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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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A Garden in Nazareth

There is a stunning spiritual garden on the grounds of the Church of St Joseph, in Nazareth, that speaks to the talents of landscape architects everywhere. The compact, soothing garden is built on a steep slope, constructed with terraces, stairs, lawn, and trees. It Is part of the church complex that is located half way up a steep hill , on a road so narrow that our touring van was too wide to navigate it. Instead, we climbed upward on foot.

The atmosphere created by the garden encouraged us to stop and rest. Those that felt so inclined used this occasion for reflection, as well. Notice in the posted images how the color and texture of the buildings’ stonework is offset by the greenery of the landscaping. Green is a rare color to find in many parts of the Middle East, especially in the heat of August. Even the smallest gardens such as this one, becomes color relief for the eyes and the soul.

It was in this town that archeologists unearthed the remains of a dwelling they are certain belonged to Joseph, because his name is inscribed on the structure. From an examination of artifacts found there, it has been confirmed that he was indeed a carpenter and that carpenters were wealthy. Lumber-worthy trees cannot grow in the Holy Land so that few men chose carpentry as a trade. Wood was expensive because it was imported from Lebanon and carpenters became wealthy as only the rich could afford their work.

Another interesting fact about Joseph, discovered by the archeologists, is that he practiced polygamy. Historical and religious records confirm that, in biblical times, it was an acceptable and legal way of life. Polygamy was eventually abandoned by those who migrated northward into the pagan Roman Empire, where this practice was illegal.

We were informed by our guide that due to prevailing customs, Mary, a close friend of Joseph, was a candidate for legally sanctioned murder because she was pregnant and unmarried. Her family and the community would have stoned her to death. For safety, it was necessary for her to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a strange town where she could survive anonymously. Because it was never safe for any woman to travel alone, Joseph offered to accompany her.

Our guide suggested that Joseph must have cared very deeply for Mary if he abandoned the apparent comforts of his home and the company of his wives to make this journey. If that opinion is correct, then one might conclude that the history of Christianity began with an act of supreme kindness and selflessness.

Family reunion time is about to begin. My children and grandchildren are coming to visit for a week and their presence will fill up my days so joyfully that posting will have to wait until the new year. Happy Holidays.

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Reader Comments (5)

As always, an interesting post. I have always thought of Jesus as the poor son of a carpenter. If trees were a rare and precious commodity, it makes sense that a carpenter would be a wealthy man. ( I always think of the Pre-Raphaelite painting by Millais as the most beautiful illustration of Jesus as a carpenters son. Do you know this artwork?)
Do you really think though that Mary could have been a "good friend" to Joseph? I can't imagine any father of the times allowing his daughter adult male friends. (Perhaps it is my contemporary interpretation of the term friend that is getting in the way?) I can imagine that Joseph was a friend of her family and took her out of harms way as an act of kindness to both Mary and her family. Regardless, it is as you say, an act of selflessness and generosity.
Have a very merry Christmas! I hope that you enjoy your time with your children and grandchildren.

December 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

The Millais painting is not well known but I did Google it and found it to be exquisite.

Regarding your comments about Mary: As I understand it, life in the primitive biblical Middle East bore very few similarities to our ways of life today. It would be too puzzling to compare our contemporary value system to the prevailing norms of 2000 years ago. Besides, I think that our guide was only trying to enhance the experience of the tourist or pilgrim, when he offered up the narrative.

December 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterAllan

An interesting interpretation of the events of the nativity. It seems amazing that the house would be Joseph's and have his name on it. I always thought there was a lot more to this story than the simplistic version we learned as children. Carolyn

Very interesting perspective on the life of Joseph, so contrary to religious teachings. And I think that the complex speaks to architects. Much is the built environment and at the time of construction, I am pretty certain landscape architecture was not in the making. It would seem the 'architect' worked the entire project, although with consultants today on large project, the landscape architect would have designed the terraces. If you have more background on this I would appreciate it

December 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

One of the disappointments of foreign travel is that very little information is available about architects or landscape architects when one visits beautiful sights. Guides focus on the function, significance or contents of a building. Only when architects are deemed to be of historical significance is any information furnished about them.

December 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterAllan

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