Category Archives: Travel

Saint Gerasimus

The Monastery of Saint Gerasimus was founded in the 5th century near the cave of Saint Gerasimus, who participated in the Council of Chalcedon. it was destroyed by the Persians in 614, and rebuilt by the Crusaders; restored in the 12th century; rebuilt in 1588; destroyed around 1734, and reestablished around 1885.

Icon screen in the major church. Notice the influence of Western art on the icons.

Although Saint Gerasimus was born in Lycia in southern Turkey his monastic quest led him from Turkey to the monastic establishments of Egypt and then on to Palestine near the river Jordan, where he established a monastery near the Jordan River near Jericho. His feast is March 5 in the West and March 4 in the East, as he is venerated in both West and East. One charming story in his hagiography is that he pulled a thorn out of the paw of a lion, which is commemorated in the mosaic work in the church. It is one of many beautiful mosaics in the monastic establishment.

 

A beautiful Tau cross in a geometric circle. Saint Anthony of the 3rd century and one of the first Christian monks used a crutch in the shape of a Tau. When he visited another monk, he would place the cross outside the cave as a symbol of communion of God.

Entrance into the Monastic Chapel.

The intricacy of the mosaics is truly stunning.

The Cave Church also has some beautiful floor mosaics.

Herod’s Fortress

The Herodium was a fortress constructed by Herod the Great who lived from 74 to 4 BC. Josephus, the 4th century Jewish historian describes the Herodium in this way:

“This fortress, which is some sixty stadia distant from Jerusalem, is naturally strong and very suitable for such a structure, for reasonably nearby is a hill, raised to a (greater) height by the hand of man and rounded off in the shape of a breast. At intervals it has round towers, and it has a steep ascent formed of two hundred steps of hewn stone. Within it are costly royal apartments made for security and for ornament at the same time. At the base of the hill there are pleasure grounds built in such a way as to be worth seeing, among other things because of the way in which water, which is lacking in that place, is brought in from a distance and at great expense. The surrounding plain was built up as a city second to none, with the hill serving as an acropolis for the other dwellings.”

From the height of the elevation there is a commanding view of the surrounding territory. It is an ideal location for a fortress.

Herod, who slaughtered the innocents of Bethlehem, was such a man of violence that the Emperor Augustus said “It is better to be Herod’s pig than son.” His escalating paranoia led him to kill his wife, and two of his sons.

The Herodium, built by King Herod the Great during the last three decades before the Birth of Christ, was a complex of palaces, entertainment and administrative structures, a fortress and a royal town. This is a view from the Herodium peering down to the lower Herodium which at one time was a magnificent area where King Herod would host distinguished guests.

Model of Upper Herodium.

Today the site is under intense archaeological excavation to identify structures of the Upper Herodium. Notice the remains of pillars in the lower left hand corner that outlines the oblong space that one can see in the reconstructed model.

One can detect the circular tower that was in front of the oblong terrace surrounded by columns.

Note the circular tower.

Remains of a bath house that featured a hot room lined in semi circle niches.

Miqveh. Jewish ritual based of purification from the time of the Great Revolt of Bar Kokhba.

A good of one of the circular towers of Herodium.

You can click to enlarge these photos of plaques showing more detail about the site.
       
  

Cana

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This is a church built to commemorate our Lord’s first sign at the wedding feast however there is little evidence this is Cana.

A detail.

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A old stone from an olive press.

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Lovely gardens.

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We fortified ourselves at lunch.

We fortified ourselves at lunch.

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Duc in Altum

This is the chapel in the town of Magdala where Mary Magdalen lived. Here we celebrated the third Sunday of Easter when Jesus beckons his apostles to have breakfast with him.

Unbelievably creative, to place you right into the Gospel.

Our pilgrims after Mass. What an experience to offer Mass on the seashore of Galilee.

On the seashore.

A stunning mural when the woman touches the hem of Jesus’ garment.

The floor mosaics are beautiful.

The facade: Duc in altum. “Put out into the deep.”

Confession of Peter

We arrived at the ruins of Caesarea Philippi where Jesus declared “the rock.”

Where there is the cave there was a temple in the time of Jesus. It was associated in earlier times with child sacrifice.

One can imagine Jesus said Peter “you are the rock” and pointing to the temple saying “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church.”

Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ~ Matthew 16:15-18

This is a source of the Jordan that flows down from the mountains of Lebanon.

The cave is the temple of Pan.

An artist’s rendition of what it might have looked like.

Temple of the sacred goat.

The Plain of Jezreel

From Mount Tabor, the Jezreel plain or valley lies below:

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And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him. And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak at the edge of the sword; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. And Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Haroshethhagoiim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left. ~ Judges 4:14-16

Capernaum, Part 1

Capernaum figured largely in Jesus’ ministry.

The church is built over the excavation of a house that was used church by early Jewish Christians in mid to late first century.

The church offers a commanding view of the synagogue built over the one in which Jesus preached.

Surrounding the synagogue are excavated remains of first century homes.

Under the glass floor of the modern church are the excavations of a fifth century church and also a fourth century synagogue, and under that was a first century house church, called the “House of Peter,” where there were discovered hundreds of Christian inscriptions in Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew saying Jesus, Lord, and Peter.

The altar where we offered Mass.

Excavations in the early 20th century revealed a fourth century synagogue.

The fourth century synagogue was built over the first century synagogue where Jesus preached. Notice the basalt foundation of the synagogue from the time of Jesus.