Showing posts with label Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church. Show all posts

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Theatre of death in Malta

The theatre of death at
The Cathedral of The Assumption - Gozo
I was in Malta again recently and had some time in Gozo which is the smaller island off the coast of the main island of Malta. The island of Gozo is green and pleasant and less frantic than the larger island. The houses are further apart and have a rural atmosphere compared to the other place. Gozo is interesting if you have the time to visit the place. More often as not tourists spend a day on Gozo before hurrying back on the last ferry.

Gozo has a unique atmosphere and the the capital of Victoria or Rabat (you take your pick as with many other Maltese towns) is a place of small shops, sometimes bad tea and the Cathedral that sits on the heights above the market square. The walls of the citadel are intimidating and as intended. The masonry was always there to ensure that the locals knew who was in charge and that invaders were aware of the outcome of any attack. Even now the ascent to the citadel is difficult on foot and you have to stop and catch your breath in the last sun of the year when the sun was unseasonably strong.

The citadel (built on the site of a Roman temple)  was hot and dry and bathed in sun and yet the Cathedral frowned down upon anyone who made it into the square and shelled out the 6 Euros to go inside. I resent paying the Roman catholic Church anything at all. The congregations are often complicit in assaults carried out upon children and many of the clergy (although not all) are aware of child abusers and are aware of those who have 'got away with it'. The light, air and beauty of this hilltop covered in stone is damaged by the Cathedral which has a monumentally dark energy. The larger than life statues of Popes on the steps ensures that a feeling of power and monumentality is created. This is Roman Catholicism in large scale and in a sort of funny farm baroque way. The site is harmed by the building and it gets worse as you go inside.

Death as an object of fear and veneration
The interior of the Cathedral embodies the sort of melancholy I have mentioned on this blog previously. The darkness of the interior is evident as the tourist is drawn inside towards the tombs in what is a small and rather insignificant building. The floor is the first things that grips you as the graves are laid out like Baroque crazy paving. The clergy and aristocrats find their place under marble tombs and ornate marble work that fills the imagination. The colours are bright for this oppressive environment and the brightness of the materials makes up for the Christian tendency to fill Churches with the dead. The floor is filled with the dead and the so are the walls where we find tombs. Here we also find effigies of a Pope in a cabinet and this is where the Roman Catholics are the cult of the dead incarnate. Death has become something that it inevitable to become something that is actual desirable. Death is the thing that brings the Christian closer to God and the Christian forgets the joys of life in a rush to death.

The voices of tourists are hushed as they feel their way around in the darkness and Japanese tourists clearly have no idea what they're looking at and they seemed confused by the images and the apparently random placing of the dead and the living. That is nothing new as many Churches are little more that indoor burial sites where the great and the good await a place in the next life. They point to the image of a silver cross with an emaciated and tortured Christ and this is the centre of this faith.

The Church led by the dead!
I leave the Cathedral of Victoria / Rabat with relief and I quickly go round the back to find that the masonry walls enclose a garden and I touch the clean soil of the garden. This is clean dirt rather than the filth that fills the cathedral's substructure and the walls give a good view of the landscape. The wind at this height blows the cobwebs away and the sun destroys any feelings of negativity.

I like the idea of Churches as places of spirituality and hope in a troubled life and a difficult world although I increasingly encounter the idea of Christianity as a cult of the dead where we encounter suffering and darkness. The dead are destined for the Earth and for recycling although the Church proves to be a barrier to that cycle.

The Cathedral at Gozo

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Swaffham Parish Church - Styles

Isaac Stroulger
Died 26 October 1828
Martha Stroulger
Died  6 June 1871
Died 18 July 1883

Celtic Cross and dereliction

Monday, 19 August 2013

Monday, 29 October 2012

Chapel of St. Benedict - Westminster Abbey

1. Archbishop Langham, 1376.
2. Countess of Hertford, 1598.
3. Dr. Goodman, Dean of Westminster, died 1601.
4. Son of Dr. Sprat, 1683.
5. Cranfield, Earl and Countess of Middlesex, 1645.
6. Dr. Bill, first Dean under Q. Elizabeth, 1561.
Under the Monuments of Deans Goodman and Sprat, was interred (Dean Vincent), the late Dean, 1815.

