Pergamum in Berlin

Go to Turkey and visit Pergamum, on the cities mentioned by Saint John in Revelation, and you will be told all the good stuff is Berlin

I had heard it, but now I know it.

If you want to see ancient Pergamum, go to Berlin. The reconstruction of the altar there, of Zeus or Athena, is spectacular. Throw in the Ishtar Gate and a spectacular Roman reconstruction and only the British can compete.

Berlin has more of Pergamum than on Berlin.

The heart of that Greek city, the altar that Revelation called Satan’s seat, beats in Berlin. It is hard to find any heart left in Berlin beyond a mechanical and mercantile heart, but Pergamum is there.

Oddly, the historians have lovingly done a better job reconstructing other people’s cities, than the German government has in rebuilding their own city. Americans gave the city a pregnant oyster of a building dedicated to world cultures and looking like Jimmy Carter’s grin. This monster sits near faux nineteenth century buildings, modern glass structures, and tubular bridges. These all sit in jumble on a stream full of tourist boats covered with advertisements where shopping plazas replace palaces.

The heat of Pergamum is more coherent than the heart of Berlin.

But Americans need take no comfort in this truth. Dresden, a jewel of Germany, was destroyed in an act of American and British vengeance in World War II. The Germans rebuilt it, filled it again with art, and it is glorious again: old yet young. They made rubble beautiful again at a staggering cost.

Dresden is magnificent, Saxony did and does all that Prussia (only the name is banned) did not and does not. It made me consider that there may be no German, but there is certainly a Saxon or a Bavarian.

The states remain where a nation is hard to see.

And it worse, because in olive fields at the same time Americans created La Mirada. We built no single building that would endure We did great works, but made no home for beauty and our pollution spoiled the view.

Shattered Saxony did what rich Americans did not. Perhaps our goals were different, but surely we could have done better. Our houses were built too quickly, but there is no excuse for our Catholic church. Saxony made rubble beautiful again, but we poured new concrete into a functional block of massive stuff unfit for the Mass.

The story is the same in towns across America. Houston with no zoning where a porn palace sits next to a church, homes sit near factories has no cause for confidence. Ruined Saxony did what we did not: it made Dresden new again.

Beauty matters. The Allies knew it: they bombed Dresden, because destroying the beauty of Saxony broke Saxons. But the Saxons recalled the beauty and bid it return and so Dresden is reborn.

We can build in haste with no thought to the past or to the future that will inherit our strip malls and mess or we can build what never can be forgotten. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago pagan men built beauty in an evil cause and even Berlin had to rebuild it.

They had no capacity for their own building, but German emperors and republicans knew a city when they saw it. Americans can do as well . . . New York has a heart and Boston too, but too often we slap up something and call it home, when all we have is a ruin.

Pergamum was Satan’s seat, but even the devils know how to appear like light. It takes hasty and ill considered men to slap together Berlin or wreck natural beauty with slap dash nothing so empty that it is not even ugly.

Only a man, not a devil, has the creative power of the image of God to so annihilate space that even evil is annihilated and so we are let bores: dwelling in Trump and Merkel’s seat..


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