... today I caught myself thinking about Roman architecture and quietness in Church. I was recalling that deep seeded desire most of us have in our souls for peace and tranquility that is usually had in moments of total quiet.
It's very rare to find yourself completely surrounded by quiet, even in church where the stillness almost demands it.
Try it right now. Stop what your doing, reading, and listen. What do you hear?
I hear the hum of the central air conditioning unit. I also hear the buzzing of a million katydids and cicadas mixed with the incessant croaking of tree and bull frogs. It's quite noisy out here. Even out in the middle of nowhere. Even when we are camping at Vein mountain where the coyotes have free reign, we can lay in our tents surrounded by nothing and still hear the low rumble of planes passing over head.
When I am at adoration, sitting quietly, the cars on the street break the silence, the bass from their speakers rattling the windows. And if I go at night when there isn't the outside traffic seeping into this environment, the ringing in my ears fills the silence. Hey kids, wear ear plugs to all those concerts and for goodness sake, turn down the volume when you listen to your iPod. I know it doesn't look cool but having Tinnitus isn't much fun.
These constant outside noises find ways to seep into our inside sanctuaries and surrounded with their unceasing hums and honks. Our architecture fails to filter out this unwanted noise... even in church.
For the most part, in the United States, our architectural standards are very low. We place very little value on solid building materials and the time involved in proper craftsmanship. Build it cheap, build it fast. Our structures also lack the historical timelessness that can be found in European countries. Since we build in such haste it rarely lasts. Being the throw away society that we are, it's more economical to demolish a building and start from cheap scratch then to repair and make upgrades.
So we find ourselves living in apartments where we can hear our neighbors use the bathroom and sitting in churches where the outside noises rob us our silent sanctuaries.
It was these thoughts that brought me back to Rome.
Not only where Rome's churches filled with treasures, and treasures themselves, they were silent sanctuaries from the dry heat, the torturous cobblestones, sore feet, and constant noise of Vespas and very verbally expressive Italians. Rome is a feast for the senses, and because of this it can become very overwhelming rather quickly.
I will never forget the utter calm and complete silence of their churches. Not the big major churches filled with tourists and clicking camera shutters, but the other churches that fill the city side streets. Pick one, any one, and go inside. Even if the facade is plain, don't let it fool you.
One church in particular had heavy wooden doors that shut out the entire world as they closed behind me. It was as if everything outside those doors no longer existed. The Vespas were gone. The shouting Italians and honking Fiats. All gone. All sense of time seemed to cease. The churches were cooler, filtering out the heat, and were lit by crepuscular rays and not buzzing florescent lights.
They were true sanctuaries and on more than one occasion is was quite painful to force myself to leave.
It's in places like that I can understand how overwhelmed someone may became and never ever want to leave. I can understand how men and women would want to renounce the noisy outside world to seek permanent residence within their tranquil walls.