Thursday, 30 April 2015

Cathedrals and an inner life

Dreams of rooms and interiors. Always thought that the interior of Flemish cathedrals reflected a state of mind.
Antwerp Cathedral has two Rubens' masterpieces. In The descent from the Cross below: Christ is dead and all life has gone from him yet he is still the source of light and centre of the painting despite the brilliant colours of people's clothes around him. (Cannot take credit for this brilliant thought - it was drawn to my attention this morning.)

Thoughts on pilgrimage from Gerard W. Hughes

En route to and from Antwerp reading Gerard Hughes' thoughts on pilgrimage in his book In Search of a Way/Two journeys of Discovery...
Blake: 'Great things are done when men and mountains meet.'

The challenge when travelling is to work out what NOT to take: a suitcase and possessions form an identity.

Gerard Manley Hopkins' black sonnets: a mental point of reference.

Walking is for contemplation, not meditation

Gerard Hughes had been University chaplain in Glasgow. His thoughts on his students' faith:
- what use is a God of 'wrath and vengeance, only interested in failure and sin'?
- a frequent hidden resentment of a God who would not let them be - but instead controlled/directed/judged
- the nature of prayer is not thinking. 

Frequently quotes Hilaire Belloc's The Path to Rome

A colleague advised a ten minute rest every hour on long distance walks, and walking the first hour in silence

On a meeting in Paris with Bernard, an elderly man whose insistence on talking and introducing him to friends/acquaintances irritates him because it delays him on his way. He later regrets this:
"Our whole life and character is contained in any incident, no matter how trivial it seems. In the peace of this forest I caught a glimpse of myself in the meeting with Brenard and I did not like it. "

Saint Ignatius at one stage of his life signed himself 'The Pilgrim'.

One of many thoughts from the Gospels: Unless you lose your life you cannot find it.

The greatest commandment of some Catholic priests: 'Thou shalt not rock the boat'.

"We need mystics far more than theologians; poets and artists far more than we need lawyers or industrialists, city planned or politicians. The New Society, if it is not to be more hideous than the old, needs spiritual more than economic growth, education in contemplation rather than schooling in manipulation of the world's resources and of each other."

"On the road, as an anonymous human being, I became more sensitive to people's reactions, whether of acceptance or rejection. Kindess elated me; suspicion, which was frequent especially in france, or hostility, which I encountered only once, depressed me."

"Sometimes a phrase from one of the psalms or prayers would strike me and keep returning to my mind during the day, but it had to be something very simple. Its slow rhythmic repetition in time with my steps would still my mind."

"I am told that there are roads in Spain where the distance between places are measured by the number of rosaries you can say."

"I suddenly felt very sorry, not so much at this particular incident, but for all the harsh words I had ever spoken and all the hurt I had caused, especially to friends. We do not have each other for long."

En famille in Antwerp

Jan Vekemans/Cornelis de Vos
Elisabeth Vekemans/Cornelis de Vos

Maria Vekemans/Cornelis de Vos
Maria Vekemans/Cornelis de Vos

Portrait of Joris Vekemans/Cornelis de Vos
All at the Museum Mayer van den Bergh: merchant riches and family affection. Made me think of Veronese's portraits of Iseppo da Porto and his family living in another vastly wealthy port.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Good Friday and a story of sacrifice in Sancreed

Good Friday - and like John Donne we are travelling west, not east.

Hence is't, that I am carryed towards the West

This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.

Spring in the graveyard at Sancreed Church - and inside a meemorial

It's a monument to Alexander Stanhope Forbes, son of the famous painter William Alexander Stanhope Forbes.

He was killed weeks after arriving in France in 1916. His father had painted a portrait of him before he left, but the paint had not dried by the time of his death.

This cross was erected where he died on ground subsequently lost to the Germans. When the position was re-taken, the cross was found intact and eventually transported back here to Sancreed.

Earlier in the week, went back to the Royal Academy to see the Rubens exhibition.

Some paintings for Good Friday there.

More about Alexander Stanhope Forbes

FORBES, William Alexander Stanhope (Alec). Second Lieutenant. 1st Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Enlisted in early 1916 and selected for officer training. Originally commissioned into the Military Forwarding Establishment but then transferred to DCLI. On or about 29th August 1916 he crossed to France and joined 1 DCLI with four other young 2nd Lieutenants. On 3rd September 1916 the Battalion took part in the final attack on the notorious Guillemont strong point. The village of Guillemont had been totally razed by shellfire but, because it represented vital tactical ground had been very heavily defended. Already three major attacks had been thwarted at considerable cost of life. This fourth attack was entirely successful and was accomplished with comparatively few casualties. However, amongst those who were killed was Alec Stanhope Forbes, age 23, together with three of the four newly joined subalterns (W.T. Hichens, E. G. T. Kitson and J.G. Teague) who had accompanied him to France. Educated at Bedales College. He was a student of the Royal Architectural Association. Only son of Stanhope Alexander Forbes (Artist) and Elizabeth Adela Forbes (Artist) of Higher Faugan, Newlyn. Interred in Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont, France. Listed on Newlyn War Memorial, on family plaque within Sancreed Church, on Paul Church War Memorial, Tredavoe Methodist Church Memorial and in Penzance Book of Remembrance. On his headstone in Guillemont his parents added the following inscription:- He saw beyond the filth of battle and thought death a fair price to pay to belong to the company of these fellows.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy