York Minster…it’s beautiful. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a cathedral — Wells maybe. I love them, but find it infuriating to be charged for entry.
They are such beautiful arched poems in stone, these incredibl, built over e things stretching so finely up to the sky, built with such incredible skill. I know that this sits alongside the horrible concentrations of wealth and power, I know the politics of these buildings. So dialectical.
I like how it sits embedded in the fabric of the medieval town.
The figures adorning its sides
And this nave that sends your heart up to the sky:
The flutes render the massive columns slender, part of this weightless skyward soaring:
You can wander through the ages here, it sits over old Roman walls and the more recent Anglo-Saxon church here — the Norman building is of course a declaration.
These ages are visible through the glass floors that allow you to peer through the dirt to see history’s sedimentation, and they are marked with objects in the museum below. Wonderful carved ivory
The doom stone in the east crypt, its devils forcing souls into hell
And the old Romanesque columns here, which I love just as much as the gothic, squat and patterned as they are:
While we were down there in the semi darkness the organ started, a Bach fugue, it was wonderful.
My last favourite things — the clock
But to remind myself how tied this place is to wealth and all the out-of-place pomp and false mourning that money can buy, I present a collection of absurd crying cherubs.
Begun in 1224 and ruined by 1560, we found Elgin Cathedral frozen into the grass, inscribed against the sky.
Its bulk fades into fragility, its space shaped loosely by huge gaping walls, remains of windows that spin your view about the grayness of sky. Stubs of pillars that pull it down again to the grass and fill its center with memory.
Enough remains to remind you of just how beautifully human being worked this stone.
The chapter house, still miraculously standing
A Pictish cross, with barely visible views of falconry
I have not seen so many Memento Mori since St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, certainly never so many in the UK. Here they are carved into stone, reminders of death sat alongside symbols of labour in life. How much better is this than the polished marbles of conquest and pillage.
Memento Mori, Elgin Cathdral
And there are some most beautiful stone heads, human and animal alike.
Views of the ruins from above
And views over Elgin from the tower:
Dirleton Castle… Authority and conquest built in stone. Material embodiment and defense of a way of life and thought. Ruling centre of a community. Many of the remaining old Norman castles here in the UK stand stark and grim and square — imposition of French feudal aristocracy on earlier versions. They are squat and violent and empty of all but petty dead ambition achieved through bloody force. Dirleton castle, however, has notes of true grace overlying this — I wonder what it grew into and just how it related to the surrounding communities.
The prison and ‘pit’ for lower-class prisoners are probably the best indications, yet castles remain overlaid with a touch of gothic romance despite my best intentions, and I keep visiting them in a forever unfulfilled desire to explore Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. Still, had I been alive at the time, I have a feeling I would have been all for burning them down as a peasant with ambitions for a better life and the ability to read.
There is also a lovely garden here, which contains the longest herbaceous border in the world. A rare Scottish sunny day showed it at its best.
In looking this up I was troubled that the crown has re-established a barony of (Fulwood and ) Dirleton — overlaying my images of picturesque ruins of violent stone with a very different, modern kind of violence and power. It ties together efforts to rebuild a monarchy in Brazil to Israel’s devastating invasion of Lebanon (‘Peace for Galilee War?) to hotel management in South Africa to Florida notary public-ship to Mozambique, and my only reaction continues to be, if you will excuse me, what. the fuck. Because Le Carre did not, apparently, invent this. An abbreviated version of the the bio from the barony’s website:
Camilo Agasim-Pereira of Fulwood & Dirleton, The Baron of Fulwood & Dirleton The Feudal Lord of Dirleton, Lord of the Manors of Colemere, Fulwood, Gresley, Repton, Morpeth Castle and of the Hundred of Gresley and Repton, was born in Brazil, and educated in Brazil, USA and Israel.
He served in the Israel Defense Forces, IDF Between 1981 to 1983, was discharged with Honours and mention in dispatches, was mentioned in dispatch for valour and was an active reservist between 1983 to 2003. He was awarded a medal for operations in Lebanon, during the “Peace for the Galilee War”. After Military Service, he served as an assistant community envoy and spokesman in the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia. Late on he was also a member of the Israel Police and Security Forces.
