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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Photography: The Fringe, and St Giles Cathedral


I have a strange habit of gravitating towards churches wherever I go; it started early, having a father who would teach me about the architecture of vast cathedrals and visiting tiny highland kirks to see Pictish Stones, but it's never quite gone away. Whatever you think of religion - christianity or otherwise - the houses of god are beautiful ones.


My first day at the fringe was a day in which nothing went to plan, but I still had a wonderful time. I missed my first show because of a mis-communication regarding trains (my fault) and went instead to see a musical production of The Importance of Being Earnest, after which we missed every show we tried to attend. We finally managed Andrew O'Neill's free stand up show (of The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing and my mental list of 'men most likely to make me swoon'), which was cackle-worthy in all the right ways. No photos of either, but both shows were great.

It's fun knowing people with connections; a friend of mine used to work at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh (you'll almost undoubtedly pass it if you visit the Royal Mile), and he popped in to see an old friend still working there. We were treated to a cup of tea and some chit chat, before being offered the rare opportunity to go up to the roof. The inside of the kirk is beautiful enough - curiously irregular in shape, with beautiful windows and carvings - and definitely worthy of a visit, but it was decidedly an honour to see inside the clock tower.


We weren't there on the hour, unfortunately, but we got to see the inner workings of the clocks and go up the rickety stairs, before taking some photos looking over Edinburgh. Ben, having spent several summers painting the roof of the church, had no fear in strolling along the angled lead, but I was slightly more afraid of slipping and becoming a gruesome art installation on the Royal Mile.

I'd have shown a picture of me standing in front of this, but it would spoil the view. Interestingly, no one ever looks up.

It's terribly old and rickety, and Ben was worried that in my excitement I would fall down the uneven hand-cut stairs or lean against an unstable beam, but I loved it. In someways, this dusty and most select part of the church is more hallowed than the main kirk itself. Even if only to me, and those who care for it.


"Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in."


I wish I could show more photos of my visit to St. Giles, but I didn't want to clutter this post (you might see them on their facebook, however). St. Giles will soon offer roof tours to the general public, so keep an eye out for that, and consider donating to keep these old buildings alive. 




Fee



23 comments:

  1. That is a pretty church. Especially the stained glass window!

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    1. The stained glass windows are interesting; St Giles is a protestant kirk, which makes it unusual for them to have installed such elaborate decorative windows. Pretty either way.

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    2. Fun Fact: That's because it was originally built as a Catholic church (thus being called a cathedral only in name now). Although it's been protestant since before the 17th century and all that Reformation malarky made it officially Presbyterian.

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    3. To Ben: Yeah, I knew that it was pre-reformation, but those windows certainly weren't.

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  2. You're surely posting this just to make the likes of me jealous! I really wish I could have been up to see how the skeleton of that clock-tower works. It looks like a long, long way down, though! I will console myself with thinking that if I had been there, I'd have been acrophobic about it.

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    1. It was a fascinating mechanism; I sadly didn't have many good photos of it. It is very high up, and the roof is very sloped!

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  3. Wow! super cool. I love the clock tower and roof photos--really cool. Painting the roof seems like a really cool summer job. Also Edinburgh looks beautiful.

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    1. Yeah, he got to take his lunch up there everyday too; apparently no one on the street ever notices, even when your legs are dangling off the edge (clearly more bad ass than me). Edinburgh is a gorgeous place, though unfortunately the people aren't so pleasant (though I am a biased Glasweigan).

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    2. Try painting 300 square feet of lead in the blazing sunshine with a 10mm paintbrush from Games Workshop; the magic goes pretty fast. Still an experience though!

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    3. Please tell me you guys have lunch up there together. that would be the greatest--like Victorian-novel great. Especially with the leg-dangling. Ben, sure sounds like an experience, even with the setbacks. hope there's a few cool days ahead for you!

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  4. Oh yes, old churches are magnificent. I especially love gothic and romanesque cathedrals, there is something sacred about them, I can feel it even as an atheist. As for the stained glass windows in protestant churches, there is a protestant church in my city, too, and every single window is really elaborately decorated. So I guess the simplicity of protestant churches depends on the current architectural 'fashion' by the time they were built... but I have to admit, the one standing in my city is really rich inside; I've always heard protestant churches are ascetic, then I went there and boom, wall paintings, stained glass windows, golden chandelier, relief sculptures and what not. And it had been protestant since foundation. There were photos of it on my blog, you have probably seen them.
    I need to go someday to an orthodox church, because they make an unforgettable experience, especially with their choirs.

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    1. Gothic cathedrals are excellent - I'd love to visit some of the Eastern European orthodox churches, similar to you.

      Regarding the windows, I forget - once again - that not everyone is raised knowing the particular religious history of Scotland. We take our Protestantism very... seriously. St. Giles is the home of Protestantism in Scotland, and even has a statue of John Knox (a massive Calvinist [one of the most severe branches of Protestantism[) inside; being so strict in adhering to Protestant values, I was surprised that they ever installed decorated windows at all. After checking their Wikipedia page, however, it turns out that it was indeed questioned, but passed on the grounds that it displayed biblical pictures for educational purposes. The more you know!

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    2. I was at a baptist church over the weekend, and sure enough, a giant gold christ was in the back of the church. If that's not a gilded idol, I don't know what is. the church was also built by the Rockefellers. I think in the larger municipalities the churches are a bit bigger and bolder.

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    3. Ah, so that's a calvinist church, I guess that would explain everything. The calvinist branch is the more strict and conservative one, am I mistaken? The one in my city is lutheran, so probably that's the cause of it having richer interiors. Not to mention showing off richness is a Polish national trait and regarded as positive :D

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    4. I believe it's Presbyterian, but Calvinism had a big influence over Scotland as a whole. Attitudes to decoration have relaxed a lot since, hence the windows, but you can still tell the effect it had on the architecture of the churches from this period.

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  5. Oh, clutter along as much as you like! I would love to see more photos. I'm planning a trip to Edinburgh maybe spring next year.

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    1. Thanks! I enjoyed the opportunity to get more unusual photos of the church than the usual touristy ones of the interior. I hope your trip is wonderful!

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  6. That mural glass is magnificent! I'd love to see more photos! Cathedrals are stunning!<3

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    1. Thanks - I find it hilarious that everyone is so obsessed with the windows, when this post was actually about how the structural and hidden parts of the church are in some ways more beautiful. Apparently I'm weirder than I thought.

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    2. i too loved the hidden areas...especially the clock tower!

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    3. The clock tower was very special!

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  7. What a beautiful cathedral!

    That Leonard Cohen verse you mentioned is actually one that means a lot to me! :)

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    1. It's pretty gorgeous; I should take some photos of the inside next time (though you could probably find enough on google). I love that verse too - Leonard Coen is the best!

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