Somewhat delayed by the advent of summer holidays, here are the results of the BHO photo competition for June.
The shot makes clear the love of geometry and celestial order in the medieval builders and patrons of the cathedral. This is even clearer in the full-size photo on Flickr. Ecclesiastical ceilings were often treated as a typological form of the sky; some also had a blue ground for gold stars, as in St Mary’s Church in Beverley. Kepler was lead astray in his astronomical theories by his desire to equate the planets and their relationships with the five Platonic Solids. And today, of course, we still impose our ideas of order on the cosmos: what we see as constellations are stars that have no necessary relation to each other whatsoever.
Our other runner-up was Chepstow & Monmouth 018 by expat a. I think here we can see the comedic side of the medieval mind. The devil and the smiling head seem to be to be moving towards each other in an almost cartoonish way; it’s hard to be sure but I suspect that the face on the right expresses a complacent unawareness of the wages of sin. Although some saints are credited with remaining calm in the face of the devil.
Our winner this month is another ceiling, that of The New Room:
You probably recognise the photographer as the same as Peterborough Cathedral above, Richardr. Although we didn’t plan it this way, it does provide an instructive contrast in ecclesiastical ceilings. The New Room in Bristol claims to be the oldest Methodist building in the world.
I wonder if we should resist the temptation to see the different style of the ceiling here as due to a nonconformist simplicity. After all, this building of 1739 has stylistic affinities with Anglican churches of the period (white walls, clear glass) such as the wonderful Hawksmoor churches built a decade or two earlier under the Fifty New Churches Act.
However, when I first saw this picture it put me most in mind of the ceiling of Wren’s Octagon Room at the Royal Observatory. This room was used by the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, who worked here compiling his meticulous stellar catalogue.