The Sky Beyond The Bell Fry

I would like to admit a passion for old country churches.

They are a splendid excuse to pause when on a road trip. Although most of them are closed, I often wander the deserted church yard trying to peer through the stained-glass windows. When the inside remains a mystery, because the windows are usually too high for me to look through, I content myself with imagining the pews and the altars; the exposed wooden beams of high ceilings; the weddings and christenings, and moments of solace, that hopefully still happen there. Then I stand and watch the light of the day play on the outside sandstone facade or wonder at the colour of the sky beyond the bell fry. I long ago gave up trying to photograph these hallowed places, unable to capture their material dimensions, let alone their liminal magic.

Recently I’ve also become a devotee of suburban churches. Where I live, the landscape is thick with them. Within a one-kilometre radius of home I’ve counted sixteen Christian churches, including three cathedrals and a Quaker meeting place. In this same circumference there is also a mosque and a Taoist temple. Each of these places intrigues me with their sacred individuality.

There are many beautiful churches that I’ve had the luck to visit over the years, so here are a few of my favourites. The first one in this post and the others to follow. These are places where I’ve experienced a moment of ecstasy, perhaps a glimpse beyond the temporal; an inkling of the world’s deep complexity.

St Bonaventura, Catholic Church, Leura

St Bonaventura, Catholic Church, Leura

Although I’m not a practicing Catholic, this was the religion I was brought up in and so it still forms part of the tapestry of who I am. About twenty years ago, during Sunday mass at this beautiful church on the edge of Leura village, I had a mysterious encounter. It’s very hard to describe but to put it as simply as possible, it was as if a sudden flash of pure white energy, like an electric arrow, flew out from the crucifix behind the altar, and struck me in the heart. I began to weep and couldn’t stop. To not disturb the service I had to leave. Standing outside in the weak May sunshine I cried myself out until I felt emptied of all the fear and sadness that I’d been holding onto. I can’t explain what happened but my father had recently passed away, perhaps because of this I was more open to a metaphysical experience.

From my years as a child attending Saturday morning Italian school, I know that bonaventura means good fortune or good adventure. My first thought after this event was that perhaps my father was communicating with me that he was well in his new world. But seeing as he identified as an atheist this place seemed an odd choice. When later I looked up the saint who the church is named after, I found that he was a medieval Italian philosopher and theologian of the order of Saint Francis, born at Bagnoregio, in the Lazio region of central Italy. Interestingly Lazio is the region of Italy where my father was also born. I thought this was a strange coincidence but I’m not sure I believe in the intercession of saints.

Twenty years on, I still feel awe at the immensity of what we can’t explain but grateful for this moment of deeply felt religious experience. I don’t understand what happened. But it happened. Perhaps I’m simply not yet tall enough to see through these high windows.

                                        Bagnoregio, Lazio, Italy

(Images: Sardaka, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons; New2022, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

About sagesomethymes

Daniela is a writer, theatre producer and civic educator. She has had poetry and short stories published in 'Prayers of a Secular World', Inkerman & Blunt; 'Blue Crow Magazine', Blue Crow Press; 'Knitting and other stories', Margaret River Press and Radio National’s '360 documentaries'. Her debut play, 'Talc', was produced in 2010. Her short play, 'Sicilian Biscotti', was produced for the launch of “Women Power and Culture” at New Theatre in 2011 and shortlisted for the Lane Cove Literary Award in 2015. Her second full length play, 'Friday', was produced by SITCO at the Old Fitzroy Theatre in 2013. 'The Poor Kitchen' was produced in 2016 as part of the Old 505 Theatre’s Fresh Works Season and was published by the Australian Script Centre in 2017 (https://australianplays.org/script/ASC-1836). It was re-staged by Patina Productions at Limelight on Oxford in 2019. She co-wrote 'Shut Up And Drive' with Paul Gilchrist and it was produced at KXT in 2016. 'Seed Bomb' was produced at Old 505 Theatre as part of the FreshWorks Season in 2019 and has been published by the Australian Script Centre (https://australianplays.org/script/ASC-2166). She is the co-founder of indie theatre company subtlenuance (www.subtlenuance.com) Her published short stories can be read via the Short Stories tab on this blog.
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1 Response to The Sky Beyond The Bell Fry

  1. G~ says:

    How beautiful to have so much of history all around you. Beautiful buildings and structures. 😘

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