In the Chapel of St. Benedict is an ancient tomb of stone, having formerly a canopy of wood, on which lies the effigy of Archbishop Langham, who, as the Latin epitaph round his tomb sets forth, “was Monk, Prior, and Abbot of this Abbey; afterwards elected Bishop of London; but Ely being then also vacant, he made choice of that see; that he was Primate and Chancellor of England; Priest-Cardinal, afterwards Bishop-Cardinal, of Preneste, and Nuncio from the Pope; and that he died on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen, in the year 1376, on whose soul God have mercy, and grant him the joys of heaven for the merits of Christ.”

Historical Description of Westminster Abbey:
Its Monuments and Curiosities
Project Gutenburg

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe - Burial within Church

Book of The Lives of the Fathers,
Martyrs, and Principal Saints
Alban Butler (1895)
Project Gutenburg
© Godric Godricson
He would abate nothing of his usual austerities without an absolute necessity. In his agony, calling for his clergy and monks, who were all in tears, he begged pardon if he had ever offended any one of them; he comforted them, gave them some short, moving instructions, and calmly breathed forth his pious soul in the year 533, and of his age the 65th, on the 1st of January, on which day his name occurs in many calendars soon after his death, and in the Roman; but in some few on the 16th of May,—perhaps the day on which his relics were translated to Bourges, in France, about the year 714, where they still remain deposited.His disciple relates, that Pontian, a neighboring bishop, was assured in a vision of his glorious immortality. The veneration for his virtues was such, that he was interred within the church, contrary to the law and custom of that age, as is remarked by the author of his life. St. Fulgentius proposed to himself St. Austin for a model; and, as a true disciple, imitated him in his conduct, faithfully expounding his doctrine, and imbibing his spirit.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Saint Mary The Virgin - Great Snoring

Saint Mary The Virgin  - Great Snoring  [Link]
© Godric Godricson

This is a wonderful Church that has been ruined by those lovable rascals that run the Anglican Diocese of Norwich. They collectively seem to believe that if a Church is scraped within an inch of its spiritual life and attacked with neglect that the place becomes more Anglican. The 'Catholicity' of this Church has been removed and exported elsewhere and the spirit of God that we seek within such walls is absent. Yes, I'm sure that the fabric of this aircraft hanger is easy to maintain and the absence of candles and devotional material is easy to defend when the Bishop's man arrives although it is weak as a defence. The building is magnificent and it should be allowed to be the house of God for this community if they collectively want a house of God.

The graveyard has been scraped to remove many of the earlier monuments and the impression has been given of a municpal park. A park is not required in this part of Norfolk because its green and lush without the need for recreation space and I can imagine that parish Authorities would blench at the idea of ball games in this particular park. The mowing space must be great here as the stele headstones have all gone and I don't just mean put to the edge as at Sporle. Instead, the memorials have just gone and a sort of green desert is in situ.

BTW there is hardly a right angle in the place and this is one of the many charms of the building

Saint Mary The Virgin  - Great Snoring  [Link]
© Godric Godricson

Monday, 1 October 2012

Westminster Abbey

The Tombs in Westminster Abbey
Henry W. Lucy
The North American Review
© Godric Godricson

