Tourists, Tourists Everywhere!

The last couple of weeks or so, we have noticed more and more tourists visiting the Cathedral. Tourist season is once again upon us. I still remember the chock when I first started working in the Cathedral. In June, when I left for my vacation, I left a Cathedral. In July, when I came back, I came back to a tourist attraction. The whole Cathedral was flooded with tourists – everywhere you looked it was just tourists, tourists. Even when there was a Service in progress there were tourists milling around. The attendants have a tough job trying to keep the tourist at bay so that we can actually use the Cathedral as a place of worship. Sometimes it borders in the absurd – like the time when I was preparing for the Midday Holy communion service only to find that a tourist had used the chalice on the altar to prop up his camera!
It is easy to get irritated at everyone sightseeing in the Cathedral. Can’t the show some respect? Why are they here in the first place? I think it is important to focus on the latter question in our attitude towards this. What drive people to visit Churches as soon as they go abroad? Because it is the same everywhere, where ever you go people flock around the Churches – in Prague, Paris and London. What drive people to do this? Well, to some degree historical interest and the beauty of the architecture. But to some degree, I’m willing to bet that, there is also a spiritual side to this. Somewhere deep inside there is a yearning, a hidden connection, that drive people to visit churches. These buildings represent something different, a side of life that is there, but not always recognized. Swedish Nobel prize winner Thomas Tranströmer captures this beautifully in his poem “Romanesque arches”:
Inside the huge romanesque cathedral
the tourists jostled in the half darkness.
Vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.
A few candle-flames flickered.
An angel with no face embraced me
and whispered through my whole body:
“Don’t be ashamed of being human, be proud!
Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.
You will never be complete, that’s how it’s meant to be.”
Blind with tears
I was pushed out on the sun-seething
piazza together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones,
Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini,
and inside them all vault opened behind vault endlessly.
As usual we will hold Holy Communion Service in English all through summer at 5 pm every Sunday. The order of Service is shorter during summer, but it is still a opportunity to meet God and other people every week. Just follow the tourists and you will find us!