September 24th, 2016

Europe and the Sea of Faith

rouen

rouenSunset

When I was in college, I took a year-long survey course in art history. We began with a deep dive into Greek and Roman art, and then lingered long and hard on the cathedrals of Europe, particularly the Gothic variety. We were required to learn to tell them apart by their myriad minor variations on the theme, and I found the task exceedingly difficult.

All Gothic cathedrals looked pretty much alike to me.

What I remembered most about those cathedrals was not their differences, but how impressive they all were. What an extraordinary effort it was to build them way back then, and on such a scale! Later, when I visited western Europe and saw some of the cathedrals for myself, the scope of the undertaking involved in designing and constructing them seemed even more impressively stunning, a testament to the extreme importance of the Christian religion in the lives of the people of that time. How other-wordly and inspiring it must have been to gather inside such vast and soaring structures to worship and ponder the mysteries. And it still is, I would imagine, for those who do it.

One of the most famous of the huge Gothic cathedrals in France is in Rouen. It was begun in the 12th Century (on the site of an earlier church) and added to slowly but surely during the 13th and 14th centuries, with repairs made in subsequent centuries for various calamities such as lightning strikes, fires, and bombings. It was the world’s tallest building for four years during the late 1800s, and had its portrait painted repetitively just a few years later by Claude Monet in a series of impressionist works that always looked to me as though the cathedral was melting.

I thought of that cathedral—and those paintings—some time ago when I read the news of the murder of a priest near Rouen by an Islamist terrorist, although the church where he was murdered was not that Rouen Cathedral, but another Catholic church nearby.

The centrality of Christian belief in western Europe has been on a long slow decline for centuries (I chronicled a major event connected with that decline here), with no end in sight. And it struck me, when I heard of the priest’s murder in Rouen, that the intensity of faith today in the Muslim world forms a stark contrast to the decline of faith today in western Europe—and that the latter forms a similar contrast to the powerful faith of the western Europeans who built structures such as Rouen Cathedral.

Which in turn put me in mind of Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach” (please bear with me; there is a tie-in), which begins with the poet describing, appropriately enough, the beach at Dover. Arnold is widely believed to have started writing the poem on his honeymoon, which took place in 1851, although the poem was not published till 1867.

When the poem begins, it is evening:

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; – on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

Can you not picture it? I think of it as a summer night, cool after a hot day.

In the next stanza (which I’ve omitted) Arnold describes the sound of the waves upon the beach, and throws in a historic allusion to Sophocles. Until that point the poem is good. But then it veers into greatness:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

It’s that “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,/Retreating,” that gives me a chill and shudder. You can hear the tide going out, and what is it taking away with it?

The last stanza is perhaps the most famous one of all, where Arnold takes his stand for love against the emptiness and meaninglessness he fears is what remains once that wave has retreated:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Those “ignorant armies” are probably another classical reference:

The metaphor with which the poem ends is most likely an allusion to a passage in Thucydides’s account of the Peloponnesian War (Book 7, 44). He describes an ancient battle that occurred on a similar beach during the Athenian invasion of Sicily. The battle took place at night; the attacking army became disoriented while fighting in the darkness and many of their soldiers inadvertently killed each other.

Another apt metaphor. Another chill down the spine.

Why do I love poetry so much? I love it because, although poems say things we are able to say in other ways, there is no substitute for poetry’s ability to merge emotion and mind and gut cognitively, viscerally, and aesthetically. Paraphrasing a poem can explain the thought. But only a poem can express the poem.

doverBeach-001

48 Responses to “Europe and the Sea of Faith”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Feelings dwell in the heart.
    Thoughts in the mind.
    Perhaps… great poetry combines the two, having birthed itself in the womb of the poet’s soul.

  2. jvermeer Says:

    I too love cathedrals, Romanesque and Gothic most of all. Many years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Malcolm Miller in Chartres. If I remember after 38 years, Mr Miller said he was doing some graduate work in Chartres, fell in love with the place and never left. He earned a living giving informal tours of the cathedral; a door, a window, basic history. Wonderful stuff.

  3. Vanderleun Says:

    Taking into account all the essays on this site, I’d still have to say this is one of your better efforts.

  4. betty Says:

    what a beautiful essay. thank you.

