I visited my old seminary last Friday to deliver a guest lecture and for my weekly fencing meet. I was curious, and found that the old Velenus Cenotaph still stands near the aspen tree grove on the south end of the complex. Much like its namesake, it seems a place largely forgotten because it is not the grandest icon of the campus. The Great Colonnade still draws most students towards Heideran’s Forum for general socializing, and it draws them north and into the center of campus, not towards the southern stand.
However, I always somewhat preferred the Velenus Cenotaph and its little, quiet courtyard. It was a good place for reflection. Not many were about, but it was a fantastic place to eat lunch, pray, and meditate between classes. Spending a bit of time there even this weekend filled me with a relative peace by which to focus and reflect.
The Cenotaph sits in a modest fountain, and is cut from white marble (which rather stands apart from the more rustic finishes that surround it; I think Velenus’s admirer commissioned the cenotaph without having ever seen the courtyard it would be housed in if he even considered the cenotaph itself). I always found that somewhat familiar, being undeniably a part of the surroundings and yet unmistakably different. Intended to draw people to marvel at it, and yet it is so ill-designed to do so.
Still, I appreciate it; it is its very difference and dissonance that made it so pleasing to me. Here, in its unquestionable idiosyncrasy, some few of us found a perfect place. It would have been a lesser seminary without it. And this is undeniably not my opinion alone, as there it still stands. It is maintained daily, its marble still faithfully waxed and restored against weathering even after all the centuries, its waters cleaned and purified, its stone mosaic floor swept free of detritus. It is a place both forgotten, somewhat out of place, and yet necessary and pure.
Is there a place like this for you, where you go to find peace?