Sunday, December 25, 2011

Church Of The Nativity, Bethlehem, Israel

Star marking the traditional site on which Jesus was born in the Grotto of the Nativity.

Exterior of the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, from Manger Square.

Exterior of the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem.

Entrance to the Church of the Nativity is via the small Entry of Humility. The outline of the original large square door and the pointed arch of the smaller Crusader entrance can be seen above the current doorway. The door was reduced to its present small size (which requires adults to stoop upon entering) in the Ottoman period to prevent horses and carts being driven through for the purposes of looting.

The Entry of Humility, the entrance to the Church of the Nativity. The door was reduced to its present small size (which requires adults to stoop upon entering) in the Ottoman period, to prevent horses and carts being driven through for the purposes of looting. As the name indicates, many believe this to be appropriate to the sacred site, as no one can enter it standing tall.

Interior of the Church of the Nativity, looking east towards the altar and the entrance to the Grotto.

Interior of the Church of the Nativity, looking west down the nave. The trapdoors in the floor reveal 4th-century floor mosaics from the Constantinian church.

Greek Orthodox Christmas celebrations in the Church of the Nativity.

Entrance to the Grotto of the Nativity.

Inside the Grotto of the Nativity, looking back towards the entrance.

The Grotto of the Nativity.

Pilgrims reflect at the place of Jesus' birth in the Grotto of the Nativity.

Icon of the Virgin and Child in the Grotto of the Nativity (closer look).

The traditional birthplace of Jesus, marked by a star.

In the Bible

The birth of Jesus is narrated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew gives the impression that Mary and Joseph were from Bethlehem and later moved to Nazareth because of Herod's decree, while Luke indicates that Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth, and Jesus was born in Bethlehem while they were in town for a special census. Scholars tend to see these two stories as irreconcilable and believe Matthew to be more reliable because of historical problems with Luke's version.
But both accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. According to Luke 2:7 (in the traditional translation), Mary "laid him in amanger because there was no room for them in the inn." But the Greek can also be rendered, "she laid him in a manger because they had no space in the room" — we should perhaps imagine Jesus being born in a quiet back room of an overflowing one-room house.
The gospel accounts don't mention a cave, but less than a century later, both Justin Martyr and the Protoevangelium of James say Jesus was born in a cave. This is reasonable, as many houses in the area are still built in front of a cave. The cave part would have been used for stabling and storage - thus the manger.


The first evidence of a cave in Bethlehem being venerated as Christ's birthplace is in the writings of Justin Martyr around 160 AD. The tradition is also attested by Origen and Eusebius in the 3rd century.
In 326, Constantine and his mother St. Helena commisioned a church to be built over the cave. This first church, dedicated on May 31, 339, had an octagonal floor plan and was placed directly above the cave. In the center, a 4-meter-wide hole surrounded by a railing provided a view of the cave. Portions of the floor mosaic survive from this period. St. Jerome lived and worked in Bethlehem from 384 AD, and he was buried in a cave beneath the Church of the Nativity.
The Constantinian church was destroyed by Justinian in 530 AD, who built the much larger church that remains today. The Persians spared it during their invasion in 614 AD because, according to legend, they were impressed by a representation of the Magi — fellow Persians — that decorated the building. This was quoted at a 9th-century synod in Jerusalem to show the utility of religious images.
Muslims prevented the application of Hakim's decree (1009) ordering the destruction of Christian monuments because, since the time of Omar (639), they had been permitted to use the south transept for worship.
The Crusaders took Jerusalem on 6 June 1009. Baldwin I and II were crowned there, and in an impressive display of tolerance the Franks and Byzantines cooperated in fully redecorating the interior (1165-69). A Greek inscription in the north transept records this event.
The Church of the Nativity was much neglected in the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, but not destroyed. Much of the church's marble was looted by the Ottomans and now adorns the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. An earthquake in 1834 and a fire in 1869 destroyed the furnishings of the cave, but the church again survived.
In 1847, the theft of the silver star marking the exact site of the Nativity was an ostensible factor in the international crisis over the Holy Places that ultimately led to the Crimean War (1854–56).
In 1852, shared custody of the church was granted to the Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches. The Greeks care for the Grotto of the Nativity.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Abbey of Saint-Benoit-du-Lac designed by Romanian architect Daniel S. Hanganu Montreal, Canada

Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Qué, Municipality, pop 47 (2001c), 53 (1996c), 57 (1991c), inc 1939, area 2.38 km2, is located on the shores of Lac Memphrémagog, 40 km southwest of SHERBROOKE. Its sole inhabitants are monks of the Congregation of St-Pierre de Solesme (France).

The community was founded by Dom Paul Vannier in 1912 when he acquired a farm at Point Gibraltar, a peninsula sloping down towards the lake. He and 3 other monks began farming and providing religious services. The sudden death of their founder in 1914 and the outbreak of WWI broke the links with their community in Europe. This nearly meant the collapse of the new foundation. Elevated to the rank of abbey in 1952, the community grew until 1955, when it numbered 79 members.