  5. harry the extremist Says:

    Is that Donald Trump standing in the middle of that blue sea-cliff picture? I think I can see his hair off in the distance.
    I knew you’d find away to work him into this post.

  6. OM Says:

    harry:

    harried? 🙂

  7. Stubbs Says:

    “Why do I love poetry so much? I love it because, although poems say things we are able to say in other ways, there is no substitute for poetry’s ability to merge emotion and mind and gut cognitively, viscerally, and aesthetically. Paraphrasing a poem can explain the thought. But only a poem can express the poem.”

    –I wouldn’t argue with this, but I get something similar and sometimes stronger from art. When I stand before a Rothko sometimes with just two or three colors dominating a large canvas, it seems able to make me physically vibrate with feelings which I can only roughly express. Similarly a Bacon with some scene of inchoate parts in a slaughter house can bring up pure horror. I wish I knew more about the aesthetic experience.

    Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris (1831), the novel that we know as the Hunchback of Notre Dame, contaiins a discussion between one character and a high church official. As I recall some fifty years after last reading it, the churchman says that architecture, until then man’s highest mode expression, was finished, and the printing press, recently invented, would be the cause.

  8. Llwddythlw Says:

    It’s a fine work and a good example of the Victorian “crisis of faith” poems. It was the first one that I studied when I was trying to learn the techniques of poetic analysis.

    I note that Samuel Barber has set it to music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmO7qX0-qu4

  9. snopercod Says:

    When I look at cathedrals, I think of the generations of workers who built them. Those were certainly the people to which Hobbes was referring when he wrote:

    … the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

    I highly recommend The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.

  10. OM Says:

    Hobbs is referring man to the state of nature, in anarchy, all against all.

  11. OM Says:

    Edit:
    Hobbs is referring to man in the state of nature, in anarchy, all against all.

  12. Julie near Chicago Says:

    First, I very much enjoyed your posting, Neo; and several of the replies explore the theme further. Interesting; food for thought.

    But I do have a different interpretation of the reason why Matthew Arnold saw fit to regard the armies as as “ignorant,” which is that the armies were ignorant of the real reasons for the war. This is perhaps an overweeningly 20th idea; or, of course, the words might have been floating about just beneath the surface of his thought.

    Thucydides himself may have come to the words in the same way.

    But other than that, it’s a lovely posting and your points, especially you first point, is excellent.

    You say that

    “[T]here is no substitute for poetry’s ability to merge emotion and mind and gut cognitively, viscerally, and aesthetically.”

    Wikipedia says a good poem is susceptible or various interpretations, and thereby introduces a melding of reactions based on the interplay of emotions evoked by them.

    And as you probably know, the Foot of All Knowledge also mentions that Sophocles saw it before Thucydides, and notes that the ancient Greeks also knew the dying of one faith as it battles with another.

    Thank you. :>)

  13. Julie near Chicago Says:

    I owe Stubbs an apology, for mistaking his notion that a good poem is effective in part as interactions between the cognitive, the emotional, and the gut as a part of Neo’s piece. Mea culpa!

  14. J.J. Says:

    I often feel my education was sorely lacking or that I didn’t get the poetry gene. I have read a lot of poetry, but little has stuck in my emotions. Robert Frost and Robert Service are two poets I have come the closest.

    For me, something of this nature grabs my brain and emotions more than most poetry.
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/mMq1FqiM8Qc
    So much beauty, so much mystery, so little time.

  15. Mac Says:

    One of my very favorite poems.

  16. J.J. Says:

    …….two poets that have come the closest. (Sigh!)

  17. huxley Says:

    I love poetry too but the pickings in that vineyard, at least in America, have been slim for decades now.

    Poetry has been taken over almost entirely by progressives and not to poetry’s benefit — for example, the mediocre to dreadful poems served up at the Clinton and Obama inaugurations. For them the retreat of faith is a feature, not a bug.

    It’s a testament to Dover Beach’s truth that poems like Dover Beach are no longer written. Ignorant armies, indeed.

  18. huxley Says:

    Norman Mailer’s “The Armies of the Night” — a reference to Dover Beach — is actually a good read. It’s about the 1967 anti-war march on the Pentagon in which the countercutural movement attempted to exorcise and levitate(!) the Pentagon.

