Here is an excerpt from the travel diary of pilgrim Bob Mosebach as read by fellow pilgrim, Phil Benoit, and set to photos from the pilgrimage to England.
Here is an excerpt from the travel diary of pilgrim Bob Mosebach as read by fellow pilgrim, Phil Benoit, and set to photos from the pilgrimage to England.
Our time in England has come to an end. By now most of the pilgrims have arrived home and are now getting back into the routines of our home and work lives. The past ten days have been full of experiencing new places, worshiping in different sacred spaces, and meeting new people. We have explored the different ways in which Christians have borne witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ from the first century to today. We have seen where people have died for their faith; including both Protestants and Catholics, and people of other faiths. We felt the desperation and pain of standing in the midst of a ruined past, and yet, we felt the hope of a better future that focuses on reconciliation and not further division.
We set out ten days ago to begin a sacred journey. We set out on this journey for many different reasons, with each person seeking something different. We go on pilgrimage to the sacred places related to our faith and our tradition because we are ultimately looking for a closer relationship with God. While exploring the narratives and landscapes of our faith we find God in facts, but God is also full of surprises and deep mysteries. Just like our earthly pilgrimage where we constantly encounter God in different ways, that too is our experience when we travel the world seeking God. Our hope is that by seeking God beyond our own home, work, and church we will be transformed. We will come back changed. The person who left on pilgrimage ten days ago is inevitably not the same person who returns. We carry our baggage with us on pilgrimage; our hopes and dreams, our pain and sorrow, and go hoping for God to take heal our brokenness and bring us closer to him.
What makes a pilgrimage different from just taking a tour of England is that hope of transformation. A tourist changes their environment, looking for the familiar in the midst of the unfamiliar. A pilgrim lets the environment change them, immersing themselves in the unfamiliar and embracing the opportunity for transformation. A tourist on vacation goes to get away from life, to take a break from the stresses and acres of home and work. Yet a pilgrim travels to confront life’s important questions. We reflected on the issues of faith and witness, life and death, and the hope of peace and reconciliation across Christian traditions and even interfaith reconciliation. Perhaps the biggest difference between a tour and a pilgrimage is that while on pilgrimage we may have goals and challenges, risks and difficulties that we may not accept “on holiday.” We did not stay in the poshest hotels nor did we dine in the finest restaurants, though we did have some excellent cuisine. Instead we experienced wonderful hospitality from our hosts in Lancaster. We stayed in retreat houses and seminary rooms which could have been rough but we had amazing accommodations and even better food. Though we did not have any security concerns of fears as when we went to the Holy Land, as pilgrims we offer those fears to God and trust in him.
God is the God of the pilgrimage whom we seek and hope to find, and also the God of the reflection of the pilgrimage, what we saw and experienced. We experienced God in every place we went. We saw the face of Christ in the people we met. And when we return, we return transformed.
I do not know what awaits us or even where we will go on our next pilgrimage, but I know that we will encounter God in new and different ways and as such we will never be the same again.
I will leave you with the Pilgrim’s Prayer that we prayed just about every day and my prayer for you all on your earthly pilgrimage:
“St James, Apostle
Chosen among the first
You were the first to drink
The Cup of the Master
And you are the great protector of pilgrims;
Make us strong in faith
And happy in hope
On our pilgrim journey
Following the path of Christian life
And sustain us so that
We may finally reach the glory of God the Father.
Today marks the final full day of our pilgrimage. Not only is it the final day but it is in Coventry that we tie together all the strands of our pilgrimage and weave them into one tapestry that tells the story of our journey. We set out ten days ago to learn more about our traditions and about our call to serve Christ in all people, and I think that by the end of the day people will also learn more about themselves and their faith.
So we began our final day by having a delicious breakfast at the college and were on our way to Coventry Cathedral. This is a site of particular interest, and one that everyone should go to if they are in England, because of the events of November 14, 1940 when the Luftwaffe carpet bombed Coventry. At the time of the war Coventry was an important city whose automobile factories had been converted to manufacture airplane parts. The city experienced over six hours of continuous bombing as German planes refueled and restocked in France. But before I tell you more about that night and what happened next we must first start at the beginning of the cathedral’s presence in Coventry.
The city of Coventry has had three cathedrals. The first was St Mary’s, a monastic building, only a few ruins of which remain. The second was St Michael’s, a 14th-century Gothic church later designated cathedral and then the third, and current cathedral is the new St Michael’s Cathedral.
The first cathedral in Coventry was St Mary’s Priory and Cathedral, 1095 to 1102, when a bishop moved the bishop’s see from Lichfield to Coventry, that is until 1539 when it fell victim to Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. Prior to 1095, it had been a small Benedictine monastery. It was a cathedral of 142 yards in length and included many large outbuildings and the remains can be seen today.