In 1939 the abbey began the construction of a more monumental monastery than the farmhouse they had occupied. The new monastery was designed by the well-known French Benedictine architect Dom Paul Bellot, and a hostelry designed by Dom Claude-Marie Côté was added in 1955. In 1994 a monumental new church, designed by the Montréal architect Daniel S. HANGANU, was inaugurated.

In addition to spending a large part of their time in meditation and prayer, and conducting elaborate liturgical services accompanied by Gregorian chant, the monks perform intellectual and manual labour. They also welcome visitors wishing to spend some time in a peaceful environment. Source

Church Interior



Architect Dan Hanganu

Dan Hanganu, CM (born 27 January 1939) is a Romanian-born Canadian architect. Based in Montreal, Quebec, he has designed a number of prominent Quebec buildings, including the new wing of the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, the HEC Montréal building, the concert Hall of Rimouski, the UQAM design school and several other mixed-use, commercial, residential and cultural buildings in Montreal, Europe and Asia. Hanganu has an impressive list of awards and publications to his credit including the Order of Canada, the Governor General's award and was also awarded the RAIC gold medal in 2008 for lifetime achievement.
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in its announcement that the recipient of the 2008 RAIC Gold Medal is Dan S. Hanganu, FIRAC stated that in choosing Mr. Hanganu, the Gold Medal Selection Committee noted:
"Dan successfully transcends the professional and academic worlds as well as having an extensive body of internationally published articles and project reviews. He understands the impact that architecture can have on people; his work successfully balances function and feeling in a very strong “straight-forward” way."
Mr. Hanganu completed a degree in architecture at the University of Bucharest in 1961, and arrived in Canada in 1970. He leads a diversified practice with projects ranging in scale from single-family houses to entire city blocks. Completed works include numerous housing projects of varying size and complexity, office buildings, hotels and resorts, multi-use complexes, institutional buildings, and several theatres. His wife Anca Hanganu is also an architect practising in Montreal.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Blessed Xenia of St Petersburg

Saint Xenia lived during the eighteenth century, but little is known of her life or of her family. She passed most of her life in Petersburg during the reigns of the empresses Elizabeth and Catherine II. 

Xenia Grigorievna Petrova was the wife of an army officer, Major Andrew Petrov. After the wedding, the couple lived in St Petersburg. St Xenia became a widow at the age of twenty-six when her husband suddenly died at a party. She grieved for the loss of her husband, and especially because he died without Confession or Holy Communion. 

Once her earthly happiness ended, she did not look for it again. From that time forward, Xenia lost interest in the things of this world, and followed the difficult path of foolishness for the sake of Christ. The basis for this strange way of life is to be found in the first Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:18-24, 1 Cor. 2:14, 1 Cor. 3:18-19). The Lord strengthened her and helped her to bear sorrow and misfortune patiently for the next forty-five years. 

She started wearing her husband's clothing, and insisted that she be addressed as "Andrew Feodorovich." She told people that it was she, and not her husband, who had died. In a certain sense, this was perfectly true. She abandoned her former way of life and experienced a spiritual rebirth. When she gave away her house and possessions to the poor, her relatives complained to the authorities. After speaking to Xenia, the officials were conviced that she was in her right mind and was entitled to dispose of her property as she saw fit. Soon she had nothing left for herself, so she wandered through the poor section of Petersburg with no place to lay her head. She refused all assistance from her relatives, happy to be free of worldly attachments. 

When her late husband's red and green uniform wore out, she clothed herself in rags of those colors. After a while, Xenia left Petersburg for eight years. It is believed that she visited holy Elders and ascetics throughout Russia seeking instruction in the spiritual life. She may have visited St Theodore of Sanaxar (February 19), who had been a military man himself. His life changed dramatically when a young officer died at a drinking party. Perhaps this officer was St Xenia's husband. In any case, she knew St Theodore and profited from his instructions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Djakovica, Kosovo

The Cathedral before complete destruction

The Church of the Holy Trinity in Djakovica was completed in 1999 on the foundations of a five-dome memorial church. The previous church on this site was built as a mausoleum for all killed, murdered and frozen soldiers in the wars of 1912-1918. This church was completed in 1940. But in 1949, on St Sava's Day, the memorial church was destroyed by atheists. Fifty years after, the same happened to a new shrine, which was first desecrated, then set ablaze, mined and finally completely destroyed on 24/25 July 1999.  
The Djakovica cathedral was one of the most beautiful recently built churches. Several different types of the ground plan were combined in the interior organization of the space. The basic structure was in the form of an inscribed cross. The cathedral had a central dome and four smaller domes in the corner, lower bays. In this way a spiritual connection with the largest church of the SS Archangels Monastery near Prizren, was achieved. Additional side spaces gave to the church the form of a free cross which followed the pattern of the great early Christian churches, especially the churches of St John in Ephesus and the Holy Apostles in Constantinople built by Emperor Justinian. Side apses were added to transversal brackets whereby a continuity with Knez Lazar's medieval architectural style was successfully established.
The architects of the church were Ljubisa Folic and Radomir Folic.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rasuna toaca...

