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February 24 2013

"History and Identity in the Late Antique Near East", edited by Philip Wood

Egypte actus's curator insight, Today, 8:23 AM


History and Identity in the Late Antique Near East gathers together the work of distinguished historians and early career scholars with a broad range of expertise to investigate the significance of newly emerged, or recently resurrected, ethnic identities on the borders of the eastern Mediterranean world. It focuses on the "long late antiquity" from the eve of the Arab conquest of the Roman East to the formation of the Abbasid caliphate. The first half of the book offers papers on the Christian Orient on the cusp of the Islamic invasions. These papers discuss how Christians negotiated the end of Roman power, whether in the selective use of the patristic past to create confessional divisions or the emphasis of the shared philosophical legacy of the Greco-Roman world. The second half of the book considers Muslim attempts to negotiate the pasts of the conquered lands of the Near East, where the Christian histories of Hira or Egypt were used to create distinctive regional identities for Arab settlers. Like the first half, this section investigates the redeployment of a shared history, this time the historical imagination of the Qu'ran and the era of the first caliphs. All the papers in the volume bring together studies of the invention of the past across traditional divides between disciplines, placing the re-assessment of the past as a central feature of the long late antiquity. As a whole, History and Identity in the Late Antique Near East represents a distinctive contribution to recent writing on late antiquity, due to its cultural breadth, its interdisciplinary focus, and its novel definition of late antiquity itself.

Oxford University Press, USA, April 1, 2013, 272 pages





Contents via ;


Sophronius of Jerusalem and the end of roman history / Phil Booth -- Identity, philosophy, and the problem of Armenian history in the sixth century / Tara Andrews -- The chronicle of Seert and Roman ecclesiastical history in the Sasanian world / Philip Wood -- Why were the Syrians interested in Greek philosophy? / Dan King -- You are what you read: Qenneshre and the Miaphysite church in the seventh century / Jack Tannous -- The prophet's city before the prophet: Ibn Zabala (d. after 199/814) on pre-Islamic Medina / Harry Munt -- Topoi and topography in the histories of al-?ira / Adam Talib -- "The crinkly haired people of the black earth"; examining Egyptian identities in Ibn 'abd al-?akam's futu? / Hussein Omar -- Forgetting Ctesiphon: Iran's pre-Islamic past, ca. 800-1100 / Sarah Savant -- Legal knowledge and local practices under the early Abbasids / Mathiew Tillier.


Reposted byiranelection iranelection

May 28 2012

Spanish artist faces prison over 'how to cook Christ' film

Javier Krahe prosecuted for 'offending religious feelings' after 1978 short film was broadcast on Spanish TV

A leading Spanish artist faces up to a year in prison after being prosecuted for "offending religious feelings" in relation to a short film he made more than 30 years ago that claimed to show "how to cook Jesus Christ".

Javier Krahe, who has been a popular and provocative figure in Spain for nearly half a century, made the film in 1978 but it was only shown on Spanish TV in 2004 as a backdrop to an interview with its creator. The little-known charge – comparable with but not identical to Britain's blasphemy law, remains part of the penal code despite never having been applied before in Spanish legal history.

Krahe's 54-second film uses the tone of a cooking programme, with chefs advised to remove Jesus' nails and separate him from his crucifix, which should be left to one side. Christ's tiny white body – a small figurine is used – is then shown being washed, lightly smothered in butter, placed on a bed of aromatic herbs in a glass tray and popped into an oven. "One gaunt Christ" is apparently enough to feed two, and when the dish is ready (after three days) it miraculously emerges from the oven without assistance.

There have been two previous failed attempts to prosecute Krahe, who is currently on bail for €192,000 (£153,000). The latest prosecution is the result of a court action by the Catholic legal association the Centro Juridico Tomas Moro.

"How do you show that someone's religious feelings have been hurt?" Krahe told El Pais newspaper, adding that he considers the prosecution to be absurd. "I'm accused of a series of things that I haven't done. I don't appear on television cooking Christ, and I haven't ever used these images [in a performance]." His supporters say freedom of speech laws should be changed to allow room for blasphemy.

Krahe is due to appear in Madrid's regional court, where statements from witnesses in the case are due to be heard on Monday. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

December 22 2011

At this time of year, let's thank God for churches | Simon Jenkins

Believer or not, Christmas is a reminder of what these places of worship do so well – maintaining and expressing community

God has blessings, even for atheists. Chief among them is the British Christmas. Cleared of its commercial and religious clutter it has become the nation's collective version of a Buddhist sabbatical, an increasingly extended retreat into family and self almost devoid of externalities. It is a time when Britons behave quite unlike they do for the rest of the year. In other words, they behave quite well.

The preliminary clutter is ever more dire. Compared with any other city in Europe, London's decoration is tatty and hideous. The archbishop of Canterbury contributes a platitudinous musing on riots and St Paul's protesters, with no hint of meaningful conclusion. The prime minister declares desperately that "the United Kingdom is a Christian country" and that "we should not be afraid to say so", as if we were. His seasonal intervention recalls HL Mencken's maxim that "people say we need religion when what they mean is we need police".

Even Christmas shopping, once deplored as an irreligious commercialisation, has morphed into a public service duty, a dig for victory. "Hopes of Christmas boost for economy," cry the headlines. Analysts examine the returns from M&S and John Lewis like priests round sacred geese. Will Christmas save us from double-dip recession? The din of collective misery is insufferable.

Suddenly all goes quiet. Britain now stretches what in the US is one day off into 10. There seems nothing else to do. The volume of public life is silenced. Family is acknowledged before colleagues and friends. Duty is paid to household gods in an annual census of filial piety. Family quarrels are supposedly suppressed, while children and old people acquire a brief moment in the spotlight. We know of the strains and stresses of Christmas, but I wonder how many families have been repaired and rescued through its ritual kindnesses. What if there were no such moment?