St Michael’s Church was largely constructed between the late 14th century and early 15th century. It was one of the largest parish churches in England when, in 1918, it was elevated to cathedral status on the creation of Coventry Diocese.
This St Michael’s Cathedral now stands ruined, bombed almost to destruction during the Coventry Blitz of 14 November 1940. The attack, code-named Operation Mondscheinsonate (Moonlight Sonata), was intended to destroy Coventry’s factories and industrial infrastructure, although it was clear that damage to the rest of the city, including monuments and residential areas, would be considerable.
Only the tower, spire, the outer wall and the bronze effigy and tomb of its first bishop, Huyshe Yeatman-Biggs, survived. The ruins of this older cathedral remain hallowed ground. Following the bombing of the Provost Richard Howar had the words “Father Forgive” inscribed on the wall behind the altar of the ruined building.
The current St Michael’s Cathedral, built next to the remains of the old and was designed by Basil Spence. The selection of Spence for the work was a result of a competition held in 1950 to find an architect for the new Coventry Cathedral; his design was chosen from over two hundred submitted.
Spence insisted that instead of re-building the old cathedral it should be kept in ruins as a garden of remembrance and that the new cathedral should be built alongside, the two buildings together effectively forming one church. Coventry’s modernist design caused much discussion, but on opening to the public it rapidly became a hugely popular symbol of reconciliation in post-war Britain. The interior is notable for its huge tapestry (once thought to be the world’s largest) of Christ, designed by Graham Sutherland who traveled to France to find a loom large enough to handle the dimensions of the tapestry. Opposite the tapestry is the Great West Window known as the Screen of Saints and Angels, engraved directly onto the screen in expressionist style by John Hutton who used his wife to model the various body positions found in the window.
I think most of us were deeply impacted by visiting this sacred place and to hear the stories of how this place has become a center to promote peace and reconciliation. As we walked away and boarded the coach there was a palpable sense that we had visited a very special and unique place.
We made out way back to the college and went to the chapel for our final time of prayer together. We said evening prayer and had some time to share our thoughts and reflections about the pilgrimage. It was awesome to hear how people have been transformed by this experience. I pray that as we all go out separate ways we will continue to look back on our time here, and remember all that we saw and heard, so that we can continue our bearing our witness and tell our stories as we walk through this our earthly pilgrimage.
Today we leave the beautiful oasis that is the Royal Foundation of Saint Katherine. None of us wanted to leave because this was such an amazingly perfect place to stay and we just didn’t want it to end. But just as all things must come to an end, so too does our time in London. I know that many of the pilgrims will leave this place looking forward to coming back when they can. My advice to all of you reading this, if you are ever staying in London stay at the Royal Foundation! You will not regret it. So we said goodbye to the wonderful staff and the Master and began our trek west to Oxford.
Oxford is an important site for us as Anglicans for two reasons: the first being it is the site were bishops Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicolas Ridley were burned at the stake during the reign of Mary Tudor; and secondly because it is the site of the Oxford Movement, the great 19th Century revival of liturgy and urban mission that gave birth to what we know call Anglo-Catholicism. Though these are important stories to hear about how Anglicanism continued to be shaped, we wanted to offer this day as a bit of a free day for the pilgrims.
On the bus Fr. David told us the stories of the martyrs and the Oxford Movement so that we could explore the sites on our own. We were dropped in the center of town right by the Martyrs Memorial and after a short orientation we all went our separate ways.
Since it was nearly lunch time Fr. David and I took Clarissa Gordon out to lunch and decided to humor me and have a meal at the Eagle and Child pub, which was made famous as the regular meeting place of the Inklings who were a group of professors and authors that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien…you might have heard of them. We were lucky to have arrived when we did because we had no problem finding a table, but not long after we arrived and were seated the pub filled up and there were people lining up outside trying to get a table. This might be just as much a pilgrimage site as the Martyrs Memorial and even more so than Pusey House.
For the next two hours I just completely nerded out; taking pictures and soaking in all the fun photos and posters that hung on the wall as a monument to these iconic authors. As I reveled in it I could also not help but feel a little sad as this is some place my father would have loved to visit. My love for all things Tolkien came from my father and though he died far too soon and could not take the pilgrimage himself to this wonderful place, I know he was with me while we were there.
After a filling meal and sufficient time spent in the midst of a classic pub we gave our table to another group of visitors who were clamoring to get in. From the pub we walked back towards the Martyrs Memorial and came upon Pusey House, the center of the Oxford Movement that was named after one of the movement founders Edward Pusey.
