Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Temples In The Open Air

Poul Anderson, Three Hearts And Three Lions (London, 1977), Chapter Twenty-Four.

In the previous post, we mentioned the significance of stars and, in this post, we will mention places of worship so let us also note that Chapter 8 of James Blish's The Star Dwellers is called "A Temple of Stars."

After entering the ruined and abandoned St Grimmin's Church:

"Holger thought that the church was not dead, not defiled. It stood roofed with sky and walled with the living world; it stood as the sign of peace." (p. 152)

(i) In Liverpool, a church was bombed during the War. The ruin has not been repaired but preserved as a reminder. In good weather, office workers eat sandwich lunches in the church garden.

(ii) Recently, I walked in a field near Morecambe Bay (see image) with a friend, Nygel, who is a Wiccan high priest. I remarked, "This is our temple, the sky and the hills." He replied that some buildings convey sacredness. I thought of York Minster because being in it does not feel like being indoors.

(iii) That same friend led a group of us sitting round a fire at night near the Bay. He noticed that, when he sat facing the fire, it felt like being in a cave or other enclosed space, whereas, when we stood up and turned around, we saw sky, stars and the vast open space between us and the hills across the Bay. Awe is a spontaneous response.


David Birr said...

David Drake, in the foreword to one of his books, mentioned a visit to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. He specified that he wasn't particularly religious, and had been raised in a tradition of hostility to Roman Catholicism, so he "didn't expect to have a positive reaction" -- but when he walked into that cathedral, SOME quality of it gave him "a feeling of peace and happiness which I've never felt in another building." It evidently wasn't a conversion experience, but nonetheless he felt a sacredness there.

One unrelated note: a book I quoted some weeks ago, *Joris of the Rock*, includes an Englishman from York. Shortly before the battle that kills him, he thinks he hears a bell of York Minster tolling "as for a passing." He's hundreds of miles away from York at the time, in what equates to northern France.

It struck me as a touch eerie that you made several mentions of York Minster at just about the time I read that passage.

Paul Shackley said...

Eeriness is our business.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul and David!

And remember the description of the cathedral made entirely of glass like materials on the planet Freehold in "Outpost of Empire." That too impressed me.

And Poul Anderson gives us a striking glimpse of York Minster in GENESIS. And I too have visited the Minster at the time I was in York.

David: one of my favorite places to visit was the Catholic Westminster Cathedral, in London. What you said about Liverpool Cathedral reminded me of Westminster.


Paul Shackley said...

In Liverpool, I prefer the giant Anglican Cathedral.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I looked up the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and I have to admit that, from an architectural point of view, it can be criticized. Even the modest "brick Gothic" cathedral of St. Chad in Birmingham made a better impression, architecturally.