Holy Navigation Lights?

Not, as you might think, a quotation from Batman’s youthful sidekick – though such phraseology probably only occurred in the camp 1960s take on the caped crusader (I struggle to imagine such frivolity in Christopher Nolan’s recent re-boot of the franchise).

No, on Saturday night I found myself in a church dedicated to St Michael to enjoy a particularly fine choral concert from the Esterhazy Chamber Choir.  This concert compared very favourably with my listening the previous Saturday at the (probably) more famous King’s College Chapel – and I think some of this is down to the much better acoustics of the more modest Lewes venue.  Impressive architecture is all well and good – nice to look at and to inspire the unwashed masses to behave, but it isn’t always the musician’s friend.

The concert was also striking for providing positive support for the title of the long-running Radio 2 show “The Organist Entertains”.   I had always assumed this title was an oxymoron, heavy irony or a joke in very poor taste – but on Saturday night I found myself being entertained by an organist (another shibboleth shattered!).

The Lewes St Michael’s does not refer to him in his role as the patron saint of underwear but rather, I think, in his role as Chief of Staff of the Armies of God.  I may be wrong, but he was shown in statue form poking some sort of reptilian ne’er-do-well with a long spear (it wasn’t just St George who went in for dragon-baiting!).  Tradition seems to keep the chap pretty busy: he taught Adam farming and acted as his tour guide to the blessed realm, he defeated an Assyrian army and is also seen as a healer (very much a one-stop-shop on the battlefield) – so perhaps he might have had a hand in curing my lesion (though my money remains on the Harvey’s).

In the church in Lewes, a candle was placed in front of his little statue – at the front of the nave (just before the chancel – or perhaps the transept) on the left hand side.  This candle was in a red glass, and so shone red.  On the other side of the nave, was the Virgin Mary (or at least a lady dressed in blue – and clearly not Mrs T).  She too had a candle, but in a blue glass.  These two lights did remind me rather of the navigation lights on a ship or plane – with the red correctly on the port side (from my vantage) and the blue on the starboard (which really ought to have been green).

I did wonder if St Michael was linked to the colour red, and if so whether any other arch-angels were linked with green.  Sadly, I could find no clear theological colour code for archangels – so no obvious saint to use for starboard.

This led me to ponder what might need to use navigation lights within a church – and whether they suffered from blue-green colour-blindness.  Does it help confused congregants to orient themselves?  Or have their been problems with shipping on the river Ouse, or low flying aircraft, crashing into St Michael’s in thick fog?

Feel free to continue the lunacy...

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