Throughout history, church charity boards record the gifts to be made to the poor at Christmas time. They record the communal services to be performed, the visits to be made and donations acknowledged. Christmas is more than just a much-needed rest, it is a ceremony of domestic and communal pleasantry.

The festival may have replaced Easter in pre-eminence largely thanks to the Victorians, but it is none the worse for that. Charles Dickens' demolition of Scrooge's cynicism – A Christmas Carol is a harder-edged novel than any of its dramatised versions – captured popular imagination the world over. Like the Muslim obligation to hospitality, the Christian obligation to generosity at Christmas is near universal. It is not enforced or even formalised, but it is, and deep in Britain's cultural gene.

Millions of Britons do at Christmas what they never do at other times in the year. They become "pray-for-a-day" worshippers. They see in their church a repository of good neighbourliness without which the community would be poorer. The Anglican church has a genuine talent for sustaining this communal centrality through thick and mostly thin. This role in the local "establishment" is far more plausible than the state version.

Going to church at Christmas keeps alive a sense of what the Germans call heimat, an attachment to home and place of birth, a refreshment of roots, an acknowledgement of continuity and tradition. This Christmas is deeply conservative. As Roger Scruton argues in his forthcoming book Green Philosophy, it reflects a "desire to live among things that endure" that should, in his case, be harnessed to the challenge of climate change.

I constantly find myself in churches. I find them aesthetically appealing, a constant source of pleasure (or sometimes pain). They were designed for a liturgy of contemplation and repose. They are good places to sit and think, in a landscape where such places are in short supply. As Philip Larkin wrote, they are temples where our "compulsions are recognised and robed as destinies/ And that much never can be obsolete". This may have nothing to do with religion, but it is undeniably a religious legacy and I do not mind thanking someone's god for it. The world is full of unintended consequences.

As government continues to enervate and disempower communal life in Britain, churches retain their physical and emotional centrality. In most settlements, rural and urban, churches are hopelessly oversized for their congregations. Yet the great medieval buildings remain a dominant presence in the community, the architectural expression not just of its ageless faith, but of its ceremony, its history, its family life, its arts and crafts, its tithes and taxes. They are increasingly reborn as theatre and concert halls. Where else would one want to hear The Messiah?

The parish church is thus the one building in any neighbourhood that is worth saving, together with God's acre, the churchyard. Since there will for sure arise a movement within the church to abandon such monuments – under the cry "we are a church, not a museum" – there will be a corresponding need to champion their survival. I have no trouble with the German system of taxing parishes for the upkeep of the church (with a voluntary opt-out). The Germans, like the French and Scandinavians, enjoy a civic tradition that permits them to keep their mayors and town halls. In Britain an increasingly faithless land finds itself ironically turning to faith institutions as symbols of local cohesion. Long may such places survive. At Christmas we salute them. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

November 18 2011

Splitting image: Benetton's banned advert

So the pope-kissing-imam ad was shouted down? The Vatican has been carefully controlling the pope's image for 500 years

You can understand why the Vatican got so angry with Benetton for creating an image of Pope Benedict XVI kissing the grand sheikh of Cairo's al-Azhar mosque. After all, the modern church has such a pristine image to protect – it's not as if it's beset by widespread accusations of clerical abuse or anything like that. A plainly fictional image of the pope kissing a Muslim man was, clearly, the worst thing to tarnish the Vatican's image in recent years. Much more serious than anything revealed about such Catholic institutions as St Benedict's school in London.

Benetton's adverts are actually a homage to a renowned Berlin wall graffiti painting of Communist leaders Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev kissing. Everyone finds it funny to see former leaders of the defunct Soviet bloc snogging, it seems, but when contemporary figures from the western world are similarly mocked the cannoli hit the fan.

Why is the Vatican so displeased, and why did Benetton so readily surrender? The image of the pope is one of the greatest triumphs of marketing in history. A church that is led by a venerable celibate might seem to have an in-built selling-point problem. How can popes, who necessarily take the throne of St Peter as old and often ailing men, be made to seem charismatic and glamorous in a world that values youth and physical vigour?

The papacy tackled this problem five centuries ago by calling in some of the greatest image-makers in world history. Today's advertising gurus have nothing on Raphael and Titian. One of the most influential images of power in the history of the world hangs quietly today in London's National Gallery: Raphael's portrait of Pope Julius II created a new paradigm for papal portraiture by showing age as dignity, inner wisdom and sad knowledge. The power of this portrait was emulated and refined by Titian, then by Velázquez. Popes were reimagined in the Renaissance and baroque eras as men whose age and restraint conferred great natural authority.

Even in Italy, this cultivated image has been mocked in modern times. Federico Fellini staged a clerical fashion show that travestied the Church in his film Roma. But the impression that was crafted by some of the world's greatest artists is still tremendously potent, in Italy and abroad.

Benetton's mistake was to underestimate how profoundly the church has succeeded in sacralising the image of the pope, in spite of every modern menace to its authority. No parliament on earth exerts the fascination of the Vatican as a power complex. The pope's image truly is infallible, and Benetton realised it had crossed an invisible line that has endured every onslaught of the secular world. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

November 16 2011

Egypt: Commemorating 40 Years of Pope Shenouda on Twitter

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

Pope Shenouda III celebrated Monday the 40th anniversary of his ordination as Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt. The 40th anniversary coincided with the end of the 40 day mourning period after the Maspero massacre, where 27 Egyptians, mostly Coptic Christians, were killed.

In the Egyptian tradition, the 40th day after death is normally a mourning day, so many Coptic Egyptians did not expect Pope Shenouda to celebrate his ordination anniversary this year.

Naglaa Atef Beshay (@Nanyatef) wrote comparing the two events [ar]:

Pope shenouda iii, pope of alexandria and patriarch of saint mark episcopate. image by mahmoud khaled, copyright demotix (14/09/11).

Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Episcopate. Image by Mahmoud Khaled, copyright Demotix (14/09/11).