I will not go into too much depth about the Oxford Movement, but simply put a few men from Oxford felt that the church had become too evangelical and devoid of ritual and deep spirituality. So they decided to reclaim some of the former Roman Catholic rituals and practices that were part of the church before the reformations. As such they were not allowed to serve in choice parishes but were instead “banished” to the urban slums. Taking this as an opportunity to further their vision of high liturgy and deep mission, these priests gladly took their message to the people who had otherwise been neglected by the church. Out of their efforts arose what we know call Anglo-Catholicism which captures a lot of our Roman heritage while also reinvigorating mission in the cities of England. We at Saint James have been affected by this movement and as such have become a broad church, expressing both our Roman and Protestant heritage.
After leaving Pusey House we stopped in one more church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. We then split up and I wandered around Broad Street taking in the university city with all its bookstores and shops. I did a bit of shopping myself.
After everyone had their fill of shopping and exploration, of which each pilgrim will have their own story to share of this day, we boarded the coach to head to the tiny village of Cuddesdon where we will spend the final two nights of our pilgrimage. In this tiny village is one of the Church of England’s seminaries, Ripon College Cuddesdon. Fr. David visited the college as a possible place to do his training and I too almost spent a year here because Cuddesdon has a long relationship with my seminary, the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley, CA. I, however, did not participate in the exchange because my relationship with Lauren was continuing to grow deeper and richer and the thought of being a further five hours time difference away and thousands of miles did not seem like a good idea. During my time at CDSP I did have the pleasure of studying and serving alongside one of the Cuddesdon students who stayed at CDSP for a year.
The ride to Cuddesdon was nearly thirty minutes but as we pulled into the village I wondered just how far the coach would make it because the roads were so narrow and clearly not made for coaches. We nearly took out several houses, but Bill our driver was excellent as he had been throughout the pilgrimage and we made it to the seminary without a problem. A few gasps were heard from the pilgrims, but otherwise we arrived in one piece. We unloaded the coach and were directed to our rooms as all of us were scattered across the several campus buildings.
I was blown away again at just how beautiful and serene was the campus. We were quite literally out in the middle of nowhere Oxfordshire, but it too captured that feeling of an oasis of prayer and quietness. We gathered for evening prayer, then dinner in the refectory and then a group walked to the nearest pub for a pint and fellowship. I stayed behind to work on the blog. During a break in my work I walked outside and sat down and said Compline while the sun set in front of me. I leave you today with this video.
We left Lambeth Palace having fully immersed ourselves in all things Lambeth we boarded the coach to head to our next stop, the London Central Mosque.
Our theme for the pilgrimage centers around Christian witness, martyrdom, and reconciliation. Over the course of this pilgrimage we have explored the many ways in which Christians have borne witness to the Gospels in England, including maintaining their faith in the face of torture and death. We have learned about how divided the church has been especially during th reformations of the Tudor dynasty that wreaked havoc on the people of England. And in light of these stories of division and violence we have learned how we are called to a ministry of reconciliation, a restoration, that St. Paul says has begun and ends in Jesus Christ. Having seen how the church has been divided internally and at times in need of reconcilaition, today we see what can be done in order to bring different faith traditions together to lift up our commonalities instead of focusing our differences.
We made our way around London as we headed towards Regents Park, which is a nicer area of London and is very different from the East End where we have been staying. The East End is an eclectic mix of working class neighborhoods and diverse cultural enclaves. You can get just about any kind of food in the East End, from Pakistani and Indian, to Thai, to fried chicken and pizza. However, Regents Park was very different. Beautiful, but different.
After walking a few blocks we came upon the mosque. It was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, an Englishman, completed in 1978, and has a prominent golden dome. The main hall can hold over five thousand worshipers, with women praying on a balcony overlooking the hall. The Mosque is joined to the Islamic cultural center which was officially opened by King George VI in 1944. The land was donated by King George VI to the Muslim community of Britain in return for the donation of land in Cairo on which to build an Anglican cathedral.
After waiting a few minutes because we were early we were greeted by the media and public relations manager Mr. Ayaz Zuberi. We once again timed our visit perfectly (I say sarcastically) because the day before was Eid which marks the end of Ramadan and their month-long fast from sunrise to sunset. So there was a huge party here the night before and most Muslims take the next day off, but Ayaz was gracious enough to forego a deserved day off to be with us and for that we were deeply grateful.
We began our tour in a conference room as Ayaz explained some fo the history of the mosque, how it came to be, and what they are doing to serve the Muslim community of London. From the conference room he took us out into the courtyard and into the mosque.
