Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The awesome Church of St Mary (a.k.a. Church of Assumption) on the island in Lake Bled, Slovenia

Church of Saint Mary - Lake Bled, Slovenia
 Visiting the church of Saint Mary on the island in Lake Bled is well worth the 12 Euro 50 boat ride to get there, the 3 Euro admission fee or even the 50 cent the exited visitor is to hand over lavatorial services.

Church on the Island in Lake Bled, Slovenia

True to Bled’s inescapable air of mystery, the church can’t be properly dated. Above the door it says 1866 but some of the artifacts on display are much older. The stunning gilded wood statue of Madonna and Child stems from the 15th century, when the island had a Gothic church on it. Prior to that, the island was home to a Romanesque basilica and before that there were several sacred little buildings or shrines nestled on its bedrock.

Main altar of the church of Saint Mary
Lake Bled, Slovenia
 The Baroque main altar explodes in gold, with a beautiful God the Father figure perched on what seems a spherical representation of the universe up top. Now that’s daring in any age and certainly unusual. Central in the main altar piece is a statue of the Madonna with Child and that alone supplies an endearing solution to the problem of how the members of the Trinity relate when they’re all supposed to be the same one God of monotheistic Christianity.

With this unique piece the sculptor seems to say; Christ is at the heart of it all but the Father is above all. The Marian phenomenon - overestimated by Catholics, according to Protestants, and underestimated by Protestants according to Catholics - rightly seats under the Father, producing the Child in the heart of everything. Just like God created man and man created theology.

Madonna with Child - Bled, Slovenia

Mariology is of course a pivotal theme of every Catholic church, but this church is partly dedicated to the other famous Mary: the Magdalene. We don’t know anything about this Mary, except that Jesus cast seven demons out of her. She was also among the women who met the resurrected Christ at the tomb, and were sent to tell of this. And by this they became the world’s first evangelists.

From the ceiling hangs a rope. It’s tied to a bell and a sign entreats visitors to not ring the bell more than three times. It takes a while to get it going but when it finally does, it won’t stop. The bell is called the wishing bell, but our wish for it to stop tolling remains ungranted.

When the friendly boatman brings us back to shore, another boat comes towards us. It’s loaded with Japanese tourists, who wave at us and take our picture.
“Don’t forget to ring the bell,” I holler, “Go, tell it on the mountains!”

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