The Flight into Romanesque

Day 35 of Walking Out of the World: flying over the Romanesque in Chauvigny and Saint-Savin. Linear time and the aeroplane as a figure of the ship of the Church.

(Previous post: Day 34 Walking with donkey to L’Isle-de-Jourdain.)

Having earned my donkey wings and attached them to my pilgrim rucsack, there remained one more thing to do before returning to the Via Turonensis and continuing to walk south. After taking off from Chauvigny aerodrome in the classic yellow Piper Cub, Barbara flew me over Saint-Savin abbey while I leaned out of the door to take photographs looking down.

It prompted the image of the Church – as a mirror of the aeroplane – a fuselage and wings spreading out from the transept, flying forward in linear time. From the Creation to the Last Judgement there is one linear history, each stage recorded by master masons and craftsmen in fresco, sculpture and stained glass. From Adam and Eve to Christ seated on the Throne of Glory at the End of Time. You can choose to make it your story and you can enter this history: that is a personal choice, and once you accept the call you are bound by the linear dimension and no other. Ours is not the cyclical time of eastern thought, about which we can know nothing, for it is not our tradition. Keep your karma, for it is not my culture. The pilgrimage path is the symbol of a linear journey – a road from home to the infinite – from Worcester to Compostela. And onwards to Finisterre and the end of the world. Walking out of the world.

Looked at from above the abbey of Saint-Savin is both a ship – the Ark of the saved – and the mirror image of the aeroplane we are looking down from.

Each church with its transept crossing and passengers looking up from the nave, promises to bear them up upon its wings, just as the Ark offered salvation to the people and the animals who went in two-by-two, illustrated in the fresco in the roof of Saint-Savin. (Photo credit for this and capital of the angel and shepherds from Chauvigny above, Dr Simon Cotton.)

So Barbara drove me back to the Via Turonensis – from where she had picked me up in the storm – and I resumed the pilgrim road to Poitiers from exactly the same spot, so I would not miss a footstep of the journey. To the south, to Compostela, and once again I was alone on the road. Walking alone with a 15th century bourdon and not with a donkey. Once again walking at my own pace, but occasionally I thought about the lessons I learned from donkey. I slowed down to walk at donkey’s pace and remembered the four-step rhythm, putting my two steps into that rhythm (with an unheard clip-clip, clop-clop) and smiling at an unseen four-footed, long-eared companion. One day I would have donkeys. That much I had learned so far on this pilgrimage.

Poitiers cathedral: Romanesque nativity with ox and ass. (Photo credit: Georges Meisner.)


2 thoughts on “The Flight into Romanesque

  1. ‘…rucsack.’

    No, sorry. I’ve still not gone away.

    Scouring the latest posts for science, engineering and glass-blowing references has however proved fruitless. I do though get the opportunity to correct spelling and mention organs again. I’ve had a go at this before. Near Rouen. And it’s got churches in it if you like.

    As the rückpositiv often contained a bourdon stop, behind the organist’s back but face on to the congregation, entymology suggests Our Pilgrim was in all probability carrying a rucksack. On his back. Along with his bourdon, whilst he was leading his congregation toward the vineyards of Bordeaux, where surely, us agnostics will be able to pour ourselves some juicy fermentation technology.

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  2. I would have thought aerial photography would count as science? Not very good science, admittedly – as I seem to have lost all the photos when the old Apple Mac died, apart from one underexposed shot of Saint-Savin abbey from 500 feet up – but Barbara is searching for her copies. Stick around: I’m sure you will find something useful here eventually. Coming soon: how to defend yourself against an attacker armed with a pointed arch. And of course, Poitiers.

    AFTER TODAY COMMENTING WILL BE TURNED OFF.
    I may turn comments back on after the Pyrenees, where people are more likely to have relevant experience of the Camino Francés and might contribute something useful.

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