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Class tours Civil War Battlefields in Virginia

Jacob Sheridan ’14 & Stephen Fenton ’14 – Se were at the Fredericksburg battlefield Friday visiting the other three civil war battlefields in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The four battles together resulted in approximately 15,000 fatalities, making it the bloodiest area of the civil war. The tour guide we had was one of the best of the trip, and he wasn’t even a park ranger, but just a private historian.

Unlike most of our other battlefield visits, the Spotsylvania battlefield did not seem to be at all preserved. In fact, the tour guide told us how he has fought to preserve some of the battlefield, but unfortunately most of it has been lost to developers. We learned about General John Sedgwick whose troops were being harassed by confederate sharpshooters all day. Against the advice of his subordinate officers, Sedgwick moved towards the front line to personally direct the placement of the infantry and artillery. Once there, he saw that his men were literally trying to dodge the sharpshooter’s bullets, which disappointed him greatly. Sedgwick said, “They couldn’t hit an elephant from this distance.” Soon after uttering this phrase, Sedgwick was fatally hit by one of these confederate sharpshooters. We also visited the spot of the Bloody Angle where the bodies were stacking up three and four high due to the intense close combat. In fact, there was a large oak tree that was cut through on one side with so much musket fire that it was knocked over.

We also drove through parts of where the Wilderness battle would have taken place, but because the battle essentially happened in the woods, we did not extensively visit this site. It is believed that there are still many human remains on the Wilderness battlefield.

At Chancellorsville, we were able to follow the approximate path that Stonewall Jackson used to flank his 28,000 men in place to attack the union forces. They made this 12-mile trip with nearly 40 pounds of gear in around eight hours. Luckily for us, we drove the distance making much better time, but the feat of Jackson’s men was nonetheless impressive. This risky maneuvering, which had cost General Robert E. Lee at Antietam, proved quite beneficial at Chancellorsville where the confederates achieved victory.

Our final stop of the day was the spot where General Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire. On the night of May 2, 1863, during the battle at Chancellorsville, Jackson and his staff were riding back into camp when the 18th North Carolina Infantry confused them for Union cavalry. Jackson and his men tried to identify themselves, but the North Carolina men believed it was a trick and continued to fire. Jackson was hit by one bullet in the right hand and two more in his left arm. Several of Jackson’s staff was killed as well. Jackson’s left arm had to be amputated and he later died of the wounds and perhaps pneumonia. In response to the event, General Lee said, “Jackson may have lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.”

Wentzel ’14 Fascinated by Wally Immersion

Jeremy Wentzel ’14 – I’ve been trying to pinpoint one specific theme that makes the Wabash immersion experience so great and unique from a social perspective.  Having gone on a previous immersion trip to Europe, I believe it’s possible to articulate a specific “slice of life” that is specific to a group of Wabash men overseas.

It should come at no surprise that a Wabash immersion experience, in many cases, is the first opportunity for a Wabash student to travel outside of the United States.  It should also come as no surprise that, for many, there is an immediate visible exposure to the new culture.  Some students can blend in better than others.  However, what I’ve noticed that inevitably comes from this process of cultural adjustment, is that the Wabash man manifests himself in a different way, with a guiding spirit that comes from the college mission statement.  To put it more concisely, you can spot a Wabash man wherever you go in the world, but that same Wabash man might not have to be perceived as a stereotypical American.

It comes as no surprise that taking risks is part of the Wabash education, as well as the ethos of many students.  In Paris, I have observed a healthy amount of risk taking that transcended cultural barriers.  Some risks were in the purview of an American outlook, but more commonly, there were risks taken for the sake of humanity – risks that truly embodied the mission of Wabash College, in a different nation.

Maybe it was the times when students would, out of sheer curiosity and friendliness, talk to strangers on the Paris Metro.  The Metro is traditionally silent, but for some strange reason, a group of Americans livened the atmosphere in a tasteful way at various points.  Or, maybe it was the time when a student gave up his seat for a couple to sit with each other on another form of public transportation.  Generally, the couple would have had to split up to find separate seats.  Or, maybe it was the time when I was walking with another group of students in the evening when one decided to strike up a conversation with a gentleman walking his dog.  Generally the gentlemen would have not been approached by an American on his evening walk, but the small risk on the part of the Wabash man led to a brief encounter of positive conversation.

