The Thing About An Old European Church

by Becky on May 6, 2013 · 2 comments

in Travel

Andorra to Carcassonne a church_1172

Seems like every town we passed on the road to Carcassonne had a centuries-old church parked in the middle of it. I’ve wondered to myself why I love old churches so much, and I suspect it has something to do with the fact that by its very definition, a church is a place meant to inspire quiet and encourage personal reflection. I can’t even count the number of churches both grand and modest I’ve been privileged to visit since last summer. But what I always notice is the way something in me falls silent the second I enter.

Now you’ve got to understand: my mind is seldom a silent place. Sometimes my thoughts manage me rather than the other way around.

However, when I step inside a church, I step into Quiet. The flickering of the votives, the cool of the stone floors and walls, the smell of wood and age, the way even whispers reverberate, the hush inspired by frescoes and altar pieces–all of it combines to slow my thoughts and open up a space for contemplation. It’s not necessarily about worship; I do that elsewhere. It’s about simply inhabiting the quiet the way I imagine other bodies and minds have perhaps inhabited the quiet.

My thoughts decelerate, instantly, and I find that for a few moments, I am at ease in my being.  And it.  Is.  Beautiful.

Karen L May 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Add this to the list of reasons I need to live in Europe for a while. To be able to experience THAT quiet.

Becky May 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Karen, it occurs to me that there must indeed be places where one can feel that kind of quiet back home. My son claimed to feel it sometimes when he surfed. My sister-in-law feels it when she runs. My mother used to feel it in the very early mornings, before anyone else was up. I am determined to figure out where my ‘back home’ quiet places are . . . and visit them when possible. Sometimes, when I was very young, I used to wander through the lemon groves near our house. No sounds at all but bird chatter. And where did I go when my mother fell ill with cancer? One day, I drove down to a valley I knew was still laden with citrus groves, inland from San Diego, and I did nothing but wander through the groves for an entire afternoon, just sort of–not thinking. So restorative. Yes, I will most definitely miss these churches. But, as Emily Dickinson affirmed, a grove can be its own kind of church. xx

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