Ely Cathedral …

Ely is about 70 miles slightly east of north from London not far from Cambridge.

An abbey was founded here by St Ethelreda, the wife of a Northumbrian king, in AD 673. The Norman Conquest brought a new standard of church architecture, the present magnificent structure was built in stages from 1081.

Ely is not a big city but its cathedral has the third longest nave in the UK. The Lady Chapel, completed in 1349, is the largest in the UK.

It has one of the few remaining resident choirs. During services they would be seated on either side of the photo above. In the video below they are standing in the Lady Chapel.

Henry Vlll’s reformation imposed a more austere regime on the great churches. Statuary and ornamentation were taboo. The Lady Chapel had a series of figures of the Madonna which would have been brightly painted. Sadly their heads have been knocked off (rather like Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard).

For more information about the cathedral click <HERE>.

The Reckoning of Time …

There was a bit of a family gathering last evening. Those who would normally eat meat ate fish. Good Friday. God clearly favours cows over fish.

Easter wanders around a bit so how do the good people know when not to eat meat? The formula for calculating Easter has varied over time. As I have told you in a previous lecture on early Christianity in England there was once a time when half the Northumberland King’s court were celebrating Easter while the other half were still observing Lent. Violence ensued, probably because all the Easter eggs had been eaten. The synod of Whitby (AD 664) restored peace to the land.

The formula these days is the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the northern hemisphere’s spring equinox.

Does that mean we antipodeans should be celebrating Easter six months later? And remember, rabbits are an introduced pest.

But back to Northumberland and the Venerable Bede, historian of his era. In chapter 15 of his magnum opus, De temporum ratione, he tells us …

Eosturmonath, qui nunc Paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a Dea illorum quæ Eostre vocabatur …

or in English

Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

So Eastermonth existed before Christianity reached those pagan shores, the rites of spring. Eostre, radiant goddess of the dawn brought the flowers, put new leaves on the trees and turned the minds of hares and rabbits to procreation. It is not a coincidence that the sun rises in the east.

Have a good one.

 

Griffiths Island …

The early history of the European settlement of the Victorian coast is shrouded in mystery. Most of the early players came across Bass Strait from Van Dieman’s Land to explore and exploit what was then the Port Philip District of New South Wales. By ship it is less than half the distance from Launceston to any part of the Victorian coast than it is from Sydney. Settlement was forbidden and mostly went undocumented.

Port Fairy gets its name from The Fairy, a cutter that visited the Moyne River in search of fresh water in about 1828. Sealers and whalers from Van Dieman’s Land were probably using the area from about that time on.

There were three islands at the mouth of the Moyne. Some characters named Penny and Reiby established a whaling station on the  largest of them.

In 1834 the Henty brothers settled an area about 70 km to the west which would become Portland. They were the first settlers to come to the government’s notice, their presence being discovered by an exploring party commanded by Major Thomas Mitchell. By the time officialdom, in the form of Foster Fyans reached the area in 1839 there was already a settlement at Port Fairy catching whales and growing potatoes. Captain Foster Fyans, magistrate and Commissioner for Crown Lands arrived in Geelong in 1837 charged with the virtually impossible task of overseeing the orderly settlement of all of south west Victoria. Geelong and Portland are 240 km apart. Fyans and his party made the first recorded overland journey between the two.

In 1835 a gentleman named John Griffiths purchased the whaling station at the mouth of the Moyne and the island acquired his name. The station operated until about 1843 by which time Southern Right Whales were too scarce to warrant such an establishment. But as whaling declined the importance of the port increased.

Melbourne was also pioneered by adventurers from Van Dieman’s Land. The founding of a town wasn’t approved until 1837. Until Melbourne eclipsed it Port Fairy was the busiest port in the district. It remained busy until 1960 when the harbour at Portland opened for business. It still is a working port – 30 tonnes of squid were landed during my stay.

Victoria gained its independence from New South Wales in 1851. Van Dieman’s Land became Tasmania in 1856.

A lighthouse was built on Rabbit Island in 1859. Various improvements were made to the mouth of the river which combined with natural build up of sand caused Rabbit, Goat and Griffiths Islands to coalesce into one, still known as Griffiths Island.

