I’m not especially religious, but step foot inside a cathedral and I get all confused.
I’m not sure what to think or how to behave. There’s an entrance desk, visitor information and a gift shop, guided tours and tea rooms. Say it like that and it almost sounds like spiritual Disney.
I totally understand why cathedrals are successful tourist attractions. There’s history and heritage, mystery and culture, and of course the undeniable evidence of the sheer brilliance of human endeavour, achievement and sacrifice. From the spectacular engineering and building works, to the magnificent stained glass windows, tombs and war memorials, cathedrals are monumental testimonies to the very best of men.
And then, of course, there’s God.
My problem is that I’m just never sure whether God is happy for me to walk around with my camera and get excited by the artwork, the brickwork and the golden decor. Even the doors. I love the doors. Big, red, heavy and imposing.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the stillness and the sense of ‘something’ spiritual, it’s just I’m never sure whether it’s totally respectful to be overawed by the blatant human-ness of it all. I keep waiting for God to catch me out and unceremoniously eject me through those big red doors.
Still, they’re selling entrance tickets, so I guess it’s ok to be a tourist in a place of worship.
Winchester Cathedral is a great example of how religion and tourism get along. When 300,000 visitors a year attend a venue, you know something’s working.
Jane Austen is buried at Winchester Cathedral and to mark the bicentenary of her heyday there’s a special exhibition, whilst the Antony Gormley sculpture, Sound II stands alone in the crypt – it’s a treat if you get to see it whilst the crypt is flooded.
- Winchester Cathedral (joquintphotos.wordpress.com)
- Cathedrals appeal to non religious (Church Times)