These impulses are very specific to a group of Wabash students who find themselves immersed in places they don’t understand completely.  Yet, when our power of lingual and cultural certainty are diminished, small risks that enhance humanity sort of filter through.  This is another example, to me, of “spreading the fame of her honored name” in a culturally sensitive way, that comes only through immersion learning through Wabash College.

Rosenberg Added Unique Perspective to Trip

Professor Warren Rosenberg – I want first to thank Prof. Bob Royalty for inviting me on this immersion trip to Israel, and thank him as well for the terrific job of planning he did. I have led three Wabash immersion trips and know what organizing one entails, and mine were to a United States location. The complexities of planning a trip to the Middle East are far greater, and while the trip has another day to go at this point, I can label it an unqualified success. How do I know? I can see it in the students, and I can see it in myself.
Professor Warren Rosenberg with Elias Jabbour.

Professor Warren Rosenberg with Elias Jabbour.

Let me contextualize my remarks by saying that this is my first trip to Israel, after being born one year after the country was founded n 1948. As the only Jew in the group, I have a unique perspective on the trip. My attitudes have been shaped by growing up in a Jewish American household, with three grandparents who were immigrants from Eastern Europe. (My maternal grandmother was born in the US, but her parents were from Europe). I grew up thinking that if they had not made the decision to come to America in the early 1900′s they would have almost certainly been killed in the Holocaust. I, like many American Jews, was strongly influenced by reading the novel Exodus and seeing the 1960 film, both strongly romanticizing the Zionist enterprise. And while I grew up a somewhat practicing Jew, attending Hebrew school, having a Bar Mitzvah and attending synagogue on the High Holy days, I have abandoned practice but still feel a strong Jewish identity.

So coming to Israel with a group of Christian students (with only one non-Christian student) and a religion professor who teaches the Bible and early Christianity is interesting in itself. It has been fascinating to watch our students being exposed to the sites that are religiously meaningful to them, as well as to the sacred sites of Judaism and Islam.  Visiting Haifa, the stunning Sea of Galilee, Jericho, and Jerusalem have been powerful aesthetically, historically, and emotionally. Our morning on the Temple Mount, having the very rare opportunity as non-Muslims to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, was an experience that I know all of us will long remember.
Yet the key to a truly successful immersion experience lies in meeting and interacting with people, and it is here that Bob’s planning has borne the richest fruit.  We have spent the most time with our tour guide Habib, a Christian Israeli Arab, who embodies the incredibly diverse identities that it seems like everyone in Israel shares.  Because he is a Christian, his passion and deep knowledge really emerged as he took us to all of the sites associated with Jesus. But he has also shared with us his experiences as a Palestinian living in Israel, the humiliation he feels when stopped at a checkpoint, and the clearly strong feelings he has about the land and his people’s connections to it. We have met bright and interesting Israeli students–Arab and Jewish–at Haifa University, articulate and passionate Palestinian students at Bethlehem University in the West Bank, and an equally articulate and passionate Orthodox Jewish couple (he from Cleveland and she Connecticut) who met on a trip to Israel, fell in love with the place and each other, and decided to stay, who invited us for a wonderful Shabbat dinner in their home.
Our students have been completely engaged in all of these human interactions, as well as those they had on their own in each location. I see them processing these stimulating experiences on the bus and at meals. They are thinking about their own identities, about sacred texts, and they are thinking about the difficult political realities that are facing this country and region–even as fighting has erupted this week in Gaza and today on the Lebanese border. The “contested sites” of the course’s title are anything but purely academic, as they are learning each day of this trip.
For me, even at my age, the complicated processing of identity has been re-kindled by this trip. I am drawn to the Western Wall, where my grandparents would have given much to be able to pray, to the sites where King David lived, to Yad Vashem, the almost overwhelming Holocaust museum, and to a country with a Star of David on its flag. But when I see the other wall, the one that brutally separates the Palestinians from portions of their ancestral lands, I become upset and troubled. I think of the young Palestinian university student who wanted to talk with me about The Great Gatsby when she heard I was a literature professor, but who cannot travel freely to visit friends or family outside the West Bank, and who is restricted from seeking a job in the thriving Israeli economy just beyond the wall after she graduates, a person for whom the green light at the end of the dock is a daily reality. I see the face of a young boy in a run down neighborhood in Hebron desperately trying to sell me a bracelet for a few shekels. These interactions raise strong questions about any identification I might think I have with this beautiful and complex country. Clearly, this  is a trip that  I, like our students, will also be thinking about and learning from for a long time to come.
- Photos by Ian Baumgardner ’14

