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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

June 13, 2014

THE BIG THREE IN CATHEDRAL HISTORY... ACCORDING TO BOB

There are a lot of things I had never thought about before this trip to visit Cathedral Cities in England. There was and is a lot to learn, but I'll share three names that seem to figure in every guide's and cathedral's story.

William the Conquerer. What is great about his man is that his last name can be spelled with a "or" or "er." Only truly great men have options for the spelling of their name. William is also called in some books as William the Bastard... which I believe is in reference to his birth heritage and not his basic personality... though I do believe he had his share of detractors in his lifetime.

But around the mid 1100's, William consolidated power; and with it he appointed Bishops and clergy to high positions, and though we in America may shout about the separation of church and state (until we in the church want the state to do something that we think is right and then we mingle church and state with reckless abandon), in the time of William the clergy held a lot of power, and to have them in your pocket or in your debt was a good thing for the king. Everywhere we went to visit cathedrals, we heard that William got the local populous rallied and cathedrals begun. I also imagine a lot of the locals had a few choice words for William the Conquerer, and called him by his "other" name.

The next name is that of King Henry VIII. Famous for his marital exploits and deaths and the lack of a male heir... for which he always blamed the wife.

Very convenient for him, though science would later prove it is the male that contributes or does not contribute the "X" chromosome to the egg. Henry got into a dispute with Rome over marriages, and when the Pope did not rule his way, he dropped Rome and did a lot looting and pillaging throughout the Kingdom. Monasteries and priories and religious institutions bearing the mark of Rome were destroyed or taken over. Every cathedral has its own "King Henry the VIII did this or that to us" story.

In many cases, after looting the place (and it should be noted that some of our Puritan ancestors were cheering from the grandstands as Henry and his minions shot up stained glass windows and destroyed Monastery walls), he later let the now reconstituted Church of England carry on. Henry is a towering figure in the history of the English church.

The third historical figure which figures so prominently in each and every cathedral is "gravity." As in Sir Isaac Newton-apple-falling-on-his-head type gravity.

All of these cathedrals are huge, some are mega-huge, and it is difficult to understand how they were built without modern cranes. But, with tremendous weight and with sometimes dubious engineering tactics, cathedrals were built in bogs, over re-routed rivers and no one thought what the weight of a zillion pounds over a thousand years would do to the foundations.

Even with the best of engineering, repairs are to be expected. Once again, every Cathedral had its own dramatic stories of towers and transepts collapsing under poor workmanship and gravity over time. Gravity keeps workers and fund raisers busy today as they scramble to keep up with the effects of things falling down.

But, in every case, the cities and cathedrals tell their stories with great relish. "We have overcome this and we can overcome that," they say with determination. It's a badge of honor that they remember a great conquerer or king and yet survived. They have fought with gravity and though they may not be winning, neither is gravity.

It had been a delight to be in the presence of William and Henry and our cathedrals' constant companion, gravity.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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