Thursday, November 8, 2007

What man hath built

Blogger Kat has gotten me thinking again about architecture, the science and art of building.

I love the natural world and I hate so much of what man has done to it -- yet I am not so narrow minded as to loathe everything about my own species and to despise everything that he has created, some of which is breathtaking in its beauty.

We are fortunate that despite thousands of years of war and nature's own destructive hand, many of the great buildings of history still stand -- the Pyramids, the Parthenon (though we almost lost that one), a myriad of medieval cathedrals, Taj Mahal, Angor Wat, etc.

I returned tonight to my reading of James Carroll's "Constantine's Sword," which examines the historical relationship and antagonism between Christians and Jews. Tonight's chapter discussed the Jewish temple, destroyed almost 2000 years ago by vengeful Romans.

What a building that must have been! Carroll alludes to Josephus (Ant. Book XV, Chapt. 11, verse 5):

"For while [the adjacent] valley was very deep and its bottom could not be seen, if you looked from above into the depth, this further vastly high elevation of the cloister stood upon that height, insomuch that if anyone looked down from the top of the battlements ... he would be giddy ..."

When I read Josephus a few years ago, I read that passage but failed to appreciate what it was trying to tell me.

This blog is certainly not the place to go into any great detail about the Jewish temple, its significance, its history. But consider that there is evidence that the spot has been considered sacred since the Stone Age; consider that a shovel cannot be thrust into the ground there nor a ramp repaired today without inciting a riot.

4 comments:

...Kat said...

buildings are of such significance ...indeed the Twin Towers were magnificent symbols and so became repeated targets for destruction .... the wound to the skyline of a great city, New York ... and all the flesh and blood and terror and pain of lives cut short that we mourn and grieve for and remember...
we also mourn for the buildings themselves, they stood so tall, beacons to many of all that can be accomplished....
I look for them in scenes from movies filmed in New York... and seeing them, I feel like I have met up again with a friend from some time ago... I feel the respect and the love for them...

eastcoastdweller said...

They are indeed significant -- and You are right, Kat, part of a building's beauty is its relationship to people -- whether it served or serves as a holy place, a place of invention and genius, or a place where great events once occurred.

Ian Lidster said...

The power of ancient edifices cannot be underestimated, man-made or not.
One of the problems of living on the west coast is that nearly everything is new. Periodically I need the atmosphere of the ancient. I wandered through the Pantheon on Rome once and pondered what that building, still in use, had seen.
Last fall I spent an hour just sitting quietly in the atmosphere of Norwich Cathedral. It was much balm for my soul, despite the fact I'm not conventionally religious.

eastcoastdweller said...

Ian, I'm so jealous! Rome I must see before I die, and Jerusalem, Athens, Moscow, Mexico City and Alexandria too.