Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Ammonite Church?

On a recent visit to Boston, Massachusetts USA, a church visible from the street had ammonite pattern at the top of the building. I took some pictures of the pediment. The church is The Cathedral Church of St. Paul and it turns out the pattern is of a nautilus. 
It appears to have been inspired by Boston's own Oliver Wendell Holmes 1858 poem "The Chambered Nautilus".
This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,—
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,—
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreath├Ęd horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea! 
Above is a picture of an actual chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius) found at Schouten Island Tasmania. It was on display in August 2022 at the Harvard Museum of Natural History at Cambridge Massachusetts USA (MCZ 184602). Another great place to visit when in the Boston area.


Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) was also famous for the 1830 poem "Old Ironsides" which is about U.S.S. Constitution. A definite visit when in Boston to see the U.S. Navy's oldest active ship.

Another picture of U.S.S. Constitution of it's hull with seaweed floating near by.