Mamertine Prison in Rome

July 24, 2014

It is not unusual for a tour group to discuss what was their favorite or most meaningful location/event during their trip. On our recent “Highlights of Italy Tour,” many of our group cited the Mamertine Prison in Rome as being at the top of their list. To be able to walk down to the dark prison cell, and recall Paul’s last words in 2 Tim. 4, really enhances one’s understanding of the text and of Paul’s circumstances:

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 9 Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica — Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. 12 And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come — and the books, especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. 16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! (2 Tim. 4:6-18).

Mamertine Prison in Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Mamertine Prison in Rome. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

We cannot affirm that this is the exact part of the prison that Paul was in as he penned the above text. But this is definitely a part of the state prison complex, and it illustrates the biblical setting as Paul, near death, penned his last letter to his faithful friend and fellow-worker, Timothy. I.e., it is safe to say that Paul was in a cell like this, in this area, awaiting execution. BAS in their photo collection has this information:

Near the Forum, at the base of the Capitoline Hill, is the dungeon of the Mamertine Prison. This was the state prison of Rome, and Paul may have ended his days here.

We see the lower of two chambers constructed of blocks cut from tufa, the local porous rock. Originally, this 30-foot diameter room could be reached only through the hole visible in its ceiling. This would have been the dungeon cell for prisoners; above it is a smaller room for the warders. Conflicting Roman traditions attributed the building of the prison to different rulers of the 7th and 6th centuries B.C.E. Some modern investigations have suggested a 3rd-century B.C.E. date for this lower chamber and a 1st-century B.C.E. date for the room above, but there is no question that it was in use in Paul’s time. Christian tradition also places Peter’s final internment here, at the time of Nero’s persecution. (Biblical Archaeology Society: The Biblical World in Pictures).

The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands has this entry:

Tradition has it that during his second imprisonment Paul was detained in the Mamertine Prison in Rome. The name Mamertinus is postclassical; during the Empire the place was known simply as the Carcer. This was the ancient state prison of Rome at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. It was used as a place of detention, not of penal servitude, although executions occurred there. The upper room is a vaulted trapezoid, the sides varying in length from eleven to sixteen feet.

Below it was a subterranean chamber, originally accessible only by a hole in the roof. This Tullianum was nearly twenty-one feet in diameter and, according to Sallust, twelve feet high. All who wrote of the place described it with horror. Sallust (86–34 B.C.) described it as “exceeding dark, unsavory, and able to craze any man’s senses.” Under such circumstances the apostle would indeed have felt the need of the cloak and the books he had left behind at Troas (2 Tim. 4:13).

As Paul wrote Second Timothy, he had none of the optimism expressed in his earlier letters, when he expected release. He had obtained a preliminary hearing, and it had been a dismal failure (2 Tim. 4:16). Though he found himself in dire circumstances, he delivered what sometimes has been called his valedictory, for he was about to “graduate.” “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6–8) (Eds. Pfeiffer & Vos, 1996).

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Tribute to Hollis Creel

July 19, 2014

Hollis Creel, a beloved gospel preacher, passed away on Tuesday, July 15. Funeral services were conducted yesterday in Pleasant Grove, AL., with nephew Josh Creel and myself conducting services. It was an honor to me to be asked to pay tribute to this godly man. Uncle Hollis (really my wife’s uncle) would have been 86 on Aug. 14. He and Robbye Creel had been married 63 years. He had worked as evangelist for 57 years with churches of Christ across the southeast. It is estimated that he preached more than 6,000 sermons, plus countless Bible classes and home studies. He touched many lives. Yesterday at the funeral home, every seat was taken, and the back of the auditorium as well as lobby were filled with people standing.

Hollis and Robbye Creel.

Hollis and Robbye Creel.

When Abner died, David lamented to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? (2 Sam. 3:38). Uncle Hollis was one of my heroes. I have known him for about 50 years. He was a friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 14:17). “A friend loves at all times” (Prov. 18:24).

He loved the Lord, and loved the church, the people of God. He was not a “big shot.” His one purpose in life was saving souls. He was a quiet man, a humble man, and he had a tremendous influence for good. His convictions ran deep; he was not for sale. When churches were troubled by various issues his only concern was to take a kind but firm stand for truth. His aim was to please God.