    If you ever wonder what the big deal about Mailer was, Armies is a good book to read, maybe the best. It’s not long and it’s not leaden as much of his later work was. Mailer received a Pulitzer and National Book Award for it.

    Things are pretty crazy in 2016. Things were pretty crazy in 1967 too. It’s much the same battle fifty years later, only another few turns along the spiral of history.

  19. Julie near Chicago Says:

    Huxley,

    “It is hard to disagree” with what you say.

  20. F Says:

    Many years ago, en route without family to some posting in the southern hemisphere, I had an afternoon free in Paris. I had dropped in on several galleries of African art on the west bank, but tired of them: Dogon artifacts were in vogue at the time, and preferring the art of the forested regions to that of the deserts of that great continent, I could only endure so much of that style.

    I walked for a while and found myself at Notre Dame in the early afternoon. I admired it from the outside for a while, then slipped inside. What a treat!

    The cathedral’s organist was practicing and the inside of that great building was filled with rich sound! I took a seat and allowed the music to wash over me, disjointed as it was because this was a time for the musician to learn, not perform. He tried a passage, then returned and tried it again, finally moving on.

    No matter — the rich sounds inside that great hall were amazing. I stayed until the organist was satisfied and switched off the instrument, then I stayed a little longer only gradually becoming aware of the tourists wandering in and shuffling around.

    Magical!

  21. Trimegistus Says:

    One of the saddest experiences of my college years was taking a trip to northern France and visiting the great cathedrals there.

    So many were neglected, if not actually abandoned. In one I watched Mass being celebrated by a tiny congregation of a dozen old women and an equally old priest — in a nave which could hold thousands.

    Perhaps the death of Christianity was inevitable in the face of the Enlightenment and the growth of science, but what have we replaced it with? Political mass movements, rock concerts, and bizarre cults.

    Humans obviously have a hunger for the sacred, but we’ve smashed and degraded everything, so now people worship power, bestial pleasure, and unconsciousness.

    We wonder why Muslims hate the West. It’s not our laws and freedom they hate. It’s the spectacle of men dressed up as women demanding the “right” to seduce boys. It’s the sight of college-age women drinking themselves into a stupor three nights a week and having anonymous, loveless sex with strangers. It’s the sight of every vile thing being celebrated and encouraged. They look at America and see Satan enthroned, and I can’t see that they’re mistaken.

  22. OM Says:

    Western culture has no exclusive rites to Satan and evil. If you think so it may because you are familiar with the devil you know and not with the devil’s work in other parts of the world. For example, pederasty is alive and well and apparently widespread in Afghanistan, a Moslem bastion.

  23. Yancey Ward Says:

    Dover Beach is one of many poems I know well enough I can actually recite by memory. It is actually the only poem I can remember written by Arnold, and it was definitely the imagery of the that final stanza that brought me back again and again to the poem over the years.

    Not really on topic, but one should check out the parody of this classic called Dover Bitch by Anthony Hecht for a good laugh.

  24. sdferr Says:

    On the thought of reciting from memory, and in conjunction with Anthony Hecht, I pass along a link to a piece a poet friend of mine wrote about Hecht, titled “Three Anecdotes About Anthony Hecht” in Beltway Poetry Quarterly [Fall, 2009]. Anecdote #2:

    James Wright and Anthony Hecht gave a reading at Wayne State many years ago, and next day they had to rise at the crack of dawn to catch early flights home. Shortly after getting into the taxi, and with no warning, Hecht began to intone:

    Yet once more, O ye Laurels, and once more
    Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never-sere,
    I come to pluck your Berries harsh and crude
    And with forc’d fingers rude,
    Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year …

    Hecht didn’t stop until he reached the end of Milton’s Lycidas, all one hundred and ninety-three lines, and many miles later. This would have been amazing enough, but what made it even more so was the fact that the whole performance was done in the voice of W.C. Fields.

    Fields was allowed to interpolate a few comments now and again. After the lines “He must not float upon his watery bier/Unwept, and welter to the parching wind,/Without the meed of some melodious tear” Hecht would pause, and Fields would observe: ‘That’s very sad—that part about the watery beer.’

    Apparently, Wright was so overwhelmed, he could do no more at the end than whisper, hoarsely, ‘Thank you.