Inside, the mosque holds a chandelier and a vast carpet, with very little furniture. The inside of the dome is decorated with broken shapes in the Islamic tradition. There is also a small book shop and halal café on the premises.
We arrived in between prayer times so we then went down to the exhibition halls in the basement where Ayaz walked us through the different illustrations of the Muslim faith.
Our time in the exhibition hall was excellent as the pilgrims learned a lot about Islam. Some of the information people already knew, but a lot of it was new. I too learned quite a bit and this only reinforced the need for me to study about Islam, and even Judaism, as we begin to construct the language for dialogue so that we can work towards a greater understanding of each other.
While we were finishing up in the exhibition hall we heard the call to prayer. We went upstairs, and removed our shoes, and stood towards the back as hundreds of men poured into the mosque, stood foot to foot, and began their third time of prayer for the day. There were a few women in the balcony, but the majority were women. The men that came were from a multitude of nationalities and not just Arabs. This reminded me that while Islam is centered in the Middle East there are Muslims all around the world. The country with the largest Muslim population is not in the Middle East but Indonesia.
Their prayer time lasted about five to ten minutes and included a series of scripture recitations, bowing, and kneeling. It was a very physical form of prayer, and yet not very different form the liturgical calisthenics we engage with on Sundays in our tradition. After the prayer was over we gathered outside in the courtyard for a group photo and we walked back to the coach.
We all boarded the coach discussing what we learned and the bus was filled with different observations about our time in the mosque. From there we made our way to the South Bank where we passed by a few more iconic London landmarks. We had lunch at a lovely French restaurant just off the river walk along the Thames. After our late lunch we once again boarded the coach to head to Westminster for evensong.
We arrived in just enough time to get in line for evensong. I had hoped we would get to explore but I have learned that the cathedrals close around 4:00pm so that they can prepare for evensong, in which people are invited to join but it is not a time for picture-taking and exploration. In fact I wasn’t supposed to take photos, but I managed to take a few inside. The evensong was amazing and a great way to end our day before we all went our separate ways for dinner. One thing I really liked was the statues that are above the west entrance. They are statues dedicated to martyrs of the 20th Century and included some that I knew, and a few I didn’t know or at least didn’t know well.
We all boarded the coach and dropped off about half of the group at the South Bank as they wanted to have dinner in London. The rest of us went back to the Royal foundation for dinner a little closer to home. I really wanted to get back so that I could watch the Euro 2016 semi-final match between France and Germany, which sadly Germany lost. Despite the result it was great to watch the game a few fellow pilgrims from our group and before long other guests of the Royal Foundation found us and joined in our little watching party.
After the game we went to pack up as this was our last night at the Royal Foundation and in the morning we will head to Oxford for our final two nights of the pilgrimage. See y’all in the AM.
Today began much like the others, a great night’s sleep and a wonderful breakfast. Our itinerary for they day has us in London for the day to explore different places as we dig more deeply into our theme of Christian witness and reconciliation.
The coach picked us up at the Royal Foundation and took us on a scenic ride through the heart of London. I don’t think Bill our driver was intentionally taking a route to see some of the famous London landmarks, but with the heavy traffic we were able to really see things as we crawled towards Lambeth Palace, out first stop of the day.
We finally made it and were dropped around the corner from the Palace. As we walked along the sidewalk we stopped at a locked gate form which we could see where Fr. David and his family lived while at the Palace. On the corner of what used to be a dingy little park we walked through a community flower garden and what may be the beginning of a veggie garden. All the flowers were in full bloom and they provided a burst of color in the concrete jungle that is London…though I will say they have done well to keep quite a bit of green space in the city.
As we turned the corner we were greeted by the red brick Gatehouse with its impressive towers and large wooden gate. This section of the palace dates back to the Tudor era and looks much like it did back then, with a few touch-ups here and there.
We knocked on the door and were greeted by the guards. Fortunately we were expected and so we were invited in where we then met two of Fr. David’s former colleagues who would be our tour guide for our time there. It turns out that we showed up an a particularly busy time for the Archbishop’s office and staff as they were preparing for the Church of England’s (CoE) General Synod up in York. Their General Synod is akin to our General Convention in that it is a national gathering of clergy and laity who meet to discuss the issues of the day and make any changes to their canons. Unlike our General Convention which meets every three years, the General Synod meets twice a year, once in London and once in York.
Despite this we were still very warmly greeted and we began our tour. What struck me first was just how beautiful the grounds were. With in this walled area it too had the air of a monastic community, an oasis within the city. So we saw a little of the grounds but then made our first stop in the Guard Room.
