Coronation on Carmel by Michael V. Day is the second book in a trilogy that tells the story of the Shrine of the Bab, the resting place of the Bab, a Messenger of God whose revitalizing message prepared the way for the coming of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
Michael’s skills and talents as a journalist and his deep love for Baha’i history make for an exciting read. I was delighted to hear from Michael about his book, the process of putting it together, and its uniqueness in the trilogy. Here’s what Michael shared with me:
Baha’i Blog: So good to talk to you about this second book in the trilogy, Michael! Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
Coronation on Carmel is the second book in the trilogy I wrote to tell the story of the Shrine of the Bab. It starts just after where Journey to a Mountain finished. It covers the period 1922 to 1963, the time when Shoghi Effendi took on and fulfilled the responsibility given to him by the Abdu’l-Baha to complete the Shrine of the Bab.
The book traces the drama from start to finish. First, it lists the problems in the early years and then shows how by drawing on spiritual resources and through careful planning and attention to practicalities, Shoghi Effendi engaged the brilliant architect, William Sutherland Maxwell, motivated the Baha’is to donate the funds, and with an acute sense of timing, achieved his goal.
The book details the design of the arcade and superstructure, and how it was built. There are lots of descriptions of events in and near the Shrine.
The story is set against the background of the economic depression, communal conflict in the Holy Land, the anxious times of World War 2, and the establishment of the State of Israel.
Baha’i Blog: Can you give some examples of what you found?
One example is the story about the “Man with the Golden Touch,” the stonemason who built the dome.
Another is the answer to how the great columns and other stonework were taken to the site of the Shrine, how they were unloaded and where they were stored.
I was privileged to obtain this information in a face-to-face interview with a gardener for Shoghi Effendi, Abdul-Raouf Rowhani. It was great to be in Mr. Rowhani’s radiant presence as he remembered serving the beloved Guardian.
There are more than 70 pages of photographs, some never published before, including rare photos of the Guardian. When they turned up, I kind of danced on the spot in celebration. Via other photos I figured out where the Shrine’s electrical generator was stored. That took ages.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about why you felt this was an important undertaking, and why it was important for you to do this personally?
The more I researched about the Shrine, the more fascinated I became and the more I wanted to find out and then describe.
I hope the book depicts the great significance of the Shrine. It is the dynamo that drives the administration of the Faith but I think there is even more to it. Have a look at the wonderful Gate of the Heart by Nader Saeidi.
Ever since I read two of my favourites books, The Priceless Pearl by Ruhiyyih Rabbani (Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum) and Shoghi Effendi by Hand of the Cause Ugo Giachery, I had been fascinated with Shoghi Effendi and this era, particularly the 1940s and 1950s.
I wanted to write about the design of the arcade and superstructure in a way that would motivate pilgrims to use the book to carefully examine the arcade and superstructure and understand the elements that go to make the Shrine so beautiful.
Baha’i Blog: What’s something you’ve really learned personally on this writing/research journey? Or, how has putting the book together influenced you?
I had to learn about architecture, and the building process, something I had known very little about.
My love and admiration for the beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, grew every step of the way as I wrote about his period. I pay my personal tribute on pp. 247-9. I wish I had met him.
It was also inspiring to read about the service provided by those who assisted him, especially Hands of the Cause Leroy Ioas, Ugo Giachery and also those not as widely known, like Ben Weeden.
This story also shows how women played a great role in the story of the Shrine— examples include the Greatest Holy Leaf (I liked writing about her funeral), Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, Gladys Weeden and Hand of the Cause Amelia Collins, to whom we all owe so much.
Baha’i Blog: I know there must be so many interesting stories and findings in the book, but what’s something interesting that comes to mind that you can share with us from the book?
I loved including the inspired writing by Ruhiyyih Khanum about the night time centennial celebrations in 1944, when the Guardian decorated the interior with flowers and lights. Check it out but be warned — you will wish you were there.
I worked hard to try to make the written story live up to the drama of the events such as meeting the daunting challenge in Italy of obtaining the marble, having it carved and transporting it to the Holy Land. It was all slotted together on the site to a very tight deadline.
Baha’i Blog: Is there anything further you’d like to share with us?
My expressions of gratitude are in the acknowledgments but I just want to say I like the photographs and how graphic artist William McGuire extracted the beauty from old images by new technology. It took ages to get hold of a photo showing the shining dome in color shortly after the completion. Take a look at the exquisite drawings by Sutherland Maxwell.
After this book comes Sacred Stairway (1963-2001), the final volume of the trilogy which covers 1963-2001 and is now available from George Ronald.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Michael! It’s been inspiring hearing about this book.
Coronation on Carmel is available for purchase here on Amazon.
You can also learn more about Michael and his work from his website: www.michaelvday.com.
If you enjoyed this interview, you might also like our interview with Michael about the first book in the trilogy: Journey to a Mountain: A New Book Telling the Story of the Shrine of the Bab