Rasuna toaca de utrina
In pacea unei nopti tarzii
Si, rand pe rand, cate-un opait
S-aprinde-n mutele chilii...
De glasul ei tresai pe perna,
Maicuta, tu, cu chip frumos,
Si-alergi in graba la altarul
Mantuitorului Hristos...
Te vad in coltul vechi de strana
Cum stai supusa de rastristi,
Si-atata jale pare scrisa
In ochii tai curati si tristi...
Si cum te-nchini in rugaciune,
Eu ma gandesc induiosat:
Nemilostiva toaca-a noptii
Ce vis frumos ti-a tulburat?...

Octavian Goga

Monday, June 6, 2011

Glas de clopot

Se tanguia un clopot din turla lui de lemn
Si-adancu-i glas, ca unda, se-mprastia departe.
Prin noaptea fara stele purtand chemari de moarte.
Catunele, buimace, se desteptau la-ndemn...
Neogoit, amarnic, prin vaile desarte
Chema dogitul clopot din turla lui de lemn.
Si-nfiorati de jalea navalnicului zvon,
Crestinii, din bordeie treziti fara de veste,
Ieseau facandu-si cruce si intrebau ce este:
- Ce mort in miezul noptii purtat e la amvon?!...
Aprinsera opaiti miloasele neveste
Si prinsera sa planga cu-al clopotului zvon.
Iar glasul de arama aici parca tuna,
Salbateca putere de blestem dand durerii,
Aici murea de jale... si-n mijlocul tacerii
Multimea-ngrijorata si crunta s-aduna.
Toti se-ntrebau de nu sunt in noaptea Invierii,
Caci clopotul din turla inversunat tuna.
Si-n apriga lui limba certari se talmaceau,
Din buzele-i de schije curgea intelepciune,
Proorociri grozave si psalmi de-ngropaciune,
Manii intunecate ce greu se-nabuseau...
Caci duhul razvratirii parea ca insusi spune
Franturi de psalmi amarnici ce-n zbor se desluseau.
Nedumeriti, o vreme, sarmanii poporeni
Strainul glas de clopot cu frica ascultara;
Dar, fara sa priceapa strigarea lui amara,
Patrunsi de frigul noptii, si preoti si mireni
Intrara in bordeie si iarasi se culcara
Luminile stingandu-si sarmanii poporeni.
Si-n van nalucul clopot din turla lui de lemn,
Imprastiindu-si glasul prin vai si munti departe,
In noaptea fara stele zvarlea chemari desarte;
Nu s-a clintit un suflet la vajnicu-I indemn,
Ci numai pentru sine a jale si a moarte
Suna nauc un clopot din turla lui de lemn.

Vasile Voculescu

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Basilica de la Sagrada Familia - Barcelona, Spain

Architecture. The Church Today

When work began on the church, in 1882, the architects, the bricklayers and the labourers worked in a very traditional way. When Gaudí took over the direction he was aware that the works were complex and difficult and tried to take advantage of all the modern techniques available. And so, among other resources, he had railway tracks laid with small wagons to transport the materials, brought in cranes to lift the weights and had the workshops located on the site to make the work easier.

Today, 129 years later, the building of the church follows Gaudí's original idea and, just as he himself did, the best techniques are applied to make the building work safer, more comfortable and faster. It is some time now since the old wagons gave way to powerful cranes, the old manual tools have been replaced by precise electric machines and the materials have been improved to ensure excellent quality in the building process and the final result.

The present Church Technical Office and the management are charged with studying the complexity of Gaudí's original project, doing the calculations and the building plans and directing the works as a whole.

Antoni Gaudí

Antoni Gaudí is one of the outstanding figures of Catalan culture and international architecture. He was born in Baix Camp (Reus, Riudoms), but it was in Barcelona that he studied, worked and lived with his family. It is also in the city that we find most of his work. He was first and foremost an architect, but he also designed furniture and objects and worked in town planning and landscaping, amongst other disciplines. In all those fields he developed a highly expressive language of his own and created a body of work that speaks directly to the senses.


The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is a work on a grand scale which was begun on 19 March 1882 from a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar (1828-1901). At the end of 1883 Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, a task which he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea.

The building is in the centre of Barcelona, and over the years it has become one of the most universal signs of identity of the city and the country. It is visited by millions of people every year and many more study its architectural and religious content.

It has always been an expiatory church, which means that since the outset, 125 years ago now, it has been built from donations. Gaudí himself said: "The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people." The building is still going on and could be finished some time in the first third of the 21st century.