The Guard Room is thought to date from the 14th Century. It was the Great Chamber in Medieval and Tudor times, one of the most important rooms in The Palace in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Initially it would have been the Archbishop’s principle audience room and meetings and ceremonies would have taken place here. The name Guard Room is a more recent term and derives from the time when the office of Archbishop warranted an army. This is where his armed soldiers would have gathered and where their weapons would have been stored. The first Lambeth Conference was held here in 1867, when 75 bishops were called by Archbishop Charles Longley for a meeting that marked the start of a tradition that continues today.
From the Gourd Room we wound our way through the halls and came upon portraits of all of the Archbishops who have served since…well I don’t remember when they started doing portraits but we did find one of particular interest.
Our next stop was what is known as the Pink Drawing Room where Archbishop Justin likes to hold breakfast meetings. Along with more portraits of various Archbishops there was also the State China. So I guess like the President the Archbishop gets his own china too.
From there we entered the next room which was the State Dining Room. Visitors to the Palace, including The Queen, the Dalai Lama, senior Church leaders and prominent political figures from all over the world, have been entertained here. In addition, bishops and their wives are invited to dinner here on the eve of their consecration.
The magnificent oil (on wood) painting over the fireplace is thought to have arrived at Lambeth with Cardinal Pole, but the artist is not known. It is entitled ‘The Four Doctors of the Church’ and shows St Jerome (with a lion), Pope Gregory, Ambrose and Augustine.
We then proceeded to the State Drawing Room. In earlier years this would have been the living area for some of the servants who worked in the Palace, but today it is used as a venue in which to entertain visiting guests, such as religious and political leaders and members of the Royal family. Much of this room was destroyed in 1944 during a Second World War air raid. It was austerely rebuilt in the 1950s although it wasn’t until 1998 that Eileen Carey, wife of incumbent Archbishop George Carey, re-upholstered the room and restored the moulded plaster work on the ceiling in accordance with the original 1828 design. The two crystal chandeliers were a gift from Waterford Glass.
From the drawing-room we made our way to the Archbishop’s private chapel, simply called The Chapel. It has been the private chapel of Archbishops of Canterbury since the early 13th century. Unlike the Crypt directly below, the appearance of the Chapel has been changed many times over the centuries. The Chapel was heavily damaged following a direct hit by an incendiary bomb during World War II when the ceiling was lost and all of the windows were broken. Scorch marks can still be seen on the marble tiled floor. Restoration was begun in 1955. Modern glass was inserted into the remaining window frames in an attempt to recreate the same themes and designs as the original windows designed in 1486.
After descending the Cranmer staircase we came to the atrium. This area is recently renovated and contains gifts given to Archbishop Justin from his many travels.
We passed through the atrium and into the Crypt Chapel, which is now known is the oldest remaining section of Lambeth Palace. The Crypt was not originally designed for use as a chapel but was first used as a storage area for beer and wine. The Floor level was raised, probably in the first half of 13th century because of flooding from the Thames. The window seats in this room are higher, giving an indication of where the 13th Century floor level came to, approximately three feet above the floor level today. The floor was returned to its original level in 1907.
The Crypt was first used as a chapel temporarily during World War II when the main chapel was destroyed. William Temple also used The Crypt as an air raid shelter at the beginning of The War and invited local people to take shelter.
A Fresco of Christ in Glory, which hangs on the wall in the Crypt was given by Pope Paul VI to Archbishop Ramsey in 1966. This gift marked the first official meeting between The Archbishop of Canterbury and The Papacy since the 16th century.
We only spent about an hour and half there but boy did we see a lot! I just realized how many pictures and words used in this post so I will save the rest of our adventures for the next post. I hope you enjoyed your tour of Lambeth Palace.
This marks the beginning of the second half of the pilgrimage. Instead of thinking of it as the beginning of the end, I will opt for thinking of the next few days as the beginning of our exploration of the southern half of England. If you ask those in the north they would say that the southern part of the country is different, not just in landscape but in the manner and nature of the people. The northerners pride themselves on a slower lifestyle and an outgoing hospitable nature, so I look forward to see if their observations are accurate.
Today we head east to the county Kent and visit one of the centers of Anglican pilgrimage in Canterbury Cathedral. I was particularly looking forward to our day in Canterbury because of its central importance to the history and tradition of the Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is a member church. To be able to travel and spend time in our “mother church” had me really excited and I know that many of my fellow pilgrims also shared in that excitement.
