Because They Banished Time

Time has been banished from Mainz’s Altstadt, or Old Town. All Time’s kin—years, decades, centuries—have been exiled. Unharried by age, the half-timbered homes, cupolas, and domes wear the same watercolor finery they have modeled since an architect first sketched them into existence.

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In the Cathedral square, the Saturday Market pops up under red awnings, like toadstools that sprouted overnight. And like the toadstools, the market is native to this square, as old as the town itself. There is no beginning or end to traditions in the Altstadt. The crates of blushing apples, Cinderella pumpkins, and ebony plums are the perennial gift of this fertile river valley. Baskets spill over with grapes like green sea foam, harvested from vineyards almost as old as the medieval cathedral. The air feels porous, as if I could step right through into Market Day 1717, and find myself holding the same apple, in the same square, shaded by the same homes. Time has been banished. It cannot block my way.

Photo: http://www.germany.travel

In the Cathedral, I sit on a back pew and listen to the symphony of echoes. The afternoon’s own echoes weave the melody, but the harmonies seem to spool from shadowed alcoves and the eastern crypt, where voices unheard for hundreds of years clear the dust from their throats.

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I descend into the crypt’s vaulted passageway, expecting a cold hand on the back of my neck and a sweet shock to that sensitive node at the root of my spine. But instead I feel midnight stillness and a tender, drowsy gravity—the warm lure of a long sleep under eiderdown quilts. Because in the realm from which Time has been banished, it is as much midnight as it is midday. And the Entombed are only as dead as I am when I dream.

One morning, when Day still holds its breath, I will come here, to the small, stone, side chapel where knights and ladies prayed. I will bow my head, because although I do not know its name, I know that the god who lives here is not a dead god, but a dancing god.

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