Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Landscape Gardens – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The newest collection by the Royal Mail First Day Cover is dedicated to Landscape Gardens, The Genius of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The name Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-83) has become synonymous with the 18th century landscape garden. His trademark park formula, with its sweeping lawns and stands of ancient oak reflected in vast lakes, continues to influence our vision of a pastoral England. Each of these eight stamps commemorates different aspect of this great achievement. These eight stamps depict the landscape gardens from: Blenheim Palace, Longleat, Compton Verney, Highclere Castle, Alnwick Castle, Berrington Hall, Stowe and Croome Park. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Alexander the Great and Mount Athos

Mount Athos is one of the holiest places for the Orthodox Church and faithful. However, the land has existed before Christianity. Many have given it a certain significance in the ancient world, which is not accepted by many. Nevertheless, we do find that many refer to it. One instance is Plutarch, when giving Alexander the Great’s story. What kind of relationship could there have been between the King of Macedonia and Mount Athos? A project, which was not realised. An exaggerated one that was, however, fitting for a king. Plutarch explains:

‘It was Stasicrates who had remarked to Alexander at an earlier interview that of all mountains it was Mount Athos in Thrace which could most easily be carved into the form and shape of a man, and that if it pleased Alexander to command him, he would shape the mountain into the most superb and durable statue of him in the world: its left hand would enfold a city of 10,000 inhabitants, while out of its right would flow the abundant waters of a river which would pour, like a libation, into the sea. Alexander had declined this proposal, but now he spent his time with his engineers and architects planning projects which were even more outlandish and extravagant.’ (chapter 72). 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City

The Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City has a majestic blend of architectural styles, with its richly ornate Spanish Baroque façade, a Neo-Classical dome and twin bell towers rising 67 metres. It is considered as the ultimate landmark of colonial architecture in America, located in the central square of the city, being the largest Cathedral in Latin America.
It took three centuries to complete this Metropolitan Church. The first stone was placed in 1524 in an act of great symbolic significance, as it was placed at the crossing of the avenues which, from the four cardinal points, lead to the spiritual centre of the Aztec capital. It was built using the stones that had once been a part of the Templo Mayor of the Great Tenochtitlan.

The ultimate landmark of colonial architecture in the American continent, Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral stands majestically in the capital’s Square as the largest Cathedral in Latin America and one of the most emblematic Christian temples in the world.
The history of the Cathedral is also the history of Mexico in the time of the Viceroyalty, and a stone narrative of its diverse architectonical styles. Built across three centuries, we can recognize Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical elements which harmoniously come together to form a piece of great cultural and spatial richness, unique in its genre.

The first stone of the Cathedral was placed by Hernán Cortes in 1524 in an act of great symbolic significance, as it was placed at the crossing of the avenues which, from the four cardinal points, lead to the spiritual centre of the Aztec capital. It was built using the stones that had once been a part of the Templo Mayor of the Great Tenochtitlán.

In 1547 this temple was declared a Cathedral by the Holy See. Years later, the original building was demolished and the foundational stone of the new Cathedral was placed by the Archbishop Pedro Moya and Virrey Martín Enríquez. In 1623, after three decades of work in the interior, the construction of the Sacristy was concluded. The building was eventually inaugurated on December 22nd 1667. However, the exterior of the Cathedral wasn’t finished until 1813. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dreams Mean Nothing

Many Christians believe in the dreams they see. They believe that they hold within them certain truths, importance and they understand that they are able to communicate with either God or the afterlife. In many cases this could be true. But it could also be false. We cannot be sure, as many saints would claim, whether what we see is sent by God or the devil. In the Old Testament book Sophia Sirach (34:1-8) we read a great critique of listening and believing in dreams. There we read:

‘34 Foolish people are deceived by vain hopes, and dreams get them all excited. 2 A person who pays any attention at all to dreams is like someone who tries to catch shadows or chase the wind. 3 What you see in a dream is no more real than the reflection of your face in a mirror. 4 What is unreal can no more produce something real than what is dirty can produce something clean. 5 Dreams, divination, and omens are all nonsense. You see in them only what you want to see.[a] 6 Unless the Most High has sent you the dream, pay no attention to it. 7 Dreams have misled many people; they put their faith in them, only to be disappointed. 8 The Law is complete without such falsehood. Wisdom, as spoken by the righteous, is also complete without it.

