I am traveling today and thinking of the people I have met in the past year of teaching, writing, praying, doing whatever one does in Europe on limited resources.
What I have discovered, again, as if I needed reminding, that nothing happens by accident. The people we meet are always significant in our lives, and the places we go bear our little footsteps. God is in charge, of course, and if we are not like little, wonderful St. Therese, the Little Flower, staying within the confines of a very small parameter of families, friends, fellow sisters, in a small area of France, we still are under the great guidance of Providence.
I am grateful for all I have seen and learned and for whom I have met.
A small story from this website illustrates my point most dramatically. Ralph Beyer, the world famous artist who did the lettering at the entrance of Coventry Cathedral and who was influenced by my favorite, hands-down, artist David Jones, ended up working in the renewal of Coventry Cathedral for one reason-he had been imprisoned as a prisoner of war in Britain. When he was imprisoned during the war as an alien, he met the great Nickolaus Pevsner. Let this site tell the story for me.
Beyer was arrested as an enemy alien and housed in the internment camp at Huyton near Liverpool, which proved to be a stroke of remarkable fortune. Among the inmates was Nikolaus Pevsner, the writer on art and architecture. This acquaintance would later be renewed with decisive consequences for Beyer's career. Beyer's internment was short-lived: after three months he was able to join the Royal Pioneer Corps, in which he served throughout the war.
In 1950 Beyer moved to Cambridge to work first as a jobbing lettercutter, then, briefly, for the ex-Gill apprentice David Kindersley, who by then had set up his own workshop at Barton. It was in Cambridge that Beyer came across a magazine article with a photograph of a painted inscription by the poet and artist David Jones. Jones's very personal lettering recalled the naive early Christian catacomb carvings which had interested Beyer's father. Perhaps in a freer, less formal approach Beyer could use the lettercutting skills he had laboriously acquired and achieve something of the expressive intensity he had seen in the calligraphy and graphic work of Rudolf Koch, whom his father had championed.
In 1953 Beyer set up in London as a freelance inscriptional carver. Among the more routine jobs were two which allowed him to try out his new ideas: an inscription and line carvings on a slate altar, and cast concrete lettering around a church porch, both in the East End of London. In 1955, thanks to Pevsner, he was introduced to Basil Spence, architect of the projected new Coventry Cathedral. This would lead to the defining commission of his career, and one of the most significant works of hand lettercutting of the twentieth century.
Nearly all the lettering in Coventry cathedral was executed or designed by Beyer. The largest Artworks are the eight 'Tablets of the Word' on either side of the nave, and the huge metal floor inscription by the main entrance. Beyer's Coventry lettering, like the cathedral itself, was controversial. Nicolete Gray praised Beyer for his courage, and for departing from tired formulae, but criticised what she saw as a lack of 'seriousness' and any 'new and meaningful organization of his variable forms'.
After Coventry there would be other significant commissions among the lettercutter's staple of plaques, memorials, signs and commemorative stones. One of Beyer's personal favourites was a series of inscriptions in the Paul Tillich Park, New Harmony, Indiana, USA, some sandblasted, some hand-cut.
To all my friends and readers, there are NO accidents in God. Just as Beyer met Pevsner and was influenced by Gill and Jones, so we meet and are influenced by others for good, always for good if we are in God's Grace.
God bless you all, as I move my way through the outskirts of London. For Carol and Chris.
"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."