Monday, July 7, 2014

City, Body and Cosmos.

Visited Bruges today with the bicycle - the best way to get around - to look at various properties and explore the quieter corners of this city whose organic circularity and winding streets and canals resemble a veined cell or leaf structure and recall for me the concentric circles and squares of a Tibetan mandala or the rings of a tree. Time and space kaleidoscope self consciously in layers of superimposed histories packaged for present day consumption but despite this it is still possible to trace meaningful patterns in the city's form. 

In his book 'City and Cosmos' The Medieval World in Urban Form, Keith D Lilly argues that the city's geometry embodied a cosmological significance. 

'The cosmological symbolism of the compass was thus widely understood in the Latin West in the Middle Ages and surely gave earthly users a sense of its symbolic significance and meaning to their own design work.  Like the measurer's tools - the quadrant and astrolabe- the geometer's compass imitated a macrocosmic geometry, reproducing on earth what is in heaven.'

"Brugae Flandrorum Urbs" Marcus Gerards. 1562.

He unfolds various layers of meaning in the Procession of the Holy Blood, which has taken place annually in Bruges since the middle ages, explaining how both the urban and social structure of the city, the earthly city mirroring and heavenly city, are united into a single body by the blood of Christ as it flows between key points through the streets symbolically in procession. 

'There is therefore a social and spatial parallelism in the ordering of city and cosmos as traced out by the geography of the Bruges procession. The procession began at the city's spiritual and symbolic centre, its 'axis mundi', the place the city's ruling 'head' resided. Then with its movement from centre to edge, from inside to outside the city and in encompassing its perimeter, the procession traced out the moral topography of the cosmic body, with its purer inner core contrasting with its outer margins, the place of the lower orders. hence through its shared forms and hierarchical ordering, unifying the city's body yet reinforcing its divine order in the social hierarchy, the procession of the Holy Blood drew onto the city a 'map' of the cosmos.'  
Within the maze or labyrinth of the city's streets there are still many odd corners of distilled silence and enclosed space whose interiority contrasts with the outward display and pageant of the more public and crowded places. The chapel of the English Convent in Carmelietenstraat has an arched apsidal structure below its unique dome, that encloses a smaller domed marble altar which has itself an arched niche, which encloses a statue of the virgin (the vessel which encloses, frames and reveals Christ ?) echoing the larger dome and niche that frames it, like a series of ever diminishing Russian dolls each one enclosed inside another.  

I was lucky enough to have Sr. Frances as a guide. 

No comments:

Post a Comment