I wandered slowly through the abbey grounds smelling the musky scent of the flowers and bushes as I did so, and hugging a tree here and there. The grounds would be considered by some as overgrown and untidy. True, they weren’t the manicured gardens one might expect. But they exuded a wild beauty that did justice to the abbey itself. The structure soared skyward, its spires punching holes in the fluffy white clouds that drifted slowly across the sky, their shadows following like puppy dogs on the ground.
I stepped inside and was greeted with a draft of cool air. High above, stained glass windows brought in the sun to shine as spotlights on the stone floor. It was an eerie sensation when the saints whose images were cast in the glass looked down on me from above, and up at me from their reflected images on the stone paved floor. I wandered the length of the nave. Hard, uncomfortable chairs replaced the pews I remembered from my local church back home in Wales. A scattering of the faithful kneeled with heads bowed. I felt as a stranger, probably because I had not stepped foot in a church for more years than I care to think about. I had long ago lost my faith in organized religion when I saw all the graft and greed of those so called good people around me. Men who confessed their sins every Sunday, then, on Monday, went right back to their lawless ways. I had worked for men like that. One in particular I remember. He attended mass every day but refused to treat, he was in the medical field, sick people who could not pay top dollar. When he asked me to help doctor the books come tax time, I’d had enough. “Have at it,” I said to him, and walked out of the office leaving him stranded until he hired someone else…someone who I hoped would not be intimidated by his overbearing manner and who would not be a willing participant to his less than ethical ways.
Just before the huge altar with its monstrous Christ on the cross statue, I turned to the left out of sight of the worshippers. I gazed at the stone work and wondered how in the world people managed to build such palaces of God without the heavy machinery and cranes that we would use today. I started to turn away and head back to the sunshine lit nave when I caught sight of three stone steps leading to a tiny door. I looked around for a sign that would indicate it was a restricted area. Seeing nothing that would indicate I wasn’t welcome, I tried the door. It opened, the hinges groaning as if they hadn’t worked in a long time. I was greeted with a musty, not altogether unpleasant smell, but not pleasant either. A narrow, low passage led off into the gloom. The passage was lit by oil lamps set so far apart that the light from one barely met with the light from the next one. The flames flicked slightly so I assumed there was a draft coming from somewhere, perhaps the passageway led back to the gardens. I jumped when the door slammed shut behind me. When I saw that the door could not be opened from the inside…there were no latches or door knobs, I knew I was in trouble.
©March 10, 2009