I'm touring a part of Europe I've seen before, though in my dream it is not named. I decide to visit a favorite small church though it is far off the beaten track, because though it is a Romanesque church its construction hints at the commencement of Gothic flourishes. A fan of both styles, I find it appealing, and adore it as much as the great Notre Dame do Poitiers. There are only a handful of vitraux after 750 years, but the examples are spectacular 13th century, with those mysterious pristine reds and blues whose process of manufacture was lost long ago. One, I recall, has a curious emblem at its apex--Jason grasping the toisson d'or.
In the church are hints at its locale: small canvases by Petrus Christus, Dirk Bouts, Hans Memling. Before I arrive I can already see the paintings in their nooks, the Bouts in the nave, the Christus in a chapel to the right, the Memling in a small entryway before the crypt.
Upon arrival I see a grand commotion. My first fear is that tourists have descended en mass to wreck my appreciation of a favorite spot. Had it been tourists, it would have been a blessing.
Inside the church things are awry. The vitraux are on the floor, leaning carelessly against pews and walls. I assume they are being cleaned, and upon seeing the portly priest I recognize from last time I ask if I can look more closely. He laughs and tells me to enjoy my last glimpse. "Are they going to a museum?" I ask, but he continues bustling about. There are people rushing around everywhere, and something doesn't feel right. I head to the right to see the Christus, a precise and vivid passion, and find instead a digital picture frame exchanging every few seconds the banalities of Thomas Kincaid. The Memling is gone as well, replaced by a rolling billboard which flashes photos of evangelical heavyweights. Where Bouts once hung is an electronic ad alternating zippy adverts for Nike and Channel, who funded the "remodeling."
The stained glass is not off to a museum, I see--the priest is having it dismantled by his flock. They are doling out irreplaceable bits to children who are taking it outside to play with. Some of them are stomping the bits to shards and thence to powder with their heavy shoes. I quickly announce in French that I am willing to buy the remaining windows and take them away immediately but the priest scorns me as an unbeliever.
I realize that there is a peculiar fundamentalism at work here. My beloved 12th century church is being converted into a modern-day megachurch. There is a big sound system, there are projection screens and LCDs. There is piped-in John Tesh. I race behind the nave and off to the side where an ancient addition was placed. I know there was a tiny stained glass window there and think perhaps I can save it. In the room children are throwing balls around and dancing ecstatically. Some wear pig masks, some are donkeys. I find the window and put it inside a box which holds post cards. As I walk out the priest is shouting about Satan and his works. Parishoners gesture at me and I feel great menace. I get to the door and it beeps like a retail store exit and then the alarm is going off.