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Inner Light of the National Cathedral
by Kevin Matthews
With nave and aisles bearing vast arrays of vivid, intricate stained glass, sunshine naturally washes warm, beautiful color across the stone arches and columns of the National Cathedral, atop Mount St. Alban in Washington, D.C.
Since the Gothic masonry structure was shaken by the magnitude 5.8 Virginia earthquake on August 23, 2011, this inner light has taken on another dimension.
A large net of steel cable has been stretched high across the interior of the nave, above the side arches and below the blushing clerestory windows, as a safety measure to catch any pieces of loosened stone that might fall inside.
This mesh makes no visual impression on its own. But much as a waft of morning mist can catch a slant of sunlight and show it as a gleaming beam, the mesh provides an unnoticed canvas for great swathes of colored light slanting through the space, otherwise unseen until landing on stone.
Light comes to life as if the air itself is breathing color, giving an ethereal yet intense color-drenched space, imperceptibly rippling with deep reds and blues, almost reminiscent of the northern lights, but indoors and in D.C.
The great Cathedral, last made of the world's giant handcarved Gothic masterpieces, always maintains a worshipful, impressive, uplifting envelopment of space.
When light strikes, playing serendipitously on the improvisational net, the temporary show, lighthearted and bold-toned, adds delightful evanescent jazz bars to the deep-chorded Gothic architectural experience.
Be sure to drop by the Cathedral and see for yourself, if you're in D.C!