Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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the Inland Register
(From the December 18, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
Archdiocese of Portland
PORTLAND – On July 18, a team from the University of Portland labored with archeologists on the island of Mallorca, in the Mediterranean off the coast of Spain.
On an abandoned Mallorcan farm, crews dug a trench two meters wide by five meters long. On that morning, scientists, theologians and workers were thrilled to find just what they were looking for: an ancient Christian grave. About 1,400 years ago, the quiet field was a burial ground for Christians in the walled Roman city of Pollèntia.
The UP team included Holy Cross Father Richard Rutherford, retired theology professor; chemists Ray and Ronda Bard; Holy Cross Father Ron Wasowski of the environmental studies department; and six others. They gathered with archaeologist Bartomeu Vallori Márquez and Pollèntia project director Esther Chávez to toast the successful survey and mapping of the burial grounds. The territorial governor of Mallorca congratulated the Oregon team on their work and invited them to the palace in Palma.
Future trips will map out the graveyard and allow for further study, perhaps shedding light on early Christian practice.
“Christians didn’t just bury their dead and run off,” said Father Rutherford, an expert in early baptism and funeral practices. “If there is a cemetery, there is a church somewhere. If there is a church, there has to be a baptistery.”
Father Rutherford has been researching baptisteries for years and one trip took him to Mallorca, where he met the Spanish archeological team at ancient Pollèntia. The promise was great for locating unstudied graves and long-buried churches.
The University of Portland team took a new survey to locate evidence of the graves then marked out a grid to pinpoint locations.
Ray Bard conducted chemical analysis on artifacts, such as pottery shards, using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. Knowing what the ancients used to create things can help nail down dates and give a picture of their daily life.
Father Wasowski took aerial images, using a helium balloon and a University of Portland drone.
Phoenicians came to Mallorca as early as the 8th century BC. The Romans assumed control after the Second Punic war and began settlements in 123 BC, founding Pollèntia. When Christianity swept the Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, Pollentia’s Christian population grew. Vandals captured the island and held it for about 40 years, but Roman rule was re-established in 465. It was after the Byzantine conquest in 534 that Christianity flourished and many churches and graveyards were built.
Muslim forces from North Africa began attacking in the 8th century and by the 10th century had taken possession. By the 13th century, instability in the Moorish caliphate created an opening and a massive Spanish force besieged the island for almost a year, taking it in 1230. Old Pollèntia was expanded into the medieval walled city of Alcúdia.
In the turmoil, the old Christian cemetery of Pollèntia was covered and lost. It became a farm.
About 30 graves had been excavated in the 1920s but were covered over at the start of the Spanish Civil War to create an arable field. Mallorca was a Nationalist stronghold and not much study was done on the old Christian site. It was not until July that the graves were seen again.
SAINT BENEDICT – This fall, Mount Angel Seminary inaugurated a fully-accredited master of arts in philosophy program with a philosophical symposium. William Desmond, philosophy professor, was keynote speaker.
Mount Angel is one of only a few seminaries in the United States to offer a master of arts in philosophy degree to pre-theology students. The program consists of two years of philosophical studies. Before a seminarian begins theology, he must first have a philosophical foundation on which to build, seminary officials say. Philosophy has been described as the “handmaiden of theology.”
Desmond, the symposium speaker, is a Catholic philosopher who was born in Ireland and now teaches in the United States and Belgium.
– Catholic Sentinel (Oregon Catholic Press)
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