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Fine Churches a Wee Bit Closer to Home

September 6, 2008

Listen, Video

My Soundslides show “A Time Ago: Church & Empire” in the post below showcases a couple jaw-dropping churches of Italy. Among them, Il Duomo in Milan, one of the three most impressive buildings I’ve seen in my travels, a place that took five centuries to make, has thousands of life-size sculptures populating its roof and can seat 40,000 in it cavernous interior. Then, there’s Sant’Ignazio di Loyola in Rome, next to the Sistine Chapel the second most amazing painted ceiling in Christendom. But you’ve got to come home from Italy some day. Turned out one of my first assignments back (I’m a multimedia editor, nowadays) was a Soundslides for a story about a walking tour of six of the coolest churches of Charleston, W.Va.

Click dome to view slideshow.

Admittedly, none took five centuries to build since that would take us back to a time when Indians gathered molusks from the local river and lived in huts. But Charleston has some church mojo. The most spectacular ceiling is in the sacristy of First Presbyterian Church. I hold a special place in my heart for this church, for two reasons. Reason one: years ago, when seriously fried from being a daily newspaper feature editor, answering to far more deadlines than my brain could handle or give a fig about, I’d go here when I could no longer take the newsroom hive mind, chilling in the spacious silence beneath that dome (and in First Presby’s even more secluded, darkened inner chapel). Plus, for years, one of the church’s rooms was home to the Meditation Circle of Charleston, a Buddhist sitting group I’ve been a part of for more than a decade. First Presby is my model of an ecumenical, large-spirited church. Plus, when I need to play a piano for therapy there’s one in the sacristy. Killer acoustics. Here’s the Soundslide, “A Church Walk in Charleston,” with some nice photos by Charleston Gazette photog Lawrence Pierce.

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