By Fr Anthony Mellor
I have set out along the Way. Well – almost. I have landed in Paris and travelled with the troupe to Chartres Cathedral. A visit to Chartres Cathedral has been a hope of mine for some time. Chartres Cathedral is one of the great architectural achievements of human history. Even Stephen Fry, the noted atheist and satirist, says that it is not possible to build “a humanist equivalent of Chartres Cathedral”. That is to say, there is something of the transcendental spirit, of the world beyond this world, which inspires this monumental work. The cathedral is more or less unchanged since the 13th century, and serves as the cathedral church of one of the most ancient dioceses in the world, dating back to the fourth century. About 80kms south-west of Paris, the cathedral is listed as an UNESCO heritage site.
According to tradition, the Cathedral houses the relic of the Sancta Camisia, the tunic worn by Mary during the birth of Christ. Whatever about that, my desire to visit the cathedral is based more on its architectural splendour: the sculptures, 13th century labyrinth and intense stained glass windows. Chartres Cathedral is one of the most complete examples of medieval art in the western world, and therefore, a set back into time and a snapshot of the Catholic tradition from the early Middle Ages. But even in stone, the Catholic tradition lives. There is an earthiness about the sculptures, a sense of detail that celebrates the drama of the Gospel, a luminous light that draws the eye towards the vivid colour of the stained-glass. The reason why Chartres Cathedral remains not only a place of religious pilgrimage, but also a cultural asset, is that it continues to speak to faith today. Its architecture raises our spirits. That is the gift of grand and beauty sacred spaces. They direct our gaze to the life beyond, and help us step into the endless river of generations of faith.
This week also holds a visit to Lourdes, and later in the week a couple of days in Boudreaux. This is purely for reasons of preparation for the Camino – and to celebrate the birthdays of two of our troupe. On Friday, we will commence the way at St Jean Pied de Port and begin the trek over the Pyrenees in France. Like the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, this too, is an ancient pilgrimage track. Originally, it formed an important trade route of the Roman Empire, from Rome to the Atlantic coast in Spain. For this reason, the shell has become an important symbol of pilgrimage because of its connection to the coastline. It also signifies an openness of spirit that is at the heart of pilgrimage. Tradition holds that the tomb of St. James, brother of St. John, the sons of Zebedee, is buried in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which lies at the end of the pilgrimage. I will carry the St. Agatha’s community with me, as I will Holy Spirit Seminary and Brisbane Catholic Education, both places of my other responsibilities, as I walk through the weeks ahead. I am hoping to write something every week, plus include other bits and pieces for our parish website and Facebook. May we feel the power of each other’s prayers over the weeks ahead.
|Apr 27, 2017
|Step by Step along the Way I