My Night With Marco

A few steps further on brought me to a door, next to which was an arrow directing tourists to the rest of the complex. Passing through, I had the sensation of leaving the present century behind and stepping into the distant past. The room was octagonal and none too large, not much bigger than my parents' living room. My eyes needed time to adjust to the darkness, since the only source of light was a small window high on a wall. Opposite was a stone monolith, half of which was a flat, undecorated slab with a large column attached. The thought, 'human sacrifice,' crossed my mind, but only for a moment, for what was in front of me was a rudimentary altar and pulpit, devoid of all the paraphernalia of a modern church.

On the walls were holders for torches, which were essential for the time. I tried to imagine how it must have been to attend a mass then, with the torches burning, and smoke rising to the ceiling. There would have been silk, embroidered cloths covering the altar, upon which would sit a golden chalice and other shiny doodads. A priest, in all his finery, would have climbed the steps in back of the pulpit to deliver a sermon to his fifty parishioners, for that would be all the church could hold at one time. A fine sight indeed. However, another thought crossed my mind. Hygiene being what it was in those days, incense would have been essential. Clearly, the structure had outlived its usefulness many centuries ago.

I felt claustrophobic and a bit disoriented, so looked around and spotted another door leading further into the site. On the other side was a walkway that was much airier and better lighted. Not far along was a niche in the wall. A glance inside brought me face to face with what appeared to be a Klingon warrior sitting on a throne and holding some sort of club in his hand. He gave me quite a jolt. Further examination of the bearded, cloaked, heavy set statue convinced me it was a representation of some ancient bishop. What I thought was a club was actually a cross with knobbed ends. Dual purpose, I suppose. Judging by the crudeness of the piece, whoever hacked this alien out of a block of granite was no Renaissance artist. I guessed Dark Ages.  

I continued on and passed a small open grassy area, in the middle of which is the four foot tall, marble basin where Pontius Pilate washed his hands. At least, that's what the claim is. The fact that the basin dates from the ninth century doesn't seem to bother anyone. I'm always amazed by what people will themselves to believe.

The next room I entered was another of the former churches on the site, rectangular, with its length about three times its width. The ceiling was fairly high, in order to accommodate the remains of an old, beat up pulpit and alter at one end, some benches along the wall and not much else. The space looked like an empty warehouse. However, put in a bunch of pews, and I'm sure the original church could have handled a few hundred worshippers. It was that much larger than the older octagonal church.

Light leaked into the room through two smallish windows. I felt suddenly sleepy, which I attributed to the previous night's debauchery, coupled with the lack of rest. In retrospect, the reason for my drowsiness might have been more devious. In any case, the benches looked inviting, so I sat on one, yawned, then stretched out, using my backpack as a pillow, and soon drifted off. 


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