My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Corinth - the climax of our pilgrimage In the Steps of St Paul

The sea is grey today, reflecting the cloud cover as the sun struggles to come out. We are following the coast road to Corinth, 70 kilometres south of Athens beyond the Canal of Corinth, which connects the Aegean and Ionian seas. We enjoy beautiful views of the sea to our left for much of the way, with the Island of Salamina clearly visible in the distance across the bay.
Corinth was second only to Rome in its ancient heyday, and we are promised something much greater than Ephesus, which I recall clearly from a baking hot visit on holiday in Turkey many years ago.
We are to see the Bema - the seat of judgment and authority, elevated above the crowds. The Jews were offended by Paul saying that Jesus Christ was the chosen one, resurrected for us. The leaders and Kings were offended that Christ through Paul's teachings usurped their authority. But Gallio the Proconsul before whom Paul was brought by the angry Jews could see no case to answer and dismissed Paul before he even needed to defend himself. See Acts 18.
Corinth is forever remembered through Paul's letters to its church there, formed after his first visit. a young church which has become tainted by the general paganism and immorality of the day. Here he recruited two assistants in his mission - Priscilla and Aquila. Paul departed here from the port of Corinth, Cenchreae on his way to Ephesus.

The Corinth Canal service area where we make a comfort stop on the way to Corinth served for an expensive 2.50 Euros what was without doubt the very worst coffee of the trip, and it was surely instant coffee. 
Comfort break!

The City of Corinth and the Island of Rhodes apparently have the most sunshine in Greece, but it's still quite cloudy when we arrive, although the sun soon comes out for us.

Here among the ruins at Corinth in a lovely setting we gather together for our final open-air Eucharist. A distant church bell strikes twelve as we begin and the Dean gives a homily on Paul's reading in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 4: 7) - we now have this treasure as a light from God in our hearts, but we are like clay jars in all their fragility and all power comes from God alone. The Dean reflects on the fragility of human nature and the difficulties of getting on with each other even today, so visible in international tensions. It is lovely to hear a Hong Kong pilgrim group echoing our service in the distance and singing hymns and alleluias. Finally Rob reads with great sensitivity the letter from Paul to the Corinthians on love ("If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels but do not have love...") and two tourists listening on the periphery of our group are visibly moved: as indeed was I.

the dog who accompanied us all
around the site!

We finish with the Grace - "The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore Amen".

So much information is available on line about Corinth - with a good article on its biblical significance here and its history here - suffice here to show some photos of our visit.

As we leave some of us have time to rush down to the theatre - where we find the name of Erastus carved in the stone - possibly this being Paul's friend Erastus mentioned in Romans 16: 23 and 2 Timothy 4: 20. This is a rare and important archaeological find.

Erastus plaque
A taverna on the bank of the Corinth Canal gives us the best food of the holiday - great ambiance with Greek locals making music and dancing as only they can - some of us even join in. Two of us share a vegetable platter - very good indeed for just 7 Euros, plus two local beers, as we watch the canal road bridge lowering into the water to allow boats through. As the level is raised again, seagulls and local boys compete in trying their luck at catching the trapped fish brought up from below. The waiters are rushed off their feet serving us all and do a great job. If Corinth was spiritually satisfying, this restaurant experience was magical in its own way.
Tonight we have dinner all together in the Thissio View Restaurant which has the most fantastic views over the Acropolis - for a while many of us try to get the perfect shot from the restaurant balcony of the Acropolis at sunset, while all food is forgotten.

So Saturday arrives and it is time to go home. In the morning we are left to explore Athens on our own and many of us make immediately for the marvellous new Acropolis Museum in an attempt to beat the later crowds who will throng through its doors. And this museum should certainly not be missed on any trip to the city.
the Acropolis at night
I then have time to further explore the area around the acropolis, and the plaka, or shopping area, and I have to revise my initial impressions. Athens is a remarkable city and I would love to return to see even more of its many treasures. 

Corinth Temple of Apollo
The pilgrimage has had its highs and lows for me. But overall it has been a wonderful experience both spiritually and culturally even if I have not always been as receptive in the moment as perhaps I could have been.

Images that will stay with me:

The warmth and friendliness of the people
The lovely hot dry sunshine and the sparkling blue sea
Plentiful food - at the centre of life!
The beauty of the countryside and the pink and white Oleander everywhere
Religiosity of the people in its sense of "piety", or "the state of being religious".
Crazy drivers and the general disregard for seat belt and other laws - reflected in so many sad roadside shrines.
The Bema information board at Corinth 

The Bema or Rostra at Corinth

The fountain courtyard Corinth
Enormous thanks go to McCabe Pilgrimages who as ever organised the whole trip so well for us, to our lovely guide Mara who gave us so much guidance and information and our driver Tassus who looked after us so carefully, to the Very Revd. Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark cathedral for his excellent spiritual guidance and leadership and to Mark Vernon for adding so much to the pilgrimage with his philosophical perspective on early Christianity. 


  1. Thank you for another great pilgrimage report! I always enjoy reading them and seeing the photos.

    1. Thank you Heather. I am so glad you enjoy them. Watch this space!! I am just back from an 11 day pilgrimage in Ethiopia and there are some great stories and photos from that amazing experience. I hope to start posting for that in a few days.

  2. Great trip, Eleanor. I enjoy reading about your pilgrimages and seeing the terrific photos, some of which remind me of sights I have seen many years ago.

  3. Jo Anne lovely to hear from you again and read your latest comments and so glad you are still enjoying the blogs