Monday, May 21, 2007

Old St Catherine

How old is the church of St Catherine? Very old is my guess. In a town full of old things, its age stands out. Old enough to have the fine detail of its relief carvings weathered to rounded edges and their definition blurred. Angels and saints, soldiers and devils, Mary and child all returning to dust as grain by grain they are washed to the cobblestones below. The fenced off walls are shelter now to groups of homeless people who have broken through the fence and settled their noisy nests in the sandstone vaults exposed to the square. At least the church does what it was called to do – extend its hand to the poor and the downtrodden. For this neglected old cathedral you could say its hand is outstretched while its eyes are sightless.

Around the square are new maples, ice cream shops, trendy little restaurants, a few bars - one in which I currently prop – and Flemish style buildings most recently refurbished. Getting here through the outlying city blocks was a traverse of nations and cultures. Africans spilling out of the “Little Castle, a place of refugee application. Pakistani soft-drink sellers. Aged Belgian men walking their pugs. Muslim women of indeterminate origin (other than from the generic “Middle East”) with their scampering children, Korean family selling car deodorisers from the sidewalk, Chinese hairdresser, beggar on a stool still elegant in his beret and doing what he can to maintain his dignity.

16 May 2007

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