What an invitation! How exciting! Of course I want to explore the crypt. After all, wouldn’t you?

I was invited to participate in this activity (a jolly outing) after I’d made an altar cloth for this particular parish. Hmm, a bit of an Ecumenical Exercise since this parish is of Another Denomination. Anyway, one of the sacristans I’d chatted with about the cloth, and another altar guild lady, were planning on clearing out at LEAST half a century’s worth of sewing supplies and whatnot, which was stored, she told me, in the crypt. As you can imagine, my imagination ran amok; underground, vaulting, stone chambers and all that…

Down we descended…
I thought perhaps we might need flaming torches, because I was feeling a little Indiana Jones-ish. It was rather dusty…
Wait a minute, why am I in the church basement…!

Ughh, what a pair of rotters! I’d been had! And by a nonagenarian and her octogenarian accomplice. Crypt indeed!
The hidden chamber of my expectations was nothing more than a large cupboard in the basement! But my, it was full of treasure…

Buried treasure…

Lots of rubbish too, mind you. We spent a couple of dusty days sorting out the dross from the diamonds. You know, rubbish, thrift sale, donate, recycle and KEEP! There were some very nice things which really just had to stay right there in that church. But I got take some supplies too, a nice pair of scissors, some interesting fabric remnants and threads which looked to be in decent shape (I’ll test them before I use them), and to me, a veritable treasure: old embroidery patterns and books on vestment making and the like.

There’s that rock, again…

Now then, there is a bit of thing with any sacred art, a sort of tension between freshness and innovation on the one hand and yet the desire to link back into history and stay within tradition on the other.
Do we just copy the old patterns?
New stuff can be right out there…!

Another Chalice Pall, perhaps…

My friends, the iconographers, seem to have it worked out quite well. Iconography is steeped in tradition and things are not supposed to change very much. How then, is a work original? Is it all just an endless round of copying? As I understand it, the consensus they work to in order to keep one foot planted in tradition and the other stepping into innovation is a 10% (ish) rule; in order to be considered an original icon it must be 10% different from any other icon, even if it is very similar. Copying is allowed of course, that is what students do and there is nothing wrong with that as long as it is not claimed as anything else.

So these old patterns and books are precious to me. They and the others in my collection give me this glimpse back, material to work with and be inspired by as I come up with ideas for designs. This is how I respect our Christian art heritage and yet (hopefully) keep things fresh. I kind of like the iconography ‘rule’ and that’s what I aim at.

Part of my book collection.
Two of these came out of the crypt excursion!
One was a gift and the final two were picked up in second hand book stores.

As an end-note, the history between different Christian churches has not always been easy but there is much in common, not least ladies who have a good sense of humour and just work away quietly. Rather strangely our respective parishes actually have very similar names. Surely it is good that we help each other out in such kind and simple ways? Thank you, Elizabeth, for inviting me explore the crypt with you!!

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