Monday, November 09, 2009

Being a Catholic, I tend to think the world falls out according to the accounts of The New American Bible in conjunction with the encyclicals that come out of Vatican City. Having been raised a Presbyterian, unlike cradle Catholics, I know the NAB and the Holy Father are pretty darn close but of course, not infallible. Such blessings that come from unexpected places.

And being a student of art, God! let me be a student of art for always!, the Renaissance has long held my fascination and I count time among the frescoes and carvings of those hill top fortress churches in Italy as some of the sweetest moments in all of my life. Say San Gimiginano. Volterra. Assisi. The basilica at Sienna. They are what churches should be, the archetypes of beauty, grace, perfection, inspiration and emotional and visual fulfillment. Begs the question, would I be a Catholic if the churches were not so exquisite? the penultimate in art and architecture? One's ego also shows up at such unexpected places...

So imagine me, wanting to know more about the Byzantines; mainly of course, because of San Marco in Venice. That well may be the Lollapalooza, the Motherlode, of all Catholic Churches. So I have to get to know more about the Byzantines to understand and appreciate San Marco better. I decide to go to Turkey, always wanted to go anyway, and see for myself, up close and personal, who the Byzantines were and what their life looked like.

It's only now that I know that going to Turkey to explore art and architecture of the Byzantines is a bit like saying you're going to go to Southern California in February because you hear the weather's good. Not only is the weather good, hell, the weather's freaking sublime, the fruit is fresh off the trees, the flowers bloom, the air is sweet, the water's warm, the museums, parks, attractions and cultural events await you with open arms and there's a million, no 6 million fantastic restaurants willing, waiting, wanting to feed you. The weather's real good in Southern California in February.

So as it turns out, the Byzantines occupy about six square inches in the enormous silken tapestry that is the history and existence of Turkey. And in my innocence and naivete about Byzantine mosaics and decorative motifs, I fall headlong into the collective arms of the most extraordinary cultures, civilizations, ancient cities, states, and lives of people that I have ever known or read about. Silly, silly me.

Here is a quick shot right out of the gate; not by any means do Catholics hold the franchise on the most beautiful churches in existence. Not by any means. You want to see an utterly extraordinary church? find a grand mosque. If you're doing it up right, you'll start with the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, properly known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It's quite possible it's the most gorgeous religious facility I have ever seen. Just how many schoolings do you get in one life? It's decorated floor to ceiling with handmade, hand painted ceramic tiles from Nicaea. It's 72 x 64 x 42 meters; that's 70,000 square feet in hand painted tiles. All affixed by hand. Still in perfect condition.

But don't take my word for it. Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think. And one thing I really loved? Even in the Blue Mosque of Istanbul you have to vacuum.

JoJo Nahili
The 'Kan EWA

1 comment:

green libertarian said...

Stunningly gorgeous.

Hello JBelle.