Sunday, December 21, 2008

How Many Footsteps

ON a visit to the historic city of Lincoln, we attended a beautiful and extremely moving event entitled "The Journey". Described as a "travelling Nativity", the annual event takes place in the grounds of Lincoln Castle and traces the footsteps of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men as they journey to Bethlehem. The performance takes place in the dark with figures often showing only as silhouettes, the audience led on foot behind the narrator around the grounds. Instrumental and vocal music completes the poignant display.

I felt like I was treading on sacred ground. Not because of the performance, though this would have been beautiful in any location. But here in the castle of this midsized English city I was struck by the enormity of the history that had taken place beneath my very feet. The earliest origins of Lincoln can be traced to the remains of an Iron Age settlement of round wooden dwellings that have been dated to the 1st century BC. A fortress was built by the Romans on the site of the present castle, and the town was a trading post during Viking times. In 1068, the Norman William the Conqueror had a castle built on the Roman ruins. Much of this medieval castle still stands, supplemented by later buildings used for, among other things, a debtors' prison, and a courthouse still in use today. One of the original copies of the Magna Carta also resides here. How many people - great or lowly - had stood on the same ground as I now stood over the past 2000 years? What did they do, say, think? It was a humbling experience.

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