A Visit to the Basilica

I'm on an exploring my local area kick, which means this week I went up to Baltimore to check out the Basilica, which is America's first cathedral. The official name of the church is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and interestingly we ended up visiting on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (which is August 15th) so happened to be there for the Basilica's very special day. (No cake or feasting was seen, but it was still nice.)

We went to the evening mass and were treated to an interesting service that included some history of the church as well as discussion on the difference between prose and poetry and how that relates to reading and interpreting the bible. (This was specifically to do with the passage from Revelations regarding the woman cloaked in the sun with the moon at her feet. The priest pointed out this was zymology designed to confuse the enemies of the fledgling church and to give hope to the church members in troubled times. He also stated that of course the one thing that doesn't change is troubled times and the need for hope.)

We were there for a music service, which was substantially different from the music services I attended as a girl. Those were more rock and roll, with lots of tambourines and guitars, while the Basilica featured a gorgeous gold organ and a gold throated soprano who had a lovely voice that soared up into the yellow dome above us. Part of me thought it was kind of too bad she was a soprano as there was no way most of the audience could really sing with her, but the rest of me simply admired her fabulous sound.

The interior of the Basilica is decorated in light colors, with a pale yellow on the walls and the domed ceilings. The ceiling soars high above the pews, with multiple domes adding texture and interest. There are paintings in each done, which sadly let me down a little. They're nice but they don't have any oomph, which is too bad given how many people are coming and staring up at the ceiling. The images portrayed are kind of boring and the art itself is bland. I realize we can't find Michelangelo's work everywhere we go but I expected something that looked nicer than your average hotel room painting.

Speaking of paintings, in the back of the church (opposite end of the altar) are some paintings on the wall which have an unusual feature my son the art student spotted. At some point a person (or persons) took some cloth and sewed it over all the penises in the paintings. How hilarious is that? For a fun exercise try using the Google image search to look for Madonna and child. Painting the little baby Jesus in his birthday suit is practically a requirement to be admitted into the Famous Renaissance Artist Club. Can you imagine if someone desecrated this Raphael (of Ninja Turtle fame) painting of the Madonna and child by adding a little loincloth? http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Raphael_Madonna_and_Child_with_Bo... People are funny.

There is a museum attached to the Basilica which features hundreds of super fancy items. I'm always torn when I look at lovely things owned by a church. It's nice to have beautiful things but is it right for the church to have so much wealth when so many people are living in poverty? I always liked the part of Les Misérables when Jean Valjean steals the candlesticks and then is told to keep them. Look at all the good he did with that money, starting a factory, giving people jobs, etc. But I digress. If you'd like to get a look at some of the opulence of the church you can get more information here: http://www.baltimorebasilica.org/index.php?page=museum

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from CK, who says, "You should go see Scott Pilgrim versus the World. It's good from start to finish." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.