Architects inscribed conspicuous geometrical patterns on the interior of their churches – on the flowing yet geometrical tracery, on elegantly figured vaults and on the balustrades to galleries and ecclesiastical furnishings. Framed and isolated for regard, these were pictures of geometry that could be received as utterances in that ideal mathematical language of divine conception and creation. Furthermore, designers often arranged geometrical shapes in sequences that invited a narrative reading, imbuing the forms with a sense of direction and purpose. Late Gothic ornament thus provided a commentary on religious authority and mediated the experience of sacred structures.

Meditation by computer, based on memorising tracery, is a growing pastime in an urgent world.

wes_font1.jpgIt has been said that Westhall's 15th century font is the finest in the country. Its panels depict the sacraments given to the villagers as they passed through the cycle of life in what was a remote European backwater. Because of its deliberate mutilation it emanates a sense of the enduring Biblical mysteries surrounding the most difficult questions of being which human primates have to grapple.

The notion of baptism as a sacrament dates back to the early centuries of Christianity. The word "sacrament" is borrowed from the Latin, sacramentum, which in Roman times referred to an initiation rite in which soldiers promised their fidelity to their commander. In teaching Gentiles, the Church used the word sacramentum to explain the rite of Christian initiation in which the initiates would commit themselves to the service of God. When Christianity supplanted polytheism in the empire, the Roman sense was dropped, and the word was expanded to any symbol that represented one’s relationship to God.


By the fifth century, St. Augustine referred to a sacramentum as anything that was "a sign of a sacred reality." By the twelfth century, the word was restricted to the seven rituals of the Church which Catholics refer to as the seven sacraments.
In the first century, however, the word "baptism" was not specifically a Christian designation for a sacrament. The ancient mystery religions made use of initiation rites which had similarities to Jewish and Christian baptisms. Hebrews 6:1-2 speaks of "baptisms" that were practiced by the Jews before the resurrection of Jesus. These baptisms were largely purification rites. By the second century A.D., these Jewish rituals had developed into initiatory rites for proselytes and included instruction, circumcision and water baths. They were initiatory rites that made Gentiles Jews by purifying them from their state of uncleanness and admitting them into the covenant life of Judaism, which in turn was culminated by the offering of sacrifice.

Water, though thoroughly basic and ordinary at one level, evokes as a symbol an extraordinary range of meaning. Birth, life, death, power, purity, restoration, conveyance, recreation (and re-creation) - water encompasses all these themes and more. Water symbolizes both life and death life unifying the disparate experiences. The aesthetics of water are equally evocative. Still waters still the soul, torrents and floods terrify it. Indeed, this range of symbolic/ aesthetic evocation bears its own primordial story. In the concentric rings rippling outward from a stone's splash into a smooth pool one may evocatively encounter nothing less than the story of all life. However, this meaning is transacted in a symbolically-engaged language that human beings participate in affectively and at levels. Central doctrines of the Christian tradition receive new meanings in light of ecological understandings.

Things of the spirit: where it began