Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Faith Works 4-29-06
Jeff Gill

Beneath Vatican Hill

The Roman Catholic Church traces her roots beneath the massive bulk of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, where fill that Emperor Constantine brought in to level a side of Vatican Hill covers an ancient cemetery.
Below the "modern" structure, the second on that constructed platform, tombs from before the time of Christ and just after now can be toured, with the conclusion of the visit to the excavations, or "scavi," come to the area just under the high altar, beneath the center of the vast dome designed by Michaelangelo.
It is what archaeologists and classical scholars believe is the burial place of Simon Peter, foremost of the apostles and leader of the Christian movement carried back to the heart of the Roman empire. Just to the south is the former Circus, or racetrack, where Peter was executed by upside-down crucifixion; the pylon marking one end of the course was an obelisk brought as spoil of war, the same obelisk now in the center of the piazza before the largest church in Christendom – perhaps Peter’s last sight on earth, now witness to the election and speeches and funerals of Peter’s successors, called bishops of Rome, or "il papa," or just pope.
This second week of our series on Christendom for Dummies (hey, it takes one to know one!) moves from the ancient traditions of Eastern, Orthodox Christianity back to the west, and the Catholic Christian wing of the faith.
Pope John Paul II said not long ago of the eastern and western branches of traditional Christianity that the church "breathes with two lungs," implying that while each can get along to some degree without the other, such a situation is not the best, and could be harmful. The years since World War II, and especially in the pontificate of John Paul II, have seen a renewal of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic "lungs" not dreamed of since 1204, when Crusaders in Constantinople plundered holy shrines to make up for not getting to Jerusalem, and leaders of Christianity both east and west anathematized, or cursed each other.
Tensions began much earlier, and came to a head with church councils around 1052, when understandings of the relationships between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit could not be reconciled (the "filoque" clause). But the stresses were as much geopolitical as theological, beginning with the sack of Rome in 410, and cracked beyond all repair, it seemed, with the sack of Constantinople in 1453.
The word catholic, small-c, means universal, and the Roman Catholic Church continues to struggle with catholicity both as promise and problem. The papal affirmation "no salvation outside the church" is meant more as assured promise than veiled threat, but is heard by many as a claim of absolute authority with limited justification.
One of the common, but unusual titles used by the leader of Catholic Christianity is "Supreme Pontiff." You hear it just down the road in the name of the Pontifical College Josephinum, signifying the role of the Roman Pontiff in that school over the local bishop of Columbus, along with the "P" in the former PIME seminary school between Heath and Hebron, once a papal property, now the retreat center for the Diocese of Columbus.
This is a title that goes back into the ancient heritage of Rome, given by the city-state to Julius Caesar as "pontifex maximus," or literally "supreme bridge builder." This title, signifying the responsibility for maintaining relationships between believers and various faith groups, was held by the Caesars and was given to the Papacy when the Roman Empire fell.
As modern Supreme Pontiff, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has a responsibility he takes quite seriously, to share the Christian message and build bridges to believers around the world.
Modern Catholics hold a loyalty to their bishops as the organizing embodiments of their faith community, and a primary loyalty to the teaching pre-eminence of the bishop of Rome, where Peter was martyred and where his successors still worship and preside as the "daddy" in Italian vernacular, or "il papa."
The pre-eminence of the papacy is an obstacle to some in hoping for Christian union, and the embodiment of unity for many others. This tension reaches a head when the old St. Peter’s is being torn down and a new one planned, just after the year 1500, and a good Catholic monk named Martin Luther gets some strange ideas in Pope Benedict’s homeland of Germany.
The story continues next week!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; contact him through

