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Orientation

David Householder, in response to my tweet that “Easter” is not based on “Ishtar” – and my recent blog post on this – sent me the above video. [I have not watched any of his others – so this, of course, is not to be taken as my advocating of his position in other videos; maybe I would; maybe I wouldn’t]. What I liked about his video was his highlighting that on the Equinoxes (about March 21 & about September 23 – when, everywhere day and night are the same length, 12 hours), the Sun rises exactly in the East wherever you are on the planet (except of course on the 2 Poles!).

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Orientation (facing East) is, hence, far older than our usual focus on “True North”. Churches were regularly built facing East (orientated) – the Sunrise on the feast day of the church’s title. Hence, if they took hundreds of years to complete (as big church buildings often did), they have often got a bend in the building because of the precession of the equinoxes – the earth is not spinning in a tidy way, its axis always the same; the earth is spinning more like a top does, sunrise on a particular date changing slightly from year to year. Also: sometimes church buildings changed the name of their title.

Old, taking-long-to-build church buildings, hence, regularly have a bend in their line of sight of their cruciform shape. This is regularly piously interpreted as Jesus bowing on the cross – the reason, as I’ve indicated, is more astronomical than spiritual.

Obviously, wherever you were on the planet, at whatever age in human history – the Equinox holds a special celebratory place. Sadly, my experience generally is that people have lost connection with the planet and universe we live in. Ask people today: what is the current phase of the Moon? Is it waxing or waning? Muslims will not hesitate, of course – what about others? Christians SHOULD know, because of the Season we are in – but regularly cannot even explain how this Easter Season is determined.

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2 thoughts on “Orientation”

  1. “Old, taking-long-to-build church buildings, hence, regularly have a bend in their line of sight of their cruciform shape.”

    Father B, this is a new idea that I’ve never heard of. Do you have a few such churches that you could direct me to so I can see this in action?

    1. David – the most obvious one that springs immediately to my mind is Canterbury Cathedral. Because of the bend, it is not possible to see from the West door to the East end. Easter Season Blessings.

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