How We Got the U.S. Bald Eagle Seal

November 07, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

On the eve of the 2016 election, it seems appropriate to focus on our national symbol and where it came from. The Bald Eagle became the symbol of the United States in 1782 with the adoption of the Great Seal of the United States. Like many great ideas, the design of this seal had many false starts and frustrations. The version we know today is actually a revision of the original updated in 1885 ... Read More

Sacred Symbols

Rainbow’s Many Meanings

November 06, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

A cold front finally made its way to Austin this morning. We’ve been unseasonably warm so the promise of winter finally arriving has been greatly anticipated. The cold front brought several hours of steady rain, which we also welcomed. When I went to the front porch this afternoon, the rain had stopped and I was greeted by the sweeping arc of a rainbow. My photos only suggest the beauty and drama ... Read More

Sacred Symbols

Whale Sighting on South 1st Street

November 05, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Tempo is all over Austin, but it took sighting a sacred whale before I discovered it. The City of Austin’s Art in Public Places is in the middle of an ambitious program of temporary exhibits this fall. According to the City’s website, the Tempo program “allows artists to explore a range of themes suitable for the outdoor environment and provides the opportunity for innovative, thought-provoking ... Read More

Sacred Symbols / Presentations

Memorial for an Architect - the Father of the River Walk

November 04, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

I don’t know of many monuments honoring an architect but San Antonio’s memorial for its native son, Robert H. H. Hugman, is an obvious choice. It is widely known that it was Hugman who conceived of the downtown River Walk. But I just learned about his herculean effort over a number of years to actually get the project built. Along the way were many rejections and active adversaries pushing to ... Read More

Memorial / Sacred Symbols

San Antonio’s Saintly Namesake

November 03, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Strolling along the famed Riverwalk a turn on the walking trail reveals the image of a saintly young man cast in bronze. From the robes and distinctive haircut, a visitor could easily assume this was a statue of Saint Francis. That assumption would be wrong, but not too far away from the truth. The statue is actually of the namesake of the city, Saint Anthony, or as he’s known in his native ... Read More

Liturgical Arts / Sacred Symbols

Japanese Bell Symbolizes Peace and Resilience

November 01, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Some stories I’ve followed just keep getting better and more interesting. Another wonderful envelope arrived this morning from Boston historian, Lola Heiler-Stillman. She answered a question I posed about Boston’s Temple Bell in a blogpost about the World Peace Bell Movement. Previously, I had blogged about finding the enormous 450-pound Japanese temple bell during a stroll in the Fens this ... Read More

Memorial / Sacred Symbols

Reconciling Catholic and Lutherans - 500 Years in the Making

October 30, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

At the ceremonies in the Lund Cathedral in Sweden marking the start of the year building up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Pope Francis will not just be a guest, he’ll be a co-celebrant. This breathtaking event would have been unthinkable even a few years ago, but this Pope has made ecumenicalism and the uniting of religions a major priority. A month ago, Pope Francis co-presided ... Read More

Sacred Symbols / Religious

Selena Lives On in East Austin

October 28, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Twenty-one years after her death, the singer Salena lives on in Mexican-American culture. Christened the Queen of Tex-Mex, the artist was well into a skyrocketing career when a deranged former employee gunned her down in a hotel in Corpus Christi. Her death at the young age of 24, cut short an amazingly influential career, bridging musical genera and in the process gathering a loyal and devoted ... Read More

Memorial / Sacred Symbols

Rear Window Prayers

October 26, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

We may say, “put it on a bumper sticker,” but many people these days are favoring the rear window to share something with fellow drivers. In many cases, that something is a small message about faith. I blogged previously about several cars I photographed with faith related decals. Maybe I’m just starting to look again, but in the past week, I’ve noticed a many more.   I parked next to this car at ... Read More

Memorial / Sacred Symbols

Art of the Qur’an on Display in DC

October 25, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

The Smithsonian has opened the first major exhibit in the US of the Qur’an, Islam’s holy text. Featured on two floors of the Freer/Sackler Museum on the Mall in Washington DC, hundreds of texts display centuries of devotion and artistry. On loan from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul, this is one of the greatest collections of ancient Qur’ans in the world. Many of these ... Read More

Liturgical Arts / Sacred Symbols