Reading through G.K. Chesterton’s
of Men I came across this:
The truth about Gothic is, first, that
it is alive, and second, that it
is on the march. It is the Church Militant; it is the only
fighting architecture. All its spires are spears at rest; and
stones asleep in a catapult. In that instant of illusion, I could hear
the arches clash like swords as they crossed each other. The
mighty and numberless columns seemed to go swinging by like the huge
imperial elephants. The graven foliage wreathed and blew like
going into battle; the silence was deafening with ail the mingled
noises of a military march; the great bell shook down, as the organ
shook up its thunder. The thirsty-throated gargoyles shouted
from all the roofs and pinnacles as they passed; and from the lectern
in the core of the cathedral the eagle of the awful evangelist clashed
his wings of brass,
And amid all the noises I seemed to hear the voice of a man shouting in
the midst like one ordering regiments hither and thither in the fight;
the voice of the great half-military master-builder; the architect of
spears. I could almost fancy he wore armour while he made
that church; and I
knew indeed that, under a scriptural figure, he had borne in either
hand the trowel and the sword.
I could imagine for the moment that the whole of that house of life had
marched out of the sacred East, alive and interlocked, like an army.
Some Eastern nomad had found it solid and silent in the red
the desert. He had slept by it as by a world-forgotten
and been woke at midnight by the wings of stone and brass, the tramping
of the tall pillars, the trumpets of the waterspouts. On such
every snake or sea-beast must have turned and twisted in every crypt or
corner of the architecture. And the fiercely coloured saints
eternally in the flamboyant windows would have carried their glorioles
across dark lands and distant seas; till the whole mountain of music
darkness and lights descended roaring on the lonely Lincoln
for some hundred and sixty seconds I saw the battle-beauty of the
the last furniture-van shifted itself away; and I saw only a church
in a quiet English town, round which the English birds were floating.
This helps me to see something that I
don’t like about modern church architecture in that it seems to me to
be a surrender or something defensive. That the Church
militant has surrendered to architectural fads that are quite cold and
much more like a dead thing than being alive. The L.A.
Cathedral is defensive since it looks much more like a concrete bunker
than a church alive and on the move proclaiming Christ. That
with older forms of sacred architecture a church proudly proclaimed
itself as a church directed towards the glory of God while some forms
of modern style meekly proclaims I am a church, but I might be a bank
or an auditorium.
There is also this nice bit about the need
for a creed.
And it is supremely so in the case of
religion. As long as you have a creed, which every one in a
certain group believes or is supposed to believe, then that group will
consist of the old recurring figures of religious history, who can be
appealed to by the creed and judged by it; the saint, the hypocrite,
the brawler, the weak brother.
These people do each other good; or they all join together to do the
with heavy and repeated blows. But once break the bond of
which alone holds these people together and each will gravitate to his
own kind outside the group. The hypocrites will all get
call each other saints; the saints will get lost in a desert and call
themselves weak brethren; the weak brethren will get weaker and weaker
in a general atmosphere of imbecility; and the brawler will go off
somebody else with whom to brawl.
The problem with Chesterton is that he is
too quotable and you go from page to page thinking I got to remember