Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Anglican Church: Nice

One of the most meditative or mood provoking spaces open to the public in Nice is the Anglican Church on Rue de la Buffa.

This is one of the few churches still open all week to those who want to pass some time alone, in meditation or prayer.

While waiting for an appointment today I stopped by the sanctuary for 40 minutes or so to take in the stillness and listen to the recorded medieval chants being played.

As you can see from the picture from their site and my photo here, this is a traditional church.  It has  just been completely restored as an historic Nicoise site... having been built between 1860-1862. And they did a beautiful job. You can read about the restoration in the narthex. 

  There are three different styles of stained glass windows in the church and they date from different periods.   The windows above the Altar were added in 1920  and  were made in te famous Atelier Lorin at Chartres  They depict the Agony in the garden, the Crucifixion and the Entombment. 

 But the most charming windows for me are on the south side.  Their jewel colors speak to me even more than the stories they describe. 

Today I was not alone in the space.  The first visitor who entered was a 30ish man dressed in ragged jeans and Tee shirt, perhaps from one of the Eastern bloc countries.  He carried a tall, open can of beer.  He glanced at me and proceeded a few seats farther where he seated himself and began fiddling with the contents of his pockets. He did not appear to interact with his surroundings and after about 10 minutes and a few more sips of beer, he left.

The second visitor entered through a side door with a battered briefcase a few minutes later.  He was a man in his 60s , difficult to guess his nationality.  He came into the space and walked a careful , well memorized circuit. He crossed to the Altar and ritualistically touched the brass eagle lectern and the stone corner near the organ cage. 
 His routine seemed choreographed, with lots of hands-on caresses of objects and stone.  After several rounds, where he seemed even to blow out some votive candles,  he crossed to a selected pew near the back and removed his jacket. 

 Then surprising me, he passed within a meter of my pew to a table  where he slowly and meticulously folded his jacket into a rectangle, all the while ignoring my presence.
Thus satisfied , he returned to his selected pew and lay the jacket carefully like a pillow and stretched out for a nap.
During this visit,  all the emotions from suspicion to sympathy, amazement and amusement passed through my clearing center. 
 I got to take a look at my judgment process.  

That is what churches do to me .....  bring on conflicting sensations...
and perhaps that is as good a reason as any for their existence.  

Some are really wonderful to sit in.   I keep coming back to sit in this one. 


  1. Reminds me of the great poem by Philip Larkin:
    Church Going

    Once I am sure there's nothing going on
    I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
    Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
    And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
    For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
    Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
    And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
    Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
    My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

    Move forward, run my hand around the font.
    From where I stand, the roof looks almost new -
    Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
    Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
    Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
    'Here endeth' much more loudly than I'd meant.
    The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
    I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
    Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

    Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
    And always end much at a loss like this,
    Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
    When churches will fall completely out of use
    What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
    A few cathedrals chronically on show,
    Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases,
    And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
    Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

    Or, after dark, will dubious women come
    To make their children touch a particular stone;
    Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
    Advised night see walking a dead one?
    Power of some sort will go on
    In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
    But superstition, like belief, must die,
    And what remains when disbelief has gone?
    Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

    A shape less recognisable each week,
    A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
    Will be the last, the very last, to seek
    This place for what it was; one of the crew
    That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
    Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
    Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
    Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
    Or will he be my representative,

    Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
    Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
    Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
    So long and equably what since is found
    Only in separation - marriage, and birth,
    And death, and thoughts of these - for which was built
    This special shell? For, though I've no idea
    What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
    It pleases me to stand in silence here;

    A serious house on serious earth it is,
    In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
    Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
    And that much never can be obsolete,
    Since someone will forever be surprising
    A hunger in himself to be more serious,
    And gravitating with it to this ground,
    Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
    If only that so many dead lie round.

  2. This is an astonishing and apt poem. I need to read it a few more times...then a few more. Thanks Bruce, for bringing it here. And about this church... "it pleases me to stand here in silence".

  3. Hi Mary, I spent the last hour reviewing the last 20 posts on your spendid blog...such a work of love it is. I was especially affected by your December 3rd entry re: the Vadim Repin concert experience. Keep the poet in you cooking...!