Monthly Archives: August 2015

Icon Redux: Saint Christopher

Byzantine & Christian Museum (2013-05-28 220In the post on my visit to the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, I took a photograph of an icon with a dog’s head. At the time I merely commented on how bizarre this icon seemed to me. At the time, I did not think much about it.

In volume 2 of his book Orthodox Saints, George Poulos discusses St. Christopher Cynocephalus. The only St. Christopher I knew was the one who is depicted on medals carrying a child with the caption, “St. Christopher Protect Us.” Well, this is the same St. Christopher. Poulos explains that Christopher, whose original name was Reprobos, was ugly and repulsive. He was so ugly that his comrades called him Dogface. (Cynocephalus means “dog-head.”) His inner spiritual beauty was hidden by a hideous face. Actually painting a person with a dog’s head seems just a wee bit extreme.

Anyway, Christopher is known as the patron saint of travelers, but this is the Roman Catholic tradition. The Eastern Orthodox have no stories relating to Christopher as a traveler. However, the story of him carrying the child–who is actually the Christ Child–is known in the East. Christopher finds that he is actually carrying the weight of the world when he carries Jesus. Christopher lived during the reign of Emperor Decius, who had him executed on May 9, 255.

The explanation of why the saint is painted with a dog’s head still doesn’t warm me to the work. To me, a dog-headed icon is more kitsch than holy.

Bibliography
Poulos, George. Orthodox Saints: Spiritual Profiles for Modern Man, April 1 to June 30 (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1991), p. 101-102.

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The Met’s American Wing

(2015-08-07 002)Last Friday, I started my vacation by going to the Metropolitan Museum with my friend Caroline. If you are a regular reader, you already know that my favorite museum is the Met and that I’ve taken hundreds of photos there. My favorite galleries are, of course, the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Egyptian. This time, neither of us wanted to go to the same ones again, so Caroline suggested the American Wing, and we were not disappointed.

The place was literally a madhouse. For New Yorkers to find a place crowded means that it was packed; we could hardly get around the gaggles of tourista. We sat and had a beverage in the American Wing Cafe, which has a wonderful view of Central Park. It was a lovely, sunny, low humidity day, so we enjoyed the view as we chatted shop, i.e. libraries. From there we began our exploration of the wing which, Caroline insisted, would not be crowded. She was right.

(2015-08-07 049)Unlike the Egyptian hallways, which were packed, the American Wing had few people in it, so we wandered around and took lots of photographs. What we concentrated on were the rooms from early American history. These were fascinating, and some of them tied directly into the early Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam–and the Hudson Valley. I can’t say that I found the furniture on display without being in a room setting fascinating, but there were some interesting pieces. The furniture in room settings were captivating, and we spent quite a few photographs trying to capture the essence of the exhibits, which amounted to taking a photo one way, then another way, and not being able to get the entire room in one photograph.

Afterwards, we walked over to a restaurant participating in “Restaurant Week” (which lasts a month), a price fixe at really expensive restaurants that I would not normally patronize. We had lunch at Ristorante Morini, and were not disappointed. The food was spectacular! The fish was delicious, the cold soup had a wonderful bite to it (I’d love to know how to make it), the chocolate dessert was excellent, and the price ($25) was right. Morini is within walking distance of the Met, at 1167 Madison, between 85th and 86th Streets.

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Birds at the Cloisters, in Chelsea, and Sleepy Hollow

Over the past several weeks, I was able to interact with the local fauna, namely birds.

My friend Caroline and I went up to the Cloisters, taking the train all the way up to Fort Tryon Park. This was our annual pilgrimage. We walked through the park and got to the Cloisters pretty early. Nonetheless, it was packed, being a holiday weekend. We were, however, able to avoid most of the crowds. We took, instead, photos of the architecture and flora. We got some great pics.

We have taken so many photos of the art in the Cloisters that neither one of us was the least bit interested in taking any more photos. We were parched and went to the little cafe in the Cloisters to get something to drink, and Caroline was hungry. We were stunned to find that the birds flying around the courtyard where the cafe and seating is located landed very close to us and walked within inches of where we were. What did we do? Why we took pictures, of course!

Caroline gets advice on nature photography from expert

Caroline gets advice on nature photography from expert

The most  interesting one I have already posted, the bird that landed on Caroline’s hand and cell phone, (I’ve posted it again), but it needs a bit more of an explanation. Caroline was surprised by the bird’s attempt to land on her, and there was some guy there with a big camera with a very long lens who snapped photo after photo of the action. My camera is small and cannot simply snap photos one after the other. (It might be able to, but the setting would have to be changed.) I was able to get the one close-up where the bird does, indeed, look as if he is giving Caroline advice. (She latter tweeted the pic.) The man showed us the photos in his camera, then walked away. He never offered to send Caroline copies of the photos, in which he caught Caroline’s surprise and shock. I thought that this was in poor taste. After all, if you take a clear, close-up photo of someone, it only seems right to offer the person a copy.

Weeks later, I walked to the Magnolia Bakery in Chelsea with two friends. We ate our goodies across the street in a little park. The birds there came right up to us, basically begging for some food. Baked goods always have crumbs, so I started tossing crumbs to the birds, which quickly gobbled them up, at which point the pigeons, who were a distance away, came running. (Probably had the cute birds trolling food.)

Finally, I snapped some pics of the Canada goslings that were born this spring. Last year I snapped some photos of goslings that resembled fuzz balls. This year, I got the babies when they were a bit older.

 

 

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Filed under Nature, New York City, Sleepy Hollow