Monday, September 14, 2009

Why I Hate Modernism: The Tragedy of St. Stephen Walbrook

Three years ago, I vacationed in London for two weeks: I traveled solo, and so was able to indulge my own interests and eccentricities. One such interest was a desire to see as many of Christopher Wren's City Churches as possible. On my first visit to London, I had been in awe of the sublime beauty of St. Paul's Cathedral, and so returning years later, I wanted to see whether Wren had sustained that vision in less exalted circumstances, the design of several parish churches. 
I was not disappointed: Wren's English Baroque style is impressive on both small and grand scales. Of the many Wren churches I visited, my favorite was St. Lawrence Jewry, (the previous church had stood near the London Jewish Ghetto). Incidentally, the Church was playing host to a fine group of classical musicians when I visited, an encouraging sign. Many of the London Anglican churches hosted lunchtime or afternoon concerts.

When I visted St. Mary Abchurch, a very kind, elderly gentleman escorted me throughout the church, leading me up to the organ loft and allowing me to mount the exquisitely carved high pulpit. He was extremely knowledgeable, and had a great deal of historical and architectural lore to share. He told me that he 'motored' in from the suburbs every week, so that the church could be opened on weekdays for the visiting tourists. (During my own visit, a half-hour at least, not another tourist was to be seen. St. Mary Abchurch is one of the lesser lights in the Wren repertoire.) He'd gotten friendly with the parson a few years ago, and he had a key, and he thought it very important that such a significant building should be open. When I prepared to leave, I asked him if this was his parish church, did he come in on Sundays for service? 'No,' the old man said, 'I'm an atheist. I don't attend church.' 

The very same day I met my kindly atheist-guide, I visited several other Wren churches, including St. Stephen Walbrook.  I will not attempt to describe the revulsion I felt when confronted with the monstrosity depicted below. That very day, I became the implacable enemy of modernism and of all men who would, by subterfuge and in the teeth of a horrified opposition,  intrude their own inferior talents into a masterpiece.

That detestable object in the center of the Church is rumored to be an altar.

No comments:

Post a Comment