Last week, I was invited to attend the 21st Annual International Conference on Orthodox Spirituality at Bose Monastery in Northern Italy (see map above), dedicated to the theme of the ages, or stages, of the spiritual life, according to the Orthodox tradition.
We were able to get a flight on the European discount airline Ryan Air directly from Volos to Milan. A kind man from Turin, a friend of the monastery, then picked us up and drove us about 2 hours to the monastery, where we arrived Wednesday evening. Above is a photo of the monastery.
There weren't enough rooms for all the guests, so I was give a room in a house (which was given to the monastery) in the adjacent little village of Magnano, about a 10-minute walk from the monastery.
The house had a traditional design, around a central atrium. My room was on the second floor, in the background of the photo above.
Here was the street outside my door, which leads to the monastery.
The monks there have a wide variety of interests and talents, including iconography. They put on an exhibit of their iconography for the participants in the conference. They experiment with a variety of Orthodox styles - Byzantine, Russian, Coptic, and, above, Ethiopian, which I found interesting.
One morning I took a brief walk around the village and had a wonderful cappuccino in the small village square. There is the village square was a water dispenser. For 5 cents, you could choose to fill up a bottle with regular water, or carbonated water.
Here's the main street leading from the square the village's Catholic church.
Here is their parish church, dedicated to St. Martha.
The area reminded me a bit of Greece, in that one can still see public displays of Christianity, such as this little shrine along the road. Unfortunately, they all seem to have a sort of "historic" feel, meaning that they're still there only for cultural or historical reasons. It was indicative that this shrine was barred off, so that no one could venerate the icon or light an oil lamp.
Along the small country road from the town to the monastery, I found this pillar, with icons on all four sides.
Not far from the monastery is this 11th century church. It is now used only for musical performances, etc.
The other thing that struck me about the town was that there were video cameras in several public areas of this small village, such as the main square, etc. Also, Italy offers free Wifi throughout the country, but you're required to register your name so that they can monitor your internet usage for possible links to terrorism.
In any event, the conference had some interesting papers and discussion, and I also had the chance to see Bishop Maxim of Western America, who ordained me.