One of the pluses to my short hospital stay was that I was able to read ‘From The Holy Mountain’ which has been sitting waiting for me to have the time to read it for a while now.
William Dalrymple follows in the footsteps of John Moschos a monk who in 578AD made an extraordinary journey across the entire Eastern Byzantine world, a trip filled with difficulties and dangers and due to the situation in that part of the world William Dalrymple’s journey was no easier.
The book is full of humour and information and a very good read, however unless you are interested in early Christian history you might find it a bit hard going, but it is well worth persevering with. It is a fascinating book telling not only the history of the journey but also how the different cultures and religions have, and continue, to interact with each other.
One of the things I liked most about the book was the sprinkling of bizarre early Christian practices. I first got a fascination for these oddities when reading a book on retreat about early Christian laws in which it said hairdressers should never be baptised as their profession was worse than that of the common prostitute. Dalrymple has provided me with another gem for this time for the summer months – Gregory the Great always used to recommend making the sign of the cross over a lettuce in case you swallowed a demon that happened to be perched in its leaves!
Above all it is a tale of how ordinary people of faith can, and do, live together in harmony, monks taking services in great churches as the Muslims fill the Church with their prayer mats. I found it both an inspiration and a frustration but would recommend it to anyone who is even slightly interested in both the past and the present of the area.