I have had a very long-lasting love affair with churches and cathedrals.
Taylor on the rooftop of the Milan Cathedral in 2011
I always seek them out during my travels and I am continually astounded to discover new favorites, sometimes in the most unexpected places.
Some people think that visiting a church building will be boring; just a lot of religious relics and symbols set in stone surroundings. But I have found the cathedrals and churches of Europe (and elsewhere) to be the finest museums of culture, history, art, and architecture that you could ever hope to experience. They are works of faith.
If you want to view paintings by one of the great masters (Caravaggio, for example) the same way they were viewed during the Renaissance, then there is no better way than visiting the churches and cathedrals where they are still displayed. We sometimes forget that churches were the reason these masterpieces were conceived, commissioned and created. Enjoying a painting hanging in a museum is a wonderful thing, but it is a completely difference experience to see it in it's original context; residing in a place of worship and reflection (that was once only lit by candlelight).
Caravaggio's The Crucifixion of Saint Peter in the Cerasi Chapel in Rome
Perhaps I love cathedrals so much because they have stood the test of time. As a choreographer, my dances have been "alabaster boxes"; broken open in time and space. Dances really only exist in the moment, like a fragrance. But church buildings are architectural wonders that stand as a tangible testimony to faith over long periods of time; they are the handiwork of many generations, the destinations of countless pilgrimages, and have served as places of refuge, prayer and worship for centuries.
Over the years I have climbed up hundreds of spiraling stone steps to take in unrivaled views of cities; I've walked among spires, statues and gargoyles on rooftops; I've sat in pews, whispered prayers and occasionally lit candles. Best of all, I have watched my children do the same (without being told).
Once, while visiting The Church of Saint Eustache's in Paris, my mother-in-law noticed that our ten-year-old twins had wandered off. She was surprised to find them sitting together, praying very sincerely. (Among other things, I suspect that they may have been praying for a second visit to the Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlor that their grandparents had taken them to earlier, which--according to them--was another sacred site).
(Our caught-in-the-act-of-prayer photo taken of our sons in Saint Eustache's
is one of my favorite family photos.)
I was only nineteen the first time I ever stepped foot inside my first cathedral and I couldn't even tell you how many I have visited since that time. Each and every time I have been moved and amazed.
I plan to share a series of post on these global "Masterpieces Made For Worship". My hope is that you will have the opportunity to experience as many of these wonders as I have. And for those sites you may not get to, you can travel there virtually through these Grace Notes.
So next time you are standing near one of these marvels;
Take a few minutes . . .
And enter in.