Saturday, 16 September 2017

All the Cathedrals (6): Leicester

I think we visited Leicester before any idea of visiting Cathedral towns had occurred to us. At the time of our visit Leicester City Football Club were atop the Premier League, and Richard III had not been that longed interred at the Cathedral. Indeed, it was the opening of the visitor centre on the site of the discovery of Richard III's remains that provided the reason for our visit.

Walking from the railway station to the Richard III visitor centre took us first of all into a shopping area that might have been in any town. However, the Lanes represents a quite different experience, with small shops and narrow streets. We wandered the market at one point in the day, too.

The Richard III visitor centre is well worth a visit. The presentation of the story of the discovery of Richard III's remains beneath a council car park, and the subsequent investigations that confirmed that these remains were indeed him, is excellent (though the detail might put some off from following the whole story). The last room in the visit contains a glass panel in the floor which allows you to look down at the very place where the remains were found. Since nothing else is displayed in this room, it provides a very reflective end to a visit. The more you know about the Wars of the Roses the more you will appreciate the significance of Richard III and his connection to Leicester. [If you can make anything of the Wikipedia page you have a better brain than mine. Desmond Seward's A Brief History of The Wars of the Roses is my own reading on the subject.]

We then crossed the nearby square to visit Richard III's tomb in Leicester Cathedral. We had to queue for a few minutes before accessing the tomb. The presentation is, like the last room of the visitor centre, very reflective.

The cathedral building itself was only relatively recently designated as a Cathedral, which means that it has something more of the character of a parish church. It shares, in a slightly different way than other cathedrals we have visited, the narrative of Saxon foundation, followed by a Norman construction, a stripping of statues and decoration at the time of the reformation (the Greyfriars monastery where Richard III's remains had been interred was closed at this point) and Victorian restoration. The history of the cathedral building is outlined here. This page allows you to take a virtual walk round the cathedral; the links from the side bar at the top of the page allow you to read more about the main features of the building.

A Lancastrian, of course, will not patronise the White Rose café as a matter of conscience!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

"Mary is the first light who announces night’s end...."

I have not followed Pope Francis' visit to Colombia closely, but was particularly struck by the text of his homily at Villavicencio. This report at the Vatican Radio website includes a lovely image, as well as the full text of the homily. Once again, reading Pope Francis, I am put in mind of the beauty of language that is also typical of Pope Benedict XVI.

The writings of Ingrid Betancourt have given me some idea of the history of the conflict in Colombia that now promises to have come to an end. The force of Pope Francis' words in favour of reconciliation are, in that context, immense. Force is added to them by the city in which they were spoken, a city which saw one of the most tragic events of the Colombian conflict.
Mary is the first light who announces night’s end, and above all, the impending day.  Her birth helps us to understand the loving, tender, compassionate plan of love in which God reaches down and calls us to a wonderful covenant with him, that nothing and no one will be able to break...
Reconciliation is not an abstract word; if it were, then it would only bring sterility and greater distance.  Reconciliation means opening a door to every person who has experienced the tragic reality of conflict.  When victims overcome the understandable temptation to vengeance, they become the most credible protagonists for the process of building peace.  What is needed is for some to courageously take the first step in that direction, without waiting for others to do so.  We need only one good person to have hope!  And each of us can be that person!  This does not mean ignoring or hiding differences and conflicts.  This is not to legitimize personal and structural injustices.  Recourse to reconciliation cannot merely serve to accommodate unjust situations.  Instead, as Saint John Paul II taught: “[Reconciliation] is rather a meeting between brothers who are disposed to overcome the temptation to egoism and to renounce the attempts of pseudo-justice.  It is the fruit of sentiments that are strong, noble and generous that lead to establishing a coexistence based on respect for each individual and on the values that are proper to each civil society” (Letter to the Bishops of El Salvador, 6 August 1982).  Reconciliation, therefore, becomes substantive and is consolidated by the contribution of all; it enables us to build the future, and makes hope grow.  Every effort at peace without a sincere commitment to reconciliation is destined to fail. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

