Cathedrals of Nature

notre dame cathedralTechnically, a cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of the bishop. From Wikipedia, “The term “cathedral” actually carries no implication as to the size or ornateness of the building. Nevertheless, most cathedrals are particularly impressive edifices.”

However, the cathedral like feeling–a sacred place where sunlight filters through a canopy of leaves or casts sharp silhouettes; a place of peace; soaring grandeur; the sound of infinite silence, wind, birdsong,  insect chorus, surf,  or whale calls; can be anyplace outside that gives us a sense of   majesty, peace, perspective, and gratitude.                                          Notre Dame Cathedral  

cathedral rockCathedral Rock near Sedona, AZ is one such place.  It is one of the most photographed places in Arizona and part of it’s famous red rocks.  From Wikipedia, “Cathedral Rock is located in the Coconino National Forest in Yavapai County, about a mile (1.6 km) west of Arizona Route 179, and about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south of the “Y” intersection of Routes 179 and 89A in uptown Sedona. The summit elevation of Cathedral Rock is 4,967 feet (1,514 m).[1″

I was lucky enough to visit Sedona in 2017 and fell in love with the place.  The soaring red rocks, the dark evergreen plants garlanding the feet of the rocks, the clear turquoise skies with their whispy white cloud all combined to convince me this is one of the loveliest spots in the  United States.  I need to go back to experience a vortex and buy that elusive piece of turquoise jewelry that captures Sedona for me.

Another place is the Monterey peninsula.  Monterey Bay has “one of the deepest submarine canyons on the west coast of the United States. The canyon head lies just offshore of Moss Landing on the Central California coast. From there, the main channel meanders over 400 kilometers seaward to a depth of more than 4,000 meters on the abyssal plain. Repeated mapping in certain areas of the canyon have shown that the terrain changes substantially every few months due to large sediment-transport events involving both debris flows and turbidity currents.”  It is also home to the Montery Bay acquarium with its enormous kelp forest tank.  Watching the sunlight filter through the kelp leaves provides that same cathedral like sense that watching sunlight filter through the the forest trees does.  I was fortunate enough to live in Monterey in the mid 80s and visit it whenever I can.

Monterey 031

Just south of the Monterey is Big Sur, where the Santa Fog coming in Pt SurLucia mountains tumble down to the Pacific Ocean.  As you travel Highway 1 you are suspended between earth and ocean, mountain and sea, sometimes between sun and fog, forest and meadow.   What you lose is radio reception.

The highway winds in and out of the redwood forest.  At other times it is a narrow two lane road with the ocean 200 feet below you and the mountain 1000 feet above you.  There is not a lot of room for the bikers, joggers, and hikers who also travel this route.

Anne Marie Garden Bishop Statue 20180904.jpg

Sunlight through trees is another cathedral like place.  At AnneMarie Gardens near Solomons, Maryland, we even saw a stone statue of a bishop.

The Celts had a term for such places where the sacred and the secular meet and the distance between heaven and earth grows thin.  They called them Thin Places.  I think that natural cathedrals are thin places.  Where are your thin places?



17 thoughts on “Cathedrals of Nature”

  1. My husband’s thin place is under a clear sky at night with the stars shining, far away from city lights. My thin spaces include grassy hills in dawn fog and underneath tall trees with summer foliage. I like to share both with the dog.:-)

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  2. Both places sound wonderful Priscilla. I gather you also live in central Virginia somewhere. We are lucky to live in such a gorgeous area with lots of natural beauty and so much history. The wineries aren’t bad either . 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bedford County is beautiful. The D-Day Memorial is very impressive and I wish I had an escape plantation like Poplar Forest. (Poor TJ) Thin places are all over. I found several in California, a few in Arizona, tons in Virginia, and New England. For me, England is one huge thin space. Sounds like you have done a lot of traveling. Glad you have discovered thin places in your travels.


  4. Coastal rainforests here in British Columbia are very like cathedrals. In fact, I wonder if the cathedral builders were inspired by forests. The west coast of Vancouver Island generally, on the rim of the continent, is a Thin Place for sure.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Definitely, Audrey. British Columbia is very special. I love how you accurately phrase that BC is on the rim of the continent. Interesting question about whether the early cathedral builders were inspired by forests. Thanks for commenting. Pat


    1. Monterey is gorgeous. So is Sedona. I’m definitely an East Coast girl but there are lovely places out west. Hope you have a wonderful time. Monterey has summer between late August and October (a few times into very early November.) California climate is different, to put it mildly. If you get to Monterey, please take the opportunity to drive down to Big Sur. Dramatic scenery, but a lot more built up than it used to be. Thanks for commenting.


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