Memories (Dennis Aubrey)

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Dennis Aubrey’s writing is as fine as his photography, fathoming the depth and height of the human experience. This Via Lucis piece on the power and complexity of memory shouted out to be shared on Views from the Edge.

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Recognizing truth is a matter of experience because it involves distinguishing the real from the illusory. Experience itself is a product of memory. And memory is even more complex than truth. And so the pattern gets more multi-faceted the deeper we look, like one of Mandlebrot’s mathematical phantasms. What appears at first simple becomes infinitely complicated and intricate.

Side aisle, Basilique Saint Remi, Reims (Marne) Photo by PJ Aubrey

Some memories we remember as dreams, in the present tense; others as historical phenomena that stay safely in the past. Some memories carry their meaning with them. Others mean something because of their relationship with something that occurred in the past. Others depend on the future to reveal their significance. This is the web that is woven back and forth, across and through time.

North side aisle, Eglise Saint-Étienne, Vignory (Haute-Marne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Some memories lie dormant until something…

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The Infinite Interior (Dennis Aubrey)

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Dennis Aubrey of Via Lucis Photography

Dennis Aubrey’s Via Lucis photographic reflection on the different between Gothic and Romanesque architecture opens the Infinite Interior I needed this morning.

If you, too, are looking for light in the midst of darkness of whatever sort, this is for you. If you read nothing else, scroll down to the last paragraph and ponder our own infinite interior.

Dennis Aubrey, PJ McKey and Via Lucis are Views from the Edge‘s favorite companions on the way.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Dec. 21, 2017

Via Lucis Photography

The subconscious is ceaselessly murmuring, and it is by listening to these murmurs that one hears the truth. ― Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Reverie

Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

There is a conceptual difference between Gothic and Romanesque churches and cathedrals. While the Romanesque builders paved the way for the Gothic, there is a deep and wide chasm between the two worlds. It starts on the outside – Gothic cathedrals make you want to sit on a bench and admire the exterior. One enters later and experiences the wonders of the soaring internal architecture.

The exterior of Romanesque church architecture is different, much simpler. It is dominated by three features – the clocher, west front, and the chevet. The clocher (or belltower), like the contemporary church steeple, identifies the structure from the distance as a church.

Église Saint-Révérien, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey Église Saint-Révérien, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ…

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The Monk in the Morvan Forest (Dennis Aubrey)

We post Dennis Aubrey’s latest epistle for a number of reasons. Readers of Views from the Edge may recall that the Via Lucis photographic essay on the stones singing at Vizelay inspired a sermon on the stones singing. Here the monk who wrote the history of these Romanesque churches comes out from the shadows in a lovely tribute by Dennis, complete with pictures of PC and Dom Angelico Surchamp.

Via Lucis Photography

We are finally home again after two months photographing in France, Spain, and even a little bit of Italy. We drove 6,960 kilometers during that time at an arrive speed of 51 kilometers an hour, which translates to 4,344 miles and a dazzling 32 miles per hour. This demonstrates the narrowness of the country roads where we drive and the amount of time we spent in the Pyrénées and Alps. Until we hit the highway returning to Paris, the average speed was 48 kilometers per hour!

The trip ended in Vézelay at the Crispol hotel, which is almost like home to us. The Schori family is always so welcoming and the addition of the two children Max and Clémence makes it even brighter. It is always bittersweet leaving France. We love it there but we are always anxious to return home, this time to our new house amidst the Amish

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Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire de Béziers (Dennis Aubrey)

Once again Dennis Aubrey’s writing and photography on Via Lucis Photography of Religious Architecture offers a rare jewell worthy of wider circulation.

Via Lucis Photography

Beziers has fallen!
They’re dead.
Clerks, women, children:
No quarter.

They killed Christians too.
I rode out,
I couldn’t see nor hear a living creature.
I saw Simon de Montefort.
His beard glistened in the sun.

They killed seven thousand people!
Seven thousand souls who sought sanctuary
In St. Madeline’s.
The steps of the altar were wet with blood.
The church echoed with their cries.

Guiraut Riquier, troubadour (Translated by Martin Best)

In 1130, the master builder Gervais built a Romanesque cathedral in the thriving episcopal town of Béziers. Built eighty years before Notre Dame de Paris, it had a comparable nave height as that Gothic masterpiece and was 50 meters long. Evidence given at the time indicates that it was a truly remarkable structure but it lasted only 79 years. The Cathedral of Saint Nazaire was burnt to the ground on July 22, 1209.

We went to Béziers in…

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The Mason of God (Dennis Aubrey)

Via Lucis Photography

In a world where what passes for news are articles about the megalomaniac Donald Trump, the Kardashians, and the Jenners, we occasionally find something worth consideration.

