Monday, January 7, 2013

Aya Sofya in snow Jan 7, 2013

Today's picture of Hagia Sophia in wet snow! (Thank you Lynn Huber, friend and colleague already there.) We'll be there in 10 days. Don't forget to bring (pack or wear) sturdy walking shoes or boots and layers to wear!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople

Patriarch Bartholomew's encyclical of September 1st, 2012 and commitment to environmental activism is the subject of a recent article in the New York Times.

Here are the opening paragraphs of the encyclical:

Beloved brothers and children in the Lord,
         Our God, who created the universe and formed the earth as a perfect dwelling place for humanity, granted us the commandment and possibility to increase, multiply and fulfill creation, with dominion over all animals and plants.
         The world that surrounds us was thus offered to us as a gift by our Creator as an arena of social activity but also of spiritual sanctification in order that we might inherit the creation to be renewed in the future age. Such has always been the theological position of the Holy Great Church of Christ, which is the reason why we have pioneered an ecological effort on behalf of the sacred Ecumenical Throne for the protection of our planet, which has long suffered from us both knowingly and unknowingly.
         Of course, biodiversity is the work of divine wisdom and was not granted to humanity for its unruly control. By the same token, dominion over the earth and its environs implies rational use and enjoyment of its benefits, and not destructive acquisition of its resources out of a sense of greed. Nevertheless, especially in our times, we observe an excessive abuse of natural resources, resulting in the destruction of the environmental balance of the planet’s ecosystems and generally of ecological conditions, so that the divinely-ordained regulations of human existence on earth are increasingly transgressed. For instance, all of us – scientists, as well as religious and political leaders, indeed all people – are witnessing a rise in the atmosphere’s temperature, extreme weather conditions, the pollution of ecosystems both on land and in the sea, and an overall disturbance – sometimes to the point of utter destruction – of the potential for life in some regions of the world.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Orhan Pamuk Interview in the New York Times

Orhan Pamuk was interviewed by the NY Times on Nov 8th. When asked, "What book is on your nightstand right now?" Pamuk replied "Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, subtitled "The Persian Book of Kings" now available in a Penguin CLassics edition. He continues that this book is "a great ocean of stories" that he browses from time to time. At the heart of the epic "is the great warrior Sohrab's search for his father, Rustum (Rostam) who, without knowing that Sohran is his son, kills him in a fight."

The interview continues...
You can bring three books to a desert island. Which do you choose?
Encyclopaedia Britannica’s 1911 edition, the first edition of “Encyclopaedia of Islam” (1913-1936) and Resat Ekrem Kocu’s “Encyclopedia of Istanbul” (1958-1971), which I wrote about in my book “Istanbul,” will keep me busy for 10 years. My imagination works best with facts — especially if they are a bit dated. After 10 years they should pick me up from the desert island to publish the novels I wrote there. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Seven Angels of Revelation by Tiffany

One of the people in our group going to Turkey in January 2013 saw an exhibit recently on the seven angels of Revelation. Thanks to Kerala Snyder for pointing out "In Company with Angels" at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York. The pictures can be seen here. The exhibit next goes to Urbana University in Ohio.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reading Material for Our Trip

Dear Turkey Traveling Friends,

While we are still several months away from our departure, I thought I would give you a little "preview" reading material for those who are interested. As you know, the trip itself will be an introduction to the historical, social, political, and cultic context of the world out of which the New Testament and early Christianity emerged in Asia Minor. We'll immerse ourselves in archaeological ruins from the first through sixth centuries ce, and think together about how our  experience of ancient spaces and images will shape our readings of New Testament texts.

Below are a few highly recommended books for your perusal. You can see if your local public library has them (sometimes public libraries have great guidebook sections). You can also order them books from your locally owned bookstore or even directly from the publisher. All of these titles are also available through mass online book distributors (read: Amazon, Barnes&Noble).

Everyone should look at Joerg Rieger's Traveling: Christian Explorations of Daily Living. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011). This short volume will help us think theologically about our travels, early Christians' travels, and our own spiritual journeys.

If you would like a guidebook or two in which to look up different spots on our itinerary, Mark Wilson and Ege Yayinlari, Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor. (Istanbul: Umraniye, 2010) is one option.This book is not a traditional guidebook, but rather contains photos, maps, excerpts from ancient texts, and descriptions of many of the sites we will see on our trip. It is a good, accessible reference. Some participants will find this book sufficient for referencing ancient history. Others will find Bernard McDonagh, Blue Guide Turkey (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995) more helpful. It is a "nerd's" travel-guide to Turkey and focuses on the ancient history of the sites we will see and much, much more. Copies of the Blue Guide are easily shared among fellow travelers. I will have one with me if you'd like to borrow it on the trip.

Be in touch with questions, discoveries, or inquiries about further reading. I've got a whole library to share and we've got the whole wide-world of western Turkey to explore!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Visit to Patriarchate by Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate

Exciting new developments on the religious front include the news today that Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Istanbul to discuss, amongst other things the  re-opening of the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary.

During the meeting, Mehmet Görmez gave his full support to the issue of reopening Halki Seminary on Istanbul’s Heybeliada Island, while Patriarch Bartholomew said the Patriarchate is ready to open the school. Görmez said the fact that a religious community in Turkey currently needs to recruit and train their religious staff in another country was not appropriate.
“In this country, a religious community’s need for other countries to raise their own ecclesiastics does not comply with the greatness of this country. The continuation of their [religious communities’] existence in the framework of law and legislation is more suitable to this greatness, as it has always continued throughout history,” Görmez said in a statement made after the visit.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sinan the architect

Today's NY Times Travel section has an article on Mimar Sinan with pictures of some of the mosques he designed in and around Istanbul. The first one mentioned is the Şemsi Pasha Mosque located in the district of Üsküdar on the Asian side of the Bosphorus right on the shoreline. This area of Istanbul is opposite the Golden Horn.

The article has useful introductory information about Mimar Sinan which can be supplemented by other reading. Here is an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica which describes the importance of the central dome in mosques he built. 

Starting with the Byzantine church as a model, Sinan adapted the designs of his mosques to meet the needs of Muslim worship, which requires large open spaces for common prayer. As a result, the huge central dome became the focal point around which the design of the rest of the structure was developed. Sinan pioneered the use of smaller domes, half domes, and buttresses to lead the eye up the mosque’s exterior to the central dome at its apex, and he used tall, slender minarets at the corners to frame the entire structure. This plan could yield striking exterior effects, as in the dramatic facade of the Selim Mosque. Sinan was able to convey a sense of size and power in all of his larger buildings. Many scholars consider his tomb monuments to be the finest examples of his smaller works.

Other innovations of his unmentioned in the article are light and sound. See also this article which discusses Sinan's creation of acoustic space in the architecture of later mosques.