Finding God and Sanctification in a Foreign Land
Church Organist and avid Traveller, Mary Piper, tells us about her holiday to Florence which became an unexpectedly spiritual experience…
I went for the sights and discovered a sense of sanctity.
Since my retirement from teaching 10 years ago or so, I’ve been lucky enough to have the funds and time to explore foreign lands. The trips usually consist of some sightseeing and food – but, very rarely, I find my spirit transported.
When the Winter months begin to batter our small little community of Livingston Green – I act rather cowardly and book myself a holiday.
The Christmas season is a very busy one for me as Church Organist for the area, so I tell myself that I need a break before my schedule starts to fill up.
For a long time, I’ve been applying a ‘spin-the-globe’ methodology to picking my destinations, but this time I was acting on a recommendation from a good friend. She told me that the temperate weather (around 20 degrees at this time of year) would help lift my spirits and that the Cathedrals truly had to be ‘seen to be believed’.
I’ve always thought that places of worship should be humbly furnished.
However, after seeing the duomo, I had to agree with her.
After going through my usual rigmarole of finding the best flights, packing a small bag and booking my airport parking at Manchester (where I was due to fly out on the Friday, for a long weekend) – I was on the plane, excited to touch down in a new land an visit a Cathedral that had left such an impression on my friend.
Florence is one of Italy’s most popular tourist cities, thanks to it’s central location (making it a great stop-off between places like Pisa, Venice and Rome) and gorgeous architecture. Home to great works of art, such as Michelangelo’s iconic ‘David’, as well as some beautiful plazas.
Amongst the plethora of tourist attractions lies Il Duomo di Firenze – a building started in 1296 and not finished until 1436 – a Goliath of Gothic architecture and an unexpected fount of sanctification.
As I’ve mentioned briefly, I’ve always found the extravagance of Cathedrals to undermine the simple nature of praising God. The grand ornateness of England’s Cathedrals may have astounded older generations of believers, but now they merely serve as distractions to the would-be faithful masses.
That was the opinion that I had before setting eyes Florence’s main church.
Philippians 4:8 says: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
The Bible tells us to dwell on the good, excellent things that exist in our world. Although the intricate designs, and endlessly detailed paintings that cover it’s interior, could be deemed extravagant – almost boastful – they fostered in me a deep sense of inspiration and awe.
The city of Florence is abound with lush sights and stunning vistas, but there are none more spiritually uplifting than the Duomo.