Way back in the early eighties or late seventies during the study of Medieval History my beloved high school teacher Mrs Elizabeth Morrell started my interest in red doors. She mentioned that in that time when most people weren’t literate information was communicated by used of symbols. One example she gave was the red door – a symbol of sanctuary.
Red doors were unlocked; red doors were places you could go and not be pursued; red doors were shelters from the elements without eviction; red doors could offer spiritual saving as well as physical; red doors were sanctuary from the travails of life. I was impressed that this meaning held so much that if the king’s men were pursuing you and you ran into a red door – the only way to get you was via negotiation or wait until you emerged. That’s why during this time most churches had red doors and many do today.
I’m not sure why the concept has stuck with me for thirty years. It has and it’s echoed in my mind at the sight of every red door since. I think somewhere deep inside I wondered ‘if I go through that red door will I find my sanctuary from the travails of life?’ Not found that door yet, but then again like any good story it’s the obstacles that make life interesting.
Now when I have camera in hand and spot a red door I take a picture of it. I like documenting the various doors to various types of sanctuary. The one above is a traditional door on a traditional church. This one isn’t.
It’s the back door to the Wine Knot restaurant and bar here in Kenosha. True this one has a visible lock on it. I’d guess the one above has a lock of some type, times just call for it today. Still I’m amused pondering the type of sanctuary offered by Wine Knot compared to St. Matthews. Though honestly I’d prefer the sanctuary of a good meal with friends in a comfortable cozy restaurant over a sermon while sitting on a hard wooden pew. That’s just me, to each his/her own. I’d say my ultimate sanctuary for dealing with life travails is solitude. That’s when I negotiate with the king’s men perusing me in life and come out to life on my own terms. It’s not behind a red door, or at least not often but I found it.
I also liked that the Wine Knot door wasn’t perfect, it was weathered and worn from years of offering sanctuary to hungry souls. I played about with different filters and frames for it. You can click on the image to go to my Flickr account and see other versions.
My fascination with red doors will continue. I’ll try to make a picture of various ones I encounter in my travels. I wish the library had red doors. I find sanctuary in there quite often. Maybe that’ll be a suggestion of mine for the historic Simmons Library downtown – paint the doors red.
As always you know where to find me until next time!