8 June 2007 15:54

No better time for typing than while sitting at a Laundromat. They should come with wifi. Today, I went in the cathedral while Xena barked her little doggy self dizzy. afterwards, the ticket sales person yelled at me for tying her so close to the cathedral. I think I’m very lucky that she did not call the police to have poor Xena removed. There has got to be a way to get her to stop barking. She only does it when I’ve left er alone and she fears that I will never return. When I’m around, she never makes a peep.

The cathedral had a lot of Mary in it, as was to be expected, but also a lot of St Christopher who was the partron of some of the guilds who decorated the church. There was only one reliquary with two saints in it, but I could not tell who they were or what parts of them. Relics have fallen out of favor and aren’t boasted in the same way they would have been in the past, alas.

The church has an astonishingly tall steeple, all filled with bells. An incredible, unbelievable number of bells. They give concerts there during the summer, starting next week . Alas, I will not get to hear the huge number of bells playing live, but even just the hourly chimes are fairly impressive. They do trills on the bells, something one hardly ever hears, in my experience (which, admittedly, is not vast). The church has two organs. One of them is the older one, but they also have one from 2003, designed specifically to play the works of Bach, but, the informational sign added, it’s ‘touch’ allows works from many periods to be played.

While English speakers don’t often hear of new organ works, there is actually a quite active school of organ composition in Mexico. And of course, there’s Henry Brant and others in America turning out new works. Bach is ok and all, but you’d think there’s already an adequate installed base of organs for playing his works.

The church also had quite elaborate confessionals. This is a wooden structure designed to hold one officiating priest and two sinners (who may also be priests). The priest is in a chamber in the middle and the sinners are situated on either side, in a sort of a nook equipped with a kneeler. It is enclosed on three sides and has a bit of a privacy shield. The priest turns his attention to sinner number one who has a script. “Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has been [x time units] since my last confession. Since then I have [ list of sins ].” Then the priest talks for a bit about the sinner’s sins, possibly offering advice and assigning the sinner a penance, which is to say a list of prayers that the priest assigns for the duration assigned. When I was a youth, it was usually three ‘Hail Mary’s and an ‘Our Father,’ but it could be a great deal more to be repeated at specified intervals. If you die before these are finished, the dogma used to state (and perhaps still does? the afterlife has changed a lot in the last few years) that you would have to go to Purgatory until your prayers were completed. But back to the sacrament. After the priest assigns the sinner a penance, iirc, they say the act of contrition together and then the priest offers absolution, which is the assurance that God has forgiven all of the sins, including the ones the sinner forgot to mention, but not including the ones he or she omitted on purpose. After this is completed, the priest turns his attention to sinner number two. Meanwhile, sinner number one makes the sign of the cross and vacates the confessional so that a new sinner may sit and wait for the priest’s attention. It’s a sin to try to overhear the hushed conversation on the other side, although if you did, you could confess it right away, at least.

The confessionals in Antwerp feature extensive wooden carvings, including pained looking saints. That carved saint weeps for your wrongdoings. I would feel intimidated to have so many holy figures so pained by my surreptitious glancing at images of naked ladies. Alas and woe. St Peter weeps!

Today, I learned that map of the national bike routes in Belgium is out of print. Nobody seems to have any copies left and nobody can say when it will be printed again. I did find a map to get me as far as Brussels. It’s not until I leave there that I run short of map.