Sunday, September 27, 2009

DAY ONE: Bronte Parsonage & York Minster

"If I must make a fool of myself--it shall be on an economical plan." - Charlotte Bronte [in reference to planning her wedding.]

I have so much to tell you. Unfortunately, homework must be done and requirements must be met. So I’ll try to tell you as much as I can within the time frame I’ve got. Rest assured I’ll do my best to make up for what’s been left unsaid. This post is dedicated to my mother.

21 September 2009.

This week was merely teasing me, letting me look, but never giving me the time to see. I hate going places just to look at them. I want to see them, to feel them, to become acquainted with them in the short time I have. I know that must sound like an awful lot to expect. But I never felt the anger associated with that limitation so strongly as in Haworth at the Bronte home, parsonage and cemetery. Mom, we have to go back—just to walk through the cemetery and down the pathways, and into the church-yard—to really look, not just skim. I know I could pull Rachel and Caitlin down that path. If I addict you to Jane Eyre then maybe—but, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was so conflicted about our Bronte excursion because at most I’ve read a few Bronte poems, and I’m not even sure which sister wrote them. I felt like I was a waste because I couldn’t really appreciate what I was seeing and what it all meant to be in the home of the Bronte sisters. But then, for the better part of three days, we lobbied to watch the BBC version of Jane Eyre on the screen at the front of the coach. (Dr. Paxman started it and didn’t feel it important to finish it. Needless to say, the 44 females aboard the coach did not agree.) Since the viewing of Jane Eyre, my conflicted feelings regarding visiting the Bronte sisters’ home have, for the most part, been settled. Although I watched the black and white, Joan Fontaine version with Dad earlier this summer—and liked it—I was so impressed with the intricacy and perfection of the storyline, which was undoubtedly better developed and explored in the 4-Episode BBC mini-series.

I think with my Tower of London post, and this post, my morbidity—undoubtedly inherited from my mother (who, when I asked what she wanted me to find or look for while I was in England, said she wanted me to take a picture of the coolest graveyard headstone I could find)—is definitely showing. I hope she appreciates that credit, rather than finding it offensive. I found myself overcome with the desire to walk through that cemetery, and while I did find the time to go through some of it without fearing being left, I wanted more time. P.S. Something I discovered while I was in the St. Paul’s crypt: I have a really hard time standing on top of grave plots where I know someone was buried. It’s gross and very disturbing. (However, this cemetery was far too intriguing to let that irrational fear get the better of me. I was grossed out, and got back onto the pathway as soon as I could, but I stepped into the graveyard for a few great pictures.

The other thing I loved about the Bronte excursion was the church—which I’ll include a picture of. It was beautiful and I wish we’d had time to go inside, because it would have been worth it. However, to be honest, I’m not sure if going inside was an option—it could have been closed. I suppose, since we were only on the premises of the house, cemetery and church for a little under 2 hours, I am content to merely have seen it.

Later that day we visited York Minster, and while I don’t think I have time to write much about that at the moment, I just want you to do a little comparison between the beautiful and quaint parsonage, and this large, ornate and gorgeous Minster.

So, I changed my mind—I was looking at these pictures and I just had to write something about York Minster. York Minster was begun in the 1200s and was built on Roman foundations with the remnants of an older Anglo-Saxon church. Its creation was headed by the Archbishop of York whose sole purpose in building was because he wanted York Minster to be larger than the Canterbury Cathedral. (The Archbishop of Canterbury was his rival—and was a more powerful rival, at that. Obviously a political desire—rather than a spiritual one—only size and money mattered in the building of the Cathedral which ironically enough would later serve its salvation from Henry VIII and the Puritans. Neither closely tied to true Catholicism, nor containing many effigies of Saints, Christ or Mary, it was overlooked by Henry VIII during the country’s desolution from the Catholic church, and the Puritan’s raid and destruction of ‘idols’ in English Cathedrals. This ‘overlooking’ has given York Minster two claims to fame: First, it is the largest Cathedral north of the Alps (meaning only Cathedrals in Italy rival it), and second, it still contains the oldest stained glass windows in the country (some of it from the Norman Cathedrals of 1100, making the glass NINE HUNDRED years old).

Probably what I found most interesting about the York Minster, however, was this: it’s not so hard to look at York Minster and think, “Yes, it’s beautiful—but if you’ve seen one Cathedral, you’ve seen them all.” There is a reason why Cathedrals—and this one in particular—should not be seen merely as ‘stone buildings’ that can be created on a whim. Here it is: in 1220, at the beginning of this stone Cathedral, the homes in York were mud huts.

Let that sink in.

The black and white Tudor-style houses that seem so old and quaint were a hundred and fifty years into the future from the time the Minster was started. People couldn’t even build houses out of wood, or brick, or stone. Think of mud. Think of straw. Think of walking out of a mud hut and looking up to this:

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