Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve was a three part series that was partly a travelogue and partly about the history of Christian pilgrimage across Europe and the Holy Land from medieval times through to the modern day. Reeve made it pretty clear several times that he’s not a Christian himself, so this was an outsider’s view on the subject. He did, however, talk to several people who do pilgrimages for religious purposes today, so we got both sides of the subject represented. The first episode started in Lindisfarne and made its way down to Canterbury and mostly talked about medieval experience of pilgrimage. Then the second episode went through France and Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, and then across the alps to Rome. The third episode went from Istanbul to Jerusalem (via Bethlehem).
Reeve seemed focussed primarily on the question of what people get out of pilgrimage. His conclusions were that as well as the visiting of spiritually significant sites the journey itself has spiritual benefits for the people who do pilgrimages. They have a time to step outside of their daily lives and reflect on how they’re living and what they’re doing with their lives. Be that in a religious sense or a purely spiritual sense, various of the modern pilgrims he talked to weren’t people who called themselves Christian.
It wouldn’t be a Simon Reeve programme if it didn’t also look at the less uplifting parts of the subject! In the last episode there he was travelling through the West Bank (as one has to, if one’s visiting Bethlehem), and took the opportunity to contrast the modern political situation with the spiritual significance of the region to so many people. Another example was his visit to a very modern cult centre – the town where Padre Pio lived, who died in 1968. This has a massive new cathedral, a TV station of it’s own (run by monks), lots of fancy hotels in the town for all the
touristspilgrims. And various rumours of how he kept his stigmata open during life by the judicious application of carbolic acid … He was canonised, but Reeve implied that was more an attempt by the Vatican to keep it in house so’s to speak. The cult was growing up anyway, so he was officially made a saint.
An interesting series 🙂 And in a piece of serendipity the first episode overlapped in subject matter with the end of Neil Oliver’s recent series about Sacred Wonders of Britain that we’d just finished watching (post). The second episode had some overlap with the second episode of Waldemar Januszczak’s series about Baroque art which we’re also watching at the moment. The three presenters have very different styles so it was interesting to get the various perspectives all so quickly together!
The other series we finished watching this week was Survivors: Nature’s Indestructible Creatures – a three part series about species that didn’t die out in mass extinction events presented by Richard Fortey. Each episode covered a different extinction event, and Fortey tracked down 10 species that survived it through to modern times. The first one was about the Great Dying (which occurred 252 million years ago) which is the most significant extinction even with the greatest die-off of species. For this one he looked at things like horseshoe crabs, sea cucumbers and lampreys. The second covered the KT boundary – i.e. death of the dinosaurs, so had an emphasis on birds, mammals and crocodiles. And the third one looked at the Ice Age and at the cold adapted species that made it through to our own times.
This was definitely more my sort of thing than J’s. I thought it managed to combine a bit of geology, a bit of evolutionary biology and a bit of modern day travelogue into an interesting whole (even tho I think I knew of most of it before, it’s nice to actually see things sometimes). Fortey was an engaging presenter, who was also pretty entertaining as he tried to handle live specimens with varying degrees of success and comfort. I had a great deal of sympathy with that as someone who’s significantly worse at handling live animals than he was yet is still a biologist 🙂 Oh, and it also had a running theme of Fortey eating some of these survivors & telling us how they taste, which was a slightly odd (but fun) addition.
Other TV watched this week:
The Coffee Trail with Simon Reeve – one-off programme about coffee growing in Vietnam. Vietnam is the main supplier of coffee for the instant coffee trade, and it’s as exploitative a trade as you’d expect. The regime in Vietnam isn’t particularly nice either.
Episode 2 of Baroque! From St Peter’s to St Paul’s – gloriously over the top series about Baroque art and architecture, presented by Waldemar Januszczak.
Episode 1 of The Stuarts – a series about the Stuart Kings of England & Scotland, presented by Clare Jackson, and about how they shaped the United Kingdom and how they were shaped by it. Broadcast on the Scottish version of BBC2 only.
Nigel Slater’s Great British Biscuit – a similar programme to Slater’s previous one on sweets (post), part nostalgia, part history of biscuits. Lots of “oh I remember those” moments 🙂
Greek Myths: Tales of Travelling Heroes – programme presented by Robin Lane Fox about the early Greek myths about the origins of their gods. Also looking at the links between the mythological stories and the landscape the Greeks knew, and also the links to Hittite mythology. We both had quite a lot of deja vu watching it, and figured out eventually that we’d watched it before about 3 years ago and had just forgotten (brief post on my livejournal). Interesting & worth watching, even for a second time 🙂