All the Cathedrals (5): Durham

Our visit to Durham Cathedral was part of a long weekend visit that Zero and I took to Durham, courtesy of a recently purchased Two Together railcard and Advance tickets (ie as economic an arrangement of train travel as possible). Ed Balls, then an active politician rather than a star of Strictly Come Dancing, was on the train that was in front of us on the East Coast mainline, and which broke down just north of Peterborough delaying us for over an hour .... which meant we could reclaim the cost of that part of our journey. Our weekend took us to the Beamish Museum (follow the "Explore and Discover" links in the menu at the top left), with a ride on a "heritage" Blackpool tram .... but not that "heritage", as it was exactly like the trams I can remember travelling on when I was being raised in the Blackpool area. We also visited Crookhall Gardens, which can be found readily just off the centre of Durham city itself.

It is worth arriving in Durham by train, as, particularly arriving from the south, there is a splendid view of the Cathedral from the viaduct carrying the railway.

Durham Cathedral takes part in the not uncommon narrative of Benedictine community, Romanesque building at the time of the Norman conquest, dissolution of the monastic community and establishing of a Cathedral see with a chapter of canons at the time of Henry VIII and a further intrusion at the time of the Civil War. This page at the Cathedral website gives an outline of its history. These video clips give an idea of the setting and the architecture of the Cathedral: Durham Cathedral: Builders & Buildings and Durham, England: Magnificent Norman Cathedral. Zero and I enjoyed a stroll along the river bank that encircles the Cathedral on three sides.

Links from this page will tell you something of the different areas of interest in the Cathedral building. Do explore these links, as doing so will provide something of the experience of visiting the Cathedral. A visit to the Cathedral's tower provides superb views of the surrounding countryside.

An additional dimension of the history of Durham Cathedral is its role as the shrine of St Cuthbert. The shrine was destroyed at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, and the tomb damaged. An account of the shrine can be found here, and the remains of the tomb itself have been preserved. It is interesting that the Church of England appears willing now to restore a shrine such as this, perhaps from a mixture of historical and religious motivation. The Galilee Chapel of the Cathedral also houses a shrine enclosing the bones of St Bede.

Durham itself has a very young feel to it, especially if you visit during term time. The collegiate nature of the university is reflected as you walk up the hill to visit the Cathedral, as you pass entrances to a number of university buildings. Durham is built on a hill, so visitors should expect to walk up and down rather than along the flat.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The permanance of the Liturgical reform: Francis compared to Benedict