جاء هذا الاحتفال متزامنا مع الذكري الاربعين ايضا و لكن لاستشهاد شهداء ماسبيو.. و هيهات ما بين هذا “الاربعين” و ذلك!
استشهد قبل حوالي 40 يوما 27 شهيدا في يوم دامي مورست فيه ابشع انواع العنف ضد متظاهرين سلميين خرجو تنديدا بحرق كنيسة.
في الوقت الذي ثار الثوار احتجاجا علي مذبحة ماسبيرو و ادانوا المجلس العسكري بشكل واضح و صريح، استقبل البابا شنودة و المجلس المقدس المدبر و القاتل و المحرض بالابتسامات و الترحيب في صفقة اعتادنا عليها بين السلطة و السلطة، السياسية و الدينية.
The celebration coincided with another 40th commemoration, but this time it's the end of the 40 days period after the death of the Maspero martyrs. And there is a huge difference between this 40th commemoration and that.
About 40 days ago, 27 martyrs died in a bloody day when one of the most brutal acts was committed on peaceful demonstrators, who went out to condemn the burning of a church, which happened earlier.
At the same time the revolutionaries demonstrated to clearly and directly condemn the Maspero massacre and SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces), Pope Shenouda and the Holy Synod met with those who planned, instigated and committed the massacre with a welcoming smile, in a deal we are used to see between the two authorities - the political and the religious authorities.

She then compared the stance of Alaa Abdel-Fattah - an activist who is currently detained [ar] - to that of the Church:

دافع علاء عن مظاهرات المسيحيين ضد عنف و جرائم العسكر و تضامن معهم جسديا و معنويا… بينما عقد المجمع المقدس اجتماعات ودية مع القتلة
Alaa defended the Christian protesters against the violence and the crimes of the military and stood in solidarity with them with his body and soul, while the Holy Synod had friendly meetings with the murderers.

Seeing this Diana and Mina Zekri decided to create a new hashtag on Twitter to celebrate the Pope's 40th ordination anniversary in their own way:

@minazekri: @_TaMaTeM_ or #40fuckinyears

Diana started by criticizing how religious figures in Egypt want people to follow them blindly.

@_TaMaTeM_:مشيت شعب كامل وراك زى البهايم بدون تفكير بمبدأ “ابن الطاعة تحل عليه البركة” .. لدرجة اقنعتهم انها ايه فى الانجيل.. و صدقوا
@_TaMaTeM_: You lead the whole country to follow you without thinking, using the principle of “Blessed is the obedient son” … you even convinced them that it's a verse in the bible … and they believed you. #40fuckinyears

The Egyptian law makes it harder for Christians to build new churches, and that's why some people called for a unified law for building places of worship for all religions. But according to RunGeo, Pope Shenouda had a different opinion.

@RunGeo: ولما نقول قانون دور عبادة موحد،تقولوا لأ عشان الطوايف التانية ماتبنيش على كيفها وتتساوى بالأرثوذكس، أبو أم كده
@RunGeo: Whenever we ask for a unified law for places of worship, you refuse op that the other Christian sects are not able to build as many churches as the Orthodox. What the hell! #40fuckinyears

Mina Zekri added that sectarianism and hatred for other religions and sects in Pope Shenouda's era reached an unprecedented level. He then continued to explain to Rehab Bassam (@hadouta) what he means.

@minazekri: @hadouta انا اتعلمت في مدارس الأحد وانا في إعدادي أني ما اصاحبش مسلمين وبأدلة من الكتاب المقدس :D
@minazekri: @hadouta I studied in Sunday schools and in preparatory schools not to make friends with Muslims, and [my teachers] cited evidence from the holy book.

Nany Atef shared the same opinion with Mina about Sunday Schools [ar].

When it comes to the Pope's political role and relation with the regime, Hany George wrote that the Pope was against the Maspero protest. Wael El-Moghany described Pope Shenoda's era as 40 years of deals with the regime and Mina Samir criticized the Pope's preference for the Copts to be protected by the regime's politics and police instead of them being protected by the love of the people around them.

And Mina Zekri reminds us:

@minazekri: قداسته سنة ٢٠٠٩ اعلن تأييده لجمال مبارك فى سباق الرئاسة، وقال أنه أفضل مرشح لخلافة والده رغم انه لم يترشح اصلا
@minazekri: In 2009, His Holiness announced his support to Gamal Mubarak in the presidential elections and said he is the best successor to his father even though he wasn't even running for president yet.

Michael Makary added:

@iMakary: #40FuckinYears of not perusing prosecuting anyone who killed Christians in cold blood. #fact

Zekri then noticed that almost all those who are participating in the hashtag are Christians, so he called on Muslims to participate too [Ar]. So Mahmoud Kassem compared the Coptic Church's ideology to that of the Salafists.

@Ma7moudkassem: نفس المعركه الفارغه مع الانجليين هي نفس المعركه الفارغه بين السلفيين و الصوفيين والشيعه معاده كل ما هو مخالف و تكفيره
@Ma7moudkassem: The battle with the Evangelists is the same silly one the Salafists have with the Soufis and Shiaa. Standing against anything different and calling it infidel. #40fuckinyears

Mohamed Fouda added his two cents to the hashtag:

@mohamedfouda: We should learn that no man is above criticism even those who call themselves clergy men, as no man is divine #40FuckinYears #Salafis

Finally, Dalia Ezzat called it “an amazing courage by some Egyptian Copts criticizing their religious leadership”, while Sotsoy - like many other users - found it “distasteful”. Peter Gamil said he is against ordination celebrations now, but he is also against the way people criticized the Pope in the hashtag. He also added that they Pope did not forget the Martyrs of Maspero, however in the Christian traditions they should be happy for the martyrs and celebrate their martyrdom instead of mourning it. Beshoy Naeem called it “social hypocrisy” and Fadi Mckean sees it as a way for some Christians to prove how secular they are.

