July 25, 2012

Road Journal: Budapest

Yes, Budapest—the “Pearl of the Danube,” as it has been called due to its geographical location along “the Beautiful Blue Danube”—didn’t fall short of our expectations. It is really a wonderful city. And yet, in my own view, what’s perhaps most amazing about this rather cosmopolitan city is that… people seem to take their time in doing everything. Something I had forgotten since the times when I was a child—another Europe and, above all, another Italy. In other words, in Budapest one must not be in a hurry, and there must not be any sense of urgency or rush. A remnant of the old communist way of life? Well, maybe. In any case that’s also why this is a fascinating city.

Here are two more pictures:

July 17, 2012

July 12, 2012

Road Journal: Jasna Gora

Our Lady of Częstochowa
The Jasna Gora (Bright Mount in Polish) sanctuary in Częstochowa is the holiest place of Poland. Its most valuable treasure is the famous painting of Our Lady, also known as the Black Madonna.

The strange thing about this sanctuary is that it was not built after a Marian apparition—as is usually the case for major holy sites—of which the painting is the representation, no, this place exists because of the painting. Why? Here is an explanation about this mystery:

Tradition has it that St. Luke the Evangelist painted two pictures of the Virgin Mary on a tabletop once used by the Holy Family. One icon eventually made to Italy’s Bologna. Emperor Constantine brought the other from Jerusalem to Constantinople, and some 600 years later it was awarded to Prince Lev of Rus for his military services. In the 14th century a Polish prince, Wladislaw of Opole, found the icon in the Belz castle while he was warring Tatars who had conquered neighboring Rus, and he entrusted the holy image to the Pauline monks in Czestochowa. So says the 1474 volume of Translatio Tabulae from the Jasna Gora library. April 14, 1430, on the Easter, Bohemian robbers looted the Jasna Gora monastery, slashed Our Lady’s cheek with swords, and – by the account of the 1523 "Historia Pulchra" – left the holy image on the floor, broken in three.
Art historians believe Our Lady of Czestochowa was initially a Byzantine icon of the Hodigitria type, dated from the 6th to 9th centuries. During the 15th-centrury restoration in Krakow it was painted anew because the restorers were not able to apply their tempera colors over the original wax paint so they scraped it clean.

It is a fascinating story, no doubt. Yet, I think the best explanation is what you feel when you are there, the atmosphere you breathe in. But there are no words. Believe me, if you go there—and if you have been given the gift of Faith—you’ll understand.

July 5, 2012

Going East

Black Madonna of Częstochowa, Poland
Hello dear readers, I always appreciate your time and comments, but blogging will be light (or nonexistent) over the coming weeks—as it has been in the past few days—because summer has well and truly arrived, with temperatures rising all over the old continent, with what this brings for better or for worse, depending on tastes and circumstances. In other words, it’s vacation time, time for your truly to hit the highways and the byways of Europe once again. This year it’s Eastern Europe’s turn, a part of the old continent that I haven’t explored much yet. And if it is true, as they say, that The Light Comes from the East, it’s time to right that wrong, even though, for climatic reasons, I would have preferred to go north—Norway above all other countries!—but there’s a time for everything, and the time for fjords will come, sooner or later. Have a great summer everybody, thank you for your consideration, and may God bless us all!

Budapest, The Parliament