Monday, April 24, 2006

Notes From My Knapsack 4-30-06
Jeff Gill

Thornwood Drive, connecting Union Township’s northern reaches and the Newark/Granville corridor since before the Civil War, is still a crucial link for Licking County.
Many of you shared your interest with me last week in where and how the "Dugway" changed traffic patterns; along with the Deep Cut on the west edge of Millersport, these two projects are probably only second to the National Road and the Ohio & Erie Canal in shaping the first hundred years of our region.
Just as the expansion of Rt. 79 wiped away a few remaining traces of the canal bed and basins in recent years, the new Thornwood connector and Cherry Valley interchange will obscure some still visible chunks of history, wherever the new path goes.
Thornwood begins in the south where it does today, starting at Beaver Run Road (named for early settler David Bever, so don’t look for bucktooth rodents nearby). Arrowing north past the Sts. Peter and Paul Retreat Center of the Diocese of Columbus (former PIME), this is clearly a surveyed route, not a former Indian footpath.
But just at the foot of the hill to West Main (which does have that prehistoric angularity), where Hope Timber sits above, there is a small "jog" in Thornwood, a noticeable shift but small enough that it will certainly vanish in the coming widening.
The reason for this jog is simple: in horsepower days, Thornwood ended here, turning right and looping around the steep slope to join Main near Vensil-Orr-Chute’s new funeral home.
The Showman farm, once a true Licking County agricultural showplace, still sits in part on the ridge beyond the bike path stop on Cherry Valley Road. A traveler from the rich grain markets of Hebron heading for Granville, or an underground railroad conductor seeking a rest on the way to Mount Vernon, Mansfield, and ultimately Canada, has to get around that ridge.
From the meander east around the southern side of the Showman ridge, you would cross Main, called the Columbus Road this far away from Newark proper back then. You’d go north along Showman St. (still called that), and at Central City (now mainly the Market Basket) follow Cherry Valley Road around the northern half of the Showman farm to . . . the Showman Bridge! At this crossing of Raccoon Creek an aqueduct for the Granville Feeder of the Ohio & Erie Canal lay alongside the bridge, and if you come towards the Cherry Valley/Reddington Road intersection from the west, you can clearly see the age of the bridge that we still use from the piers and streamlined footers in the creekbed.
River Road, Reddington, and Thornwood all dissolve into a tangle today which will vanish under whatever new interchange is built at the end of Thornwood to route us into Rt. 16. Just as wagons couldn’t, and didn’t, go straight up the hill north to join Main Street, neither did the 1800’s River Road do anything but push on to join Cherry Valley Road. Somewhere after 1900 power equipment and the horseless carriage that Mr. Ford up in Detroit made popular created the link from the foot of Showman Ridge, pushing Thornwood from the jog, up to cross Main and James Road, then up and over to drop down onto River Road.
Now larger trucks and increased expansion of both Newark and Heath mean this set of intersections will change again. The traces of the original paths and roads will only be seen in the books and diaries about former days and olden times, with the stray street sign or neighborhood name reminding us of another way.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; share your stories with him at
Notes From My Knapsack 4-23-06
Jeff Gill

Dugway Opens the Road

Discussion of an interchange for Rt. 16 and Cherry Valley Road takes us very close to the roots of Licking County transportation history.
Before the National Road and the Ohio & Erie Canal criss-crossed this area in the 1830’s, the network of roads and paths were less linear and had to fit both the terrain and the limitations of both human and animal power.
The angle of West Main Street through Newark, offset to north-south or east-west lines of the surveyed city, traces back to the first maps we have, and likely follows an early American Indian path from the meeting of the Licking River forks to the Scioto River drainage west.
Weaving into what’s now James Road, Canyon and River Roads, possibly linking with Morse Road, the Native American footways were trodden down by European shoes, widened for mule and ox teams, and slowly straightened (a bit) for wagon and stagecoach.
The same is probably true for what we now call Rt. 13, up from Somerset, the early regional center, where many of Newark’s "first citizens" came from, weaving north along the first terraces above the marshy river bottoms to Mount Vernon and on to Mansfield.
Between Newark and the northwest, to Granville, the main road also follows a unique angle which may also hint at pre-settler trails.
Less well remembered, or traceable on the map, is that the highlands now called "Morgan Manor" stretched to a drop-off to Raccoon Creek, creating a major obstacle for the first travelers who weren’t on foot to get from the area of Granville St. in Newark to where Newark-Granville Road heads into the latter named village – and almost where the new interchange is proposed.
The first settlers, and for many years, had to make a double crossing of the creek, jouncing down and laboring back out of the riverbed, a path which had to be laboriously rebuilt after each spring and every major rain.
What now unnamed citizens took on was a "graded way," or "dugway" through the saddle of the ridge just north of Raccoon Creek, cutting a deeper path that lessened the grade for oxen to make the slope up and over into the eastern edge of the Granville area.
Done, necessarily, with shovels and stoop labor alone, this was Licking County’s first major public works project. It was memorable enough that the district west of Newark proper north of the creek was, and is still to some, known as "Dugway."
In fact, if you travel west on Rt. 16 and peel off to the right onto Granville Road, just as you leave the expressway a small part of the old Dugway is still visible to your left, fenced off but clearly evident if you know what you’re looking at. The age of the trees growing down on the sides of the trench show the antiquity of this site.
ODOT will probably use this area for staging and construction purposes when the Cherry Valley interchange is built, but I hope someday the area can be not only preserved but memorialized in some way. The Dugway is a clear witness to the elemental labors that were needed to make transportation and community expand and connect in early Licking County, just as the area’s growth requires a more technologically elegant, but not dissimilar solution, along Rt. 16 today.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; write him at