If, however, we wish to follow a dream we have seen, then it would be wise to follow the advice of our priest, confessor, or the Church’s advice, in general, so we do not follow a false understanding and do something which will lead us away from the truth of the Church. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Saint Oswin, King and Martyr of Deira, Northumbria

When St Oswin’s father, King Osric of Deira (roughly the county of Yorkshire), was killed by the pagan Welsh King Cadwallon in 633, he was taken to Wessex for safety, baptized, and educated there by Saint Aidan. When his cousin Saint Oswald was killed in battle against King Penda of Mercia in 642, Oswin became king of Deira, which Oswald had united to Bernicia, and his cousin Oswy (Oswiu) became king of Bernicia.
Saint Bede tells us that Oswin was "handsome in appearance and of great stature, pleasant in speech and courteous in manner. He was generous to high and low alike and soon won the affection of all by his kingly qualities of mind and body so that even men of very high birth came from nearly every province to his service. . . . and among his other qualities of virtue and moderation the greatest was humility."

Oswin had reigned successfully for about nine years, when Oswy declared war on him. Rather than precipitate a bloody battle when he realised that his army was vastly outnumbered, Oswin went into hiding with one trusted soldier at the estate of his best friend, Earl Hunwald, at Gilling near Richmond, York. Hunwald betrayed him and he was murdered at Gilling, Yorkshire, by Ethelwin on orders from Oswy, on the 20th August 651 AD.
Oswin, buried at Tynemouth, has been venerated as a martyr since his death, because he died, "if not for the faith of Christ, at least for the justice of Christ," as a 12th-century preacher explained.
In expiation for his crime, Oswy built a monastery at Gilling, but Oswin's relics remained at Tynemouth. Later the church was subject to the Viking raids and Oswin's tomb was forgotten until it was found in 1065. At that time the relics were translated. The feast of his translation on March 11 is kept at Durham, Saint Albans, and Tynemouth. His feast day is on the 20th August.[1]

Friday, August 19, 2016

“Deir el-Surian, crossroads of Coptic and Syriac culture.”

Department of Art and Archaeology
SOAS-University of London

Research Seminars in the Art and Archaeology of Africa and the Americas
Convenor: Dr Tania Tribe (

Dr Karel Innemée (University of Amsterdam) and Dr Dobrochna Zielińska (University of Warsaw)

 “Deir el-Surian, crossroads of Coptic and Syriac culture.
The Monastery of the Holy Virgin of Bishoi (Wadi Natrun, Egypt) was founded in the 6th century, but since Syrian monks joined the Coptic community around 800AD it was better known as Deir al-Surian, the Syrian monastery. For centuries monks of the two denominations lived together, creating an environment where material and immaterial heritage of the Coptic and Syriac Orthodox Churches were brought together, resulting in a unique library and a church with extraordinary wall paintings. Most of these paintings vanished out of sight when they were covered by plaster in the 18 th century. Since 1996 these paintings are gradually uncovered and give us an impression of the Syrian influence on Egyptian Christianity. In this lecture special attention will be given to the most recent discoveries of the past two years.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016
5-7 pm
Room L 67

All Welcome

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why Are The Four Gospels Different From Each Other?

I’m not here going to give an extensive analysis and exegesis of the four Gospels and how different they are from each other. We do have the Synoptic Gospels, written by Mark, Matthew and Luke, which have a similar thematic structure between them; however, each one has additions to it, making them all unique. On the other hand, the last one, written by John, seems to be very different to the previous ones. One question many ask is why are the four Gospels different from each other? Shouldn’t they show uniformity? Interestingly enough, St John Chrysostom has an explanation for this reality, claiming that:

‘All four evangelists reported some of Christ’s savings, but each of them individually chose others to report. Why is this so? To make us read the other gospels, and to make us realize how remarkable their agreement is. For if all of them told everything, we would not pay careful attention to all of them, because one would be enough to teach us everything. But if everything they tell were different, we would not see their remarkable agreement. For this reason all of them wrote many things in common but each also chose some things to tell individually.’[1]

[1] Behr, John (ed.), St John Chrysostom – On Wealth and Poverty, (New York, SVSP, 1981), pp.20-1.