In the exterior of both
this and Strasbourg I was disappointed; but in the interior, who could
There is a majesty about those up-springing arches - those columns
so light, so lofty - it makes one feel as if rising like a cloud. Then
the innumerable complications and endless perspectives, arch above
arch and arch within arch, all lighted up and colored by the painted
glass, and all this filled with the waves of the chant and the organ,
rising and falling like the noise of the sea; it was one of the few
overpowering things that do not _satisfy_, because they transport
you at once beyond the restless anxiety to be satisfied, and leave you
no time to ask the cold question, Am I pleased?
Ah, surely, I said to myself, as I walked with a kind of exultation
among those lofty arches, and saw the clouds of incense ascending, the
kneeling priests, and heard the pathetic yet grand voices of the
chant - surely, there is some part in man that calls for such a
service, for such visible images of grandeur and beauty. The wealth
spent on these churches is a sublime and beautiful protest against
materialism - against that use of money which merely brings supply to
the coarse animal wants of life, and which makes of God's house only a
bare pen, in which a man sits to be instructed in his duties.
Yet a moment after I had the other side of the question brought
forcibly to my mind. In an obscure corner was a coarse wooden shrine,
painted red, in which was a doll dressed up in spangles and tinsel, to
represent the Virgin, and hung round with little waxen effigies of
arms, hands, feet, and legs, to represent, I suppose, some favor which
had been accorded to these members of her several votaries through her
intercessions. Before this shrine several poor people were kneeling,
with clasped hands and bowed heads, praying with an earnestness which
was sorrowful to see. "They have taken away their Lord, and they know
not where they have laid him." Such is the end of this superb idolatry
in the illiterate and the poor.
Yet if we _could_, would we efface from the world such cathedrals
as Strasbourg and Cologne? I discussed the question of outward pomp
and ritual with myself while I was walking deliberately round a stone
balustrade on the roof of the church, and looking out through the
flying buttresses, upon the broad sweep of the Rhine, and the queer,
old-times houses and spires of the city. I thought of the splendors of
the Hebrew ritual and temple, instituted by God himself. I questioned
where was the text in the gospel that forbade such a ritual, provided
it were felt to be desirable; and then I thought of the ignorance and
stupid idolatry of those countries where this ritual is found in
greatest splendor, and asked whether these are the necessary
concomitants of such churches and such forms, or whether they do not
result from other causes. The Hebrew ritual, in a far more sensuous
age, had its sculptured cherubim, its pictorial and artistic wealth of
representation, its gorgeous priestly vestments, its incense, and its
chants; and they never became, so far as we know, the objects of
But I love to go back over and over the scenes of that cathedral; to
look up those arches that seem to me, in their buoyant lightness, to
have not been made with hands, but to have shot up like an
enchantment - to have risen like an aspiration, an impersonation of the
upward sweep of the soul, in its loftiest moods of divine communion.
There were about five minutes of feeling, worth all the discomforts of
getting here; and it is only for some such short time that we can
enjoy - then our prison door closes.
There are four painted glass windows, given by the King of Bavaria. I
have got for H. the photograph of two of them, representing the birth
and death of Christ. They are gorgeous paintings by the first masters.
The windows round the choir were painted in a style that reminded me
of our forests in autumn.
Well, after our sublimities came a farce. We went to St. Ursula's
church, to see the bones of the eleven thousand virgins, who, the
chronicle says, were slain here because they would not break their
vows of chastity. I was much amused. As we entered the church, C.
remarked impressively, "It is evident that these virgins have no
connection with cologne water!" The fact was lamentably apparent.
Doleful looking figures of virgins, painted in all the colors of the
rainbow, were looking down upon us from all quarters; and in front, in
a glass frame, was a bill of fare, in French, of the relics which
could be served up to order. C. read the list aloud, and then we
proceeded to a small side room to see the exhibition. The upper
portion of the walls was covered with small bones, strung on wires and
arranged in a kind of fanciful arabesque, much as shell boxes are
made; and the lower part was taken up with busts in silver and gold
gilding, representing still the interminable eleven thousand. A sort
of cupboard door half opened showed the shelves all full of skulls,
adorned with little satin caps, coronets, and tinsel jewelry; which
skulls, we were informed, were the original head-pieces of the same
At the other end of the room was a raised stage, where the most holy
relics of all were being displayed, under the devout eye of a priest
in a long, black robe. C. and I went upon the stage to be instructed.
S., whom the aforesaid lack of cologne water in the establishment had
rendered peculiarly unpropitious, stood at a majestic distance; but
C., assuming an air of profound faith, stood up to be initiated.
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