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The Story Behind That Picture VII
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The Story Behind That Picture: Aarhus Cathedral

By: Thorsten Overgaard [In Danish]

I’ve just finished editing a series of pictures from Aarhus Cathedral that I had the pleasure photographing from tower to bottom a few weeks ago. And allow me to clarify the mystery about the Mars landscape in the picture; which is the outer side of vault as seen from the ceiling. And the red color is due to the fire-resistant painting on all the oak wood.

The inside of the rib vault. There is a gangway over the outer vault though the vault is actually strong enought to be valked on directly. At least I was told but was well-mannered enought to leave that pleasure to others.
I also just finished reading Ken Follet’s “World Without End” which is the follow-up to the best book I’ve ever read, “The Pillars of the Earth” which I’ve read twice on the last eight years. Both are 1,000 page novels, and if I reveal the first one is on cathedral building, few will probably feel an urge to read it. But it’s also about kings, wars, love, wealth, sin and poverty. But perhaps it’s mainly a book about believing it’s possible to achieve ones goals.

A bonus for me is the insight into the business plan of a cathedral and religion. And that’s not meant derogatory, because I think impressive buildings, choir voices and musical compositions out of this world that lift the spirit is a good thing. Today we take cathedrals for granted and easily forget that some hundred years someone had a vision where there were just a small town and a small church. And that vision brought alive made that place alive and a major city. As in Ken Follet’s book “The Pillars of the Earth” where it’s the fictive place Kingsbridge that, thanks to the cathedral, in a matter of 300 years grows from a small monastery with a few houses around, into one of the biggest towns in England.

The business model, as I call it, is that when a cathedral is being build, and also when it’s finished, is a magnet for people, trade, art and all. It becomes a center of interest, and that’s how the continued building of the cathedral is also financed; though the increased trade, church taxes, gifts and heritages from an ever-increasing population.

What if nobody ever had thought of the idea of a cathedral? Then what? I must have required perseverance, economical talent, belief and the ability to put up a show though religious symbols, heavenly choirs and vaults stretching towards heaven to gain support.

The picture above is for a magazine article about the Aarhus Cathedral that will come out after summer. I had the pleasure to be guided around in this – the largest church building in Denmark – for three hours; walking up hidden internal stairs, up in the tower, over the ceiling, down to the plateau over the church room where the church organ with it’s 6,000 pipes resides. The following day I spent a few hours in the church room by myself and also tried to capture the outer of the building from different roofs around in town.

- Thorsten Overgaard

    June 2, 2009
The outer side and the inner side of the vault 100 feet above Aarhus Cathedral, showing the front and back of the illusion. Photographed with Leica Digilux 2.

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Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish-American multiple award-winning photographer, known for his writings about photography and Leica cameras. He travels to more than 25 countries a year, photographing and teaching workshops to photographers. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via email.

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