The Cathedral Saint Peter of Worms – A Guest Post (Jong-Soung Kimm)


Together with Speyer and Mainz, Worms is one of the three “Imperial Cathedrals (Kaiserdom)” along the upper Rhein, one of the finest achievements of the High Romanesque architecture in Germany.

Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The plan of Worms is based on a nave plus two aisles, both eastern and western choirs, one transept near the eastern apse with an impressive crossing tower, a smaller tower above the western choir, and four cylindrical corner towers. All these architectural elements of the cathedral create a harmonious ensemble, and it projects a majestic skyline over the Rhein. The present cathedral was constructed mostly between 1125 and 1181 over the footprint of an earlier cathedral that had been built a century earlier by Bishop Burchard, an important historical figure. The cathedral is built of red sandstone, material also used at Speyer and Mainz, that visually ties the three Kaiserdoms. The general view from the south shows the splendid Gothic style South Portal of ca.1300, which replaced the Romanesque façade of the Nikolaus Chapel inside.

South portal, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The south transept, mere 5 meters away from the high altar directly inside, shows a modest, yet meticulously positioned doorway and asymmetrically located arched openings and a round window. The gable has what is known as “Lombard molding.”

Nave, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The nave was built between 1160 and 1170, and the chancel at the far end of the photograph, was completed in 1181 when the cathedral was consecrated. The plan of the nave is organized as five square bays as seen above by the cross vaulting. The aisles are half as wide as the nave, and therefore, north and south aisles have ten smaller square bays each. The procession of alternating major and minor piers along the length of the nave is slow moving and contemplative, a characteristic of Romanesque space.

Chancel, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The high altar was designed by Balthasar Neumann, one of the most important architects of the 18th century in Germany. The gilded wood and marble Baroque altar is a powerful work of art in itself, holding forth in the strong frame of the Romanesque architecture of the Worms Cathedral. The eastern apse seen beyond the altar was the earliest part of the cathedral constructed from 1125 to 1144.

Nave arcades and clerestory, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The photograph illustrates the nave elevation scheme well; the major piers with half round pilasters over rectangular projection continue all the way to the springing of the main arches and cross ribs for the vaulting, while the minor piers receive the arches for the clerestory windows and blind arcades underneath.

Nave to western choir, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The photograph shows the western choir at the end of finely proportioned nave. The height of the nave is 26 meters.

Western choir, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The western choir was built the last at around the end of the 12th century. The interior view of the choir gives a clue to the dynamic, sculptural massing that projects beyond the main volume of the nave on the exterior. One can only marvel at the master builder’s ingenuity in designing the rose window and the surrounding smaller windows as well as the masons’ meticulous workmanship in chiseling the precise moldings.

Camera information: 21mm Super Angulon for Leica on Canon 5D with an adapter.

Location: 49.629930° 8.360178°

✜ This is a repost from Jong-Soung Kimm from April 2012 on our Via Lucis site. For more information on Mr. Kimm, please see this link. ✜

The Pegasus (Dennis Aubrey)


“Indeed during the Middle Ages there existed a sort of cinema in colors of which no trace has survived; just as in the sudden dawning of a larger hope amongst men who had not forgotten the dark age whence they had emerged but yesterday – a dawning symbolized by the great cathedrals soaring heavenwards – there was a splendid confidence in the future, not unlike that of America.”
André Malraux, “Voices of Silence”

André Malraux observed in Voices of Silence that medieval artists were not creating pictures or statues of Madonnas, they were actually creating a Madonna. They did not think that they were representing the reality, but creating it. They were saying “This is the Madonna” not “This is a picture of a Madonna.”

Notre Dame d'Estours, Eglise Saint Pierre, Monistrol d'Allier (Haute-Loire)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Notre Dame d’Estours, Eglise Saint Pierre, Monistrol d’Allier (Haute-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

What must have life been like to create such an understanding. I think that we have made clear in this blog over the last few years that these medieval artisans were not in any way primitive or ignorant, but were instead capable of the most profound appreciations of the world and the most profound representations of their deep inner faith. I have come to suspect that they were capable of this because they understood the promise of that faith, they had Malraux’s “splendid confidence in the future”. In my own way, I came to that understanding on December 9, 1977.

On that night, I experienced an enormously powerful and vivid dream that comes as close to sustaining me with a life-giving faith as anything in my self-absorbed and solipsistic life. I still have the original middle-of-the-night transcription of the dream recorded in my journal, dated December 9, 1977:

“Violence dreams by the dozens lately – but the Pegasus dream made up for it. Having captured two men who turned into white horses, feeling threatened, the first horse leaping over the fence at me, I recognize that the second must be released – he is somehow in my power. The second horse climbs a 50’ wire fence and when atop leaps in the air – a beautiful white Pegasus – silver in the cloud-piercing moonlight. Transfixed by beauty – knowing that I can see it because it is there. The passers-by who mock my reverence cannot see it, but it is truly there – a vision of beauty. Donner, one of he men from the concrete pit, related to the Pegasus- stabs me in the back – it must be done – perhaps because I have seen the Pegasus – no malice. Knowing I will die soon I say – let me live for a week so I can see my parents. Death begins physically within, like an interior collapse. I go into the kitchen and see my father. I cry as I hug him and tell him I love him. The feeling of seeing Pegasus before I die, and when I see it I die … but having seen I can die. Pegasus comes from something I am punishing or lead to punishment … something I think wrong, but in reality it is a vessel for Pegasus.”

Study for Guernica horse, Pablo Picasso (1937)

Study for Guernica horse, Pablo Picasso (1937)

I still shudder with discovery as I read this. This was the last entry in my journal for about 17 months.

In the following nights I dreamt sections of the dream again. The first night the dream was complete, and the nights following I re-dreamt segments of the dream as if I were shooting coverage of a scene in a movie, explaining and amplifying different parts of the original dream – never changing, just amplifying. One of them was seeing the second white horse climb the fence, seeing up close how the wire tore into the living flesh of the horse, close enough that I could feel the hot gusting of his breath on my face.

But throughout this time of dreaming, there was a conviction, an absolute conviction, that this was a promise for my life – that I would see the Pegasus before I die, and having seen it, would be prepared to die. This has been my source of faith for my entire life, for my own “splendid confidence in the future”.

Sometimes in reflecting on my life, I wonder how a sane man can live his life based on such dreams? Where is the rational explanation for this disembodied voice speaking to me? I hear it clearly, but there is no visible source. Is this is a vision or a dream? At such moments I understand the Lakota Vision Quest.

Caravaggio, Conversion on the Way to Damascus,  Santa Maria del Popolo (Rome)

Caravaggio, Conversion on the Way to Damascus, Santa Maria del Popolo (Rome)

I always wanted to have my sign, my vision from God to guide me, but have never admitted to it; to be transfixed by light on the road to Damascus where others may see the light but not hear the voice. I want to be in that beatified state where I don’t take photographs, but create churches.

La Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, Torres del Rio (Navarra) – A Guest Post by Jong-Soung Kimm


Torres del Rio is a small town located some distance to the north of the present day highway linking Pamplona and Logrono. During the Middle Ages, however, not only was the town directly on the pilgrimage route, but it also served an important function as a beacon for the pilgrims from the lantern of its Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro church commanding a high hill. It is documented that the town had a monastery in 1109 before the Muslim invasion. The hilly site resulted in an irregular shape of the town, and at the entrance to the town stands the Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, constructed under the auspices of the Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre at the end of the XII century. Invoking the name of Holy Sepulchre naturally conjures up a centralized plan.

In Torres del Rio, the master builder chose an octagonal plan, but with a twist. In order to create an apse spacious enough for the Chancel, the builder appears to have intentionally made the eastern side of the Church somewhat larger than the other sides. The entrance to the Church is located on the south side, basically at the midpoint of the broader façade being set up by the apse at the eastern end and the cylindrical stair tower at the opposite face of the octagonal volume.

La Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, Torres del Rio (Navarra), View from south Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

We can be sure that the stone work is not the work of a dedicated group of amateur faithful, but that of a professional masons’ workshop. It has executed an excellent masonry of a finely proportioned design by the master mason. The lantern, also of octagonal shape, is placed directly over the dome.

La Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, Torres del Rio (Navarra), Main Entrance Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The three-story design of the exterior is embellished with just the right amount of ornamentation, capped by the cornice with dentils.

La Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, Torres del Rio (Navarra), Interior View of the Apse and the Dome Photo be Jong-Soung Kimm

The most significant element of the interior is the Islamic vaulting of the dome with the crossing ribs, reminiscent of the Mezquita at Cordoba, but more visually linked to the Aljaferia at Zaragoza. The space inside is as high up to the springing of the dome as it is wide between the opposing walls.

La Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, Torres del Rio (Navarra), View of the Apse Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

A small Christ on the Cross adorns the Chancel. Visitors’ perception of the direction of Jerusalem is enhanced by the axis visually reinforced by the apse in an otherwise “centrally” organized space.

La Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, Torres del Rio (Navarra), View of the Dome Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Between the ribs for the dome vaulting, there are eight small openings with fine, starry textured grille work. Although it is not too visible, the ribs had been painted and inscribed with names of the apostles.

Note: this is a repost from June 2012. For more information on the author, Jong-Soung Kimm, please see this link.

A Texas Colonel and the French Cathedral (Dennis Aubrey)


This article is dedicated to the memory of Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. Here is the reference in the Wikipedia article about the Cathedral of Chartres: “All the glass from the cathedral was removed in 1939 just before the Germans invaded France, and it was cleaned after the War and releaded before replacing. While the city suffered heavy damage by bombing in the course of World War II, the cathedral was spared by an American Army officer who challenged the order to destroy it.”

Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. (1901-1944)

Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. (1901-1944)

“Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. questioned the strategy of destroying the cathedral and volunteered to go behind enemy lines to find out whether the German Army was occupying the cathedral and using it as an observation post. With a single enlisted soldier to assist, Griffith proceeded to the cathedral and confirmed that the Germans were not using it. After he returned from his reconnaissance, he reported that the cathedral was clear of enemy troops. The order to destroy the cathedral was withdrawn, and the Allies later liberated the area. Griffith was killed in action on 16 August 1944, in the town of Lèves, near Chartres.”

Griffith was the G-3 of XX Corps under the command of Major-General Walton Walker during the Campaign of France after the Normandy breakout. Initially assigned to protect the south flank of the Patton’s Third Army, XX Corps secured the bridgehead at Le Mans and liberated Angers on 10 August 1944. The corps fought a successful five-day battle for Chartres from 15 – 19 August, and seized a bridgehead over the Aunay River. Chartres was a logistics center for the German Army and an important transportation nexus for the US forces.

Robert Capa © International Center of Photography Chartres, August 23rd, 1944. During De Gaulle's speech, after the liberation of the city.

Robert Capa © International Center of Photography
Chartres, August 23rd, 1944. During De Gaulle’s speech, after the liberation of the city.

By the end of August, the XX Corps had driven across six rivers-the Loire, Seine, Vesle, Marne, Aisne, and Meuse to the Moselle. Towns liberated by the armor and infantry of the Corps included Chartres, Mélun, Montrau, Fontainbleu, Chateau-Thierry, Epernay, Reims, and Verdun. This campaign where they raced across France prompted the Germans to name the XXth the “Ghost Corps.”

Griffith’s position as the G-3 made him responsible for the mobilization and deployment of units for combat and was a key staff position for the XX Corps. For Griffith to take the stance that he did to protect the cathedral – much less making a personal reconnaissance accompanied by a single rifleman – was an extraordinary decision.

In Memoriam Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. (1901-1944)

In Memoriam Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. (1901-1944)

Griffith was born on November 10 1901 in the small Texas town of Quanah, just south of the Oklahoma border. He graduated from West Point Military Academy, Class of 1925. He excelled at various sports, including four years as a tackle on the Army football team. He also participated boxing, wrestling, lacrosse and horsemanship.

Here is the citation from his Distinguished Service Cross:

Army_distinguished_service_cross_medalThe President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. (ASN: 0-16194), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Operations Officer (G-3) with Headquarters, XX Corps, in action against enemy forces on 16 August 1944 at Chartres and Lèves, France. On 16 August 1944, Colonel Griffith entered the city of Chartres, France, in order to check the actual locations and dispositions of units of the 7th Armored Division which was occupying the city. Upon observing fire being directed at the cathedral in the center of the city, with utter disregard for his own safety, Colonel Griffith, accompanied by an enlisted man, searched the cathedral and finding that there were no enemy troops within, signaled for cessation of fire. Continuing his inspection of outlying positions north of the city, he suddenly encountered about fifteen of the enemy. He fired several shots at them, then proceeded to the nearest outpost of our forces at which point a tank was located. Arming himself with an M-1 rifle and again with complete disregard for his own safety, Colonel Griffith climbed upon the tank directing it to the enemy forces he had located. During the advance of the tank he was exposed to intense enemy machine gun, rifle, and rocket-launcher fire and it was during this action, in the vicinity of Lèves, France, that he was killed.
General Orders: Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, General Orders No. 75 (October 21, 1944)

Action Date: August 16, 1944

Croix de guerre avec palmes

Croix de guerre avec palmes

It is interesting that the commendation says nothing about his saving the cathedral from certain damage, if not destruction, by American artillery fire. Colonel Griffith also received the Croix de Guerre avec Palm, the Legion of Honor, and the Legion of Merit from the French government.

The story of Colonel Griffith only became known in 1994 when a French amateur historian in Lèves, Bertrand Papillon, investigated the American colonel who died liberating his village and who saved the beloved Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres. His researches uncovered the truth and he contacted the Griffith’s daughter with the full story. Every year, on August 16, flowers are placed in front of the building where he died. A plaque, honoring his heroic action, has also been erected on the building. Residents of Lèves saw him fall and die and within hours they had him covered with a blanket, bouquets of flowers and an American flag to await the American burial detail who buried him in a temporary grave.

As a final and sobering note on this history, in the spring of 1945 XX Corps liberated the German concentration camp at Buchenwald.