I have sat in a lot of cathedrals over the last few weeks and have realised that men have a special cathedral face. It’s a mildly bemused look blended with the sense that there is something here that they are supposed to respond to in some way – but it is out of their reach, beyond their recognition. They stare numbly at things they wouldn’t normally glance at and frown slightly in concentration as if to mystically suck meaning out of this incomprehensible object before them.
The guide drones on about history but they are acutely aware that there school history is not adequate for the job, but they feel they somehow SHOULD know and be able to piece it all together, and they cover their sense of inadequacy with a sage nod.
To this blend they try to add what they think is a benign goodwill-to-all smile because this is a church isn’t it – and you have to look pleasant and kind in church.
All of this sets their faces into that generic “cathedral face”.