A trip to the moon

Image thanks to This is Durham

We went to visit the moon over the weekend, not the real one as far as we were aware though we were unable to check the sky just in case. We went to the Museum of the Moon at Durham Cathedral.

According to the website, the seven metre diameter installation uses detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface, and is internally lit to cast an other-worldly glow on the cathedral’s vaulted ceiling and colossal pillars.

It was hugely impressive, hovering in the nave a few metres above our heads and swaying slightly in the slightest of breezes. Spoiler alert, there is no dark side.

Of course, we took the opportunity to see a lot of the rest of the cathedral, one time Britain’s favourite monument, visiting the Venerable Bede’s and Cutherbert’s tombs, viewing the rose window and visiting the very nice cafe. The Pieta by Fenwick Lawson was worth a visit on its own.

The cathedral was busy, indeed there was a queue to get in. People were chatting, photographs were being taken and the cash tills, voluntary of course, were ringing. Cathedrals are expensive things to maintain.

What I didn’t see though were people praying, at least not openly. Nobody was kneeling in the pews, nobody had their heads bowed or hands clasped together. I didn’t see any genuflection. It made me wonder if we had moved away from the ‘true’ meaning of the building to one where we worshiped cash and modernity in its various guises.

When I was young, churches were places to be treated with reverence, hats off, quiet voices and respect to the living and dead contained within. Not now it seems. I was halfway round before I realised I still had my hat on.

Perhaps though this is the way that religious spaces should be, open to the public for them to meet, gather and interact. After all we refer to those who attend as the flock and congregation. There certainly was a lot of flocking and congregating. It could be that my reverence for the church, even though I am not religious, is a throwback to earlier cultural norms. 

At one time the church would have been one of the very few public buildings available and would have most likely acted as a communal space. Of course I have no idea yet, no doubt, God knows.

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