Griffiths Island

The lighthouse was manned by two keepers until it was automated in 1954. The keepers’ cottages were demolished soon after but some plants from their garden linger on.

The island is home base for a colony of Short-tailed Shearwaters. They nest in burrows during the summer. They spend the remainder of the year on an extraordinary journey that takes them way into the northern hemisphere.

A stroll around the island takes about 45 minutes. You are quite likely to meet one of these on the way …

Pied Oystercatcher

Home Again, Home Again …

The three days in London flew past. Time, too soon, to fly home to Australia.

In doing my research for the historical context of my account I came across an interesting map that I didn’t use but is both interesting and amusing, the Roman Roads of Britain by Sasha Trubetskoy …

Quoting myself here …

Around AD 410 rule from Rome came to an end. The Angles and Saxons were invading Britain, the Visigoths were besieging Rome. Paganism was the new thing. Except in Ireland where the Celts had proven quite resistant to Roman rule but had adopted Christianity.

Gives the impression that Christianity was flourishing in Ireland before Roman rule in Britain had faded. This is incorrect. As the pagan Angles and Saxons forced themselves into Britain Christianity retreated into Wales from where it made its way across the Irish Sea from AD 431 on.

Some sources give the impression that Celtic practice was vastly different from the Roman. This is ascribed to the influence of Coptic Christianity of the time which was more monastic and ascetic rather than congregational. The devout retreated from the general community rather than live within it and gather at church on Sunday. In Egypt they tended to take themselves off into the desert. There are quite a few place names in Ireland that include Dysart which might indicate proximity to one of these early monasteries. (See sacredconnections for example).

Other sources suggest that the differences weren’t great, although they did come to differ in the calculation of Easter.

After the reintroduction of Christianity to England around AD 600 until the Norman conquest 1066 we have four and a half centuries with no churches to show for it. Recycling me again …

Until the Norman’s popularised the practice of building with stone, churches in Britain had been mainly timber and thatch affairs. None has survived to the present day. So 1066 marks the beginning of church architecture in Britain …

The Romans in Britain had built in stone, not only roads and walls but substantial villas as well. Christians elsewhere were building in stone such as the magnificent Hagia Sophia in Istanbul dating from AD 537. Why not the Anglo-Saxons?

Mea culpa, I repeated the popularly held oversimplification that there are no pre-Norman churches remaining in Britain. There aren’t too many in their original state but there are a few.

This is perhaps the finest of them. It is Escomb church from the far north-east of England. The photo is taken from the web site greatenglishchurches with permission from Lionel Wall the author. It was built somewhere around AD 680.

A few other examples exist but most have been modified extensively.

Anyone planning a visit to England that has an interest in the great parish churches would do well to browse this site. It’s a beauty.

Escomb has gone on my bucket list, its not far from Durham so I can combine it with a visit to Durham Cathedral and the Oriental Museum at Durham University (which was called the Gulbenkian Museum last time I was there).

Take the Ermine line from Londinium, change at Petuaria …

Problems, Opportunities, Accidents …

Claudius, the unlikely Emperor of Rome, needed a military conquest to earn a little respect. In AD 43, he sent four legions to invade the Catuvellaunian kingdom in Britain. They were successful and Claudius was able to make a visit soon after. The Catuvellaunian capital was given a Romanised name and Colchester became the accidental capital of Roman Britain. It took another thirty years for the Romans to subdue the rest of the country.

Dover sits at the narrowest point of the English Channel. It was settled and used long before the Romans but they fortified it and set up lighthouses.

Between Dover and Colchester there’s a problem, the Thames. The Romans built a bridge. The site was obvious it had long been in use. At low tide it was shallow enough to ford, at high tide you could take a boat. Why exactly there?  Because a natural causeway to the south bank through an otherwise marshy area sits opposite a high point on the north bank.

The river was now an opportunity, ships could come up the Thames, goods could be transported north or south. A village grew up around the bridge.

London Bridge came before London. Once it got started it grew apace.

