Monday, 5 October 2009

A Summer's Eve at Kirkstall Abbey: Sunset in the Nave

Under the banded shadow of an iron gate
That secures the chastity of sacred space
Dances through glassless windows
A macabre incubus of grandiose dust
On lengthening shafts of gilded light.
Behold! – this sudden ecstasy of lust
In the Gothic arch – a provocative sight
The eyes’ rising journey of pillar and vault
Denies the credulous fault of the expectant soul:
For there, above, a termination of scars
An insatiable majesty of stars persists
Where none but a resonant expanse of mauve exists
And a creeping rhapsody of darkness curls
From the deepening transepts of previous worlds
As finally a death of the diminutive sort,
Descends with a gasp of boundless grace
And a simultaneous expulsion of viscous light
Brings forth the rapturous crescendo of night.


I am more than lucky to live within easy walking distance of this wonderful building. Kirkstall Abbey was erected in the latter half of the 12th century, and is one of the best preserved examples of early Cistercian architecture in all of Europe. Its community of monks was disbanded in 1539, during the Dissolution, and the abbey has stood in ruins ever since. I have spent many summers here, grown up here, and drunk many bottles of wine here, on the river bank, with wonderful people. I think this building got into my soul at a very early age and I ought to credit Kirkstall with inspiring a large portion of my interest in all things medieval.

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