So I decided to spend my last day in Montreal reading in the magnificent chapel of Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde. I had originally planned on spending it in a Starbucks, sipping coffee and reading, but I eventually persuaded myself that a basilique would be far more grand. I picked up two books from my university's library, Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse and Marcel Proust's Swann's Way, and then made my way to the Cathédrale.
Unfortunately the weather was incredibly foul today. The wind was savagely gusty and the snow flakes had worked themselves up into a fury, so the walk was far less pleasant than I had hoped it to be. But I eventually stumbled upon the front steps of the massive facade and looked up at the row of saints, who have a beautiful greenish jade-colored hue, in front of the massive dome of the church. It was certainly a spectacle to behold and the cathédrale looked beautiful and wholly resolute in the swirling fury of snow and wind. I marched up the front steps and laboriously pulled at the heavy Gothic-styled doors. I stepped inside the rectangular corridor and marched another 10 steps to the next set of doors and was finally inside the chapel. It was absolutely herculean in size, the pews were all neatly in a row, the ceiling was arched and mesmerizing, and along the walls were various statues and paintings, the former of saints, and the latter depicting catholic missionaries "nobly" attempting to convert and save the indigenous savages, the Indians (one picture depicted a missionary in a canoe--who looked as if he had been inconveniently taken hostage by Indians--wielding a cross to the sky, while the Indian in front of him had his paddle cocked and ready to prod another Indian who was desperately clinching on to the side of the canoe, in the rough--and assumedly cold--waters). There were also two halves of a giant clam, which held holy water (which was almost unbearably tempting to drink, in my very thirsty state...)
I wandered around the mostly empty chapel, stopping and gawking at a number of items that were so gilded in gold that I sort of felt a self-pitying shame for my own species stupidity.
After wandering around a little more, I eventually claimed a seat in an empty pew among pews, and removed the two novels I had in my bag. Before I opened either one of them, a small yellow plastic bag with something in it, folded neatly on the shelf of the pew in front of me, grabbed my attention. I immediately began to fantasize that it had been left in that particular row, for a particular person, for a particular purpose, and was, therefore, curiously intrigued. I stood up and reached over the pew and grabbed the bag. Inside was a little black book with a very strange, mythical-esque, emblem on the front. A flood of fantasies now splashed against my mind--could this be a Da Vinci code object, with some secret message inside? could it perhaps be a book left by an Opus Dei member, revealing their secret practices?--but were quickly silenced when I opened the first few pages and realized that it was simply a hymnal book written in French... ah c'est la vie, why must anticipation always be better than realization? I slid the black book back into the plastic yellow bag, folded it, and put it back on the shelf of its original pew. I turned and picked up To The Lighthouse, flipped to the first chapter, and soon became wholly unaware of my surroundings, as I continued to read. The chapel was dark and only dimly lit by a few electric lanterns on the side walls and columns. I had to adjust my book in every which way, (like those toys that you have to jiggle around and maneuver in various ways in an effort to get the small metalic ball into the little crater), in order to evade the casted shadows that prevented me from seeing the words. Strangely enough, right as the thought 'Man I wish I had some more light' scrolled through my head, the overhead lights of the chapel flickered on and the entire room became brightly illuminated.
Its only too bad that I'm not a religious person, because if I were I could have entertained the thought that this was an act of God, looking over my shoulder, actually concerned with the amount of light I had to read with...who knows maybe he was.
I went back to reading and got through about 20 pages before I was distracted by an odiously loud and continuously irritating sound. I looked up to see what was responsible for this noise and eyed an old man, in a green, split-tailed coat, pushing a mop and bucket across the tiled floor. When he reached the middle of the chapel he stopped (and thankfully with him the noise) and began swabbing the tiles in an utterly audible silence.
I picked up where I had left off in the book, but was quickly distracted again by signals of discomfort from my derrière. Pews, as I'm sure all church goers are acutely aware, are incredibly uncomfortable (perhaps in order to keep the parishioners awake), especially when you, like me, have absolutely no meat in between the bones in your butt and the wood of the pew. I searched for a comments card in the small shelf on the back of the pew in front of me, because I thought it would be nice of me to inform this magnificent and gorgeous church how it might attract more parishioners: buy comfier seats. The only people that I had noticed wander into the chapel were old women, who were usually of equal height to the head of the pews, and incredibly amusing to watch shuffle by, because you wouldn't see them until they passed your row, and a few old men, who had by now inherited such a hard ass and numb nerves, that they were probably wholly unaware that the seats were uncomfortable. If I had found a comments card I would have also suggested that the church sell just a few of their golden relics (they had so many after all) in order to pay for a few rows of lazy boy chairs (which would be the front 5 rows, for the early comers), a few rows of leather cushioned couches (for the rest), and bean bags (for the children who could sit in the back, as they never pay attention anyways).
After a few more minutes had passed by I decided that it was probably best to relieve my aching arse from the torment of the wooden pew and made my way towards the front doors. The winter wind seemed still and the snow flakes looked weightless as they descended to the ground, it seemed that the weather had taken a turn for the better. I stepped out into the brisk, cold air and immediately learned that the winter wind had simply been waiting patiently for me on the stoop above the entrance, as it soon met my face with all of its excited ferocity.
Tomorrow I'd be home...