello Gallico 3.27.1). All of these Gallic folk appear fussy and hostile, but much more human than the crazy Germans in the north. Eventually the Tarbelli were "Romanized" as a part of the province of Aquitaine.

Buen caminó!


I posted another picture of Bayonne a while back. See here.


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This is your last call to join us for this year's cruise on the Mediterranean. We will be traveling by sea from Rome to Athens and back again. See the link here for details. Ports of call along the way include Sicily, Malta, and Santorini. If you are interested, you'll need to hustle. The Celebrity Reflection is about to sail!