Burst water pipe reveals century-old Crusader murals in Jerusalem


By Stephanie Pappas

Published May 15, 2014

Rediscovered late-1800s paintings in a storeroom in Saint-Louis Hospice, a Jerusalem hospital built by a prominant Christian

Wall murals portraying Crusader knights and symbols of medieval military orders have been rediscovered in a Jerusalem hospital thanks to a burst water pipe and a storeroom reorganization.

These paintings were the works of a French count, Comte Marie Paul Amde de Piellat, who believed himself to be a descendant of Crusaders. The count was a frequent visitor to Jerusalem and had the Saint-Louis Hospice built between 1879 and 1896, naming it after St. Louis IX, a king of France and leader of the Seventh Crusade between A.D. 1248 and 1254.

During World War I, however, the hospital came under the control of Turkish forces, who painted over the designs with black paint. The count returned to Jerusalem to restore his murals, but died in the hospital in 1925, his work undone. [See Images of the Rediscovered Murals]

A beautiful discovery
More recently, the nuns who run the hospital found some of the forgotten wall paintings while reorganizing storerooms in the building, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). A burst water pipe also stripped away modern paint and plaster, revealing more sections of the paintings.

IAA conservators are now working to clean and stabilize the paintings, and are looking for funds to continue the preservation work. There are no plans to turn the paintings into a tourist attraction, however, as the hospital is still in use for chronic and terminally ill patients. Sisters of the order of St. Joseph of the Apparition run the facility.

De Piellat was a devout Christian who wanted to boost the Catholic presence in Jerusalem at a time when multiple religious factions vied for influence in the city. His two-story hospital replaced a smaller medical facility in the city’s Christian Quarter. For Saint-Louis, de Piellat chose a location where the Norman king Tancred and his forces camped before storming Jerusalem in A.D. 1099, during the First Crusade. Today, the hospital is next to the Jerusalem municipal building and IDF square, which is on the dividing line between Israeli-dominated West Jerusalem and heavily Palestinian East Jerusalem.

Artistic history
The murals themselves are enormous paintings of Crusader knights dressed in full battle gear. The count also painted the names and genealogy of the families of French Crusaders, including their heraldry symbols. The murals are further decorated with symbols of military and monastic orders and cities conquered in the Crusades.

At the time de Piellat was working, the city was under the control of the Ottoman Turks. During the upheaval of World War I, the Turks took control of the building, according to the IAA, and painted over the Christian murals. The British captured Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917, at the end of the war.

De Piellat returned to his beloved hospital after the war and worked to restore his murals. After his death in 1925, however, no one took up his fallen paintbrush, and the unrestored murals were mostly forgotten.


Message decoded, again: 3,000-year-old text may prove biblical tale of King Solomon

Message decoded, again: 3,000-year-old text may prove biblical tale of King Solomon

Digging History

  • eilatmazar1.jpg

    Archaeologist Eilat Mazar shows off her 3,000-year-old Biblical find. (KEY TO DAVID’S CITY/YOUTUBE)

  • cheap-wine-hebrew-gershon.jpg

    Haifa University professor Gershon Galil says the missing letters on the ancient inscription spell out “yah-yin,” which is Hebrew for wine. (GERSHON GALIL)

A few characters scratched into the side of an ancient earthenware jug have archaeologists scrambling for their dictionaries — and wondering if it corroborates the Bible’s stories of King Solomon.

The Ophel inscription — 3,000-year-old characters found in Israel in July — is the earliest alphabetical written text ever found in Jerusalem. It proves the real basis behind the parables and stories in the world’s most famous book, said Gershon Galil, a professor of ancient history and biblical studies at the University of Haifa.

“We are dealing here with real kings, and the kingdom of David and Solomon was a real fact,” Galil told FoxNews.com, in a phone call from Israel.

But the world’s leading archaeologists are still hotly debating the meaning of the inscription. Gershon offers what he calls the “only reasonable translation,” noting at the same time that the very existence of the text is as important as its meaning.

‘If Obama were to achieve something, he would not claim that Bush did it. It’s not in human nature!’

– Haifa University professor Gershon Galil

“The most important thing this tells us is that somebody during this time knew how to write something,” he said.

Three letters of the inscription are incomplete, and Galil translates them to read, “yah-yin chah-lak,” which is Hebrew for “inferior wine.” The first half of the text indicates the twentieth or thirtieth year of Solomon’s reign — making the entire inscription a label of sorts for the jug’s contents.