Between London and Colchester there was another problem. The River Lea. Just how do you spell it, Lea or Lee? You’ll find both so neither is wrong but in some contexts one is more right than the other. But the more important problem is negotiating the marshes and crossing the river. Traditionally at Old Ford, Hackney.

Bear in mind that the prevailing wind is from the west.

Problems, opportunities, accidents. A bridge, a growing town, a main road that runs northeast, the River Lea, it’s marshes, a west wind … these are some of the things that made the East End, and the East End made me.

Docks grew up on the Thames, associated industries grew nearby, ropemaking for example. Some industries are smelly, tanning for instance, put it down wind from the richer citizens. Or hazardous like making gun powder. The big city needs grain and fresh water, take it by barge down the River Lea. It’s tidal … harvest the tide for milling grain.

In 1720 John Strype described London as consisting of four parts …

the City of London, Westminster, Southwark, and “That Part beyond the Tower”.

That part beyond the Tower was spreading northeast up the main road into the countryside. It was constrained by the marshes and the River Lea.

East End. No end. Grey streets, grimy streets, streets without number, streets without meaning, streets that spread on and on under the dull, dreary eastern sky until, somewhere out past the miles and miles of docks they dissolve like an estuary, into a sea of nothingness. East End. Dead end. The East End was not a place, it was a state of mind.                                London, Edward Rutherford.

And not necessarily a sober state of mind. In 1736, the Middlesex Magistrates complained …

It is with the deepest concern your committee observe the strong Inclination of the inferior Sort of People to these destructive Liquors, and how surprisingly this Infection has spread within these few Years … it is scarce possible for Persons in low Life to go anywhere or to be anywhere, without being drawn in to taste, and, by Degrees, to like and approve of this pernicious Liquor.

The pernicious liquor was gin.

 

 

Waltham Abbey …

Above all else I miss the churches.

There is no God but my word He commissioned some wonderful architecture and some of the finest music ever written. You could listen to this as you read …

Canterbury Cathedral is a triumph of stone in the service of light. It is an extraordinary building but my personal favorites are from the older Norman era. When all the mason could build was a simple arch the choice had to be made – do you want the church well-lit or would you like it to stay up. My all time favorite is Durham Cathedral with Ely in second place. When you enter these buildings you feel his presence, the hairs on your arms stand up. If you’re lucky enough to hear the choir rehearsing you’re already in heaven.

As a kid there was an impressive Norman era church close enough for me to ride to on my bike, Waltham Abbey.

Anno Domini, the year of the Lord. One Dionysius Exiguus  thought it a good idea to start the calendar at the moment of Christ’s incarnation. This was back in AD525 and of doubtful accuracy more than 500 years after the event. The year Mr Exiguus did this would have otherwise been Diocletian 248. He was motivated by the desire to remove Diocletian’s name from the calendar because of Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. His main interest in the calendar was in calculating the timing of Easter, no simple matter.

Diocletian became Emperor of a declining empire in Diocletian 1 totally unaware that it was really AD284 . Besides his tireless work for the nutrition of lions he raised the personality cult to a state of perfection, introduced the most bureaucratic government the Empire had ever seen and divided it into four parts which he ruled with three junior co-emperors. He made Rome great again. He retired after 21 years and managed, eventually, to die of natural causes. All in all a remarkable achievement.

After his retirement chaos resumed.

In AD306 Constantine the Great, son of Constantius one of those junior co-emperors, emerged victorious from the civil wars and became Emperor. During Diocletian’s time Christianity was the dangerous obsession of a small minority. Constantine was tolerant of Christianity and at some point  converted (after a fashion) and Christianity became the state religion. There were some Christians living dangerously in that corner of the empire known as Britannia. Now they could come into the open.

And so Christianity flourished throughout the land for the next century.

Around AD410 rule from Rome came to an end. The Angles and Saxons were invading Britain, the Visigoths were besieging Rome. Paganism was the new thing. Except in Ireland where the Celts had proven quite resistant to Roman rule but had adopted Christianity.

The reintroduction was two-pronged. Pope Gregory sent Augustine to spread the word to King Æthelberht of Kent, whose wife was a Christian from the continent. Augