Erotic Photographs & Sacred Spaces

Posted at 10:02am on 5th August 2009

The Diocese of Truro is suing photographer, Andy Craddock, for taking erotic photographs of women inside the 13th Century St Michael Penkivel Church, in Cornwall, in South West England.

Naturally, the self-professed-self-taught photographer denies intentionally causing the “deep offence” claimed by the church.

“I don’t understand it and I don’t see the photographs as offensive, it’s art,” he says.

Given that his website is named Deviant Art, that the photographs in question are hidden behind a “banned” sign, and that access to them is only granted if you sign in as a “Deviant”, I somehow doubt that. In my opinion, this is titillation for the sake of commercial interests.

Needless to say, I have not viewed the pictures – though I might not have been averse to doing so. Pornography sickens me. The naked body as art, however, fails to shock. Had I not been required to sign is as “a Deviant”, I was willing to be open to forming my own judgement. I refuse, however, to have a label, metaphorically, hung round my neck. Andy Craddock will not have the satisfaction of having hooked me with his little game.


What really interests me in this debate is the diocesan spokesman’s use of the phrase “sacred space”. "The Church deplores the use of sacred space in this way," he said. The wording sparked a discussion between my husband and me.

He had been brought up with a fundamental belief in God’s omnipresence and I with a mixture of creeds. We are both of the opinion, however, that what most people call a church is, in fact, merely a building in which the real church – the people of God – meet to worship.

Thus the hypothesis put forward by my husband was: if God is everywhere, how can anywhere be considered more, or less, sacred than anywhere else.

Now I accept that God is everywhere. I do not, however, believe that this means that he is to be found in all people - though he is equally accessible to everyone. Hitler, for example, could not be said to be inhabited by a holy God (holy meaning “set aside”) when he gassed six million Jews. But that does not mean – and I do not wish to cause offence, here – that he was beyond repentance and salvation when he hid in his bunker at the end. If that were so, then the basic tenet of Christian belief - that Christ died for all - would be confounded.

So where is this leading? My daughter is shortly to appear in a BBC TV programme about the Pilgrim’s Trail on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales. The walk and the church at the end of it are considered by many to be “sacred” (definition: blessed, consecrated, hallowed, revered, sanctified).

By my husband’s argument, that is a nonsense. All of creation is sacred in that it was created by God, for God and for his pleasure. Since he is holy, it follows (in this argument) that all places – and none – are equally holy.


But hang on! The definition of "holy" is "set aside". So where my husband's reasoning failed, he admitted, was in the concept of places being “set aside”.

My husband is a gardener. From the overcrowded, neglected area at the back of our house, when we bought it more than twenty-five years ago, he has created a place of beauty and tranquillity, which is spacious yet intimate.

“I suppose,” he conceded, countering his previous statement, “that a garden is an area designated - or set aside - for a purpose. And it's fenced off to prevent its being used for any other purpose.”

Having seen the devastation of my parents’ garden, by the sheer insensitivity of their new landlord, who brought in diggers and cranes to demolish it, I can only agree. The purpose of their hidden lawns, grassed walkways and rose beds - fifty years in the making – was to provide a haven of privacy, which was in keeping with the local topography. Their distress at its destruction was profound. In truth, to a gardener, a garden is a “sacred place”.

Jesus, we’re told, in an act of what, today, would be called grievous bodily harm (GBH) was violently opposed to the practices of the vendors and money lenders in the courts surrounding the temple. Driving them out with a whip, he chastised them for daring to “turn my Father’s house into a market.”

To a householder a home is “set aside” for a specific purpose as defined by the owner. To Christ, the temple was “set aside” as his Father’s house, and its purpose, as defined by God, is for worship.

The purpose of a church, too, is for worship. Specifically, to worship God. No matter how Andy Craddock may protest, it cannot, therefore, be a place to worship either the human body – per his photographs – not the money and fame that they will make him.

Being a place of worship makes a church a “holy” place. Its violation is, therefore, profane. In my opinion, the diocese is right to sue – if for no other reason than to bring about the removal of the photographs from public display.

What do you think? Leave your comments in the box below.


Author of a number of books, one a No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV.

Your Comments:

5th August 2009
at 6:07pm

Deviant Art is a social networking site for artists of all kinds
to post their work, share it with others and make friends with
other artists from around the world. My daughter, who is 15, has
been a member of the Deviant Art community for 3 years or so.
It's harmless, fun and not without merit and the registration
process helps the artists to protect their work from blatant
plagiarism from the web community at large.

I didn't read the rest of your diatribe because you got the
fundamentals wrong in your opening statement, thus rendering any
other comment you may have made both uninformed and pointless, at
least from my point of view.

Please think about the piece as a whole next time you start to
write, and get your facts straight before beginning your rant, that
way I might get to all the way to the end.

Mel Menzies
5th August 2009
at 7:21pm

It's a pity, Robert, that you didn't read on before
subjecting me to the same sort of rant that you accuse me of. I
hope you will do so now. Andy Craddock and his website were merely
the topical opening to an article on an entirely different subject.
Had you not reacted so vehemently to that opening statement which,
was, in fact, almost verbatim what was being reported by the media,
you would have seen that my piece had little or nothing to do with
art of any sort. It was, in fact, a debate about what constitutes
'sacred spaces' - a debate my husband and I have had on
several occasions - which, in this case, was prompted by the
statement made by the spokesman for the Truro Diocese.

All that I wrote about Deviant Art was overtly expressed as my
opinion. To call the article a diatribe or a rant - particularly
when you haven't read it - is, in my view, something of a
misnomer. I think that if you were to read to the end you
might find that the comments I made were balanced, informed and
entirely to the point. As for thinking about the piece as a whole,
that is exactly what I did. As I've said, the events
surrounding Andy Craddock were merely a convenient lead to the
piece I already intended to write.

That said, I value your interest in my blog enormously, and
respect your right to your opinion. Indeed, were it not so, I could
have kept your comment hidden from public view. I also value your
superior knowledge about Deviant Art, and stand corrected. You, I
hope, will understand and respect my reluctance to sign in as a
'deviant'. Friends?

download books
19th August 2009
at 8:57am

Completely I share your opinion. In it something is also to me
this idea is pleasant, I completely with you agree.

elaine britt
30th August 2009
at 2:25pm

Hi Mel, I have forwarded your blog to many of my Christian and
friends in the world of art and look forward to their comments and
opinions! As for me, I am with you fully!

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