  25. huxley Says:

    We wonder why Muslims hate the West. It’s not our laws and freedom they hate. It’s the spectacle of men dressed up as women demanding the “right” to seduce boys. It’s the sight of college-age women drinking themselves into a stupor three nights a week and having anonymous, loveless sex with strangers. It’s the sight of every vile thing being celebrated and encouraged. They look at America and see Satan enthroned, and I can’t see that they’re mistaken.

    I share a distaste for the current level of Western decadence, but Mustlims have hated the West for centuries, not just the 21st Century version. Consider Sayyid Qutb, one of the big think guys for the Muslim Brotherhood reacting to 1950s America:

    Before Sayyid Qutb became a leading theorist of violent jihad, he was a little-known Egyptian writer sojourning in the United States, where he attended a small teachers college on the Great Plains. Greeley, Colorado, circa 1950 was the last place one might think to look for signs of American decadence. Its wide streets were dotted with churches, and there wasn’t a bar in the whole temperate town. But the courtly Qutb (COO-tub) saw things that others did not. He seethed at the brutishness of the people around him: the way they salted their watermelon and drank their tea unsweetened and watered their lawns. He found the muscular football players appalling and despaired of finding a barber who could give a proper haircut. As for the music: “The American’s enjoyment of jazz does not fully begin until he couples it with singing like crude screaming,” Qutb wrote when he returned to Egypt. “It is this music that the savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires.”

    Such grumbling by an unhappy crank would be almost comical but for one fact: a direct line of influence runs from Sayyid Qutb to Osama bin Laden, and to bin Laden’s Egyptian partner in terror, Ayman al-Zawahiri. From them, the line continues to another quietly seething Egyptian sojourning in the United States–the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. Qutb’s gripes about America require serious attention because they cast light on a question that has been nagging since the fall of the World Trade Center: Why do they hate us?

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-lesson-in-hate-109822568/?no-ist

  26. Yancey Ward Says:

    Sdferr,

    Yes, by all accounts, Hecht was quite the character. I hadn’t heard of that anecdote, though. Thanks for that.

  27. Nick Says:

    Christianity always looks like it’s dying out. When those cathedrals were going up, Europe was under assault from the Muslims, strange new science was steering people away from their faith, and paganism was making a comeback. It always looks like it’s going to fall apart, and every once in a while it does – in a certain area, for a time. And a hundred years from now, there will be some new version of some old threat that will look like it’s going to win. It’s not going to happen.

  28. CV Says:

    Nick,

    It brings to mind Jesus’ words, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Christianity has survived in spite of Christians and their failings, and will continue to endure … albeit with far fewer believers, especially in the West.

    On my first trip to Europe 17 years ago I remember being dazzled by the cathedrals in Toledo and Segovia in Spain, and at the same time feeling saddened by how much that spiritual heritage is taken for granted and/or ignored by so many modern Europeans.

  29. Frog Says:

    Ever stop to think who- WHO?- designed and engineered cathedrals that took two hundred-plus years to build? With all the grace of that truly delicate yet enduring stonework, those artful, fragile- appearing flying buttresses that allow these wonders to stand? The inspiring spires that point the way to God and heaven?

    The medieval cathedrals are a divine inspiration. The poetry is in the structures, and the structures make words tremble into insignificance.

  30. Richard Saunders Says:

    Huxley – Muslim hostility to the West predates Qtub by a long, long time:

    For example, Jefferson and Adams in 1786 called on the Ambassador of Tripoli to Great Brian to inquire why the Barbary states keep attacking American ships (and if they could be paid off to stop):

    “We [Adams & Jefferson] took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.

    “The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the laws of their prophet [i.e. Mohammed]; that it was written in their Koran; that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners; that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners; and that every Mussulman who was slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise. . .”

    Hell, al-Zawahiri, UBL (may his memory be blotted out) ‘s second-in-command, in his radio address after 9/11, said that the Ummah were determined to restore Andalusia (yes, he said “Andalusia”) to Muslim rule.

  31. Michael Says:

    “Paraphrasing a poem can explain the thought. But only a poem can express the poem.”

    Brilliantly put. I’ve been looking for that succinct distillation of poetry’s raison d’etre ever since my english-lit-major days in the late 70s.

  32. Jayne Says:

    Wonderful essay, neocon, I agree w Vanderleun.

