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In Spain again, where Christianity unfolded itself later, so also was Church Art later in its developement. San Miguel, at Seville, which was actually built in 1305, would, in England, be set down to the date of about 1180.
In Italy, where there was no State to interfere with the Church, Paganism, which had always been more or less at work, sprang up at once, at the time of the Great Schism, and has ever since prevailed.
But to return to England. Perpendicular, unable to express any idea by its ornaments, soon began to imitate those of earlier styles : first Early English, in the wretched banded capitals of the Western Counties, and then Decorated in its windows. While, however, the Church was yet united with the restof Christendom, Paganism interfered but in a very slight degree: the Italian example of Henry the Seventh's tomb was not followed. Even after the Dissolution, there were some good churches built: the symbolism which lingered longest was that of the Chancel and Nave. Nor was this destroyed summarily: the importance of the Chancel had been gradually, all through the Perpendicular era, weakened by Chancel Aisles, and the omission of the Chancel Arch: it was but to omit the Rood Screen and Parclose, and (as at Hawkshead, Lancashire, circ. 1564,) the mystical division vanished.
The symbolisms which Protestantism introduced, were few and easily understood.
The removal, and material, of the Altar, the change of vestments, the gradual introduction of close pues, the innovation of a reading pue, were all figurative enough. Something like a return to Church art was made just before the great Rebellion : Chancels became elongated, Altars resumed their old position, Copes reappeared, and the like. Details began to improve: and, (which we could hardly
have expected,) intentional symbolism is sometimes to be discovered in them. So, in Baltonsburgh, Somersetshire, a stone pulpit of the date of 1621, has among other devices, an equilateral triangle, containing, and surrounded by, a tre-foil: and evidently setting forth the Holy TRINITY. After the Rebellion, but still more after the Revolution, those faint traces of symbolism died away into that ne plus ultra of wretchedness, the Georgian style.
It is very remarkable, as has been already observed, that the buildings of those who most strongly object to the Principle of Symbolism, do in effect contain as striking an exemplification of it as it would be possible to find.
Let us look at a Protestant place of worship. It is choked up and concealed by surrounding shops and houses, for religion, now-a-days, must give way to business and pleasure: it stands North and South, for all idea of fellowfeeling with the Church Catholick is looked on as mere trifling, or worse: the front which faces the High Street is of stone, because the uniformity of the street so required it: or, (which is more likely) of stucco, which answers as well, and is cheaper: the sides, however, are of brick, because no one can see them : there is at the entrance a large vestibule, to allow people to stand while their carriages are being called up, and to enter into conversation on the news of the day, or the merits of the preacher : it also serves the
purpose of making the church warmer, and contains the doors and staircases to the galleries. On entering, the pulpit occupies the central position, and towards it every seat is directed: for preaching is the great object of the Christian ministry : galleries run all round the building, because hearing is the great object of a Christian congregation : the Altar stands under the organ gallery, as being of no use, except once a month : there are a few free seats in out-of-the-way places, where no one could hear, and no pues would be hired, and therefore no money is lost by making the places free: and whether the few poor people who occupy them can hear or not, what matters it? The Font, a cast-iron vase on a marble pillar, stands within the Altar rails; because it there takes up no room: the reading pue is under the pulpit, and faces the congregation; because the prayers are to be read to them and not addressed to God. Look at this place on Sunday, or Thursday Evening. Carriages crash up through the cast-iron gates, and, amidst the wrangling and oaths of rival coachmen, deposit their loads at the portico: people come, dressed out in the full fashion of the day, to occupy their luxurious pue, to lay their smelling-bottles and prayer books on its desk, and reclining on its soft cushions, to confess themselves—if they are in time—miserable sinners: to see the poor and infirm standing in the narrow passages, and close their pue doors against them, lest themselves should be contaminated, or their cushions spoilt, at the same time beseeching God to give their fellow-creatures the comfort which they refuse to bestow: the Royal Arms occupy a conspicuous position; for it is a chapel of the ESTABLISHMENT: there are neat cast-iron pillars to hold up the galleries, and still neater pillars in the galleries to hold up the roof; thereby typifying that the whole existence of the building depends on the good-will of the congregation : the roof is flat, with an elegant cornice, and serves principally to support a gas-lighted chandelier: and the administration of this chapel is carried on by clerk, organist, beadle, and certain bonnetless pue-openers.
We need not point out how strongly all this symbolizes the spiritual pride, the luxury, the self-sufficiency, the bigotry of the congregations of too many A PUE-RENTED EPISCOPAL CHAPEL.
In contrast to this, let us close with a general view of the symbolism of a Catholick church.
Far away, and long ere we catch our first view of the city itself, the three spires of its Cathedral, rising high above its din and turmoil, preach to us of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. As we approach, the Transepts, striking out cross-wise, tell of the Atonement: the Communion of Saints is set forth by the chapels clustering round Choir and Nave: the mystical weathercock bids us to watch and pray and endure hardness: the hideous forms that seem hurrying from the eaves speak the misery of those who are cast out of the church : spire, pinnacle, and finial, the upward curl of the sculptured foliage, the upward spring of the flying buttress, the sharp rise of the window arch, the high-thrown pitch of the roof, all these, overpowering the horizontal tendency of string course and parapet, teach us, that vanquishing earthly desires, we also should ascend in heart and mind. Lessons of holy wisdom are written in the delicate tracery of the windows: the unity of many members is shadowed forth by the multiplex arcade: the duty of letting our light shine before men, by the pierced and flowered parapet that crowns the whole.
We enter. The triple breadth of Nave and Aisles, the triple height of Pier arch, Triforium, and Clerestory, the triple length of Choir, Transepts, and Nave, again set forth the Holy Trinity. And what besides is there that does not tell of our Blessed SAVIOUR? that does not point out “Him First,” in the two-fold Western door: “Him Last,” in the distant Altar: “Him Midst,” in the great Rood: “Him Without End,” in the monogram carved on boss and corbel, in the Holy Lamb, in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, in the Mystick Fish ? Close by us is the Font; for by Regeneration we enter the Church: it is deep and capacious; for we are buried in Baptism with Christ: it is of stone; for He is the Rock: and its spiry cover teaches us, if we be indeed risen from its waters with HIM,