Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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How Great Thou Arch

Queenstown War Memorial, New ZealandThey seem simple: vertical curved structures that span an open space and may, or may not, support weight above it. Of course, arches are much more complicated than that, a complex balance of compression, stress, thrust, bracings, and transference. The Mesopotamians got the jump on them four thousand years ago, but it was the Romans who used them systematically in a wide range of structures, leading eventually to a worldwide adaptation of this most beautiful form. Read about the top five arches >


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Pedal Your Way to New Experiences

Stanley Park, VancouverWhen riding public transportation became a dodgy activity during the pandemic, carless people began switching to bicycles in droves, causing a severe shortage in supply. And now, with spring in full bloom, hopping on two wheels becomes an even more attractive way to get around. Beyond just a mode of transportation to help you accomplish your daily errands, a bike ride for the casual cyclist is also a terrific way to explore a new destination. Read about the world’s top five bike rides >


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The Most Heavenly Celestial Intermediaries, Protectors, and Guides

Angel on St. Angelo Bridge, RomeAngels are a common motif during the Christmas season (particularly noteworthy is Clarence in the classic It’s a Wonderful Life, and in the holiday markets in Düsseldorf, Germany), but they’re not restricted to December. You can find them throughout the year, in myriad locations and captured in various materials and emotional states, from joyful angels blowing horns to mournful ones grieving at gravesites. You may even have one of the guardian type of your own. Read about the top five angels >


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A Good Deed Portrayed in Art Around the World

St. Veronica, National Gallery of Art, Washington DCJuly 12 is the feast day of St. Veronica, one of the most identifiable saints in the Christian canon. Whereas so many saints can be hard to recognize by sight according to their symbols (for example, a lily is associated with at least 10 saints; a book accompanies more than 20), the veil with Jesus’ face is assigned only to Veronica. She was especially revered in the 14th and 15th centuries, but her simple act of kindness — offering to wipe Christ’s face — is just as relevant, and as necessary, today. Throughout the world, she has been portrayed in myriad ways and materials. Read about the top five depictions of St. Veronica >


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The Power of Pink

Rose quartz, Rapid City, South DakotaYou may first conjure up an image of a baby blanket for your infant daughter or niece. Perhaps an Easter bunny comes to mind. Or maybe you recall the unmistakable aroma of bubble gum. No matter what your association, the color pink will make you think of something relevant, and it’s usually a positive and cheery thought. Although pink comes to the fore with the arrival of spring, in myriad blossoms and flowers, you don’t have to look very hard to find it in delightful places around the world throughout the year. Read about the top five pinks >


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The Firehouses That Burn the Brightest

Jasper Fire Hall, Jasper, AlbertaThe word “hero” is employed far too often to describe someone who simply does his or her job, or someone you might have a shred of admiration for. In fact, the word is quite in danger of verbicide. The shortstop who makes a great catch is not a hero; your favorite reality star is certainly not a hero. In a world that is seriously lacking in true heroes, it’s heartening to know that there is one group that deservedly earns the accolade every day: firefighters. And societies have acknowledged their selfless bravery and critical role by constructing some highly impressive buildings for them from which they perform their duties. Read about the world’s top five firehouses >


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The Best Artistic Depictions of Palm Sunday

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New YorkThis coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, a key date in the Christian calendar when millions of Christians around the world commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem — a fateful day that launches Holy Week. Depicted in art for centuries, Palm Sunday is an unmistakable scene, whether it’s been rendered on a canvas or, as in most of the ones that really impressed me, stained glass. Read more about the top five Palm Sundays >


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The Best Depictions of the Real Meaning of Christmas

The Adoration of the MagiDecember 25 is rapidly approaching, and for 2.2 billion Christians around the world, the Christmas season is in full swing. Although the secular aspects of this important holiday increasingly garner all the attention and overshadow the real meaning of Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ — all you have to do is look at a Nativity scene (or listen to Linus’ beautiful soliloquy in A Charlie Brown Christmas) to be reminded of what it’s all about. For centuries, artists have been depicting that day that changed the world in Nativities in every type of media imaginable. Some of these painters, sculptors, glaziers, woodworkers, and other talented experts broke the traditional mold of just showing the Holy Family in a stable with some hay, farm animals, a couple of shepherds, and the Three Wise Men. I found these works in particular to be the most imaginative, and most memorable. Read more about my top five Nativities in the world >


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When Spring Springs in the World’s Best Botanic Gardens

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New YorkEvery spring, as we bid winter goodbye, the time comes to terminate our hibernation and return to the outdoor world. One visually invigorating, and very gentle, way to re-acclimate ourselves is to visit a botanic garden. These oases of flora, very often in the heart of concrete urban clusters, can stir your soul, as the annual rebirth begins and plants, birds, animals, and insects get busy once again. Read more about the top five botanic gardens in the world >


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The Greatest Story Ever Told on a Crucifix

Church of St. Teresa, New York, New YorkIf you celebrate Easter, then you most likely start your day by preparing a big holiday meal, tearing into a chocolate bunny, watching your children search your home for hidden colored eggs, or putting on your Sunday best — including the obligatory bonnet — for the Easter Mass. The most important day in the Christian calendar brings with it the most powerful image as well: Jesus on a cross. Although it’s His resurrection that Christians celebrate today, it’s this Good Friday image that solidifies what His life and teachings were all about. Since that pivotal day at Golgotha, the Crucifixion has been represented countless times in countless cultures in countless media — paintings, sculptures, stained-glass windows, and more. Read about the world’s top five crucifixes >