Our relationship with God has always been expressed in grandiose terms. We cannot comprehend his glory and majesty so we build massive structures that point heavenward. Some churches are enormous, others are small but over all, they all try explaining this relationship with deity.
I have to say that I was disappointed in the biggie ones. St. Peter’s Basilica while it is beautiful and gigantic, it did not produce the feeling of awe that I was expecting. I actually chuckle when I think that all my children remember is the green guy. I like St. Paul’s a little better. The American Chapel is my favorite part. I feel the love and gratitude for all the American servicemen who gave their lives defending England during the Second World War. It is an amazing tribute, it is intimate and their sacrifice is not wasted, their spirits are very much alive. I also am always amazed by the miraculous way St. Paul’s was saved during the Blitz. It was being watched from on high.
The one place that really surprised me was Hagia Sophia. The minute I entered I could feel the expanse of God’s creation. I could see the architectural wonder that this building is. I felt small but hopeful. I also appreciated its turbulent history. It was first built as a church than it became a mosque. I really like how it kept both uses now that it serves as a museum.
Standing where the sultans stood was amazing. You can see all the majesty of this edifice. The nearby mosaics are exquisite. If only they could talk! They’d tell the history of early Christianity.
Another very unexpected sight was Mont Saint Michel. I think I will always remember the first moment I saw Mont Saint Michel. We were driving and I saw this little mount standing in the middle of nowhere in the distance. It was simply amazing, especially as it grew bigger. As a 21st century woman I was simply captivated. I cannot even begin to imagine what a 7th century peasant on a pilgrimage would feel. It is almost dream like because it is so out of place. When you drive the causeway to it, you are transported to a magical world that so often we don’t travel in our busy lives. It is a path that was trod by the faithful. While most of the mount now is a big tourist trap, I did enjoy it tremendously. You must walk all around to get to the Abbey. The views from the top were breath taking. We were lucky to be there in the late afternoon when most of the tourists leave. We were all alone eating in a cute little restaurant. Next time I think I will make hotel reservations there and enjoy it even more.
I cannot blog about churches without talking about a very personal experience. When I was sixteen years old a friend invited me to go to the new temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that was being built in Las Vegas. That experience changed my life. I cannot even begin to describe the feelings I had when I entered the Celestial Room and saw a life size painting of the Savior. I felt like I was coming home. That one visit changed my life and a few months later I was baptized a member of the church. A couple years later I was married in that same temple and I am so glad I had gone there. My life is good and I can trace all my blessings to that day.