After a teaching excursion in Germany some years ago, an old friend and I decided to drive over to visit Prague in the Czech Republic. We toured the old city and the square with its magnificent clock tower. Then we walked up to the very old Prague castle and explored around it. St. Vitus Cathedral is right beside the castle. Church and State never far away from each other in medieval Europe. The cobblestone streets there date back 1000 years.
On the back side of the church is an alleyway where merchants no doubt kept shop for the clerics and nobility up on top of this hill. It is not wide this alley. Barely room for two carts to pass by each other and the walls of the church rise up far above our heads with gargoyles starting out or down at us to menace and keep us peasants in our place.
There is not much to see walking down this alley. It is a route to the back road down the hillside. But passing through it, I saw these large doors, the back doors to the church. On these iron doors, held together with giant black metal spikes and screws were hung a few door knockers. Made of iron, these knockers showed the bodies and heads of serpents hanging down to the pavement below.
I lifted one to let it see the alley once again instead of the stones below. Then I let it drop against the steel and resume its watch of the street. Who would put this much effort into a door knocker on the poor side, the distaff side of the cathedral? Who would make something so carefully? More evidence of the value of doing things well. Even when ignored by most of a world but known to the craftsman.
Consider exploring another world with us in the Studio. Join us for The Hand Tool Shop this spring starting March 13th and lasting through April 7th. Take one week of class or all four in an exploration of hand tool work, patience, and practice. Working with hand tools is a different kind of meditation and exercise on the value of quality.