anglomedved: (Default)

Let me comment on some earlier journal entries which have been heavily critical of post-war Christian architecture. I can understand this from a Russian standpoint, but let me suggest a western European slant on this.

Dare I suggest that in much of European Christianity there is a sense that tradition – predanya – has got so lost, confused or compromised, that one has to venture out afresh. And to do so by a radical going back to roots, as far back as Genesis 1 when 'the earth was without form and void', very literally. To a situation in which, in Gospel language,  'rebirth' or ‘new creation’ becomes possible.

Many post-war churches literally reflect this 'without form and void'. It strikes horror into many Orthodox souls, but it is perhaps a salutary passage, at least in the western situation, and at least for some. It may indeed be that an entire culture has to be rebuilt. And expressed in the church in terms of a whole rethinking, reassembling of liturgy:  language, vestment, iconography, vestments, music everything. Not everything will be new (the Christian rebirth itself is basically a re-directing of existing material), but it must come together into a consistent whole.

In any event there are three caveats:

a) This does not have to be a mono-culture situation. The ideal for the moment may be to keep the very new and the quite traditional running side by side. The worst situation is the neither-nor solution (I'm thinking here of Würzburg and Munich cathedrals).  

b) This reworking is going to take time. Two, three, four generations. Don’t try and ‘cast in stone' after 10 years. Indeed try to cast it in stone as little as possible. Roger Schutz of Taizé used to speak of the ‘dynamique du provisoire’.  

c) On a similar line: it is going to take an incredible deep level of religious experience to get right and anchor any new culture. I am not sure whether there is enough of this experience around – in particular in the areas of art, architecture and liturgy. Much of the new architecture and most of the new art bespeaks a lack of depth. Curiously enough, one man who may have got it more right than most is the Spanish mystic-architect Gaudí. Looking at the towers of the Sagrada Familia, I feel he might have been on the right track.

The inevitable result is that outwardly a lot of this look - at least for the time being, very bleak, ‘Zen’ – bare, almost bleak, naked. But it may be that it is a necessary nakedness. What also strikes me is that this 'Zen nakedness' works quite well against a background of Cistercian and early Dominican architecture. Which is perhaps where we in the west have to go back to in order to get back to solid roots and perhaps reconnect with some sort of tradition.

anglomedved: (Default)

I’ll be short. I need to get away and think and write seriously, for 'Byzantium' and others, about what it is in the western experience – other than spiritual blindness or having wickedly rejected Orthodoxy in 1054 ­– that puts in its spiritual context this modern church architecture that Russians cannot get their heads round.

 My question is:

When we talk of ‘tradition’ (predanya) in the Russian sense, would it be right to say that it includes a large element of territorial/racial identity (in the sense of narod)? There is something in the your liturgy, in your whole way of going about things religious, which makes you feel at once Orthodox and Russian, there is a sort of double continuity….


I am beginning to suspect that part of the ‘problem’ of Catholicism is to have left very little space for this territorial/racial identity element. There is little or no ‘narodni' component left. Where it existed historically, it was put down. The Gallican church in France was crushed. Attempts by the German bishops to keep a separate German Catholic identity foundered in the late 18th century on lack of support from the political powers. The roots of the Old Catholics go back beyond Vatican I to when Rome imposed its own senior bishop on Dutch Catholics against local wishes in the 18th century. Anglo-Catholicism in the UK can be interpreted as people wanting Roman spirituality, but please in a form that feels part of a continuing English tradition.


There’s the same problem when carrying across Orthodoxy into a western context. But that’s another posting.

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October 2015

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