Prof. Gomez: There is Hope in the House

Professor Gilberto Gomez – Mr. Elias J. Jabbour is a kind gentlemen of sharp eyes, a generous smile, and a big heart. Almost 80 years old, he however is energetic and passionate about the possibility for peace and understanding in a troubled world. A descendent of the Canaanites who inhabited the lands around Nazareth from times immemorial and a self-defined optimist, Mr. Jabbour runs the “House of Hope” in the living room of his modest home in Nazareth, where he took our entire group for a convivial lunch prepared by his wife and grandchildren. It is a rectangular room lit by fluorescent lamps and adorned with handmade sings. “Love,” “Faith,” and “Hope” are all in English. There are also signs in Arabic and in Hebrew. Another sign wishes us a “Happy New Year in 2007.” The food is delicious, and Elizar goes around the table to make sure all students Andes accompanying faculty try the hummus that is served in small dishes. “It is made with the best olive oil in the world,” he says.

Prof. Gilberto Gomez listening to Benjamin discuss life in Israel.

Prof. Gilberto Gomez listening to Benjamin discuss life in Israel.

Mr. Jabbour is a minority within a minority: a Christian Palestine. He has devoted his life to the search for understanding and reconciliation in present day Israel. He bemoans the walls, physical and mental, that separate the various communities throughout this small country, and finds that situation extremely abnormal in a land in which the three major religions, which all share a common core, managed to coexist for centuries. An “optimist at heart,” he thinks there is not only room for reconciliation but a dire need for it. “We will be here together, or we will not be able to be here at all,” he says indicating that there cannot be a “solution” that excludes others. He doesn’t particularly blame one group or other. “We are all humans and thus all different,” he says, adding “we need to live with our differences and learn to love them, why does it have to be so hard? We are humans, and sometimes not the best humans.”

He emphasizes that only through the opening of the heart can a stalemate of decades begin to be solved. He laments that Jewish and Palestinians, although living next to one another, find it so difficult to meet and interact. Children, for example, go to separate schools. The town down the road from Nazareth is Jewish and is only three miles away, yet no one from Nazareth ever goes there, no one from there comes to Nazareth, perpetuating a separation that is lasting too long. Most dire, in his view, is the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, large numbers of whom have migrated and continue migrating elsewhere. If the situation is not changed, he thinks we will see a paradoxical situation where the  Holy Land, the place where Christianity was originated, will be devoid of Christians.

“Hurry up and eat more hummus,” he reminds the whole group now. And then he reveals the secret of why it is the best hummus in the world: “It is made with olive oil that I myself produced,” he says with a coy smile. Now, there is hope in this world.

Morrison ’14 Torn Between Beauty, Ugliness

Valley of Hinnom through the city of Jerusalem.

Valley of Hinnom through the city of Jerusalem.

Scott Morrison ’14 – This week in Israel has been challenging in more ways than one, and I will probably leave this country with more questions than answers. How fitting, right?

Natanel Cohen, founder of Shabbat of a Lifetime, talking with Wabash students.

Natanel Cohen, founder of Shabbat of a Lifetime, talking with Wabash students.