In his recent address to participants in Italy's National Liturgy Week, Pope Francis said:
La direzione tracciata dal Concilio trovò forma, secondo il principio del rispetto della sana tradizione e del legittimo progresso (cfr SC, 23), nei libri liturgici promulgati dal Beato Paolo VI, ben accolti dagli stessi Vescovi che furono presenti al Concilio, e ormai da quasi 50 anni universalmente in uso nel Rito Romano. L’applicazione pratica, guidata dalle Conferenze Episcopali per i rispettivi Paesi, è ancora in atto, poiché non basta riformare i libri liturgici per rinnovare la mentalità. I libri riformati a norma dei decreti del Vaticano II hanno innestato un processo che richiede tempo, ricezione fedele, obbedienza pratica, sapiente attuazione celebrativa da parte, prima, dei ministri ordinati, ma anche degli altri ministri, dei cantori e di tutti coloro che partecipano alla liturgia. In verità, lo sappiamo, l’educazione liturgica di Pastori e fedeli è una sfida da affrontare sempre di nuovo. Lo stesso Paolo VI, un anno prima della morte, diceva ai Cardinali riuniti in Concistoro: «E’ venuto il momento, ora, di lasciar cadere definitivamente i fermenti disgregatori, ugualmente perniciosi nell’un senso e nell’altro, e di applicare integralmente nei suoi giusti criteri ispiratori, la riforma da Noi approvata in applicazione ai voti del Concilio».
E oggi c’è ancora da lavorare in questa direzione, in particolare riscoprendo i motivi delle decisioni compiute con la riforma liturgica, superando letture infondate e superficiali, ricezioni parziali e prassi che la sfigurano. Non si tratta di ripensare la riforma rivedendone le scelte, quanto di conoscerne meglio le ragioni sottese, anche tramite la documentazione storica, come di interiorizzarne i principi ispiratori e di osservare la disciplina che la regola. Dopo questo magistero, dopo questo lungo cammino possiamo affermare con sicurezza e con autorità magisteriale che la riforma liturgica è irreversibile.
English translation of this section taken from ZENIT, with slight adaptations indicated by my italics:
The direction traced by the Council found form, according to the principle of respect of the healthy tradition and of legitimate progress (Cf. SC, 23), in the liturgical books promulgated by Blessed Paul VI, well received by the Bishops themselves who were present at the Council, and by now for almost 50 years universally in use in the Roman Rite. The practical application, guided by the Episcopal Conferences, for the respective countries, is still in action, because it’s not enough to reform the liturgical books to renew the mentality. The reformed books, following the norm of the decrees of Vatican II, have embedded a process that requires time, faithful reception, practical obedience, wise celebratory implementation on the part, first of all, of ordained ministers, but also of the other ministers, the cantors, and all those that take part in the liturgy. In truth, we know it, the liturgical education of Pastors and faithful is a challenge to address always again. Paul VI himself, a year before his death, said to the Cardinals gathered in Consistory: “The moment has now come, to definitively abandon the divisive ferment, equally pernicious in one way and the other, and to implement integrally in their just inspiring criteria, the reform approved by Us, in the implementation of the Council’s votes.” [Do read the full reference to Paul VI quoted as footnote 10 in the Italian original.]
And there is still work to do today in this direction, in particular, rediscovering the reasons for the decisions taken with the liturgical reform, surmounting unfounded and superficial readings, partial reception and practices that disfigure it. It’s not about rethinking the reform by looking again at the choices, but of knowing better the underlying reasons, both through historical documentation, and by internalizing the inspirational principles and observing the discipline that regulate it. After this magisterium, after this long journey we can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.
In his letter to Bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict wrote:
This fear is unfounded.  In this regard, it must first be said that the Missal published by Paul VI and then republished in two subsequent editions by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal Form – the Forma ordinaria – of the Eucharistic Liturgy.  The last version of the Missale Romanum prior to the Council, which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgical celebration.  It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were “two Rites”.  Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.....
In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities.  This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.  Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful. 
Don't Pope Francis and Pope Benedict say the same thing, though in a different vocabulary, with regard to the permanence of the Liturgical reforms promulgated since the Council?

Sunday, 27 August 2017

All the Cathedrals (4): Winchester

Winchester, located close to Southampton, was one of the earlier Cathedral visits that Zero and I undertook. It is accessible by car from the M3 and by train from London Waterloo (if I recall correctly). The location close to the south coast of England is reflected in some of the history of the Cathedral.

[Image credit:, CC BY-SA 3.0,]

An impression I remember from our visit is that of gaining a sense of a Cathedral site that integrates into the life of the city itself - a shopping street and market are immediately adjacent to one side of the Cathedral - and the Cathedral greens were occupied by visitors enjoying the sunshine. Visiting on a Saturday probably emphasised this more than would otherwise have been the case. Norwich and Ely cathedrals also have some of this sense, though less so, Norwich because the Cathedral is a bit to one side of the city centre and Ely because it is a small city.

Winchester Cathedral shares several of the typical features already noted of the history of English cathedrals. A Saxon building dated from the 7th century, and by the beginning of the 11th century it was a Cathedral, the home of a monastic community following the rule of St Benedict, and a place of pilgrimage to a shrine housing the remains of St Swithun, a former bishop of Winchester. After the arrival of the Normans, this "Old Minster" was replaced by a new Church built next to it in the Norman/Romanesque style (substantially the present day Cathedral). At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, the Benedictine community was dispersed, the cloister of the cathedral destroyed and the shrine of St Swithun ransacked (a form of shrine has been reinstated). The statues in the "Great Screen" behind the high altar were also destroyed - the present day statues are replacements dating from the 19th Century.

The Winchester Cathedral website is very informative, and well worth exploring. The Wikipedia page for Winchester Cathedral allows you to enlarge a good range of images of some of the significant features of the Cathedral.

This page at the Winchester Cathedral website gives an idea of the history of the building: Our History. This page traces the architectural history of the Cathedral: Building the Cathedral.

