“The House of the Soul,” butterfly cinquain, #TankaTuesday #PhotoPrompt

Picture credit: Britta Benson. This photograph was taken inside St. Cecilia’s Church (built in 1739), Heusenstamm, Germany. 

I know a few of you were upset by this image. So, let’s gain some perspective on this sculpture. Britta Benson says:

“These skulls are at the bottom of a memorial plaque in the interior of the church. Just to rub in the message that we’re all going to die… in case we forget. There’s a twin ornament on the other side of the nave, almost the same but with slight variations. So as you enter, there’s death to your left, death to your right. Not exactly subtle, but very powerful. The architect was Balthasar Neumann. German baroque is very, very heavy and overwhelming. After visiting one church, you really need to take a break! Strangely fascinating, though…”

— Britta Benson

The Baroque period in architecture was rooted in the doctrines adopted by the Catholic Church in response to the Protestant Reformation. There was an emphasis placed on art depicting good and evil, as evidenced in the photo of the double skulls. I’m sure this was a warning that death comes for us all.

I pondered this piece for a long time. There are so many themes to draw on. The most common symbolic use of the skull is as a portrayal of death, mortality, and the impractical nature of immortality. (wikipedia.com)

In this butterfly cinquain, I’ve drawn from many traditions, Buddhism, Ancient Celts, and Christianity to emphasize the Baroque-ness of the sculpture.

bleached bones
twisted in death
one foot held in this world
the other in the otherworld
the emptiness of nothingness
spirit doorways open
house of the soul

© Colleen M. Chesebro

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30 thoughts on ““The House of the Soul,” butterfly cinquain, #TankaTuesday #PhotoPrompt

  1. Death has been a subject for art from time immemorial. It’s fascinating how it’s portrayed in different cultures. Early gravestones in Massachusetts frequently have carvings of skulls. As your poem points out, it’s comforting to think of death as a spirit doorway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I researched the skull iconography for a couple of hours today. The skull is also a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection. It surprised me by how many cultures use the skull to mean more than just death. In Paganism, the skull represents our ancestors—those that came before us. I have a (fake) skull on my altar which represents my ancestors. This double skull is interesting. I found nothing about it specifically.

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    1. I came back by and discovered that there is another photo of all bones lining walls and arches and ceiling.
      So, I stand by my first comment only I must add that your cinquain is perfect for both the images.
      Sorry for the double posting, I don’t know what’s wrong with my browser.
      Keep of the great poetry and postings. ❤


  2. We have such a taboo about death…if we acknowledged it as part of life perhaps we would be better caretakers of its fragility and interdependence. A spirit doorway is a beautiful image. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it does make sense when put in the right perspective. The image didn’t upset me but seems others were put off by it. Different strokes for different folks.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The double cinquain fits this double skull well. Love your words, Colleen. Speaks of two places. I like that. Thanks for sharing. Xoxo. Blessings.

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