Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Font at the Front

A frustrated photo opportunity in front of the Orvieto Duomo probably did more to cement this great medieval cathedral in my mind than a whole roll of my own film. But let's move on! Pull up your socks and get on with life. Consider what may be around the corner from the Duomo.
There's the evidence of millennia of human occupation interestingly displayed in various museums. This dates back to the Etruscans who lived here from 800 - 300 BC. A modern reminder of these people is the modern ceramic indusrty which colourfully reproduces many of the Etruscan designs which were discovered on unearthed shards.

Then there's the network of tunnels and rooms underlying the town, which have been dug out of the relatively soft volcanic tufa during the past centuries - water reservoirs, food cellars, secluded refuges, oil and grain factories. One on the most interesting underground structure is a series of rooms facing the open country-side, called columbaria, with thousands of recesses carved into the walls. These provided nesting places for myriads of doves which provided a source of food during sieges on the town. Fecund little beggers if the ones around my home are anything to go by. Five nests in my wisteria alone. No sooner has one set of little ones flown the nest than the oldies are coo-cooing and gathering straw for the repository of the next two fertile eggs.
And let's not forget to go inside the catherdral which does indeed contain masterpieces of medieval art and sculpture. Just inside the front entrance is a baptismal font designed in 1390 by Luca di Giovanni. What an appropriate position for this piece of church furnishing. Here it symbolizes a person's transition and entry into the Christian community (Family of God), depicted here by the congregation gathered in a place of worship. This location inside the front entrance brought to mind a font episode I had recently experienced. In my church the baptismal font was located in front of the worshipping congregation. This position can act as a reminder of one's baptism and a prompt for the renewal of one's baptismal vows. Martin Luther does maintain that one should daily renew these vows to serve the Triune God.
Our Church Council agreed that for a short trial period the font be placed near the entrance of the church to highlight the role that baptism plays. On hearing that the font was to be moved one member of the congregation stated that he would not set foot in that church again if the font was moved from its 'rightful' position.
Isn't it a fact that most disputes within a church congregation ( and between) arise out of peripheral matters? And isn't it also unfortunately a fact that bullies with intransigent attitudes on peripheral matters often get their own way?

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