    Love the European cathedrals I have seen and read about. The blend of mind and hearts aspiring towards heaven and the work of human hands rocks me to my core. They are as nothing else.

    When my husband was stationed in Germany, we traveled to Strasbourg to attend mass on one Easter Sunday. Otherworldly being inside that massive, elegant and sanctified edifice. Hearing the mass in an unknown language brought back sweet memories of childhood Latin mass.

    Which brings me to my next point. The churches, when I was small, were bustling and lively with as many men, family men, participating as women. In fact as a small girl, I viewed the church as mostly masculine. Authoritative and demanding, with lovely architecture.

    The Church was as mysterious to this little girl as were grown up men. Mysteriously fascinating. And the story of a Man, the son of God, sacrificing himself for mankind’s salvation, for mine. My mind struggled to grasp it while, at the same time, my childish heart wrapped around the story, the Man.

    The nuns, were female you might point out. They were as part of the edifice. I’m afraid I was a different, odd child.

    I, too, get a sense of a vague, blurred similarity of the Catholic 1950’s with the muslim. Whenever I say this, People just shake their heads, no, or stare blankly. So nice to read neocon’s observation.

    As a child, I suppose I held the belief that that church was the bedrock upon which our lives rested. One could take it or leave it and it was everlasting. But one could not. And it was not.

    Thank you, neocon for introducing me to that heartbreaking poem. Romantic love of a couple for one another is maybe a refuge in a faithless society, but, I think, not an adequate substitution for life in a society that shares a muscular faith. One of the scars on my heart is for my beloved, mysterious Catholic Church of the past.

  33. David Foster Says:

    Arthur Koestler’s novel ‘The Age of Longing’ deals with the West’s loss of religious faith and civilizational self-confidence. The protagonist, Hydie, is a former Catholic who has lost her faith. She is unable to be attracted to any of the European or American men she meets, but falls hard for a dedicated Russian Communist.

    I reviewed the book here:

    http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/11799.html

  34. huxley Says:

    Huxley — Muslim hostility to the West predates Qtub by a long, long time

    Richard Saunders: I wrote:

    I share a distaste for the current level of Western decadence, but Mustlims have hated the West for centuries, not just the 21st Century version.

    I found the Qutb material interesting in that it undercuts the notion that Muslims hate current Western excesses but presumably would not have nearly the same difficulty with the West in more “moral” times — such as the US in the fifties.

  35. Nick Says:

    Jayne – “As a child, I suppose I held the belief that that church was the bedrock upon which our lives rested. One could take it or leave it and it was everlasting. But one could not. And it was not.”

    I really have to disagree with you on that.

  36. GRA Says:

    @ Jayne: Strange post.

    >>As a child, I suppose I held the belief that that church was the bedrock upon which our lives rested. One could take it or leave it and it was everlasting. But one could not. And it was not.

    Er, okay. Care to expand?

    >>I, too, get a sense of a vague, blurred similarity of the Catholic 1950’s with the muslim. Whenever I say this, People just shake their heads, no, or stare blankly. So nice to read neocon’s observation.

    I don’t believe Neo-NeoCon was comparing the Catholicism of the 1950s with Muslims. I could be wrong. My reading of it was that with the decline of faith in Western Europe came the rise of Muslims and their faith, an opposite of Christianity.

  37. neo-neocon Says:

    Michael:

    Why, thank you.

    There’s also Frost:

    “I could define poetry this way: it is that which is lost out of both prose and verse in translation.”

    Robert Frost, Conversations on the Craft of Poetry (1959); often quoted as “Poetry is what gets lost in translation”.

  38. Cornhead Says:

    Islam will never be modernized or secularized. There will always be millions of Muslims in the supermacy camp and will use force of arms to achieve it. And if their countries are so great, they should stay there. We have no duty to accept any immigrants. Europe is lost. We should not follow Europe’s example.

  39. Frog Says:

    Jayne-
    “I, too, get a sense of a vague, blurred similarity of the Catholic 1950’s with the muslim. Whenever I say this, People just shake their heads, no, or stare blankly. So nice to read neocon’s observation.”
    You “too”? Which others do you consider in that camp?
    I am shaking my head, no.
    I read nothing in Neo’s post of that alleged similarity.
    God is there for you if you choose. He gave us free will.
    Faith is a gift from God as well.