It’s fitting because Wabash tells students about the importance of questioning. We base our classes on discussions and we ask a lot of questions; these are questions we are told to continue asking throughout life. The experiences of the past days since my first blog on the first day of the trip have been amazing, enriching, and beautiful in a lot of ways. But they have also been ugly in a way, and this is what has raised the questions in my mind.

When I say ugly, let me explain. But, in order to make myself clear, I will relate the many positives.
Of course the religious sites themselves were fantastic. I have gained a greater appreciation for all of the faiths based in this Holy Land. The experience of being led by a Muslim waqf through Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock was in a way, life-changing. For one, they were very rare experiences which allowed me to see intense beauty as I have never seen. Additionally, seeing the peace of the Muslims praying and studying was in a word – intense. We faced no hostility and were treated with respect and humility. The waqf was down to earth, criticizing Muslim leaders in Arab countries like Saudi Arabia. For him, the Quran comes first, and he peacefully worshipped God.
My experience as a Catholic visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher really helped me appreciate my faith more than I have in the last few years. To see the many pilgrims, the place Jesus was crucified, where his body was prepared, and where he was buried was beyond words. It is hard to come to this land and not have your faith sparked.
Wabash students breaking bread with Benjamin.

Wabash students breaking bread with Benjamin.

That leaves Judaism. The Western Wall is a moving sight. To be able to pray alongside Jewish Haredim was awe-inspiring. We broke bread on Shabbat in the home of an Orthodox Jewish man named Ben, along with his wife and a friend. We shared in food and song as family and as friends. I truly believe this is something that would please God. It too was amazing.

Yet, all of those great experiences were complicated beyond belief. I stood with Kalp Juthani on the Mount of Olives on Friday as the Muslim call to prayer echoed over all of Jerusalem. Simultaneously, I heard the bells of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (which I should mention is divided between six Christian groups – a conflict in itself). And while I listened to those beautiful but competing sounds from the east of the Temple Mount, I knew that on the other side, pious Jews were rocking, praying, and wailing to God. That is what this class is about, contested sites. My tough hike up the Mount of Olives was worth this unique experience.
This is a beautiful land full of beautiful faiths and beautiful people. We have met many great people from all faiths and walks of life from Jews to Christians to Muslims. But there were constant, painful reminders of ugly lurking below the surface. We had great dinner conversation with our Shabbat host, Ben, about the conflict with Palestine. By the way, in the week we have been here 7 Palestinians have been killed, and rockets have flown both ways across the Gaza Strip border.
I find my heart goes out to our new Palestinian friends, Issa Ba’bish and Qamar Hamati, we met at the University of Bethlehem in the West Bank. They spoke of the corruption in the Palestinian government which they are hopeful can be fixed. They spoke of 50 percent unemployment, extreme poverty, settlements, and the hardship it is travel into Jerusalem to pray at religious sites. They told a very real story and they worked around the whole issue in our discussion. We plan on keeping in touch.
But we didn’t need much more explanation; we saw the wall that has been erected between Israel and Bethlehem in the West Bank. We went through more Israeli checkpoints than I ever care to go through in my life. All of this confused me more than I ever thought I would be about the political and religious conflict here. Whose side should I take? It’s not an easy question to answer.
But I am truly thankful I could experience this country, these religions, and these people in the Holy Land. I have gained new understanding, but many more questions. Can these people coexist? What will happen to Jerusalem? Will Israel and Palestine come to a peaceful agreement? Will Issa and Qamar be able to support their families? And so many others.
The human stories brought a mistiness to my eyes at times, and I know these everyday people want to peacefully live. But religious claims, scarce resources, and complex political ties will keep the situation tense here for the foreseeable future. As I head back to America, I know I will continue to ponder this situation, asking both myself and others questions. I am left with the words of Issa during our visit to Bethlehem. He asked us to be their media – to tell their story. So often we see one side of conflict from the media. Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Jews, none of these people are evil, and none of these people are completely to blame for the religious conflict here. I know that this was for a religion class. I learned a lot about religious history, but I think this trip provided me with a true liberal arts education.
As we leave tomorrow, I will hope and pray that these great people can find peace with one another. People like Qamar, Ben, our guide Habib, and Jews, Muslims, and Christians around the world deserve that much. We must put the people first. It’s not that hard, but yet it is.
- Photos by Ian Baumgardner ’14