He explains that the text must be written in an early form of southern Hebrew because it is the only language of the time to use two yods (Hebrew letters) to spell the word wine. Galil also suggests that the “inferior wine” was probably given to laborers who were helping to build the burgeoning city of Jerusalem.

If Hebrew as a written language did exist during the time of the inscription, it places the ancient Israelites in Jerusalem earlier than previously believed, under a time the Bible indicates was King Solomon’s rule.

According to Galil’s understanding of the text, the writing ability demonstrated by the inscription proves the existence of a fully functioning administration that collected taxes, prepared storage jars and performed other duties as early as the second half of the 10th century BC.

“The Bible claims that Solomon built the temple and that he was the man that enlarged the city,” explained Galil. Outside of biblical texts, there has not been any evidence that Solomon in the mid-10th century ordered the building of the First Temple, the ancient Israelites’ place of worship where the Dome of the Rock currently stands.

Some suggest Judean King Hezekiah actually built the temple in Solomon’s name. Galil scoffed at the suggestion.

“If Obama were to achieve something, he would not claim that Bush did it. It’s not in human nature! Solomon built the temple, not Hezekiah.”

“Even if my reading is not the right one, the fact that somebody knew how to write [in Hebrew] during this time, shows that somebody could have easily written a book a little while later like [the Old Testament’s] book of Samuel and Judges.”

Galil hopes that in years to come, more evidence will be found to support the Kingdoms of Solomon and David.

“The evidence that we have today and each year we have so much more that David and Solomon were real and important kings and not just tales of the Bible,” he said.


‘Hand of God’ spotted by NASA space telescope

‘Hand of God’ spotted by NASA space telescope

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    The hand might look like an X-ray from the doctor’s office, but it is actually a cloud of material ejected from a star that exploded. NASA’s NuSTAR spacecraft has imaged the structure in high-energy X-rays for the first time, shown in blue. Low (NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MCGILL)

Religion and astronomy may not overlap often, but a new NASA X-ray image captures a celestial object that resembles the “Hand of God.”

The cosmic “hand of God” photo was produced when a star exploded and ejected an enormous cloud of material, which NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, glimpsed in high-energy X-rays, shown in blue in the photo. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory had imaged the green and red parts previously, using lower-energy X-rays.

“NuSTAR’s unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light,” NuSTAR telescope principal investigator Fiona Harrison, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement.

‘We don’t know if the hand shape is an optical illusion.’

– Hongjun An, of McGill University in Montreal

The new image depicts a pulsar wind nebula, produced by the dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova. What’s left behind is a pulsar, called PSR B1509-58 (B1509 for short), which spins around 7 times per second blowing a wind of particles into material ejected during the star’s death throes.

As these particles interact with nearby magnetic fields, they produce an X-ray glow in the shape of a hand. (The pulsar is located near the bright white spot in the image but cannot be seen itself, NASA officials said.)

Scientists aren’t sure whether the ejected material actually assumes the shape of a hand, or whether its interaction with the pulsar’s particles is just making it appear that way.

“We don’t know if the hand shape is an optical illusion,” Hongjun An, of McGill University in Montreal, said in a statement. “With NuSTAR, the hand looks more like a fist, which is giving us some clues.”

The red cloud appearing at the fingertips is a separate structure called RCW 89. The pulsar’s wind may be heating the cloud to produce the low-energy X-ray glow, astronomers believe.

The X-ray energies seen by NuSTAR range from 7 to 25 kiloelectron volts, or keV, whereas the energies seen by Chandra range from 0.5 to 2 keV.

The Hand of God is an example of pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon of perceiving familiar shapes in random or vague images. Other common forms of pareidolia include seeing animals or faces in clouds, or the man in the moon. Despite its supernatural appearance, the Hand of God was produced by natural astrophysical phenomena.


Biblical films’ Hollywood comeback

Biblical films’ Hollywood comeback

Superheroes are being elbowed out by Noah and Mary as Hollywood makes 2014 year of the biblical epic

Superheroes are being elbowed out by Noah and Mary as Hollywood makes 2014 year of the biblical epic

Mary Mother of Christ, whose title character will be played by Odeya Rush Photo: Rex Features
Nick Allen

By , Los Angeles

3:41PM GMT 25 Dec 2013

 The saint-like image of a hooded woman looms out from the movie poster, her arms outstretched as a divine light bursts from the sky. A message written above is simple and unambiguous: “You Will Believe.”

So goes the promotional campaign for the forthcoming Hollywood blockbuster Mary Mother of Christ. “It is a part of Mary, Joseph and Jesus’s life that has not been shown on the big screen before,” reads a synopsis. “Under the reign of terror of Herod the Great and, against all odds, they survive as young parents in one of the most treacherous times in history.” It promises “faith-based high action drama” − and there is no room in the audience for doubting Thomases.