  40. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog, et. al:

    I believe what Jayne probably meant was just that the Catholic faith used to be stronger in more people’s lives back then, just as Islam is now quite strong an influence in the lives of many Muslims. I believe that’s all she meant, although I don’t read her mind.

  41. Jayne Says:

    Hi frog, yes I misread or generalized from Neo-neocon’s essay: “The centrality of Christian belief in western Europe has been on a long slow decline for centuries (I chronicled a major event connected with that decline here), with no end in sight. And it struck me, when I heard of the priest’s murder in Rouen, that the intensity of faith today in the Muslim world forms a stark contrast to the decline of faith today in western Europe—and that the latter forms a similar contrast to the powerful faith of the western Europeans who built structures such as Rouen Cathedral.”

    And the Catholic Church of the ’50s was my inexpert comparison. Maybe it was simply the Boston Irish Catholic world of my young days, but in the everyday life of us, the church stood apart. Huge. Revered.

    Yes, yes, Neo-neocon, I did mean that. Thinking of the everyday life of an average, non radical, Muslim family in, say, Deerfield, Michigan as it would compare to our everyday life when I was young. An inexact comparison to be sure.

    And while I love words, the idea of poetry, the arts, expressing concepts that can be summarized with words, but not expressed with words, I am not so adept at expressing myself.

    And Frog asked, above, ever stop to think who designed and engineered the cathedrals?

    Yes, I sure do.

    And, this may not be in line with this conversation, but I am reading an interesting book, Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages, by Frances & Joseph Gies.

    Neo-neocon, I was very moved by your essay and the comments!

  42. Jayne Says:

    To Frog, also, your comment:
    “God is there for you if you choose. He gave us free will.
    Faith is a gift from God as well.”

    I see now, that I misinterpreted, went astray from, the heart of Neo-neocon’s essay! It is about faith. Not so much organized religion.

    And I, in my concrete manner of thinking, because we were on the subject of cathedrals, I was put in mind of the structures of organized religion, both the human hierarchy and the buildings. Thus, I went afar from the subject at hand.

    Yea, I see that faith and organized religion, while more or less the same for some religious souls, are quite distinct for others.

    I appreciate your comments.

  43. T Says:

    How other-wordly and inspiring it must have been to gather inside such vast and soaring structures to worship and ponder the mysteries. And it still is, . . . .” [Neo]

    This was exactly the intent. If this inspiration is still alive within the walls today, just imagine how much more potent is was in a age of trash-ridden dirt streets bustling with every form of commercial and military activity.

    The cathedrals were not only inspirational but allegorical as well. The stained glass depicting biblical images of the Old and New Testaments stood as a visual parallel to the word of God (light) passing to humanity through the bible (in the Middle Ages, light was seen as the purest manifestation of the godhead).

    So an otherworldy place, infused with the manifestation of the divine translated by visual images from the divine book; it was conceived of as a heaven on earth.

  44. OM Says:

    Lux Eterna

  45. OM Says:

    Corrected spelling;

    Lux æterna luceat eis, Domine,

    May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord,

  46. expat Says:

    I share all of your impressions of the Gothic cathedrals. They put humans in their place, wondering about life in a huge transcendent place we can only appreciate in bits. I cannot stand the modern churches, which seem more like reception rooms in an office full of accountants. I also remember when church music was infected by the folk songs in the 60s. I even miss the Latin.

    I also share the view about Pillars of the Earth. I can’t even walk through my German city, full of half-timbered (Fachwerk) houses with carved balconies. without trying to imagine what the carver was trying to convey.

    OMT: the churches and cathedrals of Normandy and Brittany also tie into the tidal aspect of Arnold’s poem. Not far from Dover, you have St Malo and Mont San Michel, both of which have incredible tides.

  47. Nick Says:

    You know, there are parishes with the Latin Mass that are in union with Rome.

    http://www.ecclesiadei.org/masses.cfm

  48. James Says:

    Is God our Father or an abstraction? In Genesis 3, we see the failure of our ancestors to believe in the goodly fatherhood of God. The belief in divine and good fatherhood inspires much great art and architecture. If God is not a good and benevolent father, or if fatherhood by definition cannot be good, then the art and architecture go downhill along with the state of theology. Edith Stein stayed up all night reading Teresa of Avila and found the clarity she had always sought.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

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