Sunday, 1 November 2009

Ruskin on Pugin's Roman Catholic Conversion

Augustus Pugin converted to Roman Catholicism in 1850, perhaps somewhat unwisely describing the experience thus:

'Oh! Then, what delight! What joy unspeakable! .... the stoups are filled to the brim; the rood is raised on high; the screen glows with sacred imagery and rich device; the niches are filled; the altar is replaced, sustained with sculpted shafts, the relics of saints repose beneath, the Body of Our Lord is enshrined on its consecrated stone; the lamps of the sanctuary burn bright; the saintly portraitures in the glass windows shine all gloriously; and the albs hang in the oaken ambries, and the cope chests are filled with orphreyed baudekins; and pix and pax and chrismatory are there, and thurible and cross......

Perhaps he deserved it, but John Ruskin responded with some fine invective:

'But of all these fatuities, the basest is being lured into the Romanist Church by the glitter of it, like larks into a trap by broken glass; to be blown into a change of religion by the whine of an organ-pipe; stitched into a new creed by gold threads on priests' petticoats; jangled into a change of conscience by the chimes of a belfry. I know nothing in the shape of error so dark as this, no imbecility so absolute, no treachery so contemptible.'

Shortly afterwards Pugin went mad and was confined to Bedlam, and died the following year.