Story of Bethlehem Sheep More than Legend

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The Wabash men heard from the former President of Bethlehem University on Thursday

Cody Buresh ’15 – Looking back over the experiences of this trip I am extremely grateful and amazed that this group of Wabash men have had the opportunities to go on many adventures such as: staying on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, visiting the city of Jericho, having the privilege to tour the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and many other mind-baffling occurrences. Today we had the privilege to travel to the Western bank to the small town of Bethlehem. Throughout the day we gained a plethora of information about Bethlehem during biblical times and also the current situation from our visit at Bethlehem University.

Sharing lunch with Bethlehem University students.

Sharing lunch with Bethlehem University students.

I am going to be focusing mainly on the knowledge that we gained about the biblical period from our experiences today. The weather was not cooperating today. It decided it would be another good day to rain and be cold, all of our wet feet did not agree. Our plans were to (first) travel to the actual location where Jesus Christ was born and view the manger, but surprisingly the Prime Minister of Great Britain (David Cameron) also had the same idea so we had to make a quick change. We headed to the Shepherds’ Fields within Bethlehem that was specifically dedicated to the shepherds depicted within the nativity story. The beautiful small church is absolutely breath taking and was cleverly designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. I thought it was quite intriguing that all of the fixtures within the church served purposes, which are absolutely amazing tour guide Habib explained. The church was designed to have only one high point in order to represent a tent that the shepherds would live in. There also were many spaces within the ceiling to allow the natural light to illuminate the room representing the star light and also the light of the heavenly host. If our tour guide were not with us we would not have noticed the importance of the design and the significance of the fixtures within the church. Habib simply amazes all of us with the amount of knowledge that he possesses about all of the scared places within Israel. He is without a doubt the best tour guide within all of Israel and today he showed all of us why.

After we were finished taking pictures of the incredible Franciscan church we made our way to a natural cave close by. This is the location that showed the entire group how fortunate that we have Habib as our tour guide. When we first entered the cave there was another group of tourists within. There tour guide was explained to them how shepherds used caves to live in because when it is warm outside it is cool within in the cave and vice-versa with cold weather. Once the other group left the cave Habib informed us that there is much more to the story of the shepherds. All of the information that follows is all from our tour guide, Habib.

Cody Buresh '15

Cody Buresh ’15

The shepherds of Bethlehem were in charge of raising sheep for the temple sacrifices. According to the laws of the time the sheep that were used for the offerings had to be a one-year-old male sheep that had been outside for 365 days (one-year). Since these sheep needed to remain outside the shepherds were also outside, not using the cave during the awful winter (rainy season). You can see this in Luke 2: 8, “That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep”. Once the sheep were of age the shepherds would bring them to the city of Jerusalem to be sacrificed for the Sabbath (Friday). It was important that the sheep that was to be sacrificed did not possess any blemishes (broken legs, or injuries). Once the sheep’s blood was completely spilled for all of the sins the priest would return to the people and proclaim, “It is finished”. When Habib was explaining the many intricate steps of the sheep’s life I was astounded by the parallelism to Jesus Christ. He was born in the small city of Bethlehem. When his time had come Jesus was led to Jerusalem to be sacrificed. It was extremely important that he did not have any imperfections (blemishes). On Sabbath Jesus Christ was crucified and gave up his life. He proclaimed, “It is finished”, and then passed away.

I personally was not knowledgeable to the depth of the parallels between the sacrificial lamb from Bethlehem and Jesus Christ. I want to thank Habib for helping this entire experience come to life for this group from Wabash College. The information learned from Habib will not be forgotten and has helped the biblical passages show new life. Thank you Habib.

