Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Up is down, black is white, and short is long

We went to see Rosslyn Chapel, which is full of unusual carvings. Some of them are said to show New World plants such as maize and cactus, although they were carved a few decades before Columbus, indicating knowledge from pre-Columbian voyages.

However, this window is a twentieth-century addition and does not indicate preternatural knowledge of World War II flying gear.

Another set of carvings shows the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy, except that Avarice and Giving to the Poor have been swapped so that Avarice appears among the virtues and Giving to the Poor is with the sins. The Rosslyn tour guides and explanatory material like to ponder whether this represents some kind of philosophical message. It would be interesting if the Rosslyn stonemasons were anticipating the philosophy of Ayn Rand, but this idea is somewhat undermined by the fact that most of the other Works of Mercy are still variations of charity.

I think the carving swap was just a mistake. One could also ponder the philosophical message in the fact that the tour guide said, "Gluttony" when he meant "Avarice," or in the fact that near the carving of an angel playing bagpipes (this 15th-century carving is one of the earliest depictions of a bagpipe) is an explanatory plaque with a photo which is backwards so that the angel is carrying the bagpipes under his other arm.


Post a Comment

<< Home