Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Slovenia Journal VIII:No Man Is An Island

Photograph by Hallie Cohen
There is only one island in Slovenia. It sits in the middle of Lake Bled. On the island is a Catholic church, the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, which is filled with sacrilege. Firstly the gilded altar with its crucifix is surrounded by two acolytes who are not saints, the German Emperor Henry II and his wife. The bishops of Brixen had facilitated a shidduck between Henry and the pope and in 1011, Henry essentially gave the bishops Slovenia as a gesture of gratitude. Then there’s s fresco of the circumcision of Christ, an odd image to find in a Catholic church. Finally there’s the underlying sense that the church is a walking and talking fertility rite with its magic bell that couples ring three times before they’re wed, pointing to the pre-Christian culture that existed on the site of  a house of worship that exhibits images of the Virgin Mary within while displaying a sculpture of Mary Magdalene on the lawn outside. The island is approached by an old flat bottomed Pletna boat.  It requires the skills of an ancien oarsman expertly steering a craft that can easily go out of control and that brings spiritual travelers to a destination filled with sometimes conflicting symbols.

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