Charles Ryder remarks
"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. Here, under that high and insolent dome, under those coffered ceilings; here, as I passed through those arches and broken pediments to the pillared shade beyond and sat [drawing], hour by hour, before the fountain, probing its shadows, tracing its lingering echoes, rejoicing in all its clustered feats of daring and invention, I felt a whole new system of nerves alive within me, as though the water that spurted and bubbled among its stones, was indeed a life-giving spring."
Where were you when you first were struck dumb and breathless at the wonder of the baroque? In my case, it was walking along the riverside at Greenwich, when we got to the water-steps and I turned to look through the gates and up the hill between the Hall and Chapel to the Queen's House. Mind you, I had met the rococo before I even entered my teens, in Bavaria and the Tyrol, where, to my childish eyes, every little village church was a magical wonderland.
Paradoxically, it was among the Gothic perfections of Lancing that I first really understood the baroque. A little of this was the experience of handling it: saying once a week a Latin Mass before a crucifix, Bavarian, 1620s, ebony and silver, using an early baroque portuguese chalice crawling with putti. But mostly, it was reading Ovid's Metamorphoses with the VI Form. That is how I first plunged into the spirit of the baroque; its never-failing inventiveness, its exuberant fun, its intriguing intertextualities, its antitheses and syntheses, its endless teases and surprises, the way it offers you a permanent ticket to a country of exquisite delight.
Above all, the baroque makes it easier, indeed very easy if not compulsory, to be an orthodox and Catholic Christian. Nobody who is formed by the baroque delight in paradox will have any difficulty believing that a Bethehem Bambino is God; or that the round white disk winking at us among the sunbeams of the monstrance is the Power that made the galaxies.