Cathedrals and all

So one of the things I was really looking forward to about our trip to the UK (aside from the castles and the Roman stuff…) was the amazing cathedrals I knew we’d see. They are just so appealing on so many levels. These are buildings some centuries old, in some cases up to 800 or more years old, which have been kept in good nick for pretty much that entire time (some having a bit of a rough time under Henry VIII, but what can you do). And the parishes have done this all for the glory and honour of God, so that they had/have somewhere to worship him.

Well, maybe not all for God’s glory. This was something that caused me a great deal of thought while we were there. I knew there would be effigies and indeed graves inside the cathedral of famous and important people (some only locally so, but still), and that many of the windows and other bits of the cathedral would have been donated by these benefactors, and that they would have their names attached to them. So I wonder to what extent these people did this for themselves, and how much for God – and really, in medieval terms, whether this is even a worthwhile question. There is constant debate both about medieval ideas of the individual, and about the medieval idea of Christianity. Both of these are bound to be different from modern ones, since – to be cliched – the past really is a foreign place; they do things differently there.

Westminster Abbey was possibly the biggest disappointment of the whole trip. It had zillions of people, which didn’t help, but it almost felt like there was more funerary and honorary stuff than there was abbey stuff (they put Elizabeth I and Mary I together! How weird!). I loved Poet’s Corner, but there really doesn’t seem to be much point in calling this a religious building. It’s more like a mausoleum or museum. And that’s fine… if people weren’t under the impression that it’s religious.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience.

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