Baalbek

The Roman ruins of Baalbek are located in the Bekaa valley in the eastern part of Lebanon, close to the Syrian border. The history of this place spans five thousand years, as was proven from recent excavations. But research of the oldest layers of these civilizations has hardly even started.

Baalbek's great fame is primarily due to the magnificent temples built there in Roman times. The entire complex of courts, temples and subterranean corridors is awe inspiring in size and has remained largely intact. The location in the Bekaa valley, surrounded by snow-covered mountains, is phenomenal. It is not surprising that early civilisations founded their places of worship here near precious watersources in an otherwise arid landscape.

Baalbek, visited by Alexander the Great in the 4th c BC, had its golden age on from 15 BC when Julius Caesar founded a legion on the spot. Two truly gigantic temples were built there during the reign of the next two emperors. One temple devoted to Baal (or Jupiter), of which all that remains is a single podium and six immense columns, the rest destroyed by earthquakes (and the hand of man). The other one is a temple devoted to Bacchus (and/or Adonis?) which is almost completely intact and is missing only its roof and the portico columns. This 'smaller' Baalbek temple is the largest Roman temple still surviving in our times : 69 meters long, 19 meters wide and 42 columns, 19 metres high each.

At the end of the 19th century German archeologists did major excavations and restorations in and around the temples. At the Bacchus temple in particular they were able to reconstruct the collapsed parts almost entirely. For everyone who has had the chance to visit this place, Baalbek has become an unforgettable experience.

After all he had read about the place in his youth it was a long cherished dream for the artist to go there, and after a first visit in 1997 he returned there four times to enjoy and inspect the place and collect material for his paintings, measuring and sketching. The 23 Baalbek paintings are the result of this. The contrast between the sheer size of the complex and immense (and sometimes touching) detailing was a major goal to be expressed in the paintings, and the awareness that only the nightly sky seems a constant factor in this setting, whereas all that was built by man crumbles away, even these enormous stone buildings. That's what the paintings are about. That's why the round shape of most of them seemed appropriate, the panels without framing, drifting on the wall, almost turning into planets themselves .

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