Saturday, March 3, 2012
Keeper of the Castle
A beautiful, historic structure jutting straight up from the English countryside, reminding the traveler of a time when castles were an everyday sight.
Nearly 900 years ago, this beautiful castle was constructed. Many historical figures have waltzed their way through these grounds; the most famous would have to be a certain grotesquely obese monarch and his unfortunate harem.
That's right; the King everyone loves to hate, Henry the Eighth, found this delightful 500 acre site the perfect summer home, and converted it to such in honor of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
As a child whose youthful imagination was stoked by the coals of such masterpieces as "The Chronicles of Narnia," and the King Arthur fables, Leeds was a perfect castle.
This section of the castle was a more recent addition, but even this served to conjure up images of Knights and Maidens riding steeds out of the mists of Albion (the ancient Roman word for Britain).
Everything was so real. Everything was engraved upon my memory with a searing iron; I've been in Europe before, but these images stick out among the rest as what the Medieval world should be.
Looking at the castle, I couldn't help but remember the wonderful songs the sweet Psalmist of Israel wrote long before Leeds was even an idea in some architect's mind:
Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in!
And no matter how glorious Henry thought he was, (or at least his grocer thought he was), it it comforting to think that there is a King whose glory lasts forever.
Inside the castle, we were greeted by actual round head armor from the 17th century! It was fascinating to think that this armor was probably used in the English Civil War. Makes me want to go pummel some puritans.
Another fascinating relic was this bathtub that Catherine of Aragon used. In keeping with the modest culture of the day, she would bathe with her robe on. How you get clean when covered with a robe is beyond me, but more power to her.
History is a wonderful thing; it becomes even more vibrant when you get to experience the ruins of time for yourself. I've stood in the Colosseum; setting my watch back a millennium or so, I could hear the roar of the gladiators as they fought their merciless fights.
I've stood in Ephesus, in front of that great library of the ancient world, and listened for the echoes of an excited church reading a letter from their spiritual mentor.
I've walked the streets of Tombstone, and have felt the bullets whiz by as two factions finally sought to rectify their differences.
But Leeds was different. In Leeds, I became a part of the history. I was a servant preparing the inordinate amount of food to feed a gross caricature of a monarch. I was the priest reciting mass in the chapel; I was among the congregation releasing our guilt.
Leeds was history flowing through my veins. I was immersed in a sweet, misty dream...
All dreams end. As we made our way further into the castle, a distinct change washed over the structure. Suddenly, gaudy paintings of black swans lined the halls. The color of the rooms switched from subtle stone to loud pastel.
We were in the 1930's.
In the early part of the Twentieth century, a socialite bought the castle, and preserved half of it in its original state, while the other half turned into her personal playground.
My attention span turned off at this point. As Early British history fascinates me, and I find it tasteful (my subjective view), the early 20th Century was gaudy and frivolousness (also my subjective opinion).
But I did admire her book collection.
History is nothing but change. Watching the transition from early 15th century to early 20th at Leeds drove this point home in a vivid manner. With so many changes in the world, I personally look for a solid foundation. And for that, I follow the tones of the Psalmist of Israel:
I love Thee, O Lord my strength,
The Lord is my rock and my fortress
and my deliverer; My God, my rock in
whom I take refuge.
A castle that does not change with the times. A word that withstands all undulating sentiments.
The fortress the world is looking for.
I'm sharing this with Faith Filled Fridays.