When I saw the front of the Grace Cathedral, I was amazed at the architecture of the doors and the walls; they were very beautifully sculpted. The white-and-gray terrazzo-paved maze, to the right of the front entrance seemed as if it took forever to get to the middle. As entering the cathedral, I noticed that the entrance had a short, thick stone wall, I guess it was there to block the wind. As I was walking further down, I noticed the indoor maze and thought I should see what it’s all about. So, after looking at it for a few minutes, I started walking the path.
I just stared down at the path and followed it. And let my mind wander as I walked. While I was walking on the path I started thinking about my future plans, where I wanted to go with them and what I wanted to accomplish. I thought about the twists and turns of the labyrinth as resembling the twists and turns of life. How the labyrinth is just a symbol, how it means only what I choose it to mean. I could follow the path or I could just turn and walk straight out. When I got to the center, I sat and thought about nothing.
Then I got up and started my walk out. I ran into people walking inwards and we politely passed each other on the path. I thought about how life was like that, meeting people who you just run into. I thought about a lot of things. After completing the labyrinth, I thought it was very useful because for a while I was concentrating on staying on the path and that helped me block out the outside world, which made me think clearly on other subjects. That was a really weird experience. At least that’s what I found.
Anyhow, back to the cathedral – the second thing I noticed about the Grace Cathedral was that it’s BIG. Huge vaulted ceilings and impressive stained glass with big, thick stone columns. The windows looked good and a faint light seeping in was throwing mysterious beams throughout the interior. But, something was odd about the stained glass windows, they looked very busy, too many colors. The indigo blues, the reds, yellows, and royal purples were creating sort of a color zoo rather than a peaceful picture. That reminded me of St. Chapelle’s windows, which also had the “busyness of colors”.
Later on I was standing on the nave, where one could see that the sanctuary had an atmospheric blend of shadowy darkness (maybe to represent the mystical, hidden aspects of God) and multicolored light (maybe to symbolize the beauty of divine revelation). The Cathedral seemed to be very quite, even in the daytime (which I thought was a little odd. ) The use of space in the Grace Cathedral is not phenomenal. First of all the location of the labyrinth is not appropriate, which is right at the entrance of the nave. This is confusing to me, because what if there are a bunch of people who are doing the maze and bunch of people trying to get out?
They would either have to collide or would have to go around the maze, which is not a lot of fun. Therefore, I think the maze should have been placed somewhere else. Secondly, the benches are placed too closely to each other, which, I think, doesn’t allow people to move freely enough. Also, the entrance doors and side isles are not as big as they should be (comparing the size of the church). So, all in all, I think, the builders/architects didn’t use the space of the Grace Cathedral efficiently. The first step in identifying the differences between the Grace Cathedral and St.
Sernin lies in the footprint of an example of each type. In St. Sernin of Toulouse, there is a clear multiplication of modular space, along with very thick exterior walls and very few breaks in those walls for windows. On the other hand, the Grace Cathedral has spatial units, achieved through the vaults. I think that the vaults serve to spread the thrust out to buttresses that serve to frame the large stained windows. Next, based on the interiors of these two churches, more distinctions can be made. The nave of St. Sernin has double aisles where as The Grace Cathedral has only a single aisle.
Another difference is the number of chapels. There are only three Chapels at the Grace Cathedral, where as St. Sernin has 9. (It seems as if the chapels were very important in that century, where “chapels were built for wealthy families” comparing to the days when the Grace Cathedral was built). The ground plan of the Grace Cathedral seems to be similar to the medieval ground plans we have studied in class. That is a Latin cross with clearly defined parts. The altarpiece, “The Life of Christ” is located in the AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel.
It seems as if it’s made out of bronze or gold. It is done in three panels, a triptych, and is decorated with Haring’s trademark cartoonish figures. Across the bottom of all three panels, an angry crowd seems to be mad. Above the crowd on the left panel, two angels hover; and one is falling. And, I think the figures at the top right panel show Christ’s resurrection. At the top of the middle panel there is a cross, beneath which is a figure with many arms, two of which hold a baby. Beneath the baby there are falling droplets of blood? tears? rain? on the crowd.
