Saturday, 22 November 2014

A Catholic Middle Earth – part 1

Slovakia – A Catholic “Middle Earth”

Slovakia - A Catholic Middle Earth - map wikipedia

Every time I visit Slovakia I cannot help but be impressed by the country, still very Catholic despite the ravages of Communism from the end of World War II to 1990, and the inroads of western secularism more recently. I have been told by the production team I work with not to see Slovakia through rose tinted glasses it has its own problems. However, to me this little central European country will always be a sort of Catholic Middle Earth. There is always something going on in their pretty churches that have that distinctive look of this part of Europe. Some have golden onion domes and spires, most are quite ornate and going inside I marvel at the quality of the paintings and statues, even in the smallest village church. They always inspire me to pray or just to sit in front of the tabernacle for a while. Most weekday Masses are quite well attended and Sunday Masses are frequent and full. The confessionals are always busy and the queues stretch around the churches on most days.

Michal Benko filming an aircraft take off for the Chartres Pilgrimage
documentary - why you may ask? Well you will need to see the documentary.

EWTN have chosen Lux communication of Bratislava for the Christendom Project. They are widely regarded as being one of the best Catholic TV stations and production houses in Europe. They were set up after the fall of Communism by the Slovak bishops' conference and its members sent to the USA for film production training. I work with Lux communications on behalf of EWTN and St Clare Media – EWTN as producer and scriptwriter. This has entailed several visits to Slovakia for various filming sessions and post-production work. During my visits Marek Polacek and Michal Benko the director and cameraman and the rest of the personnel at Lux have been very kind, so I thought I would write a couple of little posts on them and indeed Slovakia – which I liken to a Catholic “Middle Earth”.

Marek Polacek - director, 'helping' to unload Lux equipment
on Location

Bratislava still has its forests of apartment tower blocks left over from the communist era which stand out a little incongruously against the surrounding wooded hills. However, they have been improving them in recent years and are well proportioned and comfortable to live in – except in a really hot summer.

Slovak village house
Old town Bratislava is very interesting and you can tell that some tasteful conservation work has been done. Lux are situated in Kapitulska a quaint old cobbled street near the Cathedral of St Martin, where as we mentioned in the Crusader series the kings and queens of Hungary were crowned during the wars of the Ottomans.

Wayside Crucifix

The last time I was in Bratislava was October to do some extra filming on the Chartres pilgrimage documentary and to lay down the narration. Marek Polacek the director from Lux I work with invited me to travel to the east of the country with a Lux communication production team, where a Greek Catholic priest has been doing some work with some Gypsy youths who have produced a musical play on the Old Testament story of Judith.  Lux wanted to film the play for broadcasting. It was good to see more of the country and as we travelled east the churches became more Greek Catholic in Style with some Orthodox churches as well. Much of Slovakia is forested and becomes less populated the further east you travel.

Typical Slovak church - Bratislava
Next post will be on the journey to the grave of Anna Kolesarova. Anna was a Catholic girl who was shot during the Second World War for preserving her purity rather than give into the demands of a Soviet soldier. Today many young people gather at her grave and pledge a vow of chastity until they marry.

Young Catholics take a pledge of chastity at the grave of
World War II Martyr Anna Kolesarova

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