Thursday, November 04, 2004

London Day 3 - War, Walls and Westminster

Contrary to my Marxist pal, I like Winston Churchill, as I've discussed before (surely you recall). The Cabinet War Rooms are the very rooms he used to lead fight against Germany, and walking through them is a brutal reminder that there was a time in history when it seemed that Germany would prevail. Meaning Elie Wiesel's Night would have been quite a bit longer. I am not going to judge British anti-war protesters on their signs, but I will point out an irony: I took the picture below in the park right outside of Big Ben. Here's a closer look at the statue rising above the blue sign. Discern who it was, and perhaps you'll agree that at least in that case there was a bad peace, and a painfully necessary war.

More DAY 3 - But leaving heavier subjects behind, also on this day we visited the Courtauld Institute, home of Manet's Bar at the Folies Bergere. Some paintings you have to press your face up against to really appreciate. Late nineteenth century works such as these where the brushstroke really matters are among them. And if ever there was a perfect feminist painting by a man, this is it (you have to imagine that you are the man in the mirror to the right making the waitress miserable). Incidentally, I wonder if Manet got royalties for this painting from Bass and Veuve Cliquot? I had no idea product placement went so far back.

But the best part of this Monday, and what made it really London, was evensong in Westminster Abbey. Interesting that as you walk in the newer north entrance, staring down upon you in stone stand are not ancient saints, but Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer along with other 20th cent. martyrs. And being inside the most magnificent church in the English speaking world was uplifting to say the least. Go to "Panoramic Views" on this site and you can basically see what I saw, only better. Darn internet. Did I even need to go?

Yes, because you can't pray evensong on an internet site. How fitting to recite evening prayer (Cranmer's best service) right next to "Poet's Corner," where either in sculpture or engraving most of the great English writers and poets and musicians are commemorated. Westminster also has prominent icons. A reminder that beauty (literary, musical or visual) finds its home in the Church... or at least it would had the Protestant Church not sent her packing. Cheers to the Anglicans for keeping that nasty Reformation iconoclasm from becoming an enduring trait.