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Part 17: Pilgrimage ends on a high

Oberammergau didn’t invent the Passion Play. These were widespread in medieval times, performed throughout the German-speaking region as well as in countries such as France, Italy and England. Before and for long after Oberammergau’s villagers made their famous pledge, the most famous Passion Play was that of Benediktbeuren, also in Bavaria, the first known script […]

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Part 16: Piety and revenue in Oberammergau

Of the tens of thousands of people who saw this year’s five-month run of the Oberammergau Passion Play, I believe our group of 45 Southern Cross pilgrims was among the privileged few who had just seen the original sites where what was being performed on stage actually happened.

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Part 15: Beer, art and faith in Bavaria

Coming from the bustling chaos of Jerusalem and Cairo, the orderly serenity of Upper Bavaria is much welcome. It is a truly beautiful part of the world: the magnificent Alps overlook green meadows and lush forests, and the landscape is dotted with shimmering lakes and the occasional castle built by the eccentric King Ludwig II. […]

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Part 14: The pilgrim as a tourist

The arbitrariness of air travel itineraries sometimes produce the happy circumstance of allowing travellers to visit places they otherwise would not see. Our group of 45 Southern Cross pilgrims left Tel Aviv to fly to Munich via Cairo, necessitating one night in transit, spent in an entirely agreeable hotel in which I observed that the […]

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Part 13: The symbolic power of the cross

In 1968, the country singer Johnny Cash recorded in album that chronicled his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Cash was a devout Christian whose first wife was a Catholic, so the album is a most sincere expression of faith. One portion of the album is a field recording of Cash narrating his progress along the […]

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Part 12: Flying fists at the place of Christ’s resurrection

It seems insufferably foolish that some of the most spiteful manifestations of co-existence between Christians should have permanent residence in the place of Our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. On a window ledge facing the courtyard of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City — on Calvary — stands a ladder which has […]

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Part 11: On the Via Dolorosa

When we follow the Stations of the Cross in our churches, particularly during Lent, we do so in reverent calm, allowing us to reflect on the stages of Our Lord’s suffering before his broken body was finally laid in his tomb, whence he would rise again. In reality, of course, Jesus’ torturous walk to Calvary […]

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Part 10: Where Jesus walked

On our second and final day in Jerusalem, everything was building up to the grand finale: Christ’s Resurrection. The morning’s itinerary first took us on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City. In the Benedictine Dormition abbey (also known as the Hagia Maria Sion abbey), a life-size ivory and wood effigy of Mary on a […]

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Part 9: Travelling to Our Lady

A  grotto connects the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives with Mary’s Tomb. Our group of 45 pilgrims didn’t use that, but crossed the street to arrive at the remains of the 5th century church of the Assumption. Owned by the Greek Orthodox Church, which shares it with the Armenian […]

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Part 8: Mount of Olives – Where Jesus prayed and wept

Our group left Bethlehem, where Jesus entered this world, and began our first day in Jerusalem at the place where he reputedly departed from it. Catholics commemorate the ascension in a small mosque on top of the Mount of Olives, which contains a rock with the imprint of what looks like a left foot, the […]

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