Friday, 1 April 2016

Lincoln Cathedral: At The Heart Of It

I am officially out of excuses. Even when I have a camera full of photographs, I don't seem to be able to find time to post them. So much for my New Year's Blogging Resolutions! Oh well, at least I get there eventually.

So in my last post, I was in Lincoln for a few days to get some work done. One of those days included an in-depth tour of the Cathedral with its architect, who happens to be my boss.

Possibly my favourite thing about Gothic architecture (possibly, it changes all the time) is the light. Now I mean, of course there's all the stuff about light in religion that you would expect. I understand it as a concept, even though it doesn't influence me, & I can understand it symbolically when I see a huge space in a beautiful building wonderfully illuminated by natural light.

Then I think of the windows that made it possible. The shapes that made it possible. The buttresses that made it possible. I think of the skill, ambition and guts of those old fellas hauling chunks of stone up ladders.

Perhaps this is my lack of religion talking, it most probably is, but for me Cathedrals are all about humankind. To me, they stand as symbols of the great things we can achieve, even if they take hundreds of years & grow and change beyond recognition in that time. The sacrifices made. The lives that came and went around these walls, the people that never got to see it complete.

Then again, I suppose that none of us will ever see one of these great buildings "complete."

They're never complete. They continue to adapt, expand, fall apart & be put back together again. Duncan Grant got to paint this mural in Lincoln Cathedral in the twentieth century. I'm pretty sure that Remigius or St Hugh of Lincoln would never have anticipated it. Yet, there it is.

At times when the whole place is overwhelming, it's a wonderful sensation to be able to focus in on a tiny detail of this colossal building and see the imprint of an individual hand. The paint scraps on the choir screen brought this home to me. Cathedrals are very physical buildings for me: this is the act of painting. Someone skilled, carrying out a job, to serve a greater purpose.

Sometimes I get to do things like this, too. This was the first time I had ever walked a triforium. This was the first time I had ever been inside a Cathedral and looked down.

This is Nick. He's the Cathedral Architect & was the one showing me around all day. This photo made me think a lot about the role that Nick plays in the history and conservation of this building, and other similar buildings in his care. Sure, he works with the clergy and with the stone masons, making sure that everything is as ship-shape as possible, but they're only temporary guardians.

The team of caretakers and craftspeople that look after this building know it inside out. They get to walk in the triforiums, over the aisle vaulting, in the very veins of the building. They're the heart that keep it pumping, keep it ticking over, keep it serving the people that come to worship and visit. And then. Then they pass that responsibility on to someone else. It's someone else's turn to learn the ropes, and ladders, and tiny passageways.

My visits to Lincoln have given me a rare insight into this way of life. I got to learn more about the building in a day than I have in weeks, months, years of studying. Hopefully, I'll get to help keep it ticking over, but most importantly, it's given me a shot in the arm and the reassurance that I am doing what I love.

It definitely can't be all bad when you're this close to a piece of medieval stained glass that you would never have noticed from the ground.

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