Encountering Ordinary Visitors through Cathedral Visitors’ Books

  • Lewis Burton
Chapter

Summary

This chapter draws on Jeff Astley’s notion of ordinary theology to analyze, to interpret, and to reflect on the comments inscribed in the visitors’ books from one cathedral in the north west of England. Four visitors’ books were available, covering a period of three and a half years from July 2005 to January 2009. These yielded a database of 1,278 visitors who signed the book and inserted a comment. Analysis of the comments confirmed that the cathedral served a double function, both as an historical attraction to secular tourists and as a source of religious experience and spiritual insight. This double function is revealed through a secular response to the building and its contents and a spiritual response to the ambience that the cathedral creates. In secular terms the comments show positive and negative reactions to what visitors experience and therefore are a means of feedback to the cathedral authorities. In spiritual terms the comments show that visitors see the cathedral as a holy place, a place of calm from their experience of busy lives, a place for prayer, a place that creates inspiring thoughts, and a place that stimulates reflection on their personal beliefs. The results of the inquiry demonstrate that cathedral visitors’ books provide valuable information about ordinary visitors that cathedrals should treat seriously.

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Copyright information

© Leslie J. Francis 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lewis Burton

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