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.
If you are at all interested in seeing images from these wonderful churches, visit www.vialucis.wordpress.com and www.vialucis.us.
Having finished editing the books on Theatre of the Absurd, theoretical math, democracy and Senegal, and Islam and modernity, I closed my computer and greeted the holidays with joy. It still being the holidays, I am abstaining from work (two more books have come in and await my editing later in January), but am indulging myself now with reading for pleasure.
I received several intriguing books as presents, and have started Ella Minnow Pea, about an island where letters keep dropping off a statue and the City Council decrees that those same letters must be dropped from the language. At first, this seems a minor problem, since the first letter is only a Z. But havoc ensues when bees are banned from the island and all books which contain the offending letter are burned and banned. Thus far, I am delighted with the new idea of this book and the author, Mark Dunn, is doing an excellent job of keeping my interest.
Next on the list is a memoir of Zimbabwe, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, by Peter Godwin.
There are more, but these will be my first two feasts. Oh, and I mustn’t forget Light and Stone, the first book published by Via Lucis. That will take hours to devour!
Merry Christmas, All! And please take time to relax and regain your energies for the exciting 2011 ahead!
As Editor of Via Lucis Press, I spoke with the three other principals in the group (Dennis Aubrey, PJ McKey, and Tom Hanson) this weekend about our immediate plans for Via Lucis Press and our progress on the high-end photography books we will publish. Dennis and PJ have now taken several tens of thousands of photographs of Romanesque churches in France and Spain, and it is time to begin writing the text that will accompany the photographs (http://www.vialucis.us) in preparation for publication of our first book.
The first step is to write an article about the Unknown Renaissance, the age of the Romanesque, during which all of the experiments that later led to Gothic art and architecture were made. This is a fascinating subject, as unknown architects and artisans from an unknown era pushed the boundaries of building and art, making those discoveries that later led to the renowned accomplishments of the Renaissance, including the expansion of stone arches and the buttressing of high vaults.
“… the ‘why’ of it all is hard to answer,” writes Dennis in one blog. “I’m not religious, although I think I have a deep streak of the need to believe, which takes expression in artistic work. I first fell in love with Romanesque architecture because of its beauty, durability, and variety. But over the years studying these buildings, I have come to believe that they are some of the most perfect expressions of faith that architecture has ever produced. Our Greek ancestors, with their temples, the Egyptians with theirs, the Chinese, Japanese, so many others have all found unique and powerful ways to match structure and belief. But it was, not to be showing disrespect, elitist. The Romanesque and Gothic, on the other hand, were “partout,“ everywhere. … They were not just the reflection of Man and God, as are the others, but the record of an entire people. When that faith dissipated, as is inevitable in any civilization, we were left with a stone record of incredible beauty, a direct link, as it were, to the aspirations of these people.”
Read more on this topic on our blog (http://www.vialucispress.wordpress.com).