Friday, February 05, 2010

Great Cathedrals

I’ve been reading and looking at “Great Cathedrals,” a book that’s been in our library unopened for years. It’s a big one: 11” x 13”; nearly 2” thick; weighs 8 pounds. It’s phenomenal!

With text and 257 color plates, “Great Cathedrals” features 36 cathedrals in France, Italy, England, Germany and Spain. Even though I have visited 10 I’m finding that I don’t know very much about them and virtually nothing about the 26 that are new to me. So it is like seeing them all for the first time.

While I have no use for religion, I’ve always been fascinated by structures used for worship. All of them – cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, temples, shrines, chorten, stupas, pagodas, and more. I’ll go out of my way to see both the buildings and the art they have inspired.

I recall searching for (and finding) an old synagogue in the narrow lanes of Yangon when we visited Myanmar a few years ago. I recall making sure I paid my respects to Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s every time I passed through Rome. I recall being welcomed into extraordinary mosques in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. I recall the smoke and bells and chanting in the temples of India and Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Memorable experiences, all of them.

So it is no surprise that “Great Cathedrals” would mesmerize me. The text provides the history and explains the architecture. The photographs draw me in. I’m left wanting to see more. To revisit old friends and make new ones. I think I will.


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