Ishmael, our Moby Dick narrator, travels to a chapel in New Bedford while killing time waiting for his ship to Nantucket. I enjoyed the description of the pulpit at the church, which was described as “very lofty,” but instead of having a ladder to ascend, Father Mapple climbed a rope ladder, drawing it up behind him, leaving him “impregnable in his little Quebec.” Ishmael ponders the reason for this isolation of the pastor. Could it symbolize spiritual withdrawal from the world? Perhaps it is a “self-containing stronghold – a lofty Ehrenbreitstein…” (An ancient fortress in Germany, in case you were wondering – thanks Wiki.)
Apparently, the rope ladder was not the only unusual feature of this pulpit. The whole thing was designed to look like a ship, from the carvings on either side, to the scroll work on the “prow” of the thing. Ishmael (and, after some contemplation, even I) enjoyed the analogy as the pulpit being
…ever the earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in it’s rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on it’s passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is it’s prow.
What an unusual idea! Or maybe not so unusual… check out these real pulpits. Let’s start our tour here:
I especially like the cross jutting out across the congregation.
Or, how about this one:
Much more ornate! Check out the gold accents. Nice. This is a pulpit with “bling.”
Maybe this would suit your congregation:
I actually think this might be an organ, not a pulpit. What say, you, Christina? Guess we’d need a balcony first.
Another lovely ship:
The blue sail contrasts so nicely with the gold filigree. And is that a rope ladder peeking from the side?
This could be Ahab at the prow of his ship, or Father Mapple exhorting his congregation – take your pick:
Suffice it to say, this pulpit/ship analogy has apparently struck others in the church designing business. Perhaps they all read Moby Dick as well! I may have to bring this to the attention of our pastors. For more detail, read chapter VIII in the book.