December 6 - Today I began my journey with a visit to the basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. This beautiful church was built in 324 and is the first Catholic basilica to have ever been built. It served as the pope's residence until the construction of Saint Peter's basilica. It is large and the interior artwork is extremely intricate, which was the Catholic's way of defying the Protestants and their belief in simpler churches. Although the basilica was initially consecrated in 324, artwork was being added to the interior through the 17th century. Here's some pictures of this magnificent church.
December 8 - Today I arrived in Jerusalem, and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This beautiful church is sacred to Catholics, as it was built over the place they believe Christ was crucified, as well as the place where his tomb was. The church contains many important relics, including a piece of the True Cross (Jesus's cross from the crucifixion), and many other relics relating to the crucifixion of Christ. Here's some pictures of this most holy church.
December 9 - Today I visited the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine built in Jerusalem. It is built over the rock from which Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven. The large golden dome is a marvel of Islamic architecture, built in the Byzantine style, and is a truly beautiful monument. Here's some pictures of this stunning shrine.
December 10 - Today I visited two key Jewish sites, the Western Wall, and the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is considered to be one of the holiest Jewish sites. It was constructed by the king Herod between 20 BC and AD 64. It is believed to be the place where Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice, and was the location of two great Jewish temples. However, this place is also sacred to Muslims, and the Jewish often have restricted access to this site. The Western Wall is located on the Temple Mount. It was the only piece of the second temple left standing after the Romans destroyed it. It is Jewish custom to write prayers in the cracks of this massive stone wall. Although it is simple, it is an example of the strength of the old Jewish temple for it to still be standing after all these years. Here's some pictures I got while visiting these holy Jewish sites.
December 11 - Today I made a trip into Saudi Arabia to visit Mecca, which is the most sacred place for all of Islam. It is the birthplace of Mohammed, as well as the birthplace of Islam itself. One of the five pillars of Islam is the Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca that must be made once in the life of a Muslim. In the center of Mecca is the Ka'ba, the most sacred object of Islam, a block of stone with a rich history in the Islamic faith. Here's some pictures I snapped of this important religious site.
December 14 - Today I arrived in India to visit the city of Varanasi, a city sacred to the Hindus. Pilgrims flock to this city to bathe in the River Ganges and wash away all their sins. They also come here to die, as they believe if you die in Varanasi you are liberated from the cycle of birth and death. This city is one of Hinduism's seven sacred cities. Here's some pictures I got of this beautiful city.
December 15 - Today I visited the sacred Buddhist site of Bodh Gaya and the Mahabodi temple in India. This place is where Buddhists believe Buddha obtained his enlightenment. It is regarded as the most important of the four sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites. The temple was built about 300 years after the enlightenment of Buddha. Here are some pictures of this historic and sacred landmark.
December 17 - Today I visited the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The massive temple complex was initially built as a Hindu temple to the god Vishnu, but became a Buddhist temple in the 12th century. The temple was designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devus in the Hindu religion, with a large moat and outer wall surrounding three rectangular galleries and the five towers. Here are some pictures of this massive Hindu temple.
December 20 - Today I finished my journey with a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar. This stunning golden pagoda is 325 feet tall, and contain relics of Buddha. This beautiful pagoda is covered in gold plates, with thousands of diamonds and rubies adorning the crown. Historians are unsure of exactly when it was built, but many believe it to be the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. Here are some picturs of this stunning stupa.