I’m currently reading a book by Dr. Frank C. Gardiner, of UC Santa Barbara, titled The Pilgrimage of Desire: A Study of the Theme and Genre in Medieval Literature. Dr. Gardiner was the father of my great friend, author Meg Gardiner. Reading Dr. Gardiner’s book, it’s easy to see where his daughter got her writing chops. And the book is intriguing with its insights into Medieval literature and original sources. Great reading. To this day I regret the fact that I never took one of Dr. Gardiner’s classes when I was an undergraduate at UCSB. He scared me, he was so brilliant. Plus, he’d seen me in mime costume. It was a no-win situation.
I’m reading the book in preparation for an article I am working on for Via Lucis, the photography group and publisher for whom I am editor. Our first major volume, Light and Stone: France Romanesque, is currently being revised for publication in 2011. One of the chapters I want to add to the book (with photographs by Dennis Aubrey and PJ McKey) is about pilgrimage and its importance in the lives of those who lived in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
The magnificent Romanesque churches of France, of which there are more than 5,000, are testament to the faith of mere mortals. Built not by slave laborers, as the pyramids were, these were edifices built to glorify God and to show humankind’s reverence for His beneficence and care. Many of these churches housed relics of saints, and, thus, were the focus of pilgrimage by the masses. Others exist quietly, off the beaten track, but are no less important in the lives of the people of the region, yesterday and today. Even as they sit silent and empty today, they echo with the “hallelujahs of the past,” waiting for the day when believers will once again enter through their doors and raise their eyes to heaven. They await new pilgrimages and a new flock.