Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Just a Few Shots

The Emperor Justinian ordered the construction of the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) during the 6th century. Built on the basilica style, the sheer size of the structure can't be imagined until you walk in the doors. Constantius, the son of Emperor Constantine, constructed the first church building on this site but it and the structure that replaced it were both destroyed by fire. When Islam conquered the region the minarets were added and the frescoes and mosaics, such as the one below, were covered. Today it is a museum and the Christian art is being restored.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Relics and Things

My wife and I are in Istanbul, Turkey as I write this. It has been an interesting two days here. On day one we saw the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, a huge cistern, and Korah Church.

Of greatest interest to me was Hagia Sophia. The present iteration of that church owes its existence to the Emperor Justinian. Two previous buildings occupied the spot prior to the current huge domed structure. Constantius, the son of Constantine, built a church with a wood roof on the site several hundred years prior to Justinian's structure. That building burned and another erected. It, too, burned when riots broke out following chariot races at the nearby Hippodrome. The present building served as the patriarchal church for the bishop of Constantinople until the city fell to Islam whereupon it was converted to a mosque.

Today we visited the Egyptian spice market, sailed on the Bosphorus, and visited Topkapi Palace, the home of the Ottoman sultans. This immense structure is home to much of the finery attached to the sultanate. One display featured religious relics associated with Islam. As we viewed the exhibit we saw Moses' rod that budded, Joseph's turban, and the forearm of John the Baptist. We also viewed Mohammed's footprint and other relics associated with the Kaaba and Mohammed. If you believe those things are what they say they are I have a bridge to sell you located in Arizona near the Colorado River!!!

I always assciated the collection and worship of relics with Roman Catholicism but I'm sure it exists to some degree in many religions. Frankly, I think it is a lot of superstitious nonsense, but hey, I saw the rod that budded! Someone once said there are enough Catholics with a piece of the cross to reconstruct dozens of crosses. Relics were a big deal before the Protestant Reformation and, for some, they are a big deal today. Consider for instance all the stuff that goes on about the Shroud of Turin or those who brought splinters back from the Ark on Mount Ararat. I guess if that's the sort of thing that turns you on it is just the sort of thing you'd be interested in.

I certainly don't need some stupid relic -- real or imagined -- to bolster my faith! I have the testimony of reliable witnesses in "the Book." Its testimony to the resurrection of Jesus in space and time is enough for me!

Now, having said all of that, my wife and I leave Istanbul tomorrow for a trip to Cappadocia followed by a tour of "the seven churches of Asia." Read the first chapters of Revelation for a comprehensive list of these churches. I'm looking forward to visiting Ephesus, Philadelphia, Smyrna, and the other churches in the list. I'm not looking for relics! I'm looking for a better understanding of the historical settings for the early church. I'll tell you more about it as we go along.