On August 25 a funeral mass was celebrated in the Italian town of Montefortino at the chiesa della Madonna dell’Ambro. The recipient of the mass was a Capuchin friar, Padre Pietro Lavini who lived as a hermit in the Sibylline Mountains near Rubbiano Montefortino and along the Gola dell’Infernaccio, the Gorge of Hell. A thousand people attended the service of the man who died two weeks prior, on August 9, 2015.

Why did they come to this mass? What did Padre Pietro accomplish with his life as a hermit?

Padre Pietro Lavini, photo from Santuario Madonna dell'Ambro Padre Pietro Lavini, photo from Santuario Madonna dell’Ambro

In 1971, Padre Pietro discovered the ruins of the Eremo di Santo Leonardo, an abandoned 12th century Benedictine monastery in the wilds of the Sibyllines. All…

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Blameless and Exasperating

“Blameless people are always the most exasperating.”– Mary Ann Evans [pen name, George Eliot], Middlemarch,  A Study of Provincial Life, 1871.

Blamelessness and exasperation have characterized both sides of a recent conversation on Views from the Edge. Not blamelessness exactly, but certainty, positions that seem to each party to be apparent and true beyond a doubt. Each of us has become exasperated with  the other.

Jesus’ word to the harsh critic of others – “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”- is forgotten or ignored. Claims to righteousness and suspicion of the other replace self-criticism and magnanimity.

We live increasingly trapped in separate bubbles of survival in the war of ideas, convictions, platforms, moralities, religions, and ideologies in the search for security.

Instead of bubbles, Dennis Aubrey’s A Patron for Prisoners uses the metaphor of prison, quoting a sage from the 5th Century C.E., Saint Léonard of Noblat, the patron saint of prisoners, whose “Song” (based on Psalm 107) describes a hope for liberation from the prison cell whose doors we have locked from the inside.

“A Patron for Prisoners” opens with The Song of Saint Léonard of Noblat (5th Century):

He has liberated those sitting in darkness and shadow of death and chained in beggary and irons,
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses,
He brought them out of the path of iniquity,
For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder,
He hath liberated those in bindings and many nobles in iron manacles.

– Song of Saint Léonard, quoted by Aymeri Picaud, translated by Richard Hogarth

Saint Léonard’s Song ends with the release of the nobles, the only class of people named among the liberated throng.  It is no mistake that he includes them among those to be blessed by release from iron manacles. We are all bound in the prison cells of logs and specks, blameless and exasperated, fearful of our survival on the other side of the release.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 19, 2015.

The Punishment and Rescue of the Talkative

You’re reading a blog post. Blogging is talking. Sometimes it’s downright t-a-l-k-a-t-i-v-e. Chatty. Pointless. Silence is to be preferred to word pollution.

Two photographs in The Wood of Our Lady, Dennis Aubrey’s Via Lucis post, give reason to talk about talkativeness. Open the link and scroll down near the bottom to see two capitals: 1) two figures with their heads in their hands, weeping, and 2) what Dennis calls “The Punishment of the Talkative”.

The weeping figures of 12th century Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité strike a chord of familiarity.  How many times a day does the news cause us to put our head in our hands in despair? But “the punishment of the talkative” capital evokes no such sympathy. It strikes us moderns as barbaric, the art of a Christian first-cousin of ISIL with grotesque figures excising the tongue of the talkative. Yet it served to remind the worshipers in the 12th century, as it still does in its startling way, that talkativeness is no virtue. Words are sacred. Dennis Aubrey puts it this way:

Perhaps the most famous capital represents the punishment of the talkative, presumably by excising the tongue with tongs. I don’t know if this condemns lying, calumny, or verbal abuse, or if it is a more generalized censure of chattiness or language in general. While this punishment somehow seems fitting for the slanderers who fill our public lives, I would prefer these thoughts of Voltaire, … les anges m’ont tué par leur silence. Le silence est le just chatiment des bavard. Je meurs, je suis mort. “The angels have killed me with their silence. Silence is the just punishment for the talkative. I’m dying. I’m dead.”

It was poet Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, whose first published book (1918) was titled The Madman, who used words to say, “I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerative from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”

Thank you, Dennis Aubrey and P.J. McKey for bringing the teachers to light.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 20, 2015.

Our Lady of the Crusades Redux

 

Crusader Madonna and Child courtesy of Via Lucis Photography (Dennis Aubrey and P.J. McKey)

Crusader Madonna and Child courtesy of Via Lucis Photography (Dennis Aubrey and P.J. McKey)How differently people of different times view life is masterfully illustrated by Dennis Aubrey’s post . .Dennis Aubrey’s post .

