Our Personal Favorites

PJ and I have published over 400 posts in our three and a half years on this Via Lucis blog. Thirty of those are guest posts from our stellar contributors. About 50 of them are reposts from early on when we had few visitors. That leaves a great many articles describing our beloved Romanesque and Gothic churches. Now that we have passed 220,000 visitors, we thought it might be appropriate for each of us to pick a handful of our favorite Via Lucis posts as a kind of review.

PJ’s Selections

“My selections are not so much about the photography or the writing, but about the experiences that we had on the day that we did the work.” PJ McKey

Those who precede (Part 2), Angelico Surchamp
Surchamp photo
This story of our first meeting with the great Angelico Surchamp expresses both our admiration and affection. We are so lucky to have been able to spend time with him.</blockquote

“Elle Chante, Pere”
“Elle Chante, Pere” was one of the first of Dennis’ personal posts and is about the Basilique Sainte Madeleine, our favorite Romanesque church. But it was also selected for the extraordinary sermon that it inspired by Gordon Stewart.

Color and Saint Austremoine
It was so nice to be back in Saint Austremoine with Dennis and his parents Don and Lucille, staying at one of our favorite places, the Cour Carrée. It was overcast when we arrived so I went down to the crypt to shoot. When I emerged, the sun had come out and the colors were so vivid and evocative. My spirits soared at being there with Dennis and his parents.

The Two Madonnas
This post appeals to me because it is the site of one of my favorite experiences in France, meeting Mme Geille and learning from her about modesty, generosity and her profound attachment to the church. This was the first time that I had experienced this deep connection to the past.

A Midnight Raid on Vézelay
The night we photographed the Basilique Sainte Madeleine we discovered a completely new rendition of one our favorite church, one that we had photographed many times and had thousands of pictures. It was the perfect beginning to our 2011 trip.

Dennis’ Selections

“My selections are not based on what I think are the best of our posts – PJ’s post The Survivors of History may be her best – but those which mean the most to me personally.” Dennis Aubrey

Death in the Wood of Ephraim
I selected this reflection on David and the death of Absalom less for the post itself than for the comments that it generated. These exchanges proved the value of this blog and all the work that it takes.

This post on the Église Saint-Pierre in the town of Parthenay-le-Vieux near Poitiers is one of PJ’s most simple and wonderful articles, illustrated by her photos alone. The image of her singing in this empty church and the emotions that she conjured are so moving to me.

Mysterium Tremendum
One of several posts reflecting the influence of Pastor Gordon Stewart of Chaska, Minnesota, who I only know through our exchanges on WordPress and our occasional phone calls. This post reflects on the Presence and the spiritual dimension of the churches that we document.

De Profundis
A memoir about first intimations of mortality.

Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire de Béziers
On July 12, 1209 the town of Béziers was burned to the ground and thousands of innocents died. Today we see in the great cathedral Saint-Nazaire the traces of that conflagration.

The Ineffable
An exploration of the nature of beauty and how it relates to suffering.

The Pegasus
A personal vision that has defined my life for forty years.

The Omphalos
Mary Magdeleine, Abbaye Saint-Pierre et Saint-Caprais de Mozac, Mozac (Puy-de-Dôme)  Photo by PJ McKey
A lament for not being in France.

We hope you enjoy these selections. If you have your own preferences, feel free to let us know in the comments section.

11 thoughts on “Our Personal Favorites

  1. Two favorites here – Color and Saint Austremoine as a photographer and Death in the Wood of Ephriam for the journey engendered…

  2. Dennis and PJ, The last few months have been a time of drought when I have come to the realization that I know very little and that silence may be more appropriate. When I awakened this morning, Kay said, “You’re going to love Via Lucis this morning.” I ALWAYS love your posts for many reasons I’ve shared along the way, not the least of which is the unparalleled combination of aesthetic intuition, refined artistic skill, and deeply thoughtful reflection on your experiences of the Sacred in places abandoned by time. Because my efforts seem paltry by comparison, it was humbling and, frankly, staggering, and encouraging to find Views from the Edge and Shepherd of the Hill named so graciously. I am honored more than you can imagine. This morning I became like PJ in the Église Saint-Pierre in the town of Parthenay-le-Vieux near Poitiers. Thank you so much…but much more…thank you for your wonderful work as artists and writers.

    1. Gordon, you have honored us with your attention and considered thoughts for over a year now, and it means so much to us. While you were on your hiatus, we missed your voice but understood that you had your reasons. Sometimes in order to produce day after day and week after week for years, it is necessary to feed. So take your time; join Kay and Barclay in a gentle feeding and we’ll anxiously await your revival.

  3. Dear Via Lucis, as someone who has had a deep interest in and love for Romanesque for a while now, I find that your work at Via Lucis is tremendous. The idea of continuing the photographic work of Zodiaque into the digital age and expanding it into an archive of as many sites as you have already done (and I hope will continue until your run out of Romanesque churches), is being admirably achieved.
    In my experience these churches have an inherent photogenic quality but are also very difficult to photograph due to problems of inadequate or variable light and the difficulty of rendering the sense of space. Your use of HDR and shift-tilt lenses, which you’ve described in earlier posts, have dealt with these problems superbly, producing finished results which convey vividly that essence of Romanesque which is so hard to pinpoint but which you have always endeavoured to express in your words. Many thanks.

    1. Georges, thank you so much for this. As you know, Angelico Surchamp is an inspiration to us and we are honored that you see our work at Via Lucis as continuing his work. We do have the advantage of a digital workflow and therefore our images are different than Surchamp’s, but we are informed by the same aesthetic, I think.

      Also, PJ does not use HDR at all, has never even attempted a single one. Her ability to develop in Lightroom alone is staggering to me. I find myself watching her in wonder.

  4. Congratulations on reaching 125,000 visitors! And thanks so much for doing what you do! I should be in Vezelay within a week or two at most, and looking again at your posts on St. Madeleine just makes it all the more exciting.

  5. The photographs are quite moving and most spectacular. Your vision, through the lens of your camera, is quite remarkable and well done; especially your composition and the beauty of depth in each photograph. A suberb journey for us to appreciate and admire. Thank you for sharing your moments throughout your travels. The photographs are absolutely inspirational!

    1. Jan, thank you so much for these kind words. If you are new to Via Lucis, you will find that PJ and I are absolutely devoted to this project of photographing the Romanesque and Gothic churches. We are, in fact, returning in May for seven weeks to continue our work.

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