Friday, March 6, 2009

Cathedrals Gone Wild

The quality of flickr photography of the newly renovated Cathedral of St. John the Divine (which could have been otherwise) is duly impressive. This one - because of the menacing lights - was my favorite, though I recently took a few myself:

Call me prudish, but I thought St. Bernard's stained glass vision was a bit much. Not to mention Ruth seducing Naomi in the stonework. Then there's the matter of the pin-up tympanum on the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. It will come as no surprise that these are both Episcopal Cathedrals.

I'm well aware that salacious imagery on churches has a long history, and I'm all for a nuanced appreciation of Bernard's Song of Songs sermons, but about these depictions I just don't know. Yes, the Christian tradition teaches that the body is good - but it also teaches that we aren't. Hence, you can get away with things in the realm of literature that you can't get away with in art. Still, I would represent my level of suspicion in regard to these representations as a yellow light, not necessarily a red one - though I'm open to being convinced otherwise.

What I can say is that at least at the Saint John the Divine portal, most will be distracted by a more remarkable carving, the twin towers falling in an imagined apocalyptic scene, carved in... wait for it... 1997.

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