@fadimck: الهاشتاج ده ابسط مثال لناس مسيحين بيمثلوا انهم علمانين و علشان يثبتوا ده هاتك شتيمة متدنية في البابا ، بطلوا دين ام التمثيل
@fadimck: This hashtag is a simple example of some Christians who act as if they are secular and to prove that they are cursing the Pope. Stop acting.

And Heba Khafagy added:

@HebaKhafagy79: #40FuckinYears I really feel that this hashtag is uncalled for..plz u guyz show some respect..criticize but i must draw a line for cursing

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

I removed the hashtags from some of the above-mentioned tweets for better readability. Also most of the links above are for tweets in Arabic

September 22 2011

Sagrada Família gets final completion date – 2026 or 2028

Barcelona's intricate temple to God to be ready for centenary of architect Antoni Gaudí's death … or thereabouts

Barcelona's emblematic Sagrada Família church finally has a completion date — 2026 or 2028, more than 140 years after it was started.

Joan Rigol, president of the committee charged with finishing the building by Antoni Gaudí, said it should be finished in time for the centenary for the architect's death – or, if not, two years later.

Five huge towers are being added to the eccentric building, which is among Spain's most-visited tourist attractions.

Gaudí died in 1926 after being runover by the city's No 30 tram. He had been living on the Sagrada Familía building site and looked so impoverished that it took several hours for doctors to realise who he was. The tram driver thought he had hit a drunken tramp.

Originally paid for by subscription, the church was always set to take a long time to build. "My client is in no hurry," Gaudí once said, referring to God.

The building was at one stage popularly known as "the cathedral of the poor" and Gaudi himself was known to go begging for contributions – which currently amount to around €500,000 (£440,000) a year.

An influx of tourists, along with modern masonry techniques, has seen work speed up considerably over the past two decades. Some three million fee-paying tourists are expected to visit this year alone, contributing €30m.

With a roof finally in place, Pope Benedict was able to consecrate it as a basilica last year. But a setback came when a man set fire to the basilica's sacristy in April, with repair work still under way.

"The damage is worse than we had thought," said the building's chief architect, Jordi Bonet. Authorities are now considering installing metal detectors at the entrance.

"Our new objective is to complete the six central towers, of which five have already been started," said Rigol.

The sixth tower will measure 170 metres and contain a lift to carry tourists to the top. Rigol added that a high-speed rail tunnel to be built nearby, which has been approved by the courts, may still damage the buildings foundations.

Bonet did not seem so sure about the finish date. "I'm not saying that it is wrong, I hope it is not, but it is not that simple. This is a very complex work and needs a lot of investigation," the architect told the RAC1 radio station. "Everyone has the best will, but I cannot give any assurances." © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

September 20 2011

Bare-breasted statue uncovered 200 years after Christians cover-up

Figure found in Bristol church house where John Wesley worshipped had her modesty preserved by breastplate

A statue of a bare-breasted woman whose torso was discreetly covered for centuries has been found in a Bristol church house where John Wesley worshipped.

There is speculation that the half-clad figure was considered too much of a distraction for Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and his followers.

The figure, holding a cornucopia of fruit, is suspected to be Abundantia – a Roman personification of abundance and prosperity.

The statue is thought to have arrived in the UK from Europe and to have been placed in the house soon after it was built in the 17th century.

In the 18th century theologian Wesley (1703-91) held prayer meetings in the building before his move to a purpose-built place of worship – the New Room.

The statue was found above a fireplace during a lottery-funded restoration of the 12th-century Priory Church of St James and the church house.

Conservation experts removed a lead cuirass (a piece of armour consisting of a breastplate and backplate) from the figure. She now stands – as they believe the artist intended – with her green frock pulled down and a red shawl wrapped around her shoulders.

Andrew Ziminski from Minerva Stone Conservation has written an article on the figure in Cornerstone, the magazine of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. He said: "She is pretty super. The figure had a lead breastplate that covered the bosom and the breasts had also been painted over. She was covered in a brown sludge and we found her tucked away above the fireplace.

"The house dates from the 17th century and John Wesley used to hold prayer meetings there.

"Although he [Wesley] wasn't much of a prude himself, it was perhaps his followers who wanted the figure covered up – bosoms are bosoms and flesh is flesh.

"She does not feel English to me and could have been taken to Bristol by someone visiting the city on a ship."

The church and associated house have been restored and now comprise a place of worship, meeting rooms and a cafe. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 30 2011

Treasures of Heaven: sealed with a kiss

The British Museum show leads us into a medieval world where people kissed relics – so why discourage this magical ritual?

Nobody was kissing the Christian relics in Treasures of Heaven when I saw the latest blockbuster under the dome of the old reading room at the British Museum. The museum has, however, revealed that staff have had to clean kiss marks off some of the display cases in this provocative survey of medieval art. Is that ok? Should Christians be allowed to perform rituals of veneration in an art exhibition?

Of course they should. The whole point of this exhibition is that it questions our reduction of everything we see in a museum to the bland status of "art". The modern idea of art evolved in later medieval Europe: by the 1500s there were famous artists, making art more or less for art's sake, often in ways that dramatically clashed with traditional values. Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel was criticised when it was unveiled in the 16th century because an artist's fame, personal style and even his erotic preferences seemed to be taking precedence over religious purpose in God's, and the Pope's, house.

This exhibition takes us back to what European culture was before the Renaissance – to a time when beautiful things were not made as "art" but as technologies of religious devotion.

Have people really been kissing the cases in this subversive show? Do some people physically venerate its reliquaries of gold and silver, speckled with red and green jewels and transparent rock crystal? When I facetiously proposed to do just that, a staff member said the rules are no kissing and no photography. But in reporting the acts of devotion, BM director Neil MacGregor was surely drawing attention to the exhibition's radical nature.

Here we are invited to respond to finely wrought sculptures a thousand years old and more, not as objets d'art but as vehicles of religious meaning. An arm made of precious metal, designed to contain real flesh and bone, is a very powerful thing. It mirrors your own body: it also connects you with the flesh of a martyr preserved within it. Flesh and spirit mix together in a bizarre and compelling way.

People walked hundreds of miles to see these relics and built cathedrals to venerate them. The exhibition includes fragments of the burial garments of Saint Cuthbert, whose miraculously preserved body summoned into being one of the greatest buildings in Europe – Durham Cathedral – which is still to this day proud of its status as Cuthbert's shrine. This exhibition points out that another great medieval church, the brilliantly illuminated Saint-Chapelle in Paris, was created as a giant container for a relic of Christ – a reliquary made of stone and glass.

What Treasures of Heaven does is to lead us into a medieval world where people did kiss relics. If some people still enact those rituals that is magical. Go for it, pilgrim. These treasures are gorgeous, but the gorgeousness is an act of devotion to the preserved flesh of saints. Commissioning and making such holy objects was not a disinterested aesthetic gesture; the intention was not to create "art" in the modern sense. That is a joyous discovery, like walking through a door into an alternative universe. This exhibition is a work of anthropology: an encounter with otherness. The revelation is that the others, these remote people who worship relics are ... our ancestors, ourselves. Here is Europe seen upside down through an egg of rock crystal. This is the right way to look at medieval art, and it is shared by an exhibition at the National Gallery this summer that examines how its oldest paintings functioned not as pure art, but as panels in wooden altarpieces. Once, beauty was for God. That was an enchanted way of seeing – and touching, and kissing. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 20 2011

Treasures of Heaven at the British Museum

In pictures: This major exhibition brings together for the first time some of the finest sacred treasures of the medieval age

June 11 2011

Rätsel zum Wochenende

Da die naturwissenschaftlichen Rätsel immer schnell gelöst wurden, diesmal etwas aus einem anderen Bereich. Wir suchen einen Kunstgegenstand und seinen Standort.

Dem Sieger winkt wie immer ewiger Ruhm und als besondere Anerkennung ein Schälchen frischer Sprossen.


// oAnth

Google Suche: Türkenmadonnen

2 pdfs zu Türkenmadonnen:

a) Das religiös geprägte Türkenbild

b) Feindbild Islam – Feindbild Christentum

die hier gemeinte Madonna (Bild)

Ein versteckte Tücke bei dem Rätsel ist der verschlüsselnde Umgang mit dem Homonymen-Paar - "ahr" und "aar"


zu 'ahr' -

zu 'aar'

Und zu guter letzt das ganz besondere Zitat für Leute mit Sendungsbewusstsein, die sich der charismatischen Neigung zur großen geschichtlichen Aufgabe gewachsen fühlen.

Türkenmadonnen im Kreise Ahrweiler [~1958]

"... So bildet das Kunstwerk von Ahrweiler inhaltlich, trotz vieler Übereinstimmungen mit den vorbeschriebenen, eine interessante Variante unseres Themas. Knüpfen wir zum Schlüsse dieser Studie an die Gedanken an, die wir eingangs zum Ausdruck brachten: Es ist nicht mehr der Islam, der das christliche Abendland bedroht: diesmal kommt die Gefahr aus dem von kommunistischmaterialistischen Ideologen durchsetzten Nahen und Fernen Osten. Sie wird nur dann unabwendbar sein, wenn das Abendland nicht mehr die innere Kraft aufzubringen vermag, ihr zu begegnen. Letztlich wird der Untergang des Abendlandes nicht durch militärische Pakte und Rüstungen gebannt, sondern durch Besinnung auf die Macht christlichen Glaubens und Betens, wie sie einst in den Kunstwerken, die hier vorgestellt wurden, so eindringlich und mitreißend Gestalt annahm."
Reposted fromsofiasinports sofiasinports

May 13 2011

The resurrection of religious art

The trees placed in Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding were typical of how modern artists are transforming churches

Recently, 27 million British television viewers enjoyed the beauty of a medieval church, gasped at its soaring nave, cooed at its gothic vaulting. But the spectacle of Westminster Abbey, the venue for the royal wedding, was enhanced by an unexpected modern touch: trees. Trees in themselves are not modern, obviously – in fact, the architecture of medieval churches and cathedrals may originate in the ancient Germanic tribes' feel for the great canopy of branches and leaves in primeval European forests. But the idea of bringing trees into Westminster Abbey was definitely modern: a bit of spontaneous royal installation art that echoed the tree-planting activities of the German artist Josef Beuys.

Those trees made a superb impact. They opened our eyes to the grandeur of a medieval building that might otherwise have struck television viewers as just a dark, lofty old bulwark of church and state. But the wedding trees – and now everyone will want their own – were not unique. They were actually typical of the way religious buildings are experimenting with modern art. At Salisbury Cathedral right now you can see a sculpture by Antony Gormley called Flare II, whose explosive abstract energy draws attention to the exhilaration of this great building's slender spire, which pierces the sky and reaches towards heaven itself. Meanwhile at St Paul's Cathedral, which also showed Flare II last year, video artist Bill Viola is working on a permanent installation using giant plasma screens, set to open in early 2012.

Viola is the high priest, as it were, of the new religious art. In 1996, he created The Messenger for Durham Cathedral; it went on to tour other religious venues in Britain. He does not need to adapt his work to fit into holy settings. His films are always religious, using simple images such as water, candles and the human figure to portray spiritual crises and profound moments poised between life and death. He is one of the best artists of our time.

But how many Bill Violas are there? Perhaps it is troubling that, in searching for a great new work of religious art, St Paul's Cathedral has commissioned the same man who drew attention to the power of new religious art with his Durham commission 15 years ago. Don't get me wrong – they are right to do so. But perhaps the move also reflects a recognition that modern religious artists are not exactly two a penny, and that putting just any piece of contemporary art in a cathedral is no guarantee of a powerful aesthetic or spiritual experience. Cathedrals are sublime works of art in their own right, and it takes an incisive and at the same time respectful piece to genuinely add to their glories.

