One thing I haven’t mentioned in this blog yet is that I studied Ancient Greek and Latin in college, and actually got the chance to spend half a year in Greece, mostly Athens, traveling around and looking at amazing and amazingly old artifacts, ruins and world heritage sites.
On one trip (not school sanctioned, and probably better for it) a friend and I traveled to Meteora by train to visit the monasteries. I’ve never wished I was an artist so badly in my life. The scenery, the ruins, the monasteries (some of which were so inaccessible that they had become ruins), and especially the massive illuminated manuscripts on display in the monastery museums were so beautiful I almost found religion. Again.
Anyway, one perk of being able to read an ancient language or two–especially one used by the Church during the period of lofty, hermetic monasteries–was that you not only get to appreciate the craftmanship of art in the written word on a whole new level, but you might get a chance to read and appreciate the little doodles in the margins, as well. I found this image today that will give you an idea of what I mean: the monks making those painstaking, tiny, detailed strokes with ink and quill were just worn the hell out.
I can’t fully understand how a monk would feel at the end of the day, but I can appreciate that feeling of “Holy crap, let the writing end,” even when you know at the end of it, your brain is still going to race to the next thing to write about. I’m sure they dreamed of little swirls and whirlygigs and grand philosophy and piety, just like I can’t fall asleep at night for obsessing over plot development and how to make women everywhere fall in love with my main character (not to, ahem, trivialize their genius).
Ahem. Back on track, though, if manuscripts strike your fancy at all, I’d recommend The Book of Kells, both for the original mind-boggling masterwork and the very pleasant and clever animated film called Secret of Kells that came out for the Oscars a couple years ago. Toward the end, there’s an animation of the Chi Rho page of the book that very well might make you cry like a baby, and then feel good about it later.