Famous people associated with Winchester Cathedral can be found on this page, Jane Austen being perhaps the most noted, with a discrete grave in the Cathedral. (Follow the links from each entry on this page for informative accounts of each individual.)

This page provides links to images of some of the features of the Cathedral, with the crypt and Antony Gormley's Sound II perhaps most notable. When we visited, the crypt was partly flooded, and the sculpture had a quite eerie look to it.

One comes away from Winchester Cathedral with a sense of having delved deeply into the history of England, but at the same time having visited a building that is still a "living" building that continues to grow and develop. Winchester itself also has several other places of interest to visit or walks that can be undertaken.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

All the Cathedrals (3): Norwich

The Wikipedia entry gives an account of the history of Norwich Cathedral. The video clip linked from the top of Norwich Cathedral's website (direct link to YouTube is here)gives a very good impression of a number of different aspects of the Cathedral. This page at the Cathedral website gives an indication of what there is to see at the Cathedral: Things to See and Do (and follow each of the links on the left hand side of the page). We joined one of the guided tours, and found that a most useful way to learn about the Cathedral. The Cathedral has shared in the familiar narrative with regard to the dissolution of the monasteries and the visitation of the Parliamentary soldiers roughly 100 years later (this latter led to a "gap" during which the Cathedral buildings had no ecclesiastical use at all).

One of the things I remember from our visit is the sense of perspective that could be found looking along the length of the side aisle of the nave (framed by Romanesque/Norman arches) and along the sides of the cloister (framed by Gothic arches). Though the site began as a Benedictine monastery, the cloister that is such a feature of the Cathedral architecture does not date from a monastic usage.

A modern visitor centre and refectory have been built on to two sides of the cloister, so that visitors are welcomed in a way that suggests a Cathedral that still lives and develops rather than one that is just a building from the past.

Edith Cavell's tomb lies within the Cathedral grounds, and there is a memorial to her outside the Cathedral.

The walk from the railway station to the Cathedral suggested that Norwich is a city that combines some more run down areas with more elegant areas. The railway station building itself is somewhat elegant... The area around the Cathedral itself is very pleasant, and, on a summer day, the walk along the river and through the grounds of the Cathedral close is rewarding.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

All the Cathedrals (2): Ely

In our cathedral visits, Zero and I have encountered a recurring narrative. An initial foundation in Saxon times leading to a building that is no longer extant is followed by a re-foundation as a Benedictine monastery in Norman times. This gives rise to an architecture which is Romanesque/Norman in style, with perhaps an introduction of a Gothic style in the later parts of the building. The coming of King Henry VIII and his commissioners in the 16th century then results in the dissolution of the monastic community, with the church building continuing as the seat of the bishop of the diocese. Some degree of destruction of such features as the shrine of a saint, stained glass windows and statues may occur at this time, though the extent of this varies from cathedral to cathedral. One hundred years later, the arrival of Cromwell's soldiers is the occasion of a further destruction of images and stained glass. A stage of restoration in the 18th and/or 19th centuries adds a further layer to the architecture.

Ely Cathedral largely fits this pattern, though not exactly. It would appear that the destruction at Henry VIII's time left little for Cromwell's soldiers to do during their time of occupation of Ely. The empty niches left by removed statues and the - literally - defaced statues of the Lady Chapel are a striking witness to the iconoclasm executed during these years. There is also a predominance of Gothic over Norman in architectural style.

The Octagon, and the lantern above it, are a striking feature of Ely Cathedral. This YouTube video gives an account of the lantern and of the Lady Chapel. The other striking feature is the decoration of the ceiling of the nave (search results of a Google image search). The stained glass that is now in the cathedral largely belongs to the Victorian era.

A descriptive tour of the cathedral from the Ely Cathedral website is here. Wikipedia's account of the history of the Cathedral is here.

Arriving at Ely station, the open fens are on one side and the rise towards the hill (in so far as there is such a thing in the fens) upon which Ely Cathedral sits is on the other. We visited on a damp, overcast day which emphasised this geography. After visiting the Cathedral I was enticed into an extensive bookshop while Zero escaped to the charity shops. We lunched very well at the Lamb Inn.