You could say it takes a forest – for the trees of Westminster Abbey showed how an imaginative, poetic gesture can enhance such a setting. Bill Viola, meanwhile, shows us that modern art can be both simple enough and spectacular enough to emulate the altarpieces of the past. Whatever your beliefs, or lack of them, Britain's cathedrals and churches are aesthetic treasure vaults. The purpose of contemporary interventions is to unlock them. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 11 2011

Who are the Coptic Christians?

The clue to the identity of this small religious minority survives in the art and archaeology of ancient Egypt – and reveals a most magnificent ancestry

Attacks on churches, communal divisions – Cairo has recently seen conflicts between some Muslims and Coptic Christians. But who exactly are the Copts and how did they come to be in Egypt? Part of the answer lies in Coptic art.

The sands of Egypt make it an archaeological wonderland. Ancient Egyptian statues and buildings rise above those sands, and these stony sepulchres made the wonders of the pharaohs famous down the millennia. But in the 19th and 20th centuries excavators such as William Flinders Petrie developed truly scientific archaeological techniques and looked beyond the tombs of the kings into the buried worlds of Egypt's past. Petrie, who excavated at Fayoum, looked not just for treasures but pottery and cloth.

Egypt's climate preserves materials that usually perish, including wood, papyrus, and cloth. Even shoes from ancient Egypt's later period under Roman rule have survived. Another stunning type of material discovered by early 20th-century archaeologists was Coptic woven art. Early Christians in Egypt buried their dead with finely woven clothes and shrouds that have survived along with Biblical papyri, paintings and sculpture. In 1910, the Coptic Museum in old Coptic Cairo opened to show such relics released from the earth.

The attraction of Coptic art is that it is full of Mediterranean, Greek and Roman echoes, such as border decorations of embroidered grapes that recall the god Bacchus, while being anti-classical and popular because of its raw portrayal of all-too-human faces. Another fascination is the possible connection between early Christian portrayals of Mary and Jesus, and ancient Egyptian statues of Isis and Horus.

So to return to that question I asked above, exactly who are the Copts? The answer is clear from this connection. Coptic Christianity dates back to the first couple of hundred years after the lifetime of Christ. The people who converted to Christianity were the ancient Egyptians, as well as Jewish, Greek and Roman inhabitants of Egypt. This is even clearer when alongside the art of Coptic Egypt you consider the Coptic language preserved in ancient papyri and manuscripts and still used in the Coptic liturgy today.

In the British Museum in London is the Rosetta Stone, a black inscribed slab that has been central to world history ever since the French scholar Jean-François Champollion used its specimens of the same text in different ancient languages to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. Champollion studied Coptic as part of his quest, because he rightly saw that it was descended from ancient Egyptian. That is, the language of the Coptic liturgy is the language of ancient Egypt.

So who are the Copts? They are the ancient Egyptians. Their art, language and religion are directly descended from the art, language and religion of the land of the pharaohs.

Their survival is a tribute to the religious tolerance of Islam. How many Islamic communities survived in medieval Christian Europe? As for modern times, a Europe that murdered six million Jews less than a century ago is in no position to vaunt its tolerance. But, the Coptic minority is no side issue. This culture has the right to respect, protection and a political voice in the new Egypt. It can claim to be the most Egyptian culture of all. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 05 2011

Lines of fire: Dante's vision of hell still has an afterlife | Jonathan Jones

The brilliant, terrifying Divine Comedy has always provoked artists to respond to its hardline moral absolutism

Midway upon the road of our life
I found myself within a dark wood ...
– Inferno, by Dante Alighieri.

That is the Norton translation of the greatest opening verse in the history of poetry. The world has a handful of supreme poets. Homer, Shakespeare and Goethe are up there. I'm sure you have your own suggestions. All of these writers – even Homer, with his Trojan war epic The Iliad – can be made contemporary to us, made to approximate our world-view. Yet the greatest and most universal poet of all is the least "modern" and at times the most obscure. He is Dante Alighieri.

The world-view Dante unfolds in mesmerising images in the three books of his Divine Comedy – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise – is truly medieval. No wonder: he lived most of his life in the 13th century before completing his masterpiece in the early 14th. But it is the relentless Gothic-style Christianity of Dante's vision that makes it so unnerving: the profound sense of sin behind his biting portraits of the damned in Hell, and the equally absolute faith in a machine-accurate divine justice the poet finally glimpses in Paradise. The Divine Comedy is a dogmatic, cruel work that haunts the imagination like no other. Paradoxically, no "modern" poet has been so frequently illustrated by modern artists; only Byron excites comparable interest.

The latest Dante artist is painter and draughtsman Guy Denning. He has already completed a series of illustrations for Hell, which are about to be exhibited in Bologna, and is now working on Purgatory, with designs that include a dramatic rendering of New York on 9 September 2001. His project follows in the footsteps of many artists who, like Dante in his poem, edged down into those shadows with their best foot backward. Robert Rauschenberg did a particularly provocative Dante cycle that included collaged images of riots and riot police in 1960s America; Blake, Tom Phillips and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux all had a go too. But perhaps the most haunting of all illustrations of this poem are those created by Gustave Doré in 19th-century France, in the age of absinthe visions.

Why does a writer rooted in a world-view that not even the most conservative modern Christian can share (no forgiveness, no grace) speak so strongly to artists and readers? New translations as well as new depictions of Dante abound. He seems to ask something of us, to demand a response. Artists who come across him are moved to visualise his fiery images. Poets feel obliged to retranslate his mighty words.

My own first experience of Dante was a translation of just one part of the Inferno by Seamus Heaney. Ugolino is in Heaney's collection Field Work, which is a moving response to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Dante's tale of Ugolino, who was cruelly treated and took bitter revenge in eternity, fits into the landscape of reprisal Heaney depicts. In other words, one reason for Dante's enduring power is that we have not really left the middle ages. Vendetta still rules. Entire foreign policies, not to mention civil wars and terror campaigns, are based on ideas of revenge and polarities of good and evil just as primitive as anything in Dante.