Dennis Aubrey’s post The Throne of Wisdom demonstrates how peoples’ views of life are shaped by their times in history.

During the Crusades, Mary and the Jesus of the Gospels become the authorization for killing Muslims. The executed Jesus of Nazareth becomes the Knight Templar, angrily taking up the sword against the unbelievers. Mary, the iconic “Mother of God” of Catholic and Orthodox Christian veneration, is turned into the Mother of Christian Jihad.

Pictured below is an altogether different Madonna  (12th Century from Notre Dame de Vauclair, Église de Molompize, Molompize [Cantal] Photo by Dennis Aubrey) who seems to be looking with horror at what is happening.

Notre Dame de Vauclair, Église de Molompize, Molompize (Cantal) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Notre Dame de Vauclair, Église de Molompize, Molompize (Cantal) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

There is a great struggle today over which Madonna to enthrone.  Our Lady of the Crusades is back. For example, click HERE for Sen. Tom Cotton, author of the letter to Iran signed by 47 U.S. Senators, interviewed by CBS host Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation.

Thanks to Dennis and P.J. for prompting this post. When we look carefully at where we come from, we sometimes see the darkness today in the clearer light.

 

 

Their Blood Runs in Mine

Our friend Dennis Aubrey posted “The Destruction of History” today on Via Lucis, lamenting the latest in the sordid history of religion destroying history and art.

Dennis Aubrey and P.J. McKey love beauty, history, and the religious architecture of Gothic and Romanesque churches they photograph in Europe. Sometimes, like today, they express a profound despair over the destruction done in the name of religion.

“Now we have word that ISIS has defaced and destroyed artifacts in Mosul, including Assyrian statues of winged bulls from the Mesopotamian cities of Ninevah and Nimrud. Video released by the newest barbarians to assault the cultural history of humanity shows a man using a power drill to deface the works.

“As so often throughout history, the excuse was religion. ‘The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him.’  How many times in our work at Via Lucis have we read variations of these words from Catholics, Huguenots, Calvinists, revolutionaries, counter-revolutionaries, and military leaders?”

Years ago during a sabbatical in St. Andrews, Scotland, the destruction wrought there by my Scottish reformation forebear John Knox and his followers chilled my soul. The people who bred and raised me – Presbyterians of Scottish descent and religious sentiment – did this. They took the commandment to have no other gods as license to destroy, maim, and burn church art and heretics. Their blood runs in mine. Their DNA is mine. And, if confession has any meaning or merit whatsoever, the children of such crimes must say we’re sorry. Really sorry. Repentant. No more destruction. No more following the orders of bully prophets, no matter whose name they claim to honor.

Thank you, Dennis, for your post. On behalf of my ancestors and in the spirit of spirituality of beauty, love, and peace on the other side of destruction, thank you for your artist’s eyes. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for the hope in something better in a barbaric time.

– Rev. Gordon C. Stewart, Presbyterian minister Honorably Retired, Chaska, MN, March 4, 2015.

Église Abbatiale Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes (Dennis Aubrey)

Via Lucis Photography of Religious Architecture is a Views from the Edge favorite because of its ability to synthesize art, history, theology, and social commentary centering on the deeper things of the human spirit and the awe of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. In the midst of this post, Dennis Aubrey draws attention to the lion which appears to be spewing foliage. I proposed to Dennis that perhaps the lion is “eating straw like the ox” in Isaiah 11 and 65, Isaiah’s vision of the peaceable kingdom, an interpretation that seems to go well with the church’s sculptural rendering Jesus’ Parable of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25.

Église Abbatiale Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes’s Last Judgment scene suggests an artistic interpretation that eliminates the divide between sheep (saved) and goats (damned), a pictorial witness to the final judgment as universal forgiveness and salvation. To enjoy the original, complete with photographs, scroll down and click on “View the Original”.

Via Lucis Photography

The church of Saint Jouin de Marnes is known as the Vézelay Poitevin, a tribute to its importance and beauty. It was named after a 4th century hermit named Jovinus from Mouterre-Silly near Loudun. Desiring a retired, contemplative life, he settled on a site of a Roman camp near the road from Poitiers to Angers, ten miles southwest of Mouterre-Silly. The site was called Ension and was in the swamps of the river Dives which flows two miles to the east. In 342 he founded an oratory church which attracted a modest religious community. By the time he died in 370, Jovinus had achieved a great reputation for sanctity and miracles. Over the years, his small community grew in importance, but eventually there was another decline.

In 843, however, the monks of Saint-Martin-de-Vertou in Brittany were forced to abandon their monastery by depredations of the Vikings. With the help…

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