From the Unsaid Archives: The Meaning of Steeples By Jason Schwartz (From Unsaid Five)



The churches in Eaton, as in Lawton and Harrow, not to mention Putnam, Dunnock, Whitebriar, and Townsend—these, I believe, were destroyed during the war. In Newbury—where a child had died rather famously, a boy, the son of a minister or a deacon, the blackcoat, as they had it, drowned, his feet cut off for the coffin, which was then lost—the spire was a broach spire. In Bethlehem, the tower once housed four mourners—or five, were you to include the suicide—the chains arranged in a so-called hatchet pattern. (According to one old notion, red steeples are neither God’s arms nor falling bodies—but, in fact, spikes in a crown.) The Durham remains were buried with the beds, just west of the road. The markers, for their part, stood twenty or thirty paces from the churchyard. And the sound of the wind—this was quite another matter, especially in Colonial towns. (Speyer is a German cathedral town—city, actually—on the Rhine.) The Thornton daughters suffered on a rooftop, and then a balcony, and then a knoll. The Bratton marriage documents indicate a church wedding in late May—but exhibit, in place of the names, drawings of corpses. (According to another old notion, black steeples are coffins or a cuckold’s horns.) The churches in Eaton were destroyed by cannon fire, I imagine—the bells having been removed to Mill Hall and Pike Fork, or to Woodbine and Barlow. In Marion—where a beadle, dressed in funeral weeds, had been stabbed through the hands, the staircase at the back of the chapel, or in a tower, his body carried out in the morning—the spire was a needle spire. In Bedminster, the tower once housed two prisoners—the first thrown to his doom, as they had it, and the second drawn and quartered, the remains sent north to the wrong town.

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