Post #5.9, Thursday, February 20, 2020

Historical Setting, 562 C.E. Gaul

Closer yet to Tours now I pass the rock heap marking the plague pit. It is yet untouched since I found my way beyond this, outside these walls beyond the holy cremation of sanctuary, smothered under memorials of wilted flowers, heaped with remembered stench of plague and death, pagan and Christian, nameless and beloved, collected and buried with only death by plague our common bond – common grave.

         I have a clear view of the wall and yet there is the emptiness where church always was. The wall shows fresh mortar for it’s wound.

         Inside the gate…

These dampened ashes remember the fire — screaming earth, roaring, snapping, howling, leaving tangible outline of what was once the holy altar, the edges of apse, stalked under the great eternal Roman arch; we would enter from the back.  …all turned to ash in quiet flame, dwindled.  Intangible mystical whisper of gray smoke rising; clinging only as mist to crumbling order.

         Yes, this shadow in ash tells of the church fire at St. Maurice, the basilica built by the first bishop of Tours.Footnote

         Here it is spread out before me on the earth — a rectangle of rubble still hugging the city wall where sanctuary itself once nestled assuming safety.

The uniform yellow stones with their ordered geometry are randomly tossed by nothing but breath of flame, strewn onto the rectangular floor still marked in spaces for communicants and aisle for procession. Rocks in heaps— ashes of sanctuary I once knew so well.

         No one seems to take much notice of one lone wanderer amid this ash. Leaves of unplanted seed are already at work disrupting the old solace with new life. Yet no one has been here to stack the stones or dust away the remnants or even pull down the charred beam still standing. Is there no person who would begin this thing anew?

         The sun is dropping behind me into shadow. With the great structures of human making in shambles what is there but the sacred quiet? It is the quiet I came here to find.

         The stable is standing, so tonight I spread my cloak in a hayloft, and tomorrow I will look for the Christians who are surely making the plan to put this all together again.

         Thank you God, for this embrace of ever-presence, amen.

Footnote retrieved: 5-16-19

The first cathedral, dedicated to Saint Maurice, was built by Lidoire, Bishop of Tours from 337 to 371 (preceding Saint Martin). Burnt down in 561, it was restored by Gregory of Tours and rededicated in 590. Its location, at the south-west angle of the castrum, as well as its eastern orientation, resulted in the original access being through the late-Roman surrounding wall (such a configuration is quite rare).

(Continues Tuesday, February 25)

Published by J.K. Marlin

Retired church playwright learning new art forms-- fiction writing, in historical context and now blogging these stories. The Lazarus Pages have a recurring character -- best friend of Jesus -- repeatedly waking to life in various periods of church history and spirituality.

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