Sunday, 15 November 2009

An Anglian Journey

Since 26th October I have been posting a selection of photographs taken on a tour undertaken in mid October through East Anglia and ending in Warwickshire. The first stop on the journey was at the exquisite Rushton Triangular Lodge and the last was Baddesley Clinton, both sites having powerful recusant associations. An early stop in Norfolk was the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham where the Slipper Chapel stands as testimony to both the medieval pilgrimage and its revival in modern times. I found both Norfolk and Suffolk brimming with traces of medieval piety and of the vicious savagery with which the Anglican iconoclasts attacked the Church. Here and there I saw miraculous survivals; in Norwich Cathedral, for example a beautifully painted medieval reredos which had survived through having been turned face down and used as a table top. In the treasury of the same cathedral were medieval patens whose survival was due to parish clergy neglecting to send them along with the chalices for melting down and refashioning as more everyday-looking tableware when this was demanded by the reformation authorities. Subsequently, in East Bergholt, the village of John Constable's birth, the fine parish church is remarkable for its incomplete bell tower necessitating a wooden "Bell Cage" in the churchyard. Begun in 1525 the tower was victim of that sudden halt in church building that came about in the 1530s and is evident throughout England: the remarkable and immediate effect of the creation of the new Church of England. In Bury St Edmunds I stood amid the ruins of St Edmund's Abbey, the church of which had once held the shrine of St Edmund the martyred king of East Anglia, whereat Cardinal Langton had reputedly met with the Barons prior to putting the Great Charter to King John- ruined thanks to HenryVIII and his vile minister Thomas Cromwell. Later I stood in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral where the destruction of statuary had been carried out with such deliberation and so thoroughly that it is clear that the men responsible were wicked beyond measure.
In the week following my tour the news came of the holy father's response to the Anglican groups. I have to say that I am slightly perplexed at the desire on their part to retain aspects of Anglican heritage. What sort of heritage? I wonder. To see the traces of the Catholic England of the middle ages and then the work of the men who set about its destruction, is a cause for tears at the very least. Did these men love Christ? Really?

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