Stephen Travels

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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 >


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Five Post Offices That Truly Deliver

Post Office, Ljubljana, SloveniaIn the present era of instantaneous communication and e-everything, post offices around the world are in serious decline. But it wasn’t all that long ago when post offices were the lifeline of nations, delivering long-anticipated letters, critical documents, history-making news, and packages of all shapes and sizes. Their vital importance was reflected in the grandeur of the buildings that housed them . Although some of them no longer serve their original purpose, these are my five favorite post offices in the world. Read more >