Visiting Sites Affirmed Jackson’s Faith

Joe Jackson '14

Joe Jackson ’14

Joe Jackson ’14 – I wish that I possessed the skill to paint an adequate picture in 500 words of the side of the world I’ve seen here in Israel, but I do not. Although I know that I cannot do my experiences of this country justice, I would still like to try and capture to some capacity the history and the importance that is found here. Despite the fact I could talk for days about the breath-taking sceneries, armed soldiers on street corners, ghettos, Israeli women, food, the prevalence of Americanization, or that doing any of these things would only be getting at the tip of the iceberg. Most notable though, for me at least, was the fact that in two days I was able to visit the most revered places of all three of the world’s major, monotheistic religions. Between Al-Aqsa, the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Church of the Nativity, I was blessed with an opportunity to experience a part of history in a way many people only dream of.

We started yesterday by visiting Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, the holiest mosque and one of the surrounding structures placed by Muslims on what the Jews and Christians refer to as the Temple Mount. Disregarding the conflict that surrounds the history of the location, the mosque itself was impressive to say the least. By a stroke of luck, we were actually granted access inside both Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, something that rarely is allowed for any non-Muslim. What I found to be particularly interesting, was that it was abundantly clear the majority of Muslims did not approve of our admittance into their sanctuary. From the time we took our first steps into the building, we were greeted with unaverted gazes and we actually left the building to frantic shouts from women that are traditionally directed at intruders of the mosque. As a practicing Christian, this place did not speak to me on too much of a personal level, but the response of the Muslims to our presence served as a testament to the sacredness Muslims feel towards the site.

Wabash guys on the cells with Israeli students.

Wabash guys on the cells with Israeli students.

Visiting the Wailing Wall, arguably the most-important site to a present-day Jew, proved to be a comparable experience to that of our visit to Al-Aqsa. Although we hardly left to chants directed at our presence, I must admit I still felt a little out of place due to others’ stares and facial expressions. If you know the history of the Wall, the site obviously does not hold much significance for a non-Jew. It stands to reason then, that a traditional Jew might not get overly excited at the idea of having to share the remaining fraction of their Temple with a bunch of tourists, so similarly to the Muslim response, the Jewish response I perceived was understandable. Much like I felt the next morning at Al-Aqsa though, despite not having any religious connectedness with either site or feeling any religious epiphany, it was impossible not to feel something in the pit of my stomach. There is honestly no other way to describe the feeling or to explain it, but between the beauty of the structures themselves and the histories surrounding the structures that date back to the beginning of human existence, it’s hard not to feel something.

Surprisingly enough, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity did not do too much for me than did the other sites I have mentioned. A part of me wishes that I could say I had some life-changing experience, but I did not. I knew what I believed before coming and I suppose I’m happy that simply visiting a site did not change that. That being said, seeing the place where my savior was born, died, and buried, did do something. I felt connected to the history of my faith and to those that share my faith, and seeing all the others worshipping and admiring in the same building I was solidified all that I already believed.

Vaught ’16 Sees East-West German Differences

Samuel Vaught ‘ 16 – Tuesday was our first day in Erfurt. Leaving Mainz, we made the journey eastward into new territory. We left the low-lying vineyards of the Rhine for more mountainous regions, such as Eisenach, our Wednesday destination. This was our first day in the former East Germany, culturally and politically separated following World War II and under Soviet control until 1989. The difference was notable – English is spoken much less frequently, and tourists are few and far between. When we stepped out of the train station in Erfurt, I could immediately tell I was in a different Germany. It could have been my imagination, or some Western-inspired delusion, but I felt icy stares from many people as we schlepped our luggage over the cobbled sidewalks through town to our hotel. We stood out like the twelve sorest thumbs I’ve ever seen.

