Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ten Top Cathedral Novels

Thank you to my friend Judith Steinmetz for pointing out this article in The Guardian, "Cathedrals in Literature" by John Mullan in 2011. 

The photo with the article was taken by Peter Lewis (Loop Images, Corbis).  It shows Salisbury Cathedral, the focus of The Spire by William Golding.


Mullan lists his favorite novels set in cathedrals with a commentary on each one, starting with The Spire and followed by The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the last book written by Charles Dickens.  

"Murderous passions are nursed in the shadow of the great cathedral," comments Mullan.

Each book is set in a cathedral, which becomes a central character in many of the novels.

Joanna Trollope, a descendant of Anthony, is the only woman author on the list with a book called The Choir.

Judith manages the hospitality ministry of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, so she knows the life of a great cathedral intimately, including the politics and personalities that form these novels.  On Sundays she makes sure that her team of volunteers provide the coffee, tea, cakes, and cookies after worship, and for events on other days of the week as well.  

What a challenging volunteer ministry!  And what a champion reader!  Judith's favorite books read recently are all of Anthony Trollope's novels in the series known as the Barchester Chronicles.

The list includes a set of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, inspired by a visit to Chartres. Not surprisingly, Rilke felt oppressed by the lofty stone structure, a metaphor for religious oppression.  

Mullan quotes one line:  "And in the towers' quelled ascent, / and sudden spurn of skies, sat Death".

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