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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

March 4, 2011

HISTORICAL IMAGINATION

I never gave much thought to the reconstruction of antiquity. I mean….I just supposed what old buildings and walls and monuments that we viewed today as tourists and historians….was, well, like it always had been. Or…if it had aged….it had been “aged” like that for the past couple hundred years.

That’s pretty naïve on my part and those who study the great monuments of the past, or if you are a geologist or archeologist, you would tell us that a lot of re-creation goes into presenting the past.

I first became aware of my lack of historical archeology when we were in Turkey. We toured the wonderful site of Ephesus. The Biblical site of Paul and that great city. The government of Turkey has done a wonderful job of uncovering and preserving what is there. Our guide says that about 20% of the city is uncovered. If my math is correct, there is still 80% to be unearthed, stone by stone and shovelful by shovelful. Were it not for the government and archeologists and donors, we would have very little understanding of what came before us. While we were there viewing that 20%, there were workers under tents and awnings working on the next 1 or 2%. And if that does not make you think about what you are missing. Ephesus in the time of Paul was a great sea port on the Mediterranean. Today the sea is a mile away due to silt and the passage of time.

Nearby the Temple of Artemis, one of the great wonders of the Ancient world is but one and a half pillars erected on the site of the ancient temple. They were not even certain if those were pillars of the temple, but they have the place and one can envision the past just a bit through such recreations.

Climb the great Acropolis in Athens and there you see the equally great Parthenon….and huge cranes which lift and set huge stones which have been moved with the passage of time. The pillars of the Parthenon look almost insignificant in size next to the cranes, and right behind the Parthenon is a permanent work building for the construction.

The old town alleyways of Athens are rebuilt neighborhoods that are now for the tourist trade. I imagine they are much more picturesque than when the ordinary citizen lived there, but the labyrinth quality of the area gives us a picture of what was at one time.

The same can be said of all the “Old Towns” of the cities we have visited. Istanbul, Patras, Greece, Bari, Italy, Rome, Florence, Barcelona and Grenada, Spain. Old towns rebuilt and given back to the people of today in the form of housing, tourist shops, beautiful piazzas and plazas. For all of us used to driving on Freeways and Interstates, it is good to get a glimpse of where our ancestors came from and where some modern Europeans live and work. (And, yes, I realize that a small proportion of Europeans live in these quaint re-creations of old time living….much like German Village is in Columbus to the suburbs of Columbus).

Also, have you ever considered the number of jobs which are created by preserving the past. We have seen more old buildings being gutted and renovated and streets being re-bricked and sidewalks and plazas being newly lined with cut stone. People everywhere re-creating the past for us to see.

And the biggest work of all? The upkeep of the magnificent cathedrals and mosques. I am familiar with what it takes at our church in Dublin, with its aluminum roof, to find a leak and stop it from entering the offices. I cannot even imagine the complexity of searching the roofs of these monstrous cathedrals for the source of a leak. But someone does. (Though I will be honest, I have seen leaks in many cathedrals and mosques. Even the houses of the Most High God take a lot of patching.)

The preservation of the artwork is by far the greatest of the tasks for the cathedrals and mosques. Time, automobile exhaust, humans and water all take their toll on the great art. We have seen countless restoration work. We have seen some areas of the churches totally blocked by huge scaffolds in which dozens of art restorers are working to freshen up the frescoes and re-gild the frames and uncover the lost faces behind the main paintings.

The La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona is still a construction site. It’s three main cranes tower over the cathedral towers. My grandkids children may get to see the finished product. I’ll set up a trust fund for them to do so, but I imagine it may have to wait for an even later generation.

Everything seems to be a re-creation of the original or the original is explained but has been shipped off to London or Paris (or stolen and the governments are in negotiation) or some rich person in the south of France now owns the original and what they have on display here is a copy.

One place we saw nary a scaffold or unfinished masterpiece or construction crane….St. Peter’s in Rome. That place is pristine. An army of workers and cleaners attacks every floor scuff mark and dusts every artwork daily, or so it seems.

Seeing ancient artifacts is not for the unimaginative. One has to take what one can get, ignore the scaffolds, wonder about what has been lost to history and appreciate what is still around. It has been an eye opener for me, and a delight.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

To follow Bob's journey via his blog, check in daily at:   www.revbobsjourney.blogspot.com

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