Stephen Travels

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Skeletons and Skulls That Will Keep You Up All Night

St. Peter in Chains, Rome, ItalyAs Halloween approaches, children — and more than a few adults — are deciding on their costume for this spooky holiday of ghosts, goblins, candy, and horror flicks. Skeletons have always been a staple costume, whether it’s a glow-in-the-dark bodysuit variety or a mask or makeup job largely hidden by an oversized hood on a Grim Reaper outfit. As for the other 364 days of the year, real ones have long been put on display for the devout to revere, and fake ones for Mexican communities to celebrate on the Day of the Dead. Skeletons and skulls have been depicted in art or gravestones for centuries as a symbol of our finite time on earth, fighting a guaranteed losing battle against the sand hourglass. They could be positively frightening (say, in the promotional poster for the movie Evil Dead 2) or rather amusing (as in a Scooby-Doo episode). However you react to them, they invariably promise the same denouement: The end is always near. Read more about the top five skeletons and skulls 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 Doors to Admire Before You Open Them

House of the Blackhead, Tallinn, EstoniaWe pass through doors countless times every day — in our home, our workplace, the subway, elevators, barns, garages. Most are fairly unremarkable, utilitarian means of egress. But every now and then, a masterfully crafted door stands out in the crowd, arresting our attention, hinting at something remarkable behind it and enticing us to go inside and discover the treasures or surprises awaiting us on the other side. These are my top five doors in the world. Read more >