We arose that morning and had a wonderful spread of traditional English breakfast items, though we did not have beans like the Novotel in York served but nevertheless it was still a great way to start the day. I filled up on coffee and croissants and we all boarded the bus to make the hour and a half ride to east. One thing I have learned from this trip so far is that Google maps lies when it tells us how long it will take to get from one place to another. Well, it doesn’t lie per se, but because we are a coach and not a small car zipping in and out of traffic we have taken a little bit longer to get places than originally thought. We adapted and adjusted accordingly. We arrived in the center of the town of Canterbury right on time and began our walk to the cathedral.
As we approached the towers grew larger and larger until we found ourselves standing before one of the main gates into the cathedral grounds. We passed through the gates and there it was…Canterbury. We had at last come to one of the holiest and historical sites in our tradition and in doing so have followed in the footsteps of millions upon millions of other pilgrims.
Founded in 597 as a Benedictine monastic community by Augustine, the cathedral was completely rebuilt from 1070 to 1077. The east end was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the twelfth century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174, with significant eastward extensions to accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170. The Norman nave and transepts survived until the late fourteenth century, when they were demolished to make way for the present structures.
A pivotal moment in the history of the cathedral was the murder of the archbishop, Thomas Becket, in the north-west transept when he was murdered on Tuesday, 29 December 1170, by knights of King Henry II. The king had frequent conflicts with the strong-willed Becket and is said to have exclaimed in frustration, “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” Four knights took it literally and murdered Becket in his own cathedral. After the Anglo-Saxon Ælfheah, Becket was the second Archbishop of Canterbury to be murdered. The posthumous veneration of Becket as a martyr made the cathedral a place of pilgrimage. This brought both the need to expand the cathedral and the wealth that made it possible. As a center of pilgrimage it brought in a hefty revenue which would later be confiscated by Henry VIII.
We had arrived early enough that as we waited for our tour guides Fr. David provided some context of his own experiences of Canterbury especially as he was on Archbishop Rowan’s staff. Since most of the times he had been there before was for business he was experiencing it for the first time as a pilgrim, and I hope had a better experience than before. Before long our tour guides found us and we split into two groups to begin our tour.
We started in the nave. The nave is over 600 years old and its vaulted ceiling reaches 82 feet high. At the west end of the cathedral is an absolutely huge stained glass window, much of which is over 800 years old, and depicts people from the Old Testament. There are many memorials along the wall, much like at Saint James, including memorials to statesmen, soldiers, clergy, and musicians.
From there we ascended the steps towards the stone screen that was behind the first altar in the area under the tower known as the crossing, or transept. For a long time non-ordained people were only allowed in the nave and the stone screen kept the laity out of the the area where the choir and high altar were located. Carved into the stone screen are six Royal statues and they would have been painted in bright colors. there used to be twelve more statues for the disciples but they were destroyed during the Civil War when the church lost much of its art at the hands of puritanical Protestants. Above this spot is the fan vaulted ceiling of Bell Harry Tower. The tower was the last major addition to the cathedral and is about 500 years old. The tower itself is over 230 feet tall!
We passed through the stone screen without incident because clearly the doorkeeper must have been on break, and entered into the area for the choir and before us stood the high altar and behind that the Archbishop’s throne, also known as Saint Augustine’s Chair.
The quire, as this area is called, is also over 800 years old having been rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1174 and is one of the oldest Gothic buildings in Britain. The dark brown choir stalls date back from the Victorian era and just beyond the stalls is a golden lectern in the shape of an eagle and beyond that is the high altar.
The Archbishop’s throne is set above the platform of the high altar and just behind it is Trinity Chapel where the shrine to Saint Thomas a Becket was located until it was removed in 1538. Henry VIII summoned the dead saint to court to face charges of treason. Having failed to appear, he was found guilty in his absence and the treasures of his shrine were confiscated, carried away in two coffers and twenty-six carts. All that remains is a single burning candle that is set on the beautiful mosaic tile floor where the shrine used to be. Along the sides of the chapel is the tomb of the only monarchs buried in Canterbury, Henry IV along with his wife. Edward Plantagenet’s tomb, also known as the Black Prince, is also along the side of chapel but he was never king.
From the main area of the church we began to explore the other areas around the cathedral including a great hall where the once vibrant monastic community would have heard chapters of the Rule of Saint Benedict read aloud, the cloister, and the crypt. There are several chapels down in the crypt including the Jesus Chapel from which we broadcasted our Mass.
After an amazing morning with tours, prayer, and our own Mass in the cathedral we broke up into small groups for lunch and further exploration of the city and some shopping.
We gathered for one last group shot in front of the cathedral and then started the walk back to the coach. It was an intense day filled with beautiful and prayerful moments. I wish it could have lasted longer and I can not wait until I am here again.
We arrived back at the Royal Foundation of Saint Katherine, had another delicious dinner, and then we all went to rest our heads to prepare for our final full day in London.
