restricted access If I Were a Dean
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296 ] If I Were a Dean Chichester Diocesan Gazette, 12 (May 1931) 188-911 My first thought of “If I were a Dean” is not of what I should want to do, but of what I should want not to do: and I make no apology. I have nothing but admiration and pity for those Deans who have toiled unceasingly, madeappealsandcollectedsubscriptionsyearafteryear,for–what?Merely to keep their minsters from tumbling about their ears. To me a cathedral is primarily a place of worship, the focus of devotion of its diocese, and not a National Monument: but I think – the State being already so far Socialised, and the position of the Church in the State being what it is – that the structural repair of cathedrals, and perhaps also of all those churches which have historic and architectural importance, ought to be at the cost of the State. Wehearagooddeal,inthePress,aboutthenecessityofattractingAmerican tourists, or of inducing them to spend more time and money in Britain, in proportion to what they spend on the Continent – even the new Park Lane ogles the American tourist.2 Well, cathedrals are a valuable asset to a country , particularly if a dignified urban and rural amenity is preserved around them; they are an asset, that is, to steamship lines, railways, motor-bus services , local tradesmen, postcard makers and tourist agencies. The nation as a whole, I contend, should be made to pay for their mere preservation, rather than that part of the nation for which they are primarily places of worship and devotion. I am quite well aware of all the difficulties involved in carrying out such a drastic proposal; and if I were a Dean under the settlement I suggest, I dare say I might in the end prefer to be buried by the collapse of the roof of my own cathedral, rather than buried under a mass of correspondence, memoranda and instructions from the Office of Works, to say nothing of the visits of committees and inquisitory officials. To my irresponsible vision, however, these difficulties are details to be settled by ingenious compromise ; the point is that in my Utopian deanery there will be no anxiety about the framework of the cathedral. I should thus hope to be free to collect, and to use, funds not for the mere preservation of the bones of my cathedral, but for the interior beautification of its living body. And I should try to avoid the fault of making my [ 297 If I Were a Dean interior a period piece, of being overawed by the designs of its remote builders. I have seen old and beautiful churches which modern hands seemed afraid to touch, and which therefore remained mere remains; and I have also seen modern churches in which the decorators seemed fearful of departing by a decade, in the least ornament or altar cloth, from the period style in which the church was built. I prefer rather a church which shows the loving attempts of generation after generation, each according to its own notions of beauty, to leave visible testimony of its devotion. I should like to be able to encourage the best contemporary artists in stone, metal, paint and wood, to apply themselves to the decoration of my cathedral; and the best musicians to make music for its offices. As for music, if I were to be the ideal dean for my ideal deanery, I should have to know a great more about it than I do. I have, however, one heretical notion. I admit that the organ3† is considered indispensable everywhere, but I should like at least to supplement it, sometimes, by a small orchestra, of strings and woodwind, assembled from local talent (and I am sure that there is plenty of musical talent in rural England). There would be two advantages. Anyone who has heard instrumental music in certain continental churches knows that the organ is by no means the only medium for church music. And everything that engages more individuals in the responsibility and pride of beautifying the church service, is an encouragement to the communal life. My cathedral, then, would be richly decorated inside: with tapestries (as, for example, they hang round the bases of columns in the cathedral of Toulouse),4 with modern religious paintings, with memorial tablets (but only to good churchmen), with chapels and church furniture. Should not the resources of art be devoted to God, instead of merely to the palaces of the rich and finally to museums? I hold...


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