Proverbs 10:7 states, “The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.” I have good memories of Uncle Hollis. I’ll remember his loved for his family. More than anything else, he wanted each family member to go to heaven; to “choose the one thing that is needful.” His children loved and respected this quiet, unassuming, strong man. He and his wife have been a wonderful team. He had recently mentioned to his daughter, only a couple of weeks ago,  how very blessed he was with his family, including extended family.

Hollis and Robbie small

I’ll remember his sense of humor. And I’ll remember him as a great story-teller. He also had a bit of mischief about him. Also, he could laugh at himself.

He was a “good sport.” Twenty-five years ago we were moving from Lexington, AL, to our present location in Hanceville, AL. Uncle Hollis was in Lexington to conduct our fall gospel meeting with the church there. During the course of the week he helped me move my shop tools to Hanceville. I had borrowed a full size van which had no back seats; my wife and I occupied the two front seats. He sat on a 5 gallon bucket all the way down, helped me unload the tools, and sat on the bucket all the way back.

He enjoyed buying and selling. He could take a piece of “junk” and turn it into a beautiful piece of furniture.

But the “tie that binds” is Truth, the truth of God’s word. To have that in common is most important by far. What attracts men and women of all ages to someone like Uncle Hollis is in reality seeing the influence of Christ in his/her life; such are “adorn[ing] the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10) by letting the gospel have free course in their lives.

Hollis Creel

Hollis Creel

I am thankful that Uncle Hollis lived in the Lord; that when he died, he died in faith. He died in the Lord (Rev. 14:13) and thus died in hope. I’m thankful for the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Goodbye for now, Dear Friend. May “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:4) sustain and comfort the Creel family at this time.

 


Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy

July 17, 2014

Our tour of Italy concluded in Venice on Tues. One of the landmarks there is the Bridge of Sighs, seen here at center.

Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Wikipedia has this info:

The Bridge of Sighs (Italian: Ponte dei Sospiri) is a bridge located in Venice, northern Italy. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino (whose uncle Antonio da Ponte had designed the Rialto Bridge) and was built in 1600.

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, little could be seen from inside the Bridge due to the stone grills covering the windows.

A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll. This legend served as a plot line for the movie A Little Romance, featuring Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane.

We are thankful for safe arrival back home yesterday PM.


Roman Theater in Trieste

July 15, 2014

It is an understatement to say that the Roman Empire really left its mark. There are many sites where theaters which date back to Roman times may be seen. When we were leaving Trieste yesterday morning, we went by the Roman theater there.

Roman Theater at Trieste, Italy. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Roman Theater at Trieste, Italy. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Yesterday we made our way on to Venice, where we had an afternoon to visit. Then today was an all-day tour of Venice (walking; they do not intend for you to sit anywhere here, at least not for long). Our wake up call is in a few hours at 3:00 AM; then a quick transfer to the airport to make our way home.

More photos to share later. Click on image for larger view.


In Trieste, Italy

July 12, 2014

This afternoon we safely arrived in Trieste, situated on the Adriatic Coast.

In Trieste, Italy, looking across the Adriatic to Slovenia. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In Trieste, Italy, looking across the Adriatic to Slovenia. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In the distance you can see Slovenia.

Yesterday we had the occasion to pay our respects at the American Cemetery near Florence. To your right is my friend, Harold Comer.

Florence American Cemetery. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Florence American Cemetery. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Some of the soldiers were killed just days before the war ended.

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Florence, Capital of the Province of Tuscany.

July 11, 2014

As we continue our tour of “The Highlights of Italy,” leaving Rome we’ve traveled north to Florence, home of Michelangelo and the birth of the Renaissance. Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and its 370,000 inhabitants makes it the most populous city in Tuscany.

Shortly after we checked into our rooms (late afternoon) there was thunder, rain and some small hail. Afterward the sun came out and much of the cloud cover left. Before time for dinner we had some time to walk to the historic square.

Florence is situated along the banks of  the Arno River.

Arno River in Florence. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Arno River in Florence. Photo by Leon Mauldin

 


A Good Day in Rome

July 9, 2014

Today’s activities included a tour of the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Mamertine Prison. We had a group shot made in front of the Arch of Constantine, the largest and best preserved of Rome’s triumphal arches.

Italy Group Shot.

Italy Group Shot.