Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apses and Anam Charas, the "God Box" of St. Cuthbert Church in Edinburgh

 One of the hidden treasures of Edinburgh is the tiny Parish Church of St. Cuthbert just below Princess Street next to the enormous green grass park below Waverly Station.

 This is a cool place to just sneak out of the hustle and bustle of the park concerts and sprinting double-decker buses, and surging tourist crowds and just relax before heading up to the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle.
 Tradition tells us that the Celtic missionary, Cuthbert, preached from this spot in the 7th century and established this church here... although the building has been moved several times.
 At one point, many of the stones were on the shores of the Nor'loch way out in the countryside and were moved here in 1760.
 One of the cool things I liked about this church was that the congregation didn't want anything fancy to worship in... just a "God Box" or plain building... and so Hippolyte Blanc (ridiculously awesome name) did most of the renovations, but did allow Tiffanys of New York to come in and construct one of the stained glass windows.... this one of David facing Goliath with a sling (one of only five Tiffany windows in all of Britain).
 Another cool feature is the Apse and the ceiling, which depicts an exalted Christ with angels.  It's just stunning, but also so simple.  It's amazing to think how this was common place five hundred years ago but to build it today would take such diligent study and knowledge.
 Another cool area of Cuthbert Church is the Anam Chara, which is a small place set aside for serious contemplation and prayer.  Anam Chara is Celtic for "soul friend," and is a place to sit and remember loved ones.  What a cool idea!
As someone who grew up in churches, from dank cement Sunday School basements smelling of Play-doh and metal folding chairs to giant sanctuaries with felted cushions lined in wooden pews and choirs in robes, to being squeezed onto sofas and shag carpets of living room Bible studies or the solemnity of private prayer rooms with sanitized multicultural alters, I can truly appreciate these old European churches where the emphasis was on private contemplation.  I got that today at Cuthbert Church, in a little God Box tucked away in the trees.

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