Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Masonry - towering inspiration

I love masonry. To me large, stone buildings are a constant source of pleasure.  I never tire of looking at them, marvelling at the inspiration of people who took on projects that would take decades to complete.  I used to look at the incredible St George's Hall in Liverpool and swoon.  Then I went on a school trip to London and fell totally in love with St Paul's cathedral, Westminster Abbey and The Royal Albert Hall. 

As I grew and travelled, there was St Mark's Basilica and the Rialto Bridge in Venice,  The temples at Karnak and Luxor, The Aswan Dam, the three storey library at Ephesus and most recently the palace at Knossos in Crete. People have always had the vision to build incredible monuments. They signify power and the need to show how clever they are. The skill of the stonemason is to be celebrated. 

I haven't been to Rome or to Athens (still on the list) and much my own disgust, I missed out on seeing Gaudi's creations in Barcelona because I could not interest my teenagers in a day trip when we spent a week in Salou. I know that I will get there one day. 

La Sagrada Família attracts around 3million visitors a year, whose entrance fees pay for most of the €25million a year cost of continuing its construction, with gifts from private donors making up the rest. Construction began in 1882, with Gaudí's involvement commencing the following year when he took over the project and radically transformed it's design with his distinctive Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau style. 

Problems have dogged work on Barcelona's second cathedral, with Gaudí neck-deep in the project when he was killed in 1926 after being run over by a tram.  The architect's body was not identified for several days because the impoverished 74-year-old was mistaken for a tramp. He lived long enough only to see a quarter of his masterwork completed. It is said that, when the building is finally completed it will bear little resemblance to his original design but hey - it is incredible.

Six new towers will be added the tallest of which, the Tower of Jesus Christ will measure over 172 metres and make the Sagrada Família the tallest religious building in Europe. Chief architect Jordi Fauli said the structure is on track to complete in 2026 to coincide with the centenary of Gaudi's death. Gaudi's plans for the vast basilica, with its numerous towering spires, were destroyed by anarchists opposed to the Catholic church during the Spanish Civil War. Much of its design since has been based largely on guesswork. Packed with symbolism, La Sagrada Familia will eventually have 18 spires - one for every evangelist, one for every apostle and two, towering above the rest, representing the Virgin Mary and Jesus.





It isn't the religion that attracts me.  I would love to see the Blue Mosque.  It is the inspiration and determination, the skill of the workmanship but above all the belief that it can be done. When I see a magnificent structure, I too am inspired.

Ken Follett's book, The Pillars of  the Earth was made into a TV series and I lapped it up.  The story centres on the construction of an abbey. It had everything. A great cast, intrigue, corruption and the creation of a magnificent building. It was a poem about masonry that first opened my mind to the power of descriptive prose. Today, in the absence of my own poem, I defer to the master and share it  with you.


The Lighthouse Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882

The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
  And on its outer point, some miles away,
The Lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
  A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.

Even at this distance I can see the tides,
  Upheaving, break unheard along its base,
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
  In the white lip and tremor of the face.

And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright,
  Through the deep purple of the twilight air,
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light
  With strange, unearthly splendour in the glare!

Not one alone; from each projecting cape
  And perilous reef along the ocean's verge,
Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
  Holding its lantern o'er the restless surge.

Like the great giant Christopher it stands
  Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
Wading far out among the rocks and sands,
  The night-o'ertaken mariner to save.

And the great ships sail outward and return,
  Bending and bowing o'er the billowy swells,
And ever joyful, as they see it burn,
  They wave their silent welcomes and farewells.

They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
  Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
And eager faces, as the light unveils,
  Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.

The mariner remembers when a child,
  On his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink;
And when, returning from adventures wild,
  He saw it rise again o'er ocean's brink.

Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same
  Year after year, through all the silent night
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
  Shines on that inextinguishable light!

It sees the ocean to its bosom clasp
  The rocks and sea-sand with the kiss of peace;
It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
  And hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.

The startled waves leap over it; the storm
  Smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
And steadily against its solid form
  Press the great shoulders of the hurricane.

The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
  Of wings and winds and solitary cries,
Blinded and maddened by the light within,
  Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.

A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
  Still grasping in his hand the fire of Jove,
It does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
  But hails the mariner with words of love.

"Sail on!" it says, "sail on, ye stately ships!
  And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse,
  Be yours to bring man nearer unto man!"



Hope you have a magnificent week.  Thanks for reading.  Adele





  

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