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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Vaison la Romaine (Our Lady of Nazareth) check your foundations

If anyone has been around me for a while, they will know that I have this obsession about Romanesque churches. These are pre-gothic churches built in and around the 11th and 12th centuries before the royal dynasties began building sacred monuments to their legacies. These churches were more like mission outposts and designed to tell gospel stories in pagan outposts.
Yesterday we drove 150 km to the ancient city of Vaison la Romaine in Provence. It is nestled among great vineyards and beneath some large hills. It was a prehistoric site for tribes, then settled by the Romans (great archeology sites available to walk through). Then the vandals invaded and the city fled up the hill into a walled village. The vandals were repulsed and in the 11th century the church of Our Lady of Nazareth was built (see above through the cloister)
Romanesque churches hold a special place in my heart for their simple architecture; round arches, thick walls, small window, carved capitals, big baptismal fonts, stone floors and cloisters.
But what caught my attention (hit me between the eyes) was the excavation on the exterior wall of the church: Roman columns.

 The church was built after the heyday of the Roman occupation. Somehow the builders were able to find excess Roman columns to use as foundation stones for the structure. So literally, this church is built on the foundation of the Roman empire (culture). That is more true than we often realize. The culture of Rome deeply influenced how the church looked and even operated.
If we dig deep enough around our foundations, what are the stones we are built on? What are the underpinnings that support the structure of our lives and our faith? American independence? Individual liberty? The free market? Republican or Democratic principles? Regionalism? Denominationalism?
Just look at how you read your Bible and where you read your Bible. Whose voice(s) do you pay attention to? Where do you spend your time/money? Who gets grace and forgiveness and who does not? Who are your friends and who are your adversaries? All of those are your/our foundations.


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