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Lighting Candles

I'm not a religious person in the conventional sense of the word but I am addicted to the many ancient churches that we have here in Cornwall. There is something uniquely human about places of worship, whether it's the quoit where the earliest people brought their dead or the grandeur of the cathedrals with their intricate sculptures and stained glass windows.

Death itself is for me the best proof that there is no competent supreme being in charge. On the other hand it is an inevitable part of life, or we'd be badly over-crowded.

Despite my agnosticism I invariably light candles wherever I can though recently I've whittled it down to three, one for the living, one for the dead and one for the lottery numbers, which I presume will be delivered to me in the form of a pre-paid ticket by the tooth fairy since I don't actually do the lottery myself!

Anyway we went to Truro Cathedral last week where I lit my candles and filled in some prayer slips, several in fact before I realised that there was only so much time available for reading them out at morning service.

One of the things that I remember vividly from childhood is going to benediction at the Franciscan monastery with my grandmother. This was in an era when she at least did not have a television set and evening entertainment was either the rosary or the radio.

The vivid stained glass windows and glittering altar, the smell of incense all transported me to another place and I can only imagine the effect they had on people in the middle ages when most people wouldn't have so much as a book to read.

I look at the sculptures depicting biblical scenes, windows decorated with the wives of wealthy parishoners, the wooden pews carved with menacing midgets and the ceilings adorned with gargoyles; how real and immediate it must all have seemed to people whose lives were ordered by the seasons and whose only concept of time was the church bell tolling the hours.

Despite my determined unbelief I invariably come away from these places thinking,

'I don't know what it is but there's definitely more to it than life and death!'

Below is a slideshow of my favourite images.

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