14 November 2002

Austria, Austria ...

Charles Ryder informs us that "since the days when, as a schoolboy, I used to bicycle round the neighbouring parishes, rubbing brasses and photographing fonts, I had nursed a love of architecture, but ... my sentiments at heart were insular and medieval. [Brideshead] was my conversion to the baroque." Personally, I made the transition to the rococo first. After the enforced insularity of the war years, my mother nagged my father to take us on holiday abroad (he wasn't keen; as a sailor he thought he had seen all that he wanted to of Abroad). And so we found ourselves in the Tyrol, up a mountain overlooking Innsbruck. There were nearby two hamlets called Mutters and Natters ... or at least, so my memory tells me more than six decades later; perhaps some reader will be able to correct me. And each of them, to my child's eye, was a masterpiece of what I now know to be rococo. I fell in love with it, and have never lost my love. The years have added to my knowledge; I now understand, from decades of reading Ovid, that literature, as well as architecture, can be rococo. And I eventually came to love the baroque, when I suddenly saw Greenwich Palace opening out into perfection from the river approach. But I have never been unfaithful to Mutters and Natters.

And, Oh, the horror now of reading of the disorders in the Austrian Church. Disobedient priests advocating marriage for Latin clergy, ordination of women, acceptance of the marriage of the divorced, and laity calling for Lay Celebration for all the world like the Anglican Diocese of Sidney, explaining, as one does, that Vatican II mandated it. The smoke which Paul VI discerned entering the Church .... yes, I thought I knew all about that. But Austria??