Daily Archives: December 2, 2006

Jesse Tree

Advent is coming! Is your patriarchal learning device ready? 🙂 Learn all about it at UD.

The major thing in the medieval iconography that isn’t always mentioned is the importance of putting at the top, over Christ, either one dove (for the Holy Spirit) or seven (for the gifts of the Holy Spirit). Each prophet shown on the side is often accompanied by a dove whispering into his ear.

It’s interesting that modern Jesse trees rely so much more on symbols. (Btw, I love the idea of the Advent Cubes and the O Antiphon House.)

A Jesse tree at the Getty, and another.

The genealogy of Christ as a fishing line! From a wonderful page full of Trees of Jesse.

Jan Mostaert’s Tree of Jesse at the Rijksmuseum is a must-see. Amusingly, the page keeps talking about Rosicrucians… which ultimately turns out to be some kind of spellchecking error for Rosary! Heh!

A whole wall full of the Tree of Jesse.

A Jesse tree in Oaxaca.

A directory of where to find the Tree of Jesse, by a real fan of the subject! Cathedrals, mss., et al.


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The Mosaic Floor of Otranto’s Cathedral

This is the incredible mosaic floor of the basilica of Otranto, Italy.

Here’s an article on it from the NY Times, and here’s a small picture in color of a good chunk of floor. Here’s the layout of the whole floor inside the basilica.

Here’s a good pictoral overview, though it’s in Italian. Click on everything. This one too.

There are stories from the Old Testament, months of the year (here’s December), the Zodiac, a good chunk of zoo animals, and both King Alexander and King Arthur depicted here.

A Father Pantaleone created it back in the 12th century. Apparently, his idea was to show the “trees of life” — to depict everything important to ordinary life and legendary history on the floor of the church. (Tell me again why we pick boring floor tiles in beige for our churches, eh?)

The view (in black and white) from above the high altar. (You can even see the crucifix.)

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I Told You Arius Was a Monster….

Apparently, the cartoon/card game Chaotic features a lot of monsters. One of them is named Arius. He has red skin, horns on his head, and everything!

So the moral of the story is, that while you can’t diss heretics in today’s church wall paintings, you can still do it in decks of cards.

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Saints of Istanbul

Istanbul just means “The City”, and Constantinople, like Rome, was The City for many centuries. Tons of saints. Also, sadly, tons of martyrs, many martyred by Christians. But most of the thousands of martyrs of Constantinople are unknown to us, as they were killed by the Ottoman Empire as they took the city, or afterwards, through centuries of suffering under the Ottoman yoke. Even today, under the modern and secular Turkish government, Christians are systematically persecuted and are often killed for the faith they hold.

The Pope visited Istanbul on St. Andrew’s Day, to celebrate the most famous patron saint of Constantinople. However, the virgin martyrs St. Maura and St. Justina of Constantinople are also celebrated on November 30. In his speech, the Patriarch mentioned St. Maximus the Confessor, a theologian who also said some nice things about the popes. St. Germanus of Constantinople was a Patriarch of Constantinople who opposed Monothelitism. St. Paul of Constantinople was bishop of Constantinople before he got deposed, starved and strangled by the Arians. St. Alexander of Constantinople, from a generation before, was the bishop of Constantinople who famously prayed that God take either him or Arius before Arius was received back into the church. God took Arius. (Or some kind of poison or bizarre medical condition that should be on House M.D. did.)

St. Ignatius of Constantinople was an emperor’s son, castrated and stuck in a monastery by the new incoming emperor to prevent any little problems with the succession. (As was the charming custom of Byzantine political life. At least they didn’t blind him for good measure.) When Ignatius went on to become Patriarch of Constantinople, the usual Byzantine bishopric troubles went to a whole new level. But Pope Nicholas eventually got St. Ignatius reinstated, and he lived out his life as Patriarch, peacefully.

The relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Nazianzen, both once Patriarchs of Constantinople, were returned to the patriarchate by Pope John Paul II. The Pope and Patriarch venerated them together in a prayer service on St. Andrew’s Eve (after the Pope arrived in Istanbul from Ephesus).

Countless saints also visited and served in Constantinople, including a lot of Western ones. You could write a book.


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Saints of Ephesus

I meant to finish this series on places the Pope visited in Turkey before he left the place, but….

Obviously, St. John and the Virgin Mary are the most famous saints said to have lived in Ephesus. Long before that, St. Paul also made a visit, and famously started a riot by the city’s idolmakers. (“Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”)

It also was a place of saints controversial among Christians. The Orthodox celebrate the theologian St. Mark of Ephesus. But they give him this distinction for arguing against the filioque clause and Petrine primacy, and being famously pigheaded. “The most comical incident, recorded by Sylvester Syropoulos, has Scholarios, Bessarion, and Isidore of Kiev remonstrating with him that certain points of Latin doctrine, notably the Procession of the Holy Spirit, were confirmed by the writings of the Church Fathers; he merely replied that these had to have been forged, since the Holy Spirit (evidently, of course) did not proceed from the Son.” But though the Latin side never listed him as a saint, the Eastern Catholic side does, so we get him as a legacy! His feastday is January 19th, and I’m sure we can think of something creative to do for him….

(But honestly, he did have a softer side, as these quotes from him indicate: “Our Head, Christ our God… does not tolerate that the bond of love be taken from us entirely.””We seek and we pray for our return to that time when, being united, we spoke the same things and there was no schism between us.”)

The Martyrs of Ephesus (Jan. 12) were a group of 42 monks put to death by Emperor Constantine V for opposing the Iconoclasts.

Ephesus was also the place where the Council of Ephesus was held, and the Virgin Mary’s title of Theotokos (Mother/Bearer of God) was affirmed, which the townpeople celebrated with an impromptu parade. (Over the objections of Nestorius.)

Finally, Ephesus was perhaps best known in the Middle Ages for the famous story of the Seven Sleepers. As the story goes, seven young Christian men (and their dog) fled persecution by the Roman Empire by hiding in a cave. They fell asleep, and slept for a hundred years. By that time, the entire empire is not only Christian, but tired of being Christian. A young skeptic declares that all these Gospel and early Christian miracles are ridiculous made-up stories; everybody knows such things never happen nowadays, and never could have happened.

Just then, the Seven Sleepers wake up, thinking they’ve only slept the normal amount. In some versions of the story, they’re still young; in others, they’ve grown old while they slept; in others, they don’t grow old till they step outside the cave. Either way, one of them is sent to get some food. People are astounded that someone would try to buy food with rare coins in such great condition! News spreads, the bishop comes to see, and the Seven Sleepers tell him (and the young skeptic) their story. Then the Sleepers die and go to Heaven, praising God, while the town skeptic learns his lesson about miracles.

The Pope visited Ephesus and said Mass at the House of Mary on November 29.

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