Wednesday, October 10, 2007

On Cathedral Atmosphere

The cathedrals boasting the highest vaults and the richest embellishments tend to attract swarms of people. The Duomo di Milano possessed the rare quality of being able to accommodate a touristic experience while still preserving legitimate worship. It had all the splendor and scale one could want from a gothic cathedral. As cathedrals go, it is dwarfed only by Saint Peter's in Rome. Yet there were plenty of patrons in the space and the attitude was far more respectful and reverent than what is usually encountered in a religious monument.

We were permitted to wander the massive church, snapping flashless photographs of the splendid interior. Some areas of the church, such as the confessional were roped off and sported signs cautioning "No Tourists." Other notes requested silence. I don't know if it was the stern Bold Arial font on the signs, a particularly polite crowd of guests, or just the charm of the Cathedral itself, but everyone found themselves quiet in the massive space. The Milanese patron their monumental Cathedral and seemed to achieve religious intimacy. Such a contrast to St. Peter's which was milling with people and ringing with language.

I caught this moment of visitors around the votive offering candles in the church. I've commented before on my appreciation for the fake push button votive displays but there really is something evocative about the real flames. Patrons must agree as the Cathedral literally burns through stacks of the candles. We later saw sacks full of candle remnants being loaded into a truck for some appropriate destination.

One last note. We scaled up to the roof of the Cathedral and that was really something to see! Perhaps one of my peers will mention it?

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