Mountains to Monuments


The Times they are a Changin’

BLOG UPDATE Friday morning

The UK has election has happened and the people have spoken, not sure what they said yet but the times they are a changin’. Fantastic result for Labour after been written off by everyone but Corbyn’s supporters. A very bad day for Teresa May and UKIP.

Tomorrow the election results will be announced in the shadow of the carnage of Manchester Arena and London Bridge. Whatever the outcome it made me want to reflect on the bigger picture and to try and have some perspective.

I read an article this about a man called Mohamed Benzizine, a stone 7784215594_mohamed-benzizine-tailleur-de-pierremason from Lyon in France who has been working on the restoration of the Cathedral of St John the Bapiste. During the restoration a damaged gargoyle needed to be repaired, it had long ago lost its heads and following the medieval tradition, the mason charged with restoring it was given free rein to sculpt a likeness of a person have liked or disliked. Sculptor Emmanuel Forchet decided to graft a likeness of the man who had taught him his trade and who had recently been made a Chevalier in the Legion D’Honneur, Mohamed Benzizine.

gargoyle 2Bob Dylan’s The Times they are a Changin’  (Sung here by Bruce Springsteen as I couldn’t find a decent recording of Bob Dylan on YouTube) was a song that when I first heard it in 1964. Although it was 53 years ago I can remember I was walking down Beaconsfield Street in Newcastle when I met a friend who had just bought a copy of the album and we went back to his house to listen to it. I was completely blown away by the lyrics.  Bob seemed to be saying all the things I have thought and put them into a song. The words were true then and are true today but in those days I was in a hurry for the world to change. Life has it’s own pace and sometimes we have to be patient and that isn’t easy but no matter how slowly it seems the world changes that there is hope and that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves and our own petty prejudices and worries in the end amount to very little.

Bob also reminds us that there are always people who will champion the under dog, who will call out for freedom and who will rail against prejudice. I am sure Mohamed Benzizine does not see himself as a champion. He probably sees himself as a mason who has dedicated his 43 years of work to something he loves and in his own words “Want to go on doing until I can no longer climb the scaffolding” but the fact that a Muslim Mason sits on top of a Catholic Cathedral surely symbolises that our world keeps turning and that little by little it changes.

Mountains to Monuments

 

In the shadow of Stonehenge are the remains of a camp

Where neolithic masons rested and feasted

Our early ancestors understood the importance of moments

Casting them in stone for millennia to marvel at

 

In the hidden reaches of the ceiling vaults of a Norman Church

Medieval masons mocked their elders and betters

With carved caricatures of now nameless and forgotten faces

Knowing that centuries later the last laugh would be on them

 

In the 12th century Cathedral of St John the Baptiste in Lyon

Modern masons have created a gargoyle to honour their hero

A man who taught them their craft by passing on his passion for stone

His country has made him a chevalier in the Legion D’ Honneur

 

His name is Mohamed Benzizine, he is Algerian Muslim

Who came to France at fifteen to learn a trade and start a new life

He is part of an ancient tradition but a symbol of a new world

Hammers that destroy can also build beautiful buildings

 

Kings and merchants may commission great Churches

But working people transform mountains into monuments

Places of wonder can come from madness and chaos

And a Muslim can help restore a Catholic cathedral

 

© Jeff Price June 2017

 

 

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