I really don’t know what those represent, but I know that Keith Haring’s art has always been very abstract and simple in style and I don’t think some people understand or really enjoy his work. I think for a lot of people the altarpiece does not hold any spiritual meaning because of the strange human figures, the abstractness and the lack of color. Since people are used to altarpieces such as from Gerard David “Virgin and child with prayer wings” or Van der Weyden “Deposition”, which have realistic figures, real colors and religious stories. Pieces related to Mary, Christ and God.
In my opinion, this modern altarpiece represents social and political issues, such as Aids and Homosexuality. It’s there for people who are infected with the virus or are in a same sex relationship (which churches don’t approve) who find peace and hope while praying in front of it. Personally, I think it’s cool of the Grace Cathedral to purchase this piece of work, because it makes them different, special and shows that they care about these issues comparing to other churches. Overall I found the Grace Cathedral to be really amazing and interesting. But, I doubt it deserves words such as “Oh, how beautiful and how valuable…
“(by an author of “Pilgrims Guide to Santiago de Compostela), just because it’s so much simpler as compared to churches in the medieval age. Also, I don’t think Abbot Suger would consider this church as a pilgrimage church, since there are hardly any relics in “comparison to those there (Jerusalem)”. And the main reason worshippers traveled long distances was to touch relics. But, this cathedral definitely deserves the title “inspired by Gothic architecture” because of it’s cross-shaped plan, twin facade towers, short trancepts, buttressed bays, apse, fleche and beautiful large stained windows.
I came to the conclusion that overall this church holds the “better and more effectual” (Excerpts from Bede) representation of religion and that it is architecturally remarkable. Also, I get the impression that the Bishops and Deans are very open minded and liberal. PILGRIMAGE Since 2001, I have been engaged Buddhism in North America. I have sort of been a part of the Buddhist Peace fellowship BASE program -the first Buddhist volunteer corps in the West. BASE brings together under one Umbrella social action/social service, Buddhist meditation practice and study, community support, guidance and mentorship.
In the past two years more than 100’s of people have participated in the BASE program, providing thousands of hours of volunteer time to agencies, and providing participants with the joy of like-minded community to prevent burnout and isolation. Now BASE is spreading to other parts of the U. S. including Boston and Colorado. My life here in San Jose has included play and creative time, including forming and sustaining deep friendships, creating rituals, performance, thinking, activism, and fun. My biggest dream is a trip to Asia.
This is an extension of my passion in the U. S. and I hope to make a strong contribution to building connections between engaged Buddhism in East and West. My trip is planned as follows: I leave in June 2003 for three months of practice. I had planned to practice at my friend’s teacher U Pandita Sayadaw’s new forest monastery in Burma. At the moment I am carefully weighing the political and safety implications of this decision. If I do go to Burma I will consciously enter the country as a witness to human rights violations. Otherwise I will practice in a Thai monastery.
Either way, by July I will be sitting cross-legged in a small meditation hut, eating only before noon, and immersing myself fully in the practice I enjoy so much. Following my practice period I will spend another couple of weeks visiting socially engaged Buddhist movements throughout Asia. I plan to visit Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka, the converted untouchables in West India, and friends in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Ladakh. My intentions are to listen deeply to stories, observe training programs, share my experiences, deepen ties with others doing similar practices, and generally expand my own sense of what engaged Buddhism in the West can be.
To make this trip happen I will need my parents help. My parents know how much devoted I am to Buddhism, so they’ll understand. I will need money for a plane ticket to Asia, travel between and within countries, supplies and equipment, daily expenses of food and lodging, a donation for the monastery, and maintenance of things at home such as my health insurance. I am aiming $ 5,000 to cover these costs. I hope my parents help will make this trip possible.