Heaven In Stone And Glass: Experiencing the Spirituality of the Great Cathedrals (Crossroad Publishing Company, 2000, 128pp). Available from AD Books.
Few who visit Europe fail to visit the great cathedrals such as Notre Dame and Chartres. They and cathedrals in the New World based upon these awe-inspiring monuments to God, such at St Patrick's in Melbourne, fail to move few who spend time in them. Yet most people are unaware of the rich symbolic dimensions of these buildings.
Heaven in Stone and Glass is an interesting guided tour combined with a meditative reflection upon the structure and features of a great medieval cathedral. Thus, such cathedrals are cruciform, as a reminder of the importance of the Cross in Christian life; they are traditionally dark, with the only light coming through the windows, reminding the believer that it is Christ the light who enlightens their darkness. Similarly, cathedrals face east, symbolic of the Church being oriented towards the second coming and have a steeple roof above the nave, reminding worshippers that the Church is the ark of salvation.
Heaven in Stone and Glass is a timely reminder that churches and cathedrals, as places of worship, should be authentic "sacred spaces" that speak of God and facilitate the encounter between the believer and the transcendent God. They should not be functional buildings used to house services or, at worst, display halls of the most banal kitsch our society is capable of producing.
Michael Daniel teaches at a Melbourne independent school.