Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

This morning, I was reminded, in the most wonderful way, that today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. A friend who is a priest blessed the Qatteri Cat. It is a tradition on the Feast of St. Francis in some churches to have a blessing of the animals. It delighted my heart to have the Qatteri Cat blessed today!

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St. Francis of Assisi was a controversial person. As a young man, upon hearing the voice of God, he sold off a bolt of silk from his father’s family warehouse to repair a church that had fallen into disrepair. His father was very angry and disowned him publicly. When he did, Francis took off all his clothes, left them for his father and walked away naked, or so the legend goes. He considered himself “wed to Lady Poverty” and preached simplicity in life and worship. This was not always popular with the Catholic Church.

This is called “The Prayer of St. Francis:”

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

You can read more on the official church legend of St. Francis here, although it does not go into detail about the simple way he lived his life, preached poverty, and loved all animals.

Reading through the above, I learned something. Here is an excerpt:

In 1219, Francis went to the Holy Land to preach to the moslems. He was given a pass through the enemy lines, and spoke to the Sultan, Melek-al-Kamil. Francis proclaimed the Gospel to the Sultan, who replied that he had his own beliefs, and that moslems were as firmly convinced of the truth of Islam as Francis was of the truth of Christianity. Francis proposed that a fire be built, and that he and a moslem volunteer would walk side by side into the fire to show whose faith was stronger. The Sultan said he was not sure that a moslem volunteer could be found. Francis then offered to walk into the fire alone. The Sultan who was deeply impressed but remained unconverted. Francis proposed an armistice between the two warring sides, and drew up terms for one; the Sultan agreed, but, to Francis’s deep disappointment, the Christian leaders would not. Francis returned to Italy, but a permanent result was that the Franciscans were given custody of the Christian shrines then in moslem hands.

The wonderful Giotto painting of St. Francis and the birds shown above I found at St. Francis Feeds the Birds. If you like art, you will love this link, which takes separate elements of the painting and helps you see what the artist may be saying. Even the way fingers are arranged has meanting.

On the Sunday in the United States when the priest blesses the animals, people bring dogs on leashes, cats in cages, bunnies, iguanas, even guinea pigs and parakeets. Every pet is welcome. It’s one of the sweetest Sundays of the year.

October 4, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Community, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Pets, Spiritual | 7 Comments

Iznik Tiles, God whispers . . .

OK, OK, now you are going to see my ditzy side. I remember my mother visiting, and I was telling her what my cat was saying. She gave me one of those long, considering looks, and then said “I hope you don’t talk this way in front of other people. They might think you are a little crazy.”

I guess we all have crazy thoughts, fantasies. I kind of think cats have a very simple kind of telepathy; they can, I think, pull images out of your head. They are simple creatures, but ones we don’t fully understand. Am I crazy for thinking that?

And that has nothing at all with this blog entry, except to warn you that sometimes I am not entirely rational, I can be fanciful.

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Two books in a row I have most recently read referred to Iznik tiles. The first was a Donna Leon book Death in a Strange Country where a woman who lives very frugally, even on the edge of poverty, sits in her run-down Venetian apartment surrounded by masterpieces of world art, including Iznik tiles.

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The second book, which I just finished, is The Janissary Tree by Jason Godwin, in which his detective Yashim Togalu, a eunuch in the early post-Janissary Ottoman Empire, notes the Iznik tiles in the great receiving room of the Sultan.

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To me, when two books in a row refer to the same tiles I have never heard of, it is like a little whisper from God saying “look this up.” It may be that I don’t even need this information, maybe I am just supposed to pass it along to YOU! I don’t know.

I DO know I am glad I looked it up. I love blue and white. I love intricate, curved design. And oh WOW, I love Iznik tiles and pottery.

“In the late 16th century the tiles of Iznik incorporated new designs and new colors and Iznik immerged as the preeminent city for tile production in the Ottoman empire. A major part of the transformation had to do with the introduction of Persian designs rendered in a distinctly Ottoman style.” From Guide to Iznik Tile and Plates.

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In case you want to know more, this is an excerpt from Nurhan Atasoy’s Article on Iznik Tiles:

The finest Iznik pottery was produced during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent and up to the end of the 17th century.The tiles and other pieces were exuberantly decorated with hyacinths, tulips, carnations, roses, and stylised floral scrollwork known as hatayi, Chinese clouds, imbrication, cintemani (a design consisting of three spots and pairs of flickering stripes), and geometric patterns.

The Turkish Ministry of Culture proclaimed 1989 as Iznik Year, and numerous events and activities relating to Iznik pottery were held. Iznik has a special place in the history of Turkish art, and thanks to the efforts of Turkish Airlines and Turk Ekonomi Bankasi Iznik Year became Iznik Years. Researchers are continually discovering more about e beautiful type of ceramics, whose designs are enjoying a new wave of popularity.

And here is a source from which you can order your own Iznik tiles: Yurdan.com.

There is no socially redeeming value to this post. Only that I learned something, and discovered something which is, to me, breathtakingly beautiful. One source says Iznik tiles were made of quartz, which gave them a great elasticity when exposed to varying degrees of heat and cold, which I find fascinating in that today the hottest new countertops are done in quartz. I think Adventure Man and I need to visit Iznik, the ancient Nicea, and take a look, don’t you think? I would love to see more of these tiles, in person, maybe somewhere I could touch them. 🙂

October 4, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Cross Cultural, Detective/Mystery, ExPat Life, Fiction | 6 Comments