Thanks to the reach of the Internet — and Facebook — I have discovered the identity of the photographer of the image that is being used for the cover design of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism. The photographer is named Francesco Pirrone; he shot the photograph in the ruins of the Church of San Pantaleo in the village of Martis in Sardinia.
If you care to visit it (I hope I can, someday), click here to see the location of the church on Google Maps.
Here’s an image of the exterior of the church, from a Sardinia Tourism website.
Francesco Pirrone notes that this church is interesting “because the roof collapsed and the floor is dropped.” The Sardinia Tourism website notes that this church was built in the 13th century in Romanesque-Gothic style. The website also mentions a summer bonfire ritual which has interesting parallels to the Beltane/Mayday ceremonies from the British Isles:
On the evening of June 24th a characteristic event takes place which is worth mentioning; “su fogarone”, (a huge bonfire) is prepared, which has to be jumped over by pairs of both children and adults; in the past, before jumping, the pair tied a knot in a handkerchief to symbolise the relationship that was being formed at that very moment and thus becoming “compares e comares de fogarone”; a link, which purified by the flames, was stronger than that of a blood relation.
I can’t tell if this bonfire ritual takes place at the church itself, or just somewhere in Martis. But if does take place at the church, how interesting that what may be a vestigial pagan ceremony is associated with a beautiful church that would eventually appear on the cover of a book about Christian mysticism written by a former neopagan. And how interesting that I should discover all this on the first of May.
Synchronicity. It’s a beautiful thing.
Finally, here is another look at the interior of the church, from the lens of Francesco Pirrone.