simon j logo
websites   projects   writing   speaking   blog    
  here and now  
Hi and thanks for landing here. It might seem a bit backward, but I decided to start blogging only because I've been enjoying Twitter so much. While I love the 140 character limit of tweets, I realised that a blog would give me a place where I could have the luxury of saying a bit more. I've also set up here because I have a blogging project in mind... but more on that later.
Right now my face is stuck in the following books...
Paradise Lost   Bring Up the Bodies  
Forest Church   The Geometry of Type  
advertising  art  Bible  books  cartoons  church  design  Facebook  icons  internet  Istanbul  JC  kitsch  London  movies  music  offence  overheard  pictures  poetry  politics  Pope  Qur'an  random  science  technology  theology  travel  TV  Twitter  typography  writing 
Seven churches 2013
Bach pilgrimage 2012
Flying to Byzantium 2010
April 2014
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
Photo of the Temple of Artemis and a Byzantine church in modern-day Sart, Turkey
Demons and crosses in Sardis

Posted on 26 April 2013, 2:31

Seven churches: Intro Pergamum Thyatira Smyrna Laodicea Philadelphia Sardis Ephesus Patmos

My set of pics for this post: Sardis

Sardis, where John’s fifth letter to the churches was sent, is now Sart, a little village lost in the folds of lumpy hills at the foot of Mt Tmolus, which in contrast is a brutal slab of stone. I just had to stop the car and stand on the side of the road to get a picture of the village and its mountain as they look so good together.

I also asked a couple of local women to let me take their picture as they were (I think) knitting, with their feet up on chairs. Their brightly coloured clothes and headscarves are worn by women throughout this region of Turkey.

Back in the day, Sardis had one of the biggest synagogues in the western world, and we called in there today. Its vast size and luxurious mosaics tell us that there must have been a very big Jewish population living here in the 4th century AD. That was a bit of a surprise when archaeologists unearthed the synagogue in the 1960s, as it had been assumed Judaism was declining at the time, with Christianity taking off.

My father just loved being here in this synagogue and could easily identify the different parts of the building, including the marble sanctuary where the scrolls of the Torah were kept. He used to be a church organist, but when he was a student, he answered a newspaper ad from a synagogue which was looking for an organist, as he needed the extra cash. They appointed him, and he’s been there ever since, now over 60 years.

The place here which seized my imagination was the ruined Temple of Artemis, which is in a remote field outside town, overlooked by curious hills shaped like pointed hoods. The place is lonely, melancholy and haunted – and maybe a bit dark too.

The old temple and its columns are colossal and when you climb up onto the platform with its floor and steps infilled with grass, or walk among its avenues of broken, blackened columns, you get a real feeling for the occult potency of paganism. We were there in the late afternoon, with long shadows on the grass, which just adds to the feeling.

The worship of Artemis eventually came to an end, of course, after hundreds of years. Who was the last priest here, and what were his feelings as he left the temple, or lay dying, knowing that he was the last of his line?

When the temple was abandoned, the local Christians in the 4th century still feared the old building, thinking it was inhabited by demons. They apparently carved crosses into it to break their power. I went on a search of the east doorway to see if I could find them. At first I found only bees, which have built thriving nests at this end of the building, but then, in the massive stone doorposts I found small, roughly carved crosses.

I also found a little, brick-built Byzantine church tacked onto the southeast corner of the temple (pictured above), perhaps for the same reason, to negate the power of the old religion and celebrate the power and joy of the resurrection.

This church, like the temple before it, is also a ruin. It’s depressingly like finding the graveyards of two religions next to each other. The only religion in town is in the mosque. I can’t find a church, congregation or gathering of any kind (Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian or Protestant) in modern-day Sart when I look on the Net.

‘I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,’ says Jesus in the letter to the church in Sardis. But nothing remains now.

I found some interesting stuff on the Net about the state of Christianity in Turkey: Christians in Today’s Turkey (2012); The Armenian Weekly’s List of Churches in Turkey (2011); Jesus in Turkey by Christianity Today (2008).

click to post about this on facebook   click to bookmark on delicious   click to post about this on reddit   click to post about this on twitter   Tweet this

Thanks for such an interesting post!

George Eldon Ladd defined the Sardis church as, ‘A picture of nominal Christianity, outwardly prosperous, busy with the externals of religious activity, but devoid of spiritual life and power.’

I can think of one or two places today where the same is true!

Enjoy the trip.

Muriel Sowden, Fri 26 Apr, 03:05

Add your comment



Your comment

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Please note that all comments are read and approved before they appear on the website... sad but true

      Follow me on...
    follow me on twitter follow me on facebook follow me on pinterest subscribe to this blog via rss
    contact   about