Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Inside the chapel, Montagne St Michel

The chapel door was indeed open (though not in fact this one but the side one). I had the impression it often was, which isn't always usual.

It took a little time for the eyes to get used to the dark,

when they did, it was evident that though the chapel was not maintained, nor used for services, it was far from disused.

All the surfaces - windowsills, altar, wall shelves, were covered in informal, sometimes impromptu but not meaningless objects, votives of all kinds,

vegetable and most of all mineral, including many stones from the path up the hill,

conventionally religious and otherwise.  Some of the fragments on the altar above appeared to be morsels of some kind of cake or bread, possibly buckwheat based, the others indecipherable ceramic shards. The paper envelope may have been something to do with a medical prescription.

the small wall shelves seemed to have been appropriated for particular offerings, 

this one for a man killed in a motor cycle accident was more clearly explained, but many of the objects and marks left were elliptical in their purpose.  Yet there was a sense that everything there had meaning in the minds and intentions of the people who had placed it, it was not mere litter.  I grew up with a fear of de-consecrated space, possibly artificially created and fed by horror films and books, but it seems to me there was no sense of disrespect or malevolence here, its uses might be sometimes occluded but not occult. Although it was decaying and unmaintained it was clean and there was no vandalism, no smell of urine or graffiti tagging, and I can't think there are many agencies to police and regulate the place, although it is clearly much visited. The only mark made on the wall was this mysterious sign, which may, I suppose, be something sinister, but I don't somehow think so:

Possibly it was made by the same young people who left this rough, solemn little improvised tablet, a memorial to a lost friend, perhaps, and to their own passing presences.

The practice of folk belief is alive and well, it seems, in these back lands which have always been a home to it.


the polish chick said...

i am so much more attracted to the kind of small meanings made by individual people that you describe, over officially sanctioned religious ceremonies. there's something humble and human about our own little ways of making meaning, and doing it in an old chapel has the bittersweet flavour of a palimpsest.

Lucas said...

The light cast by the stained glass window intrigues, as does the reflective atmosphere it makes. You have photographed the shadows as well as the light. The window itself and the objects or offerings seem to be modern, and the intent of the visitors not sinister. But certainly mysterious!

Zhoen said...

A truly sacred space. Inchoate, inarticulate, deep meaning.

marja-leena said...

You do have such rich textural and historic places in your part of the world to inspire your wonderful imagery and tales.

Avus said...

Enjoyed this post immensely, Lucy.

Like Polish chick, I often think that such deserted, but loved and used places hold a deeper "sense of place" than the greatest cathedrals.

Stella said...

Very nice that the little chapel is regarded with respect. I find that surprising, and affirming.

Roderick Robinson said...

Deconsecrated space. Looks like a terrific idea - a deserted chapel on, say, the Welsh Borders. Hey, it'll be an odd shape, my dear, but chic and so unlike the Jones' place. But then the deconsecration starts to bite back. Curtains longer than any curtains known to man nor beast ("And they need to be - must be - woven by Welsh ladies in those tall witch hats.") No parking space because the Welsh Wesleyan Reform congregation always arrived on foot. Heating? Not in here - our hearts and fervour were warmth enough. You want heat? There's a man down there who can accommodate you. And so on.

Gradually the moved-in couple give up things: drink on Sundays, drink on Wednesdays. And pop music sounds just a bit too resonant. "What's on telly tonight? Dawkins? No, my dear, I don't think we'd better." "Dearest, I think black suits me better." A dreadful retrogression terminating with membership of the Bring Back Owen Glyndwr society.

You were right to be apprehensive, Lucy.

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

It's true about the do-it-yourself sacred space, yet people do gravitate towards those places which have been historically sanctified in some form even so. I guess this place was never a great centre of formal religion, but a practical little spiritual sanctuary for shepherds and occasional pilgrims, which gives it a heartfelt auror.

Robbie - wonderful, a whole bizarre short story in a single comment!