Another reason the great Italian challenges us is that he proposes a morally absolute vision of life that cuts through modern relativism like a knight's broadsword. So the world is ambiguous and our own actions impossible to morally judge? Dante menaces us with the alternative possibility that every act is scrutinised, that every moment of our lives is weighed in the balance.

His first image is as contemporary as anyone could wish: in midlife, the poet is in a dark wood. It turns out that he can only escape by going down, into the shadows of hell, to plumb its very depths and pass through to the other side. It is a spiritual journey towards light through darkness, marked by meetings with the damned, who confess their sins and remember their lives with pain, pride, regret and longing. It is my favourite poem – but I am too frightened to ever read it again. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

April 18 2011

Pat Russell obituary

Calligrapher and church embroiderer renowned for her resplendent copes

Pat Russell, who has died aged 91, was renowned as both a calligrapher and a church embroiderer. One of her most prestigious embroidery commissions was for St Paul's Cathedral, in London, to commemorate the Queen Mother's 80th birthday, in 1980. The resulting set of festal copes (ceremonial cloaks) was used at the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales the following year.

Throughout her working life Pat never stopped exploring lettering, using different tools and techniques. Her use of abstract and symbolic designs, as well as letterforms – the shapes of letters as they are written or drawn – established her reputation for breathing new life into church embroideries. She was also an inspirational teacher, mainly at Oxford School of Art (now Oxford Brookes University), where she taught lettering from 1951 to 1988. Her distinctive approach was captured in two successful books, Lettering for Embroidery (1972) and Decorative Alphabets Throughout the Ages (1989).

She was born Patricia Cooch in Wembley, Middlesex, and moved with her parents to Farnborough, Hampshire, where she was first introduced to calligraphy at Farnborough Hill convent college by Minnie Hall (who had been taught by Edward Johnston). Pat attended Chelsea School of Art (1938-39), where she was taught by Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore. One of her earliest commissioned pieces was a hand-lettered poster for a small exhibition of Sutherland's work.

She studied under the calligrapher MC Oliver at Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute (1953-54), where her fellow students included Heather Child and William Gardner. She cited Oliver as a great influence – "a good, sound teacher who taught in a practical manner". Pat was elected a member (now fellow) of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators in 1954.

Many formal calligraphic commissions followed.

After a brief spell in advertising, she returned to Farnborough when war broke out and went to work at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) – first in the accounts department and then in the aerodynamics department. It was while at the RAE that Pat met her future husband, Birrell Russell, who was responsible for erecting the radar aerials along the south and east coast to identify enemy aircraft. After the war, Birrell worked at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, Oxfordshire. While working on an experiment there, in 1949, he fell from a ladder and died, leaving Pat with two small children. Forced through economic necessity to return to work, she started teaching graphic design evening classes at Oxford School of Art.

Inspired by the dedication of the new Coventry Cathedral, the Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford arranged an exhibition in 1964 entitled Modern Art in the Church. Pat decided to submit a cope with lettering around the orphrey (the band of embroidery bordering a vestment). This was a big undertaking as buying the fabric was expensive. Fortunately, she had already invested in a Bernina sewing machine. The lettering was designed in freely cut paper, each letter being built up of little strips. In between each word she inserted a cross form. "In a church service," Pat said, "the priest doesn't want to be read up and down, but the letterforms must be there, decipherable if not easily readable." Different colours and textures of yellow, gold and brown were used in this cope, irrespective of whether for background or letter, the lettering being hidden in a richly patterned band.

In response to a commission for Worcester Cathedral, the Very Rev Tom Baker, who was dean at the time, praised her "sensitive awareness of the demands of liturgy and architecture on all embroidery work".

Throughout her embroidery career, Pat continued to work on calligraphic commissions. She collaborated with the binder Ivor Robinson on a number of books. For Pat, a manuscript book, made by hand, did not need to conform to the usual parallel lines of text and rectangular format, and could employ more unusual handmade papers. A special style of lettering could be developed appropriate to the tone of the subject matter.

Pat travelled widely throughout the latter part of her life, especially in Japan, Australia and Canada, where she was much in demand to lecture on church embroidery and lettering. After retirement from church embroidery at the end of the 1980s, she was free to indulge her passion for experimental lettering, working in paper pulp, on silk and then on a Mac (a 70th birthday present from her son). She was thus able to continue the work she had commenced, on receipt of a Crafts Council bursary in 1978, "to investigate the influence of tools, materials and techniques on the character of letterforms". She continued to teach and exhibit until her mid-80s.

Pat served as chair of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators from 1989 to 1991; she was a founder member of the Letter Exchange and the Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society; founder member and president of Oxford Scribes; and a member of the Art Workers Guild.

She is survived by her daughter Jennifer, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Her son, Graham, predeceased her.

Patricia Mary Russell, lettering artist, born 17 August 1919; died 12 March 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Andres Serrano's Piss Christ is the original shock art

Christian protesters who attacked the work have risen to the artist's bait and misunderstood his sincerity

Before sharks swam in formaldehyde, there was Piss Christ. With this work in 1987, Andres Serrano created what is surely the visual manifesto and original prototype of the use of shock in contemporary art.

Other 1980s artists, including Robert Mapplethorpe and Richard Serra, ran into controversy, but Piss Christ is distinguished by its calculated offence and rhetorical nature – the way it sets out to be unmissably outrageous and adopts that offence as part of its meaning.

I mean, it's called Piss Christ and is said to be made using the artist's own urine. It is far more polemical than, say, a Mapplethorpe photograph of sadomasochist rites where the artist portrays what he found beautiful and causes offence almost accidentally. As such, Piss Christ is one of the most influential works of art of the past 30 years, the model for a strategy that has transformed the public impact of art.

Yet the joke on the latest protesters to take Serrano's bait – hey look, Christians, I've urinated on the son of God! – is that Piss Christ works well as a modern work of religious art. I don't know if the curators of the Vatican museum have considered buying a print, but it possesses a richly traditional dimension. The passion of Christ has always been associated with bodily fluids – it is true that artists traditionally stressed blood rather than urine, but they scarcely stinted on the revulsion of Christ's fleshly death.

