OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Charm of Old Churches page 2

Pages: 1 <2>

Lonely or in the market-place, little more than cells of old saints, or almost cathedrals; bare and rude or rich in admirable imagery; they all discourse, these old churches, of the hidden mysteries and of a secret peace. The noise of the world grows louder and louder; "wireless" has filled the very air with voices, some of them confused enough. But the grey churches witness for the secrets that are behind all life, and sometimes with most significant symbolism. I know a church where nave and chancel are parted by a massive wall of stone. This, in later times, became the rood screen, through the tracery of which the people in the nave could see the officiating priest, the altar, and all the solemn and orderly service that was done there.

But this old church in Pembrokeshire was built, perhaps, in the tenth century; and in those days they thought that the inmost mysteries of the faith should be hidden. So the solid wall stretches across the church, in the centre of it a small, round arch. At a certain point in the service a veil, or curtain, was drawn across this arch, and the congregation heard a chanting voice, but saw nothing as they listened in reverent silence.

There is still a part, and a large part, of Christendom which keeps this order. You may see in the Greek church of Hagia Sophia in London, and in all the churches of the Eastern Rite, a screen glowing with pictures of saints and angels parting the church in two. There are glass doors in the centre of the screen before the altar, and there is a moment in the liturgy when a veil falls behind the doors and altar and priest are hidden. The gorgeous iconostasis, or screen, of the East is another form of the wall of division in the little old church in Pembrokeshire, already referred to above.

Though the subject of Byzantine architecture is of great interest, it need not detain us now, except to remark that the earlier churches, lacking exterior effect, were beautiful in interior decoration.

The screen is not in the spirit of our days. We are for unveiling, for laying all things bare, for shouting the secrets in the market-place. But that stone wall in the old church tells of a time when men held that there are certain things which can only be revealed by being concealed.

<<< Previous page <<<
Pages: 1 <2>

Pictures for The Charm of Old Churches page 2

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About