06/11/20 • 38 min
Great cathedrals are places of awe and wonder, no matter your religious belief.
Whenever I visit a new place, I always go to the cathedral or church, or place of worship in the area. There is always something new and interesting to be found and you can get a particular sense of a region that way. I also love to take photos of religious architecture and sculpture, much of it crafted by devotion over many generations.
In this interview, I talk to Derry Brabbs about places of pilgrimage across Europe and why they attract so many, even those with no particular religious faith.
Derry Brabbs is one of the UK’s finest public photographers with over 30 illustrated books to his credit. He’s also an author and speaker, and today we’re talking about his book, Pilgrimage: Great Pilgrim Routes of Britain and Europe.
- The popularity of pilgrimage in our secular times
- The lesser-known routes of the Camino
- The resurrection of stonemasonry to repair historic cathedrals
- Highlights of beautiful churches and cathedrals
- The joys of the unexpected on a pilgrimage
- Seeing the world through a camera lens and learning to be in the right place at the right time to catch the light
- Recommended books
You can find Derry at DerryBrabbs.com.
My book, Pilgrimage, Lessons Learned from Solo Walking Three Ancient Ways, is out now.My book, Pilgrimage, Lessons Learned from Solo Walking Three Ancient Ways, is out now
Transcript of the interview
Jo Frances Penn: Derry Brabbs is one of the UK’s finest public photographers with over 30 illustrated books to his credit. He’s also an author and speaker, and today we’re talking about his book, Pilgrimage: Great Pilgrim Routes of Britain and Europe.
Derry Brabbs: Hi. How are you?
Jo Frances Penn: I’m good. It’s so great to talk to you. Let’s start by talking about why ‘Pilgrimage’ in the first place because you’ve written lots of books about heritage, and pubs, and churches.
What drew you to this particular topic?
Derry Brabbs: It was actually entirely by chance because, during the mid-’80s, I was doing a photographic project in Spain for a book on Spanish food and wine. And when I was in the heart of Spain, west of Burgos, I came across some churches that had references to St. James and also some old pilgrimage references and it tweaked a curiosity button.Salamanca cathedral interior dome. Photo copyright Derry Brabbs. Used with permission.
But it was lodged in the brain and nothing happened. And I went on and finished that particular job. Years after that I was getting more and more architecturally aware because most of my work had been with landscapes. And the idea had just laid dormant for a few years and then I got very tied up working with the wonderful Alfred Wainwright, on books on the long-distance footpaths and, in particular, in the Lake District and that sadly came to an end after seven books.
Then I got to do my own illustrated book on the UK’s abbeys and monasteries and that really got my medieval architectural interest going. And then from the depths of the brain, I remembered the pilgrimage route. And I actually put together a proposal to the publishers and they thought it was worth a go.
So that was my first book called The Roads to Santiago, and that was predominantly the four Pilgrim routes through France and then across the Camino Frances de Santiago de Compostela. And I was hooked.
Jo Frances Penn: You mentioned there about long-distance footpaths.
For all these books you’ve written, have you actually been walking the whole journeys including these pilgrimages?
Derry Brabbs: Well, now, here’s a confession because as confession plays a significant role in the act of pilgrimage, I’m going to confess first and foremost is that no, in a word, because...
Jo Frances Penn: I was going to say it would take you a long time.
Derry Brabbs: Well, the thing is, I worked out that if I was actually walking all the routes that I’d written about and photographed, I’d still be there and I wouldn’t have really got one book out.Bleak & exposed landscape near Zamora. Photo copyright Derry Brabbs. Used with permission.
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