Chapels and churches hold their breath. I can feel it as soon as I cross the threshold. I used to wonder if it was simply the irritation of being disturbed by a wayward woman with a camera, but I think now, it’s the held breath of concentration: the forced stillness required to keep the delicate membrane of the past intact as the world outside whistles by. And the smaller the church, the more tangible the stillness.
I love history in all it’s myriad forms, but churches make me feel weird, as though the held breath of times past might carry the taint of things best forgotten. Church walls enclose, the roofs press down and the altars summon you forward whether you like it or not. And then they make things a thousand times more complicated by being awesomely beautiful – I’m looking at you, Chester Cathedral, or fascinatingly gruesome as St John’s, Chester (where they found the remains of a nun, or possibly a mad monk, bricked up in the medieval walls; no doubt punished for some terrible wickedness such as sucking on her dry bread crust like a jezebel) or mesmerising like the private 15th century Chapel at Haddon Hall where the breathtaking hand painted murals somehow survived the Reformation, Crazy Cromwell and the ravages of time.
It’s complicated. A church has even sat itself on the periphery of my novel; I can see it, even as I write, just there at the corner of my eye.
My difficult relationship with the English ecclesiastical experience will go on and on, I’ve no doubt about that, both of us watching the other carefully, and both us holding our breath.
The Story of the Three Skeletons.
Another uplifting tale courtesy of the English medieval church.
The story goes that three kings were riding through the forest when they came to a silent clearing with no birdsong. No matter how much the kings cut and slashed and spurred their horses, the animals wouldn’t move. So the kings got off their horses and walked in. And there they drew their swords, hacking away to see if they could find anything. Three skeletons, at first kneeling in the grass, jumped up and towered above them with a great rattling of bones. Out of their cavernous, empty ribs came voices that boomed and rustled and creaked and said:
As you are now, so once were we. As we are now, so you will be.
The three kings ran away, but that night they were killed in their beds in the town where they were staying. Centuries later, in the early 20th century, as the duke and duchess pulled away the whitewash, the kings crumbled with the wash, while the skeletons remained. And so it is today...(bradtguides.com)