He has a Degree in Hotel Management, his last position as Hotelier, was Operation Manager at The Sun City Complex in S. Africa one of the largest and most luxury hotel resort in the world…
Since 1993 The Baron of Fulwood & Dirleton, holds an appointment from the Governor of Florida as Notary Public at-large for the State of Florida…
From 1993 to 2000 he was acting Hon. Consul of Mozambique in United States, the appointment was made permanent from 2000 and was recognized as a permanent appointment by the USA State Dept. in 2001 and server until 2006.
There is a charitable trust associated with the position, has as a mission
The promotion of Monarchy as the most stable form of government and the understanding and exchange of ideas among people of all races and creed. The Barony of Fulwood Trust host a website dedicated to the restoration of the Brazilian Monarchy at: www.correioimperial.com and www.monarquia.com.
Is this for real I asked myself. The armorial register and Burke’s Peerage supports its reality, though not a hint of what he might have done for Scotland to gain a barony. I have some ideas.
We climbed stone stairs no one had tread regularly for a very long time…
we were off our path but we didn’t yet know it, because we were on someone’s path — though no one in the past few days perhaps. We followed faint traces to climb through heat and humidity, nettles and brambles stinging against our legs. Drawing blood. The valley opened up beneath us and we entered into pine forest — the first we had been in this trip.
A lovely, open pine forest scenting the air and full of light, not the close packed replacement and industrial forests. We had strayed from the way, but it didn’t matter because we found this.
A beautiful, eerie landscape
where stone-built walls and quarried stone faces mingled, all of it swallowed by moss and pine needles and trees so the natural world and the human one were almost indistinguishable.
Great slabs of stone, whether tumbled down or piled up almost impossible to tell, alongside great chimneys of rock.
Ferns of a green I still find hard to imagine, coming from the desert. The green of my dreams as a little girl.
Enormous mossy stones in piles
Sunlight streaming down through the trees, and everywhere a verdant landscape spilling across the distance. And us there, up above it in this place of human effort and labour swallowed up by the forest. This lonely place of memory now, and stillness.
Happy accident that brought us here. We followed this track back down the hill, and then found our way.
Of that more tomorrow…
Creation awes me, the act of it. And what we have the capacity to create. And both the time span and scope of humankind’s run on earth. I love how things are so much the same and yet so very different…we all love, but the ideal of love is different. We all fear, but the form of our fears is different. We all speak, but language is so different, and I wonder how much we are shaped by these things, how much of them we shape, how the shaping happens.
I went to the British Museum the last day in London, I’ve been there before but every time I go I see new things that I fall in love with, that remain in my memory. Though I know they are stolen. And this visit I found several panels like this, that I know I have seen before but never loved
Figures drawn from stone, once alive, and now disappearing. And they linger as they go, they would have been already gone if they had not been stolen. And to me their true beauty lies in this return, this state halfway between sculpture and stone…they remind me of Michelangelo’s slaves escaping from the marble, unfinished. But the slaves are an emergence and these represent a death and I find both hauntingly beautiful. And they fascinate me with the confusion between rock and flesh.
The British Museum is overwhelming of course, after a short time the mind stops taking in things really, overburdened with beauty in glass cases. There was also a stunning display of American prints and etchings from Hopper to Pollock…I love black and white drawings and etchings as well and their collection is fantastic. Go see it if you can.
The other things that stood out this trip? Hawks. I love them in their beauty and purity and unconscious cruelty, they are ultimate predators and represent freedom in a way that few other animals can…and I found this
from ancient Egypt, and this:
from ancient assyria, and this
er…from China perhaps? China I think, or possibly Tibet. And each haunting in its own way, showing something deep rooted to be found across such space and time, something profound. I’ve been trying to write it but my words erase its profundity so I shall just leave it for the now.
Still, I have never been to the British museum when the sun was shining, and that itself was beautiful, the architecture is cold and neo-classical, but the light made it beautiful.