torphichen : culross : jerusalem

Torphichen Preceptory is not much to look at now, post-reformation, when pre-baroque catholic aesthetics were eschewed for righteous minimalist puritanism in 1554 – but it still carries a remarkable background signal. Visited on 2 Jan 2011 for Centrifuge photoshoot, it did feel completely back of beyond however. Looking at it in googlemaps though shows a less isolated position – Linlithgow, Falkirk and Queensferry/Dunfermline/Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth and thence Europe are not too far away at all.

Only two places in Rome’s Britain were allocated Knights Hospitaller status – Clerkenwell in London, the Clerkenwell of Zaha Hadid, Defoe, Dickens and Lenin fame : and here in B-road Torphichen. It is a significant and complex story stretching back to the earliest indications of Christianity in Scotland, over 1500 years ago. Anyways, it’s now utterly devoid of power, partnered instead with grotesquely banal 60s housing scheme aesthetic, like Culross – how the freak did they get away with it? The insensitivity and ignorance is deafening.

But as the 2001 WTC 10-year anniverary comes closer, it’s worth looking at what this conflict between the worlds’ three great western religions – Jew, Muslim and Christian – really means. This war has been going on far too long. Torphichen may be a footnote now but it connects deep. Jerusalem is why it’s here. And like all tall places, it must – and did – fall. This state always occurs through ideological dispute betwen two interconnected religions.

Who do you think is pulling Afghanistan apart? It’s not the British nor the US nor the NGO’s.

A short drive from Torphichen, across the Kincardine Bridge and the River Forth estuary, pall-shadowed by the belching behemoths of Grangemouth oil refinery and coal-fired Longannet power station, the once-rich villatown of Culross – Scotland’s Portmeirion – is less about ideology and more about entrepreneur, although the remarkable Culross Abbey dates to the 5th century and is homeland of Kentigern (St Mungo), son of Thenew, who begat the city of Glasgow, a hotbed of conflicting religious vices, oh yes. Europe is a short-ish boat trip away and that means trade, pure and simple – what a relief.

Below is a clip of the Hereford Mappa Mundi, centred on Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the root, Damascus the branch (other branches continue to bicker too, in rather more prosaic places like Coatbridge and Bathgate). Watch out for dangerous times in Torphichen’s source – well, actually, it was ever so…

images above : culross : 2 jan 2011