This little baby might just be one of the most significant buildings in south asia. I mean, its significance in religious terms is beyond question: it marks the spot where Buddha achieved enlightenment, and as such came to be seen as the physical epicentre of the universe by the more mystically-minded tendencies within the faith. Its form — a sikhara spire surrounded by four others, evoking mount Sumeru — influenced that of countless stupa and stupa-like structures in south and east asia; but what really matters here architecturally is its dating. Which is uncertain, and clouded by energetic conservation by C19 Europeans. But I believe it’s unlikely to be later than C6/C7, and either date make it very early in the development of the sikhara, more normatively the signature building form of Hindu places of worship, and it might be yet earlier. Its colossal height must have outstripped any built in the ensuing centuries. I’ve even read there’s a tunnel vault in there which supports a pointed arch…
With thanks to the Indian Art and Architecture Facebook page, who circulated this pic today….
Anyone searching around for Christmas present ideas is welcome to buy the splendiferously beautiful Secret Language of Sacred Spaces direct from, and hand signed by, the author. Special offer of £23 each, plus any necessary post and packing, for orders placed by Christmas 2013! Copies of Cathedral may be had, too, for £19 + P&P.
For a video of my talk at the launch, try this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDPC7mhxto0.
St Stephen’s, Bristol is a late medieval building with a grand tower, originally forming a veritable Tall Building overlooking the stone-flagged quayside of Bristol harbour. It is, like so many religious buildings, at once unique — a one-off, with its own character — and typical, picking up themes that arise not only throughout Christendom, but throughout the world, when human being attempt to crystallise sacredness in architecture.
And today, from 6.30pm, it will be the venue for the launch of my unique, richly illustrated attempt to articulate that extraordinary global story: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Language-Sacred-Spaces-Canon/dp/1848991118. There will be candlelight. There will be music. There will be cake. Come along!
With acknowledgements to James O. Davies for the picture, and apologies for the poor scan.