It is hard to believe but by the end of this day, our first day in London we will be close to the halfway point of this pilgrimage. It seems like we just started and yet, we have done so much and have made some wonderful connections. If the first half of the pilgrimage has been this awesome, then I pray that it continues as we move on to London and then the final leg of the pilgrimage in Oxford.
When we were looking for a hotel in York we were struggling to find a reasonable hotel that was in close proximity to the city center. We found some cheap places but they were so far removed from York we might as well have stayed in the countryside. But then fr. David was able to rely upon his extensive travel experience and booked us a gem of place, the Novotel York Centre. It exceeded my expectations and it was a great place to rest up and recharge.
After a good nights rest we arose early and enjoyed a vast spread for our hot buffet breakfast. Once our stomachs were full we packed up the coach and began the longest coach ride of the trip, a three and a half hour ride to London. Fortunately we decided to break up that beautiful ride by stopping at Saint Albans Cathedral.
After winding our way through the streets of the town we found the cathedral set upon beautifully maintained grounds. For those of you who may not know who Saint Alban was he is the first English martyr. According to tradition Alban was a Roman citizen who had become impressed with the local priests and monks, and harbored a fugitive priest who was escaping persecution at the hands of the Romans. When they discovered where the priest was hiding Alban switched clothes with the priest and was arrested in the priest’s stead. They discovered that it was Alban and tried to get him to give up the priest but he refused and was executed and as such became England’s first martyr.
We all enjoyed the tour and our lunch in the refectory. After spending a little mroe time we made our way back to the coach and settled in for an hour or so ride to the Royal Foundation of Saint Katherine (RFSK) where we will stay while in London. As we worked our way through the London traffic we were able to see some of the famous tourist attractions and you could feel the excitement building. We arrived in the East End of London and found the Royal Foundation tucked away in what is an oasis of prayer and beauty in the midst of the hustle and bustle of London.
The RFSK was originally founded as a religious community. They were did not follow a strict rule of life but maintained a religious presence in the East End. The foundation has benefited from royal patronage and has grown and shrunk over the years as the patronage passed to new monarchs who may or may not have had much interest in the goings on of the community.
Now it serves as a retreat and conference center. Since it is not a parish and does not have a congregation they are trying to find ways to create ministries that impact the surrounding neighborhood. One such initiative is their Yurt Cafe that was erected on reclaimed land belonging to the Foundation.
Our rooms are well appointed and the food was excellent. This pl;ace definitely has the feel of monastic grounds and is the perfect place for us to stay while in London.
With the day coming to a close we were all ready for a good night’s sleep so that we could be ready for our day trip to Canterbury. So until then…cheers mates.
Before I tell you all about our morning with the Mayor at City Hall and our stay in York, I want to offer you some photos from the priory since the video provides a great history lesson but it doesn’t show much of the Priory itself or the grounds. I have also thrown in some photos I took from atop the tower. I was the only one who had the opportunity to go up there. It pays that my host Alice is one of the vergers…shhh don’t tell Fr. Chris.
(A little sample of the organ using the trumpet stops that were installed specifically for the Queen’s visit in order to play the appropriate fanfare.)
Now that I got that out the way we can move on to what we did on Monday, which was a great day of exploring the intersections of faith and civic life.
After we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts we began our walk towards the center of town and City Hall. We made our way down the hill following along the old Roman road that cut through the heart of the city. I tried to soak it all in as we walked because who knows when I might be back.
Before we knew it we were in Dalton Square which is the center of town and is across the street from City Hall. In the center of the square is a large statue of Queen Victoria and along the base are reliefs dedicated to famous men and women of politics, science, the arts, and…I forget the last one.
After walking around the side of City Hall we were greeted by Mike the Beadle. Now he is not claiming to be the long-lost fifth member of the Beatles, but it is his official title. The job of a beadle was in a religious setting and the beadle would wake people up who might have nodded off during a particularly boring sermon. But now it has evolved into both a ceremonial and a very practical role. Ceremonially, the beadle is the Mayor’s bodyguard in that during official civic occasions the beadle will carry a ceremonial mace and walk in front of the Mayor. In bygone years the mace was actually used to help protect the Mayor, and he would use the mace if necessary. But now he is the Mayor’s right-hand man, so to speak. In their form of government the Mayor is largely a ceremonial job who serves a one year term and is chosen from among the most longest-serving council members. Since there is a new Mayor every year Mike helps each new Mayor with the ins and outs of the job, hopefully avoiding any embarrassing faux-pas. Mike led us into City Hall and up the Mayor’s Palour where the Mayor greets guests.