I soon got a sense, however, that not all of this cultural difference is negative, and I would be remiss not to point out the aspects of eastern Germany that I have enjoyed. While the population is poorer than in the west, they seem more community-focused here. Vendors filled the Domplatz – the main cathedral plaza – with fresh food, flowers, clothing, and other goods in the morning, welcoming Spring with bright colors and fragrances. The man selling the local favorite, Thüringer bratwurst, stayed open until 11 PM – we were his last customers that night. It is a nice change not to squirm our way through tourist-crowded avenues, like we did in both Mainz and Heidelberg. We don’t have to deal with the rampant commercialism that has taken hold in the west, which can lead one to believe that the streets of these German cities are no different than those of Chicago or Philadelphia. The people here in Erfurt don’t dress like supermodels, and our own clothing blends in more than it did on Sunday and Monday. I’ll let you decide if these less-Western traits are good or bad for the region. Regardless, it is a remarkably different experience.

St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral

The cathedral in Erfurt, Mariensdom (St. Mary’s Cathedral), presides over the entire city. The cathedral is a fourteenth-century masterpiece of French gothic design, built atop a substructure that dates from several hundred years before. It was founded by Saint Boniface, the Anglo-Saxon apostle to the Germans, revered throughout the country with statuary and namesake and given patronal status. It was here, at the high altar, that Martin Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507, in the city in which he went to university and lived in as a monk for eleven years. Next to the cathedral sits Severinkirche (St. Severus’ Church), a companion to the larger cathedral but still magnificent in its own right (the organ is a spectacular Baroque creation – the most ornate I’ve seen so far).

I’m struck by the fact that these churches are the backdrop, the skyline, for so many people as they go about their daily lives. They walk to school and work, shop, eat, and socialize, all in the shadow of this majestic work of art and piety. I genuinely wonder if they take it for granted, like we often do in Crawfordsville. Do we know when we walk the brick paths of campus that we stand in the presence of the mighty Eric Gugler, who transformed Wabash in the mid-twentieth century and gave us the mall as we know it today? Do we know that the hands that sketched the plans of the President’s Dining Room in the Sparks Center also sketched the “President’s Office,” in an oval shape, in the west office wing of a white mansion in our nation’s capital? I’m not suggesting that we compare the likes of Erfurt Cathedral with Wabash College, but it is important to keep in mind how we perceive the storied and fashioned landscape that surrounds us. Erfurt taught me that.

Citadelle Petersberg

Citadelle Petersberg

The icing on the Wednesday cake was a stroll through the Citadelle Petersberg, an enormous fortress complex that rises off to the side of the cathedral and rivals it in height. Now a park, it was once a garrison for soldiers from a period of time I could not determine, but at least since the time of Luther and certainly much earlier. Most of the buildings on the citadel are dilapidated, excluding a few used for museum and concert space. Perhaps the old armory has been abandoned since the fall of the Soviet Empire at the end of the twentieth century. The most distressing example of neglect was Peterskirche, a 1000 year-old pre-gothic church that might be the oldest building I’ve seen this week. The entire space, however, is still in good use. A park, a restaurant with a million-dollar view of the city, and probably more tourists than we think keeping it running well, despite the decaying structures that dot the grassy hill.

Harrison, Matt, and I stumbled upon a labyrinth on one side of the park, formed into the earth with ridges and depressions. This is a spiritual tool for meditation or prayer, an ancient contemplative practice that centers the mind, body, and spirit on a circle as one walks the circuitous path around it. As I was treading the worn dirt, circling back and forth, I caught different views of the city. At one point, I caught a perfect glimpse of the Augustinian monastery in which Luther lived, marked by its turreted tower that avoided the destruction of most of the monastery during a World War II bombing raid. I couldn’t help but think that the labyrinth was the perfect metaphor for our journey to this point – the winding, seemingly directionless journey that took us to Wabash, and then to this moment – in a foreign land, assaulted with inspiration and Old World beauty, with the story of a man who changed the course the course of human history. When you walk the labyrinth, it seems hard to imagine you are nearing the center. You come close only to turn and walk further away. However, at the end, you round a corner to find a straight shot to the center, where a small stone beckons you to sit in silence. If our own journeys are like that labyrinth, we have little to be afraid of. We don’t always see where we’re headed, but we hope that peace is at the middle, that the destination exists. I wonder if Luther ever contemplated the same things, thinking those dangerous thoughts beneath the tower I now have my eyes on. Don’t we all?

