Geysers, Bubbling Mud and a Lovely Church: Rotorua, New Zealand, Feb.


All of Rotorua smells of sulphur. There’s a faint whiff of it downtown near the hotels and backpacker places and restaurants. At the park where mud bubbles rise and spit, it takes a few minutes to adjust to the smell. It never quite fades into something unnoticed. It’s always there.
Rotorua draws its crowds because of water and steam boiling up from the earth. There are hot baths and shooting geysers. Pools of grayish-black mud bubble and spit continually. The park that contains the geysers and mud has a regular performance of Maori songs and dances that opens with a war ritual. A Maori dressed in a skirt greets a man selected from the visiting crowd by jumping about, making threatening gestures and sticking out his tongue. It was a ritual meant to unsettle rivals in war, and you have to imagine that it worked. Who wants to fight a guy who acts that crazy?
The park at Rotorua has Victorian buildings and Maori sculptures. They blend beautifully. There is the same kind of mixing at St. Faith’s in Rotorua, an Anglican church with much noted Maori carvings inside.
In the middle of St. Faith’s, as in many churches, is an Oriental carpet. It’s funny how often this example of Islamic art, the Oriental carpet, appears on Christan altars and how little it is unremarked on. Maybe the tradition was borrowed so long ago that people forgot where the rugs came from.
That’s what happened with Syrian glass that came into the possession of an English family. The glass, dated to the 13th century, appeared in Washington when
the National Gallery of Art hosted a traveling show in 2004 of Islamic arts from the Victoria & Albert Museum. A legend grew around the glass while it was in the possession of the English family. They said the glass had been stolen from fairies and its fate was linked with that of the estate, and so called the piece the Luck of Edenhall. It seems the real luck was people recognizing the value of this beautiful glass over more than 700 years and across many nations and keeping it intact.

Here’s a link to learn more about the Luck of Edenhall:
http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/glass/stories/edenhall/index.htmlglass.

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