54. Victorian Gothic Revival

@Preston, Lancashire, England.

Another place unlisted in the literary books I studied and not part of the guides I read, was to be visited soon. This one might have been the least expected of the places to visit even if there was some idea given already. It was where the Ladyewell shrine stood; it was the major factor which attracted as the pilgrimage for a change. When all the other churches were more of architectural marvels, this one was a place for pilgrimage; not the Canterbury type, as this one lacked the historical importance and a big church structure and not many tourists came to the place which was located not that far away from the major roads, but still at a peaceful area which would not have been that easy to find if it was not supposed to be the ultimate destination. There was the spiritual atmosphere and there was the feeling of uniqueness; there was nature with all its beauty, that kind of greenery which brought the memories of Kerala back; there was also the feeling of God and the splendour of the place rested in the simplicity. There was also a cat who stared at people; it was kind of fat and moved slowly making it easier to take its pics; may be it also wanted to pray and worship in its own style, and may be it was its own time to pray at the shrine. There was the statue of Mother Mary and also a stone cross surrounded by the greenery; the autumn effects were less this time, but the beauty was still not to be considered inferior.

This was a pilgrim’s progress for me, another spiritual stop during that journey from this world to the other one which is to come; another stage in the different levels of my spiritual world, with my tales; which are just mine and not of any other pilgrim. The journey through the valley of shadow of death would wait, as there was the need to get ready. The church of St. Mary is also located near the shrine and it is quite beautiful even if small compared to the English church size and simple compared to its architecture splendour. The cemetery which is right in front of the church is another wonderful thing to watch, with all its tombstones which has blended with the nature around, and the central tombstone monument standing tall among the rest. What would be more beautiful than living and dying at such a place; for one can enjoy that beauty forever and even after death, be buried in that cemetery. Even Doctor Faustus would have sold his soul to be there, but Mephistophilis would disagree. The Renaissance love for beauty and the ever increasing love for adventure would guide him in the same direction, and he might have left those demonic spirits in the form of Helen of Troy behind just to be with the beauty of nature which is more real; instead of being with that beauty of a random creature who are continuously approaching the world with a perverted mind and that organism which can lead to millions of acts of hatred.

Preston, the administrative centre of Lancashire has evidence of Roman activity, but is supposed to have been established by Anglo-Saxons and is mentioned in the Domesday Book which followed the Norman conquest of Britain. As the name Preston might have come from something like Priest’s town, there could have been strong Christian roots for the city. This is evident from the Ladyewell Shrine as well as many other churches around even as there was no huge cathedral in there to be found. There were smaller, but still beautiful old churches around. Some of the other buildings also looked like they might have been churches earlier, at some point in history or even in the last few decades. May be these buildings were of no need after the number of believers decreased or almost reached a point of zippo. It has to be considered a strange thing if it happened so, but not that strange considering the evil and materialistic path on which the world is moving now. As the worship places go down, so will the goodness in the world and their conscience will also disappear leading to that highly immoral world for which Satan would be waiting. The truth is that there are so many Doctor Fautus’ around who are willing to sell their souls and many human Mephistophilis’ who are ready to bring that evil upon the planet. The lack of belief will be what will bring the world down into the abyss, not faith.

St, John’s Minster, dedicated Saint John the Baptist might provide proof against it with its beauty of architecture; it did remind me of the Wakefield Cathedral, and upto an extent about Bradford Cathedral and the Leeds Anglican Church, even as they had so many difference between them. It was more about the way we looked at the church building and how we approached it and those pictures taken from the side; they way of photography was so similar that there were similar photos of each of these churches from one or more angles. There was some kind of invisible unity which never gave an offer to leave the mind. Even the Elim Pentecostal Church of Preston was not that far away from attaining a level of greatness in architecture. The beauty of church architecture continued with St. Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs Catholic Church and its beauty was much to be seen even in the darkness which was slowly creeping in and preventing photography. Even its entrance provided so much of treat to the eyes. The museums and parks would add to what was provided by the church architecture, and the trip would be of more value than what was expected when it started and went through a period of foggy weather with some rain which led to a slow traffic which had almost spoiled all plans.

St. Walburge’s Church was that catholic church which was difficult to find even as its spire was visible from a long distance. Among all the parish churches of England, it was the tallest; not considering those huge cathedrals. It should be the most important building of the city, as it dominates the skyline, being a landmark. It is of Gothic Revival or Neo-Gothic architecture and was built during the Victorian Era. It is the symbol of peace and religious tolerance during the age of Queen Victoria; it is a symbol of Preston of that glorious age which saw the great poets like Lord Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti and Matthew Arnold. The church is dedicated to Saint Walburga, an English saint who was born as an Anglo-Saxon princess and later became a missionary, known for her miraculous healing powers. The tall spire is what makes it one of the tallest buildings in Lancashire and after Salisbury and Norwich cathedrals, it has the next tallest spire in England, and it is unmatched among all those parish churches of the land. The height of the building acts as a wonderful addition to its beauty, making it something special. It looked as if it was an entirely different structure and is not part of any church building; that much was its superiority which was matched only by the beauty of the church which ebbed in size, but swelled in the beauty of its Victorian Gothic architecture and the peace which it gave away.

The churches like St. Walburge’s would explain why there was a revival of interest in Gothic architecture and how these Neo-Gothic buildings exceeded the number of original Gothic structures that had been constructed previously. All these were to end the trip, but on the way back, something caught my eye and it was something so different and angelic and there was the need to have a look at it; blame it on my ‘very late’ Renaissance spirit. The first impression was that it was a Pentecostal church, but it was the Preston England Temple, as they called it and it is the fifty second operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormon Church. It was strange to find a church having a temple which was so contradictory. This temple was surely beautiful and at night, it was a wonderful feeling to witness it with all the lights on. This faith within Christianity was unknown to me until then, but hearing more about it was quite impossible as it was late and it was not possible to get in and see someone in charge of the building. As most of it seemed to be in the United States of America and the rest in Latin America and the continental Europe, there wasn’t that much to enquire in the United Kingdom. The only thing to do was to enjoy the beauty of that incredible building with a tall spire, from the outside and understanding that it would be an entirely different structure if checked during day time. It is a combination of modernity with the old architectural styles of Europe; it successfully mixed the tradition with modernity.

Diving out —>

TeNy