One of the hard aspects of being in Prague is that I do lot like baroque architecture. There is a lot of it.
Luckily I like sausage, roasted pig knuckle, potato pancakes and cabbage a lot – and so – all is well.
It would be easy to simply dismiss Baroque architecture and artistic flourishes as over-functioning religious art designed to impress with sparkle and seeming gaudy spiritual insecurity. But life is rarely that simple. The question is, what is underneath the art form? Why did, in this case, the Jesuits of Prague feel it was important to design churches (of 17th and 18th century) in such a radically fantastical way?
The people on the streets lived grey and brown lives. Homes of the average person were brown and grey as were cloths and even food. So the fantastical sparkle of massive frames and sculptures was designed to lure the seeker into an awareness of the Glory of God.
I will admit that I prefer the Romanesque and Gothic styles. The great weight of the former and the soaring height of the later moves my soul while the quiet colors and chilly, darkened rooms feel more intimate for me and more conducive to prayer.
The baroque architecture was, in part, designed to impress the royal patrons, reflect their glory to the people through a God-lens and then seduce the poverty-stricken average pilgrims into a space which reflected the heaven for which they longed as a release from the hell of their day-to-day lives.
The question this leads me to is this: What seduces me about God? What makes me stop in my tracks and notice God? What warms my hart and roots my feet to the ground when God seeks to catch my attention?
On the way out of the labyrinth of white, pink and gold of this Jesuit church, I encountered a young couple. They wore smiles of gentle kindness. They bowed at altars and they dipped their fingers in holy-water and crossed themselves. They looked at me – not past me. Not over me. Not through me on their way to the next thing. They looked at me and they smiled at me as if I was an important part of their encounter with God. And I smiled back. It was like being three lions in the zoo. Our cage was just a cage, but we three were very real, very present and very much aware of the God we were encountering in each other.