"Westminster Abbey slowly became the place of sepulture for men who had claims to eminence other than the adventitious circumstance of royal birth. In the last year of the sixteenth century Spenser was buried in the spot now known as the Poets' Corner. Next followed Beaumont, Drayton, and Ben Jonson. It is, however, in the present century that the Abbey obtained the peculiar place in English history which connects it with the roll of supremely great Englishmen. Pitt and Fox were both buried there within the same year. Brinsley Sheridan was buried in 1816. To what strange uses the noble fane might still be put is shown on turning over the record by finding that in the next year there was buried in the Abbey a still-born daughter of their royal highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland. Grattan was buried here in 1820; Canning in 1827; Wilberforce, 1833; Lord Chatham, 1835; Thomas Campbell, 1844; Stephenson, 1859; Macaulay, 1860; Outram and Clyde, 1863; Lord Palmerston, 1865; Dickens, 1870; Lord Lytton, 1873; Dr. Livingstone in the following year, and Lord Lawrence and Sir Rowland Hill in 1879, whilst in 1881 Dean Stanley, who during the term of his deanship had watched over the building with infinite solicitude, had a place found for him in Henry VII.'s chapel".

Friday, 21 September 2012

Old Maltese practices

Maltese Death, Mourning, and Funeral Customs
A. Cremona
"Folklore"  Vol. 34, No. 4 (Dec. 31, 1923)

© Godric Godricson

"The following are the most characteristic features of existing Maltese practices, many of which are comparable to those of Sicily, while a few show some Eastern influence :-

(a) The washing of the dead body before shrouding. This is not a religious rite, and has no connection with that of Islam.

(b) The shutting of the eyelids, if open, and the raising of the chin by means of a band, usually a white kerchief, tied on the head.

(c) The removal of door knockers and knobs; house doors are kept closed for several days; neighbours half-shut their own".

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Beauty in the vernacular

The tombs of the rich are often to be admired and marvelled at and then walked past as we consign their memory to oblivion and that is arguably as it should be. The joy of English parish Churches is that there is much that is ordinary and in the vernacular. England doesn’t have much in the cemetery that is showy and brash. That would never do! Instead, England has the sandstone stele monument or the Celtic/Cornish granite headstone that marks the seasons in moss and decay whilst very slowly mouldering into the soil. On the Continent it is very different and monuments seem to have surpassed the life of the individual they commemorate. The monument is grater than the man.

Just as the Sexton in “Dealings with the Dead” written in 1856 is clear that there is an aristocracy of the dead, it also clear that the English have maintained a fine and traditional indifference towards monuments and remained, instead, happy to have either a low monument or no monument at all. The grass and the wildlife seem enough for us as we are layered into the ground to await our fate. There are clearly some grand monuments and the one at Saint Remigius at Hethersett is a great favourite of mine as it stands by the edge of the field as if about to escape into the landscape. There are great monuments in Churches and we all recognise the marble plaques about to crush us in their monumentality if they were ever to fall from their walls. They say much and also nothing about the person they commemorate and in reality the large plaques aren’t very English.

Englishness is about recognising wealth, power and privilege and then doing absolutely nothing about it. Englishness is about understanding social prestige and admiring that prestige before going to supermarket and buying beer for the hot summer we all hope for. It is that we are really quite casual about titles and honours and we are also quite aware that the exteriors doesn’t always match the interior. The grand lady wrapped in furs may be starving from a lack of breakfast and the great lord may have threadbare socks. Not everything is as it seems. The great monument may be built of shoddy materials and the lettering on the stone may be mispelt through ignorance or haste. The English understand these possibilities and naturally sneer at aristocracy whether that aristocracy is in blood, monuments or the grave. It’s all so much flim flam at the end of the day.

The tombs of the rich are admired and marvelled at that much is true although the English do not worship long at any one altar and we do not marvel over much at any one tomb. We do not over monumentalise the folly of human lives and we do not deify the living. It is hard to worship at a tomb when the occupant of the tomb was as mortal as us and had the same foibles and follies. So, let people have their aristocracy in the grave and have their 30 seconds of adulation as we walk past before we walk away and forget them until the next visit and the next sunrise.

Dark and stormy

All Saints - Billockby [Link]
© Godric Godricson

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Moving to dereliction

All Saints - Billockby [Link]
© Godric Godricson
All Saints - Billockby [Link]
© Godric Godricson