Moon Over St Dymphnakirk, July 30, 2010

There it was, Dymphna's Cathedral. Lonely, stark, and Medieval Dark. Built by the Mason's One Thousand Plus years ago in homage to the young girl, martyred for not giving in to her father's request for incest.

Robert Eringer, the boy's and I, had gone into the Cathedral to find the evening mass just ending. (only two old lady's wearing black were in attendance). The cathedral inside was also very dark; guess they had problems paying their electric bill?

We asked the Deacon, Joseph, (everybody here is named Joesph or Dymphna) after the two martyred saints) where the relics were, and he said they were across the street in the Museum. We then changed our plans to come back tomorrow when it was lighter outside, (and not so creepy).

I spent the rest of the evening painting this lonely painting of the Full Moon over Dymphnakirk, and having surreal moments at two am near the town of Zammel five miles away (Where Dymphna and Amand (Joseph) lived at the time of the murder.


THE DYMPHNA LEGEND: (Excerpt from Surreal Bounce)

She was born in Ireland in during the Merovingian period—very early in the seventh century--the daughter of a pagan king named Damon and a mother who converted to Christianity to ensure Dymphna would be educated under the tutelage of a priest named Gerebern.

Dymphna’s beautiful mother died suddenly. Her father, inconsolable, fell into what today we would call clinical depression. Courtiers worried that their king’s mental health would further deteriorate unless he took another wife, so they urged him to do so. Damon dispatched envoys around Ireland to find a woman as beautiful as the wife he’d lost. When they returned empty-handed, a deranged notion struck the lustful king. Hmmm, my fourteen year-old daughter, Dymphna-–she looks exactly the same as her mother…

Dymphna was horrified by her father’s proposal. Each time she refused his advances, the king’s rage grew worse. Gerebern, the priest, was also perplexed by this situation, and he plotted an escape for them both.

With assistance from the court jester, Dymphna and Gerebern crossed the English Channel by boat and sailed up the River Schelde to Antwerp. Feeling unsafe near a waterway, they made their way inland to Zammel, a small settlement of about fifteen houses and a well six miles from what would later become Gheel.

When King Damon realized his daughter and her pesky priest had duped him, he went nuts. (Also, he no longer had a court jester to help him see the lighter side.)

With a small army of warriors in three boats, the king set sail in search of Dymphna. How did he know where to go? For two months Damon followed the money. Dymphna and Gerebern recklessly left a trail of their native coins as payment for services rendered en route to a new life abroad. The final tip came from a woman at an inn called The Kettle, in a village called Westerlo. She pointed out the direction Dymphna had taken. (Legend suggests arthritis cut in immediately, for the woman’s arm remained rigidly outstretched for the rest of her life.)

When Dymphna and Gerebern learned the king and his warriors were near, they fled Zammel. But not fast enough. The king caught up with them six miles away.

Blaming the couple’s misadventure on Gerebern, Damon slew the priest without further ado (no trial necessary). Then he asked his daughter one last time: “Will you marry me?”

Dymphna declined.

Damon commanded his warriors to execute his daughter. Not one stepped forward. So the crazed king raised his mighty sword and severed Dymphna’s head with one blow. (No one knows what he did to the court jester.) Adding insult to murder and mayhem, Damon and his warriors left the scene without bothering to bury their victims.

Zammel’s citizens were greatly distressed by the carnage they found at the scene. They interred Dymphna and Gerebern at the very spot they were slain.

Word of what happened that tragic day in 621 A.D. traveled around Europe. Within a few hundred years (word traveled slow back then), the burial site became a shrine for mentally disordered pilgrims. They discovered that if they prayed at Dymphna’s burial site, to her relics (bones), their mental illnesses gave way to sanity. (It sure beat an Abilify/Zoloft cocktail.) After notching up a few such miracles, Dymphna qualified for sainthood.

A whole town grew up around it. The town of Gheel.

Today, a marble statue marks this site-–diagonally opposite Dymphnakerk: Demented Damon, under the influence of a demon, poised to decapitate Dymphna–-martyred for her morality.

Image: "Dymphnakerk" by Thomas Van Stein

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