Mary Mother of Christ, whose title character will be played by Odeya Rush, a 16-year-old Israeli-born actress, is one of a series of unashamedly Christian biblical epics due to appear next year, marking an unprecedented overture by Hollywood to America’s evangelical heartland.

Studio executives who have spent the past few years releasing superhero and zombie films have, it seems, had an epiphany. Now their new best friends are evangelical pastors whose endorsements they actively seek, even inviting them on to sets during production. Pastors in turn play clips from films of which they approve to 10,000-strong congregations on 40ft wide movie screens.

Larry Ross, who has handled publicity for Christian groups and leaders including Rick Warren and Billy Graham, said “no pastor goes to seminary in order to market movies” but if the movie “proves edifying to their congregation, if it builds their faith”, they would recommend it.

In March audiences will be treated to Noah, a $150million special effects-laden extravaganza, in which Russell Crowe will build an ark and rescue mankind from the Great Flood. Harry Potter actress Emma Watson will play his adopted daughter, and Sir Anthony Hopkins is portraying Methuselah. The ark was built on Long Island, New York.

Noah will be followed by Sir Ridley Scott’s Exodus, in which Christian Bale, as Moses, will part the Red Sea. Scenes from ancient Egypt have been reconstructed in southern Spain, with Bale wielding a bow and arrow and Sigourney Weaver playing the Pharaoh’s wife. Scott has described the film, in a less than godly phrase, as “F—— huge”.

Another movie of Moses’s life called Gods and Kings is also planned. Steven Spielberg was due to make it but has been replaced by Ang Lee, who won the Best Director Oscar this year for Life of Pi. Meanwhile, Son of God will tell the story of Jesus’s life, with Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado in the lead role. Will Smith is said to be planning a film based on the story of Cain and Abel, and Brad Pitt is rumoured to be playing Pontius Pilate in a separate project. There will also be Resurrection, in which a Roman soldier is sent to investigate Christ’s death. It has been likened to “Gladiator, with a mystery bent”.

Phil Cooke, a film-maker and media consultant to Christian organisations, said Hollywood’s epiphany had financial, not spiritual, origins. “What’s happened is they’ve understood it’s very good business to take Christians seriously, and this is a real serious market,” he said.

“For years Hollywood bent over backwards to reach special interest groups, be it feminists or environmentalists. It has finally realised that there are 91  million evangelical Christians in America.”

For their part, studio executives have taken something of a leap of faith that films in which religious figures save the world will bring big box office receipts.

That faith is based in no small part on the success of The Bible, a television mini-series shown on the History channel earlier this year, which averaged 11.4 million viewers and became America’s most watched cable show of 2013.

“It made the Bible cool to talk about again,” said Mr Cooke. “The separation of church and state in America is so strong that people had become afraid to talk about God, at work or at school. Suddenly, these Bible stories were water cooler conversation again.”

Since the days of epics such as Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments more than half a century ago, Hollywood and America’s Christian areas have rarely seen eye to eye. A low point was Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ, which featured sex scenes, and flopped after Roman Catholics led a boycott.

But in 2004 Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ achieved great commercial success, thanks partly to the endorsement of prominent Christians such as Rev Billy Graham. Since then, studios including Warner Bros, Sony and Fox have nurtured faith-based audiences. They have created “faith” divisions and employed Bible scholars to check scripts. “Mega-church” pastors have been invited to preview films months before their release.

Websites have also been created for pastors to download trailers to show during sermons. The push includes promoting films with Christian groups globally, particularly in South America and Africa.

However, that audience is knowledgeable about the subject matter and Hollywood is wrestling with questions of dramatic licence. One of next year’s epics has already run into controversy. Test screenings for Noah with a Christian audience in Arizona, and a Jewish audience in New York, reportedly produced troubling results. It has been suggested that the film shows Noah as an early opponent of climate change. Its director, Darren Aronofsky, has called him the “first environmentalist”.

Brian Godawa, a screenwriter, claimed to have read an early version of the script and said it portrayed a scenario in which the Great Flood was caused by man’s “disrespect” for the environment. Paramount, the studio behind Noah, remains adamant that it will sail on to success.

Whatever happens, Noah will have the same advantage for studios as the other biblical epics. Unlike movies based on superheroes, or the latest literary sensation such as Fifty Shades of Grey, the studios will not have to pay millions of dollars in copyright and licensing fees. The stories in the Bible are free to use.