Friday, 25 December 2009

Following the star

There are over 2000 miles and over 2000 years between the subject of today's photo and Saltaire today, Christmas Day 2009. But it is arguable whether Saltaire would have existed in the way it does without the link.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, visiting key Christian sites in the area around the Sea of Galilee, and then spending several days in Jerusalem, a city of enormous spiritual significance for Christians, Muslims and Jews. It was a fascinating experience and I would love to go back, as I felt I only scratched the surface of what is a very complex area, both historically and politically.

My picture was taken in the Grotto of the Nativity, a rectangular cavern beneath the ancient Church of the Nativity in Manger Square in Bethlehem. It shows the silver star which marks the spot where Christ is believed to have been born. The inscription, in Latin, reads:" Here of the Virgin Mary Jesus Christ was born". Fifteen lamps hang above the star, belonging to different denominations of the Orthodox church - Greek, Armenian and Catholic. This place has been honoured as the site of Jesus' birth since at least 200 AD.

I find it mind-blowing to think that one child's birth, one man's brief ministry so far from here and over 2000 years ago, has shaped so much of the world that I know (though I recognise that the Christian influence over the years has been, sadly, not all for good across the world). Sir Titus Salt, the founder of Saltaire, was a devout Christian man whose faith (as well as his business acumen) undoubtedly spurred him in his vision for the creation of Saltaire. Ironically, it was just after Christmas (29th December 1876) that Sir Titus died. According to his biographer, his strong faith was a source of tremendous comfort during his final illness and some of his last words were: "How kind He is to me."

May the blessing of the Christ Child rest on you and on those you love today. Happy Christmas!

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