Thursday, 29 January 2015

200words: Westminster Cathedral

"Silver and gold have I none.." Acts3v6

I have long misunderstood the fabulous gloomth that stretches up into Westminster's vast Hogwartsian ceiling. There is no Gothic depth intended in this ancient charred expanse of cosmic night, no mystique of a hewn subterranean cavern, not even as a dark canvas backgrounding to the lower earthly lights. "If you come back in 300 years..." begins a guide effusively offering tidbits to the unsuspecting: it will all glitter, apparently. The tour continues with an emphasis on the gold invested thus far, assuaging none of my prejudicial conceptions of Catholic architecture. I wanted so very much for a route of conscience to shortcut this industrially sordid opulence, to access the material splendour on its own terms, but the guide was unrelenting: millions of pounds, if it is to be 24 carat.. I feel a bit ill, a sugar migraine brought on by saccharine polychrome excess, a dizzying Byzantine orgy of razzle dazzle, pomp and glory, shock and awe, a garish wedding-cake Harrods concession inside a Romanesque themed spa. And yet, it is a public building, sumptuously, generously civic in its nurturing craft: the mosaics are made, by makers, from Northampton. I confess I'm too quick to slight these efforts, forgive me.

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