Weekend 597.2

Quotes from Steeple Chasing: Around Britian by Church by Peter Ross:

Most cathedrals have been built and rebuilt over centuries. From the moment a new stone is set in place it begins to weather and decay; therefore, these great buildings are, in a sense, never complete. And, of course, the worship and glorification of God is an endless business. All of which means that cathedrals require generation upon generation of human lives for their construction, maintenance and daily ritual. A cathedral is a sort of oak tree – vast, ancient and alive, drawing into itself the thoughts of many minds, the work of many hands, the songs of countless throats.

The limestone they use, like the man who carves it, comes from France. It is a better match with the medieval stone than is now available locally. Pascal, in the yard, had demonstrated its quality by knocking a large block with his hand. ‘See how it rings? he said. ‘If it rings like that, like an anvil, that means there is absolutely no fault, no micro-fracture, no vents?’ Good limestone like this, he estimates, will erode at the rate of one millimeter every four generations. A very slow process, yes, but Pascal knows that even his most careful carving can only ever be temporary. On this matter, as in all things, he is philosophical. He takes the long view, though not too long. He thinks in centuries, in oak trees, but not in millennia, in yews.

Churches are more than their stone, no matter how beautifully carved. The solemn loveliness of being inside a country church comes from decay and use held in perfect balance.

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