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.