Monday, 11 June 2012

A Humbling Devotion

Julia's 100 Word Challenge this week requires a report that captures the essence of the words There's a real buzz about this place. I immediately thought of Arundel's Roman Catholic cathedral which I happened to pass last week during a walking holiday. Churches are normally deserted places first thing on a week-day morning, but I was intrigued by the buzz among a throng waiting outside the locked doors. So I waited with them to see what was to be seen and I was awed by what lay through the gloom within. 

A crowd was queuing by 9.15am, expectant as shoppers in the January sales. It was the smell that struck first when the doors opened: the intoxicating aroma of 1,500 flowers carpeting the cathedral nave. It's a tradition observed since 1877, the unfolding events of a century symbolised by patterned petals. For two days each June it shimmers beneath the soaring stonework, then, in seconds, it's trampled by a procession bearing the sacred Host on the feast of Corpus Christi. The marvel is not so much the artistry, but the sacrifice. For the point of this painstaking perfection is, as homage, its destruction.




25 comments:

  1. What a great piece! Apart from how well it fits the prompt it is so interesting to know about. I don't tyhink I could bear to be there when they all tramp on it!

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    1. I went back to watch them process over it. It was curiously thrilling. The idea was imported from Spain and Italy where streets would be strewn with flowers as a mark of respect for a VIP. In the cathedral it's to make a fragrant passage for the Host so the 11 months of planning is purely so that the Bishop can bear the holy vessel along suitably beautified ground.

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  2. Wow - what a beautiful picture. I'd never heard of this so I learnt something new. I love the sentiment of the idea, but I agree with Julia - I really don't think I could bear to watch it being trampled.

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    1. I musthave a destructive streak. Actually the procession was so magnificent with people in gold chasubles, sweeping capes, Napoleonic hats, green uniforms and a flotilla of small girls in white strewing petals from baskets that the trampling seemed more of a grand ritual than vandalism.

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  3. What an interesting piece- like Julia and Sally-Jayne this is new to me. Although the idea of all that hard work (not least all the beautiful petals) being trampled is hard to understand initially it does tie in with the story so I can see why the tradition started. Wouldn't want to be the one trampling over them though!

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  4. I wouldn't either! I was very stirred by the concept - all that cost and labour as a homage rather than for personal glory makes for a powerful atmosphere.

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  5. That was great.It must have been so delightful on your senses in particular sight and smell. How intoxicating and symblolic. What an intereseting thing to witness.

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  6. Oh dear ... I meant 'symbolic' and 'interesting'! tut tut.

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    1. It was. Apparently people travel from all over to see it so I was very lucky just to happen by.

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  7. I love it, I really felt like I was there and it brought back fab memories of a great aunt who did the flowers there.

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    1. How wonderful that a someone with such a connection should read it!

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  8. GSussex
    I was home last week, shame I would have loved to have seen this. Really must one year. Thanks for sharing, a great piece!

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    1. Thank you. It's always at Corpus Christi which I guess is the same date each year (shame on me for not knowing!)

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  9. If I'd have spent hours meticulously placing each of those petals, I'd be guarding that door with a snarl and weeping at the first sight of trampling feet!

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    1. So would I. That's why I'm in awe of their sacrifice.

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  10. This was so interesting - I love it when I get something new from these challenges. Such a beautiful photograph, and what a shame to walk on it. Really enjoyed this. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you. If you're ever in West Sussex in early June it's really worth a look.

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  11. That's fascinating, you have described it so well. I would love to see the real thing.

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    1. Thank you. It's well worth making a trip for, especially since Arundel is a bewitching town.

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  12. What a labor of love (and frustration - I'm sure those petals try to drift out of position!). Do you know how long it takes to build the patterns?

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    1. Aparently they start planning the next year's almost as soon as they've cleared up. They incorporate all sorts of relevant symbols eg the Olympic Torch, something representing the Titinic and the Jubilee this year, then chalk them on the floor before arranging the petals. They've done it every year since 1877 bar a break in the First World War and there were amazing pictures of ones down the ages.

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  13. Very full description in such a few words. Definitely creates a clear image! Nicely done!!

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  14. Dancing InTheRain18 June 2012 at 17:52

    Excellent. Well written - especially the last sentence - and very interesting.

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  15. This is really well done, and I love that last sentence. I learned something and just enjoyed reading how you chose to unfold the story!

    Brian

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