Over the years I have been a frequent visitor to France- a country with so many attractions that I have often wondered why refugees and illegal migrants were so keen to escape across the channel to dear old Blighty. The weather is better, the food is great and the booze is cheaper- not that, I daresay, the last-mentioned weighs much with the followers of Mohammed! My own enthusiasm for the country was fixed upon my first holiday there when I visited Chartres Cathedral. I have subsequently notched up a considerable number of great medieval churches of France, thanks to which, together with the pedantry of the Michelin Guides, my offshore islander's view of European history has been greatly expanded. As a Catholic from a land where our great ancient churches are in the hands of the separated brethren I always feel a a particular pleasure attending mass in an historic setting. Few pleasures in this life, however, are unalloyed and mass in French is a mixed blessing. Maybe I'm a chauvinist (despite a good head of hair) but I don't think French is as dignified a lauguage as English.
One of the strangest things I have encountered in French churches is the abhorrence of symmetry. This was first manifested in a tendency for the candles and crucifix to be placed asymmetrically- on one side on the altar. This looked like a self-consciously "arty" gesture and like some trendy table setting from the 1950's. As if this weren't bad enough, by the milennium, even the number of candles had, in many places, been reduced to one candle and a crucifix on one side. This led my son to suggest that since our brothers and sisters in the Church in France
were so poor as to be only able to afford one candle at Mass, we inEngland and Wales should have a collection in order to help them out,
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