I've always been drawn to churches: not for a reason of being in need of prayer, of talking to him or whoever it is that resides up there, if they do, but just because they feel different to any other sort of building. People don't eat in there, apart from the odd round piece of flat bread, no chatting, no reading, no relaxing with your feet up, some learning perhaps, if you happen to stumble across a particularly eloquent vicar. A building with no other purpose than to reflect of God, Jesus, Mary etc. Or in my case, usually the meaning of life. As soon as I step over the threshold of any church, it starts up: why? what? how? when? but a quiet meandering of thoughts, nothing anxious: something about the smell, the patina of age, the fact that thousands of others have walked around the building in quiet thought.
My preferred edifices are the small, rarely visited ones, like the one illustrated here. I can't even remember where it was now but it's unimportant. It was like so many others in this region, the pictures warped with age and damp, the blue paintwork faded and fissured, a few long dead flowers.
Mark and I visited Notre Dame de Paris recently. It was morning mass, thousands of people either worshiping or ticking off the tourist trail, the air heavy with incense, a burst of sunlight illuminating the intricate stained glass intermittently. It was a memorable time but not as moving to me as the minutes spent in many small village churches.