Thinking about the exquisitely talented British actor Richard Armitage’s new film “Pilgrimage” (see RA’s selfie while filming in Ireland, right) — with its focus on monks striving to see their most treasured religious relic (a stone) safely to its destination and RA’s role in that story (RA quoted below from Digital Spy):
“I’m shooting Pilgrimage, which is kind of a 12th century road movie about a relic which is making its way back to Rome with a group of monks, and I play a French Norman who has a personal agenda to corrupt this little journey. It’s interesting, and most of my character’s dialog is in French, so I’ve been having to buff up my French.”
The central plot point of relics reminded me of when I initially met some monks and was introduced to their relics museum as a young teen.
As a 14 year old girl at a week long Lutheran Confirmation Camp decades ago, our class of boys and girls visited a Wisconsin monastery on the lake one afternoon. The monks of varying ages lived in a beautiful mansion–formerly a private home that had been gifted to the church and converted to be their monastery.
One thing that made this monastery seem not so austere was that most of the mansion’s original elegant furnishings were intact, lovingly preserved, and on display–right down to the 1930’s two lane bowling alley in the basement that was dusty from disuse. I guess monks don’t bowl. So for me at the time, it was a bit jarring to see the humble monks–and they seemed very kind and patient with all of our questions–amongst the splendor of their surroundings.
To be sure, the monks had added some enhancements to the mansion–such as a large and beautifully intricate mosaic tile floor medallion, four feet across, with Latin phrasing on it–and in the center, it said pax, peace. Crossing over this mosaic almost seemed sacrilegious at the time–it bolding proclaiming that this space had a new purpose, that of religious contemplation. And now, that monastery’s floor mosaic medallion makes me think quite fittingly of “the great seal” in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade film [(1) right]. And there was a room converted into a chapel, etc.
The monks also kindly showed us their Relic Museum Room that was a bright and airy but smallish at a 15 by 20 foot room which consisted of floor to ceiling glass cases–and some free standing glass cases in the middle of the room–where relic artifacts of varying shapes and sizes were kept pristine in climate controlled environments. Me being a protestant Lutheran at that time–I returned to the Episcopal faith community after I married years later–I did not understand what the relics were for, and what they meant.
A relic is supposed to be a remnant of someone or a personal article artifact that represents a good person who is often a saint, and might even be a part of that person.
Happily, no hands, hearts, or skulls [(2) right] were in evidence that day at the monastery. My untutored 14 year old heart might not have understood why their eternal rest had been disturbed.
But relics of such a nature–like body parts–are usually viewed and displayed with the utmost respect–both of the person they represent, as well as the actions of that person for the greater good, or that person’s martyrdom for their faith, that cause them to be revered.
Consequently, each relic artifact is thought to have a meaning attached to it that will help sustain and enhance a person’s faith, guiding them to greater religious connection and religious devotion. By seeing the object–perhaps even being permitted to touch it lightly–a person might experience a sense of hushed reverence, sometimes even experience a spontaneous healing, etc.
Another relic example that we are all familiar with is the Shroud of Turin [(3) right] that is thought to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, and it exhibits an impression, imprint, or picture of a man–long before photography was invented. The shroud is purported to bear the image of Jesus Christ–thereby giving further evidence of his existence. Though the shroud’s origins prior to 1390 are in dispute, there is no doubt about the effect that this religious artifact, this relic, has upon those who see it.
Another standard blood related relic is said to be a vial that will have blood congealed one minute and liquefied the next–as if a miracle had occurred. To some, I suppose, relic’s and religious artifacts on display or in use–including crosses, rosary beads, nails, or wood splinters of the true cross, etc.–might seem at worst no better than a carnival side show, and at best a sentimental illusion to bolster a person’s faith. And whether these relics are myth or magic, they have an impact upon us.
I think the lens coloring how we view such matters as relics and their meaning for us is based on our own experiences. With my sentimental heart for cherished family mementos of photographs, artifacts such as jewelry, or home furnishings is quite palpable. Only I know that the large modern oval gilt framed rectangular mirror hanging in our current home’s foyer had hung in my family’s home growing up. Or that the large blown glass lamp–lined with a periwinkle blue on the inside–that sits to my right on a side table as I type this, was again from my mother’s home. Or, that the over 100 year old baby grand piano that I have maintained over the years–though it probably needs another tuning at this point–that came to me from my maternal grandmother has pride of place in our home. There is a picture of me somewhere as a two year old sitting at this piano–my feet not being able to touch the pedals. I have enjoyed playing my piano over the years–though I need to return to playing it–and I taught my niece and nephew how to play piano on it, further extending its memories and associations for me. I surround myself with these treasured objects, smiling in remembrance of my mother and grandmother and others who have gone before, but who have now passed on. They are my relics–not religious, but still having great meaning for me, whether it is myth or magic.
In the currently filming Richard Armitage project Pilgrimage, the religious relic is said to be a stone used in martyring St. Matthias–though wiki also gives an account of the fellow dying of old age. Certainly for dramatic effect, a martyr being stoned would get more attention as a relic–though, quite gruesome. And as of yet, I don’t believe we know the size, weight, shape, of the stone relic in the film–or if has any real or augmented blood on it. And is Richard Armitage’s character Raymond de Merville a monk (as envisioned by Ann Boudreau, right)? Or is his character the muscle or patron (son or brother of a baron) protecting the group–or pretending to protect it? These questions will all be answered when the film is released. So I’m not going to hunt down spoilers. Ha! I will just have to sit tight for now.
With my having met and chatted with a few monks years ago–and talked with them about their religious relic artifacts–Richard Armitage’s film Pilgrimage about a relic and people’s reactions to and machinations about the relic interests me. And I am eager to learn more about this film story.
P.S. With Pilgrimage being filmed in Ireland and Belgium, the cinematography is sure to be gorgeous–as we glimpsed in Richard Armitage’s selfie from Ireland (above). And to whet our appetite, Guylty shared a post with scenes of Ireland in it. So, enjoy!
Additional Images Reference Information
(1) Information about the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade may be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097576/ ; the picture of the Great Seal is found at http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/indianajones/images/0/00/Vlcsnap-00002.png/revision/latest?cb=20130224232012
(2) For more information about Relics, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relic ; The skull in the reliquary was found at “St. Yves” by Derepus – Foto zal gemaakt in de kerk. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St._Yves.JPG#/media/File:St._Yves.JPG
(3) Information about the Shroud of Turin may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shroud_of_Turin ; the image of the Shroud of Turin is found at “Shroudofturin1”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shroudofturin1.jpg#/media/File:Shroudofturin1.jpg