I rose from my seat, and oddly calm, began my descent back into the city, ready to welcome the rest of this eye-opening experience.

 

 

Kubisz ’14 French Major Exploring History, Baguettes

Philip Kubisz ’14 – Bread, stained glass windows, and calves of steel – so far I have increased all of my skills in these areas throughout the many runs across Paris. From the walk down the stairs in the hotel to the impressive cathedral doors I have picked up on the conversations of the locals and put my French education to the task! There is a very strong sense that I am truly elsewhere in the world, and how my diet and process of learning has changed in the past handful of days has really helped the transition from the classroom Paris to the living and breathing Paris.

The much-visited Notre Dame

The much-visited Notre Dame

Baguettes, baguettes, baguettes – I have been deemed the bread master by many thus far. Vegan life in Paris is not always the most glamorous, yet it functions very well with the small bakeries and markets that thrive in the city. Around every corner there is a place welcoming me to experience their take on the French classic. As well as the beginning of my evening tonight leading me to the sole vegan bakery in the town, I have given my best to experience what Paris has to offer to my lifestyle.

As far as my knowledge of the language and tidbits of specialization of the French history goes, I have proved myself quite useful to the group and I have had a few more genuine opportunities of participating in the native culture than otherwise. It has been a very enlightening experience upon entering the cathedrals and seeing not only the magnificent displays of the churches, but the groups of young students who experience all of these important parts of the history of France at such a young age. The international culture that is present here speaks to me in a way the gives me something to look forward to with my future in Europe starting later this year. The people here speak all kinds of languages coming from all corners of the world – either visiting or working in this cultural center of Europe, and the city has a lot to offer everyone.

With one visit outside of the busy city and two more to come I look forward to the contrasts to the busy life in the city and to experience the country side landscapes and life of those in smaller towns. This of course in addition to checking out all of the Patisseries!

Davis ’14 Gets Deeper Look at French History

Ethan Davis ’14 – Today in Paris the separation between tourism and education became particularly apparent. After visiting Notre Dame de Paris on Tuesday and seeing the masses of international tourists, we found ourselves in a place filled with predominantly French people, taking in their history. The class visited Musée du Moyen Age. Here we saw many of the relics, particles and original artifacts that originated from all over medieval France, including Notre Dame de Paris.

The most striking part of this museum for me was when I entered a large room filled with statues that had been beheaded (many of the severed heads were also on display). Many of these statues were part of the unrestored Notre Dame. These statues told an interesting story that goes largely unknown by so many who visit Paris. You can observe the true story of what happened to a nation and how its symbols have been interpreted. We see that there is an effort to instill an Aquinas type of order within the context of these icons. A deliberate effort to reorganize these statues in this way, and not to show the reality of their history to the masses, shows that they are placing them in an order that they see fit.

The intentionality of destroying defiling these particular statues depicts the tumultuous history of the nation and shows us, as the modern viewer, how important the use of symbols are to political movements. Revolutionaries attacked not only the political institution above them, but they then continued to destroy the emblems and the associated institutions to further there point. But the continued narrative of these statues doesn’t end with their desecration, but the resurrection and ascension of their more modern counterparts back to Notre Dame, shows us that the purpose of these symbols continued to be used to send political messages.

The most curious element of these uses of symbols is the lack of involvement in the complete story by all those that visit Paris. The relatively small amount of people that wondered throughout the Museum is immensely dwarfed by the masses who flow through Notre Dame. It forces one to wonder what many of these people could learn about themselves and their own governments, if they understood a fuller portion of Notre Dame’s story. Perhaps this is the most disappointing portion of the trip. The image of Notre Dame as it is now is what so many people walk away with. To leave with an understanding of themes such as this use of symbols is what sets the education at such a deep level. Seeing the useless way that so many walk away from these structures enforces in me more resolve to observe more decisively how symbols are used in the American political system and what ideas they are trying to instil in me.