After having some time with the Mayor and presenting him with a few gifts we all went into the city council chambers. Along all the walls are listed the all the Mayors of Lancaster dating back to the early 1800’s…that is when they started keeping track in that way. It was a beautiful room that unfortunately isn’t used as a council chamber anymore because the council has grown too large as the city grew from being a town.
We then went into a great hall that is used for all sorts of occasions and is just absolutely beautiful.
After the great hall we went down to a small courtroom that was used for minor offenses.
All in all it was an excellent experience spending time with the Mayor and Mike the Beadle. We learned a lot about the ways in which the two worlds of faith and civic leadership intersect in Lancaster. While a few parishioners caught a ride in the mayor’s car the rest of us walked back up to the Priory to say our final farewells to Chris and boarded the coach to begin out journey to York.
The ride to York was beautiful as we traversed the northern English countryside from west to east passing through the Yorkshire Dales, which was filled with rolling hills, pastures upon pastures of sheep, tight winding roads, and green fields as far as the eye could see.
(I’m not quite sure what that noise is in the background but its the view that matters most.)
We were delayed leaving Lancaster and therefore arrived in York with only enough time to walk to Yorkminster for evensong. Because there is an annual production that is large in nature the minster was effectively closed to the public and there was not much to see as crews worked to bring down the staging and scaffolding, so it was really only open to those wishing to attend the service. We made in the nick of time and even managed to grab a few shots from inside the minster. Hopefully I will be back before too long and be able to really take in the beauty and grandeur of this historic church.
Once we were finished with evensong and were back on the coach we made our way to the hotel for the night, which proved to be a really nice hotel and a great place to rest up for our journey south to London.
I wonder what adventures await us there?
After a very busy two days of traveling and beginning our pilgrimage by seeing not only the city of Lancaster but also some of the villages that constitute the larger metropolitan area, most of us had a great first night with our hosts. My hosts, Alice and Annalise and their children, were amazingly warm and hospitable but since they already had a large family gathering planned I opted to forego the party, though I was kindly invited, I opted to sleep. And I as mentioned in my last post I crashed hard. I slept for roughly 13 hours! By the time I arose to get ready for Mass at the Priory the sun had been shining for hours, because we are further north than I had thought, and I proceeded to join my host family for breakfast. Since I did not have much of an opportunity to talk with the family we had a delightful conversation as we all prepared for church.
Alice, who also serves as one of the vergers for the Priory had to head out early, so I hung out with the rest of the family. By 9:15am her daughter Freddie and I were walking the sun swept streets of Lancaster as we made the 10 minute walk to the Priory. It was a lovely walk in the morning light, especially as the weather had been so unpredictable the day before. It was nice to feel the warm rays of light warm up my body. We approached the castle and Priory hill and made my way into the Priory where I was met by Fr. David and Fr. Chris. I vested with the five other priests serving that day, using stoles and chasubles that were borrowed from the local Roman Catholic Church. At 10:00am sharp the show began…and what a show it was. It was a divine service full of Anglican pageantry and deep spirituality that captured all our senses, from the smell of the incense to the rays of light dancing on the stone floor from the stained glass windows to the beautiful choir. It was truly a privilege to stand beside Fr. Chris, Fr. David and the ther priests and serve in such a beautiful sacred space.
After the Mass the parish hosted a hog roast and we all enjoyed the British version of a BBQ pork, which I will say is not like ours back home. The pork was delicious and provided by a local BBQ company who roasted the pig but instead of an array of sauces to drown the pork sandwiches there was apple sauce and stuffing. I will admit at first I was a bit skeptical but after one bite I was hooked. The sweetness of the apple sauce mixed with the smoked pork and the stuffing made for a delicious and filling lunch. We spent a good two hours talking with many of the parishioners who decided to stay and be with us. There was even a bouncy house for the kids, which Fr. Chris did play on; though I do not have video evidence of it, I know there is photographic evidence of his skillful bouncing.
After the pig roast the parishioners went home to catch a rest before evensong later that day and we went with Fr. Chris for an in-depth tour of the priory. Instead of trying to capture all the stories in narrative form, I have for you this video. I will warn you now it is almost an hour, but do check it out because it is awesome!
After our wonderful history lesson we then went on a short walking tour of the city seeing different sites that have had an impact on the history of the city and the faithful souls who have lived there and continue to live there.
I am just blown away by Fr. Chris and the parish for their amazing hospitality and I am looking forward to how we can continue to develop this relationship as we seek to serve God in both cities of Lancaster and beyond. Tomorrow we head to City Hall to meet the mayor of Lancaster and then off to York. See you all in York!