As I grow older I find I’m changing, and I'm not referring to my waistline or the effect of gravity on my body. I’m becoming interested in things I wasn’t interested in before. One of these things is architecture. Another is my family history. A third is a curiosity in churches. There are probably more if I think about it.
My interest in churches lies in two things: their architecture, and how I feel when I’m inside one.
I like being in a church with very few people. Preferably on my own. I think that’s because other people are a distraction.
And the church has to be old. I have to see its age in the smooth, well-polished wooden pews, and its character in the stained glass windows.
I like to study the scenes depicted in the windows. Mostly, they tell me about the kind of church I’m in. I like to know that countless people have sat where I’m sitting, and I like to think about why they might have been in church. I have to sense the church’s history.
I’ve often wanted to enter a church, and simply sit, and let the church enter me as it were. This morning I did this. And I was lucky, the church was empty. Everything else seemed to fall away as I sat there, the outside world, any concerns that I’d had. I felt at peace. Cocooned and protected. I also felt small and insignificant. The church I’d chosen to sit in is cavernous. I was dwarfed by awe.
The building almost seemed to be alive. I’m not religious, but I did feel the spirituality.
And when I emerged into the street I found I was walking slowly, almost trance-like, which is unusual for me.
I remembered, as I was sitting there, that when I was in England, my cousin took me to Winchester Cathedral. There’s a church where you can sense history. Unfortunately, it’s always full of people. I went to Google to refresh my memory of it, and found the photograph below of Antony Gormley's statue in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral. I am able to reproduce it here because of a Creative Commons Licence. (Some photographers are very generous.)
|Photograph by David Spender.|
I hope you like it. I find it inspiring.
It made me think of the deep-sea diver, William Walker, who worked six hours a days six days a week for something like six years, saving the cathedral from submergence.
But, as I am fond of saying, that's a story for another day.