Cathedral Saint-Louis

cathedralstlouis

A long time since its construction and centuries longer since its namesake reigned,

its triple steeples still rise above the square, dappled by the morning sun

as hordes of sleepy tourists and locals who might not miss them much

if they took a day off line up for their morning pastries and au lait,

and already outside the commotion is building, the music of the spheres

a little off key, its brassy tune clashing with the brash shouts of hucksters

out for the early mark, but as I pass through and the doors swing close

behind me, the sacred silence engulfs me, and it is indeed as if I have

crossed into the otherworld, despite the electrical wires announcing that

the church serves as current place of worship, not historical relic only,

and the plaques and boxes and racked brochures for sale

reminding all that not even here does commerce cease, and though

I’m not Catholic, I too give in—drop coins in the box and light

a candle in hope of some little glow of enlightenment, and Louis

would have presumed me innocent until his branch of the Inquisition

made its inquiries and determined otherwise, and would probably

have dealt like Jesus in the temple with the mess of humanity

out front, or had his minions do it for him, more likely. Still, as far

as medieval rulers go, he was at least less awful than his peers, and,

if we can trust the words of his friend and confidante Jean de Joinville,

a positive influence on law and religion, famous for his

charitable disposition and his possession of a fragment—

an expensive one at that—of Christ’s True Cross.  These days,

that kind of belief, that kind of fervor, has waned away, but

still amid the cool white stones of its monuments, one can, for a fleeting

moment, feel the circulation of saints and spirits along the aisles

and ambulatories under  the tent of colonial-colored banners.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

 

Sankt Aleksandr Nevskij Kirke

RoyalQuarterAleksanderNevskijKirke

The triple onion domes, gilded and crossed,

atop the stripe- and diamond-patterned bricks

of the Muscovite-revival façade leave little

doubt of the church’s Russian pedigree;

its name confirms its dedication to the nation’s

sainted patron. Yet here the building rises

from a street in Købnhavn, like a single

vodka bottle on a shelf of akvavit,

having been financed by the second

Tsar Alex after the marriage of his son

to the Danish Princess Dagmar, who

would become Tsarita Maria when

the younger Alexander ascended

to the imperial throne. Though fate

struck a cruel blow to their son,

who lost his head when the Revolution

felled the Romanovs, their church

in Denmark stands, solid and orthodox.

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper