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Posts tagged ‘Stonehenge’

Ancient Civilisations: Reflections From Stonehenge

Last week I was sitting in the café at the new English Heritage Visitors Centre  near Stonehenge, listening to a conversation between two American visitors.

Stonehenge  Aug 2014 (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

Stonehenge Aug 2014 (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

“Well,” said one, “I definitely think it was three things; a church, a burial ground and a place of healing.”

“You don’t mean church,” said her friend.

“Oh no. Well, a holy place. That sort of thing.”

People love speculating about why those who created Stonehenge went to so much trouble to transport huge stones from West Wales to Salisbury Plain to construct their monument which took many hundreds of years – at a time, 5000 years ago, when their own lifespan would probably have been only about 30 years.

Because of the wonderful new exhibition English Heritage have designed in the Visitor Centre, our minds are now filled with all the most up-to-date theories based upon the latest research. And we are now imagining those Neolithic people in a new light, and wondering about their skills in planning and design and organisation, in engineering and architecture and building – skills which are far beyond those we might have credited to them even a couple of decades ago – if we’d ever thought about them, that is.

Before this visit, I last went round Stonehenge a year ago, and even then I was moved by the story that English Heritage tell us through their wonderful audio guide.

view through a trilithon (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

view through a trilithon (photo credit Abigail Robinson)

But now I have new reflections. They are about the rise and fall of civilisations on this planet – and how easy it is for us to forget, or disregard, the sophistication and skill of previous civilisations that have disappeared.

Only a few centuries back, we are told, people “had no concept of prehistory.” In James I’s time, Inigo Jones researched Stonehenge and concluded it had been built by the Romans.

But no.  Now we learn that this magnificent structure was begun by people who lived in 3000 BC.

How sure can we be that our own immensely sophisticated civilisation won’t disappear, to be lost to time, and forgotten by future races? Will they, I speculate, rediscover us and be amazed at the things we were able to achieve, which they would never have credited to us?

How many of us believe that all we have discovered and attained will last forever?

What will we leave behind for the people 3000 years into the future to wonder at and and admire? What will be left of us, to fuel their imagination, in just the same way that Stonehenge now fuels ours?

 

Sacred Spaces in the English Landscape and Places of Inspiration: Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral

Stonehenge 17 Aug 2013 (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Stonehenge 17 Aug 2013 (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Throughout the English landscape there’s evidence that our ancestors shaped the land, to conform to their own mythological landscape.

I’ve written before about sacred spaces. In that article, I looked at some renowned locations in England where people have felt they’re in touch with something bigger than themselves – a sense of the numinous.

All of these places work symbolically or metaphorically to express a place where we may be or a situation we may encounter in this life, that we recognise from our own experience.

And one such renowned location is Stonehenge – which I visited a few days ago with family members.

To walk slowly and attentively around Stonehenge, using the audio guide provided by English Heritage, is to experience something numinous, much bigger than ourselves.

The stones arrived here some time just before 2500 BC, to begin transforming the previously existing simple enclosure to something much different. And as we considered the huge effort that our ancestors put into moving the stones 19 miles from the Marlborough Downs in north Wiltshire, and 150 miles from the Preseli Hills in Wales, to this location, in order to  construct this massive circle, we were drawn in to the wonder and the mystery.

Salisbury Cathedral. Its spire is the tallest cathedral spire in England  (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Salisbury Cathedral. Its spire is the tallest cathedral spire in England (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Those who accept the theory of ley lines know that Stonehenge stands on the Old Sarum Ley which is aligned with Salisbury Cathedral, among other sacred places.
As the English Heritage guidebook points out, Stonehenge can perhaps be seen as the prehistoric equivalent of a great cathedral like that at nearby Salisbury, built for worship and as a place  where believers could come to find healing and hope and where important people can be buried.

Salisbury Cathedral, described as Britain’s finest 13th Century Cathedral, is another inspirational place.

From its glorious chancel roof                                                                                                               The chancel roof of Salisbury Cathedral (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

The chancel roof of Salisbury Cathedral (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

to the stunningly beautiful lapis lazuli of the Prisoners of Conscience windows,

this is a place to move and uplift and fill you with awe.

Prisoners of Conscience window in Salisbury Cathedral (designed by Gabriel Loire; dedicated to prisoners of conscience throughout the world. (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Prisoners of Conscience window in Salisbury Cathedral (designed by Gabriel Loire; dedicated to prisoners of conscience throughout the world. (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Here, the hearts and  minds of all those who enter, for worship or just to visit, may be lifted up to a bigger and clearer understanding of  God.

Or, perhaps, they may receive fresh glimpses of eternity, in much the same way, perhaps, as the hearts and minds of those who built and used Stonehenge over the course of 1,400 years.

Another view of the spire of Salisbury Cathedral (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

Another view of the spire of Salisbury Cathedral (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

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