chapel of the ascension. by Levi Buchanan

No shortage of ornate churches here, which makes me appreciate the simplicity of the Chapel of Ascension atop the Mount of Olives. Allegedly where Jesus left this earth after the resurrection, it's a simple rotunda housing a footprint. That's all. That's all it needs, really -- especially at a place humbly celebrated as a nexus between our world and the supernatural.

 

Chapel interior. 

Chapel interior. 

Simple structure complements the within.

Simple structure complements the within.

What remains of the footprint, picked away by pilgrims over the centuries. 

What remains of the footprint, picked away by pilgrims over the centuries. 

church of the holy sepulchre. by Levi Buchanan

Ever build something up in your head for half of your life... and then have it exceed all expectations? That. 

Early this morning, followed the stations of Via Dolorosa and slipped into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before it was overwhelmed by crowds. I'm not necessarily religious -- rather, I embrace the uncertainty of faith is something greater than ourselves. But it was difficult not to sense something both infinite and historical at this site, where Jesus was raised on the cross over Golgotha and then nearby laid to rest.

Jerusalem continues to be everything I hoped. Truly a crossroads in history.

The Aedicule, containing the Angel Stone and the tomb of Jesus.

The Stone of Unction.

The Stone of Unction.

The Altar of the Crucifixion over Golgotha. There's a hole in the altar where you can reach down to touch the rock.

The rock of Calvary, viewed through a window in the Chapel of Adam. Allegedly cracked by an earthquake when Jesus was crucified.

The Christ Pantocrator ceiling above the Catholicon in the center of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

The rotunda above the Aedicule.

The Angel Stone, believed to be a fragment of the rock that covered the covered the tomb of Jesus.

Within the tomb, inside the Aedicule.

Crusader graffiti in the stairs leading down to the Chapel of Saint Helena.

Unearthed tombs behind the Aedicule.

Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The immovable ladder rests against the upper-right window.

 

 

phantom of the paradise by Levi Buchanan

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The Hollywood has a series of rock operas this month. Watched -- I mean, experienced -- "Phantom of the Paradise."  Total gonzo 70s flick by Brian de Palma, with music by Paul Williams (who wrote "Rainbow Connection"). Hugely fun riff on a bunch of different stories, from "Faust" to "Dorian Gray." And, of course, "Phantom of the Opera." Great costumes and sets. The effete Beef charicachture doesn't necessarily jive with 2015 sensibilities, although his number is one of the movie's highlights.

 

I've seen a lot of paint-by-numbers blockbusters this summer that were as joyless as they were loud. Catching classics at the Hollywood has been great counterprogramming.

 

Except for "Mad Max Fury Road." That was spectacular. 

in bruges by Levi Buchanan

So, Belgium is incredible. I zeroed in on Ghent and Bruges; Brussels will have to wait for a return voyage. The crowds and the “living museum-ness” of Bruges are a reason I stayed in Ghent, so I could also experience a working city. Bruges is dismissed for being too “touristy” — man, that gets said with such a sneer — but there’s reason why people flock to it. It’s a city out of time. The guildhalls, the bellower, the canals… the preserved medieval (thankfully, it was spared in World War II)… no shortage of magnificent sights that let you feel like you’re walking in centuries-old footsteps.

View from the Belford.

 

Yeah, yeah — some of the buildings have been repurposed into gaudy chocolatiers or even an odd McDonald’s, but at least the architecture is saved whenever possible. My unending fascination with churches, relics, and religious art was well-sated, too. Between the alleged Holy Blood relic, Bosch, and the Jerusalem Church, I checked a few more boxes on my armchair Indiana Jones list and even more excited for an upcoming trip.

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In a city of amazing doors, this was my favourite.

jeruzalemkerk by Levi Buchanan

My favorite surprise in Bruges. A church based on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Complete with a tomb and Golgotha-themed altar. And not a soul was there.

Tomb of Anselm Adornes, founder of the Jeruzalemkerk.

Tomb of Anselm Adornes, founder of the Jeruzalemkerk.

The skulls and ladders of Golgotha.

The skulls and ladders of Golgotha.