Piss Christ can be legitimately compared to the horrible sores and green pus on the body of Grunewald's Christ in the Isenheim altarpiece, or painted wooden statues in baroque churches with their lifelike gore and jewelled tears, or Caravaggio's Saint Thomas sticking his finger in Christ's spear wound.

Serrano's crucifix evokes the same kind of popular religiosity Andy Warhol paid homage to in his Last Supper series, another artistic highlight of the 1980s, and just as Warhol was a sincere Catholic, Serrano created a vivid and intense baroque image of the passion. The suffering of Christ is seen through a glass, darkly – or in this case shines through yellow urine, glowing uncannily within the stinking detritus of the body.

There's something in this powerful work of art for everyone. Atheists can savour its insult, Christians can meditate on the victory of the spirit in the humiliation of the flesh. Meanwhile, the easily provoked will never fail to have their anger aroused by a work of art that is spoiling for a fight. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Piss Christ destroyed by protesters

Photograph of crucifix submerged in urine attacked in French gallery after weeks of protests

The controversial work Piss Christ by the New York photographer Andres Serrano has been destroyed at a gallery in France after weeks of protests.

The photograph, which shows a small crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine, outraged the US religious right in 1987, when it was first shown, with Serrano denounced in the Senate by the Republican Jesse Helms. It was later vandalised in Australia, and neo-Nazis ransacked a show by the artist in Sweden in 2007.

The work has previously been shown without incident in France, but for the past two weeks Catholic groups have campaigned against it, culminating in hundreds of people marching through Avignon on Saturday in protest.

Just after 11am on Sunday, four people in sunglasses entered the gallery where the exhibition was being held. One took a hammer from his sock and threatened security staff. A guard restrained one man but the remaining members of the group managed to smash an acrylic screen and slash the photograph with what police believe was a screwdriver or ice pick. They then destroyed another photograph, of nuns' hands in prayer.

Piss Christ is part of a series by Serrano showing religious objects submerged in fluid such as blood and milk. It was being shown in an exhibition to mark 10 years of the art dealer Yvon Lambert's personal collection in his 18th-century mansion.

Last week the gallery complained of "extremist harassment" by Christians who wanted the image banned. The archbishop of Vaucluse, Jean-Pierre Cattenoz, called the work "odious" and said he wanted "this trash" taken off the gallery walls. Saturday's street protest against the work gained the support of the far-right National Front, which has recently done well in local elections.

Lambert had complained he was being "persecuted" by religious extremists who had sent him tens of thousands of emails. He likened the atmosphere to a return to the middle ages. The gallery stepped up protection, putting Plexiglass in front of Piss Christ and assigning two gallery guards to stand in front of it.

The culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand, condemned the vandalism as an attack on the fundamental freedoms of creation and expression. A police complaint has been filed by the gallery and the guards.

The gallery's director, Eric Mézil, says he will keep the exhibition open to the public with the destroyed work on show "so people can see what barbarians can do".

The I Believe in Miracles exhibition opened in December and will run until May. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 23 2011

Divine dispatches: a religion roundup | Riazat Butt

Bringing Mecca to the Venice Biennale; the Qur'an on trial; Holi festival casualties; Roland Joffé on Nelson Mandela

✤ Guess what this is about: "A meeting point of the two artists; of two visions of the world; from darkness to light. The work is a stage, set to project the artists' collective memory of Black – the monumental absence of colour. The first part of the installation relates to the physical representation of Black, referring to their past. The narrative is fuelled by the inspirational tales told by their aunts and grandmothers. As a counter point, the second part of the installation is a mirror image, an illumination, reflecting the present. These are the aesthetic parameters of the work." Any ideas? Anyone? Why, it's the Black Arch – the inaugural pavilion from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Venice Biennale. The artists, Shadia and Raja Alem, hail from Mecca and say their intention is to bring their hometown to Venice through objects brought from there: "A Black Arch; a cubic city, and a handful of Muzdalifah pebbles." I claim my sum from Pseuds Corner.

✤ The Rev Steve Lawler didn't give up chocolate or telly for Lent. He gave up Christianity. He decided to pray, abstain from pork and alcohol and was planning to fast during holy week but his Muslim Lent didn't amuse his superiors. "He can't be both a Christian and a Muslim," said Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. "If he chooses to practise as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church."

✤ Remember Terry Jones – the Florida pastor who wanted to burn the Qur'an? Well, he finally got round to it during a "trial" at the weekend, when he and a chum found the book guilty of crimes against humanity. There is now a price on his head of 10 crore (that's about £1.4m) and the inevitable, depressing slew of protests and threats.

✤ Hundreds of millions of people celebrated the Hindu spring festival of Holi at the weekend – and the festivities threw up a dizzying number of stories about "Bollywood Badshah" Shah Rukh Khan alone – but amid the parties and high jinks there were more corporeal matters to deal with. The Times of India reports that five were blinded by flying colours and there were five fatalities while the Indian Express says 7,956 people were pulled aside for traffic offences. The Times also ran an article criticising wastefulness, saying Mumbai-dwellers threw "conservation to the wind" by working their way through millions of litres of water during Holi 2011.

✤ Who does Nelson Mandela remind you of? Morgan Freeman? OK, who else? Well, according to film director Roland Joffé, the revered nonagenarian statesman is like Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei. In "an era of ideological conformity [he] had the courage to tell people to think for themselves, and like Nelson Mandela in South Africa brought healing to Spain". Er, quite. During a special screening of There Be Dragons – a film set during the Spanish civil war that features Escrivá as a central character – Joffe said '"it would be wonderful" if the film helped the 21st century to be seen as "the century of reconciliation", in which "we began once again to discover our innate humanity that exists in all of us" and to heal the wounds of the 20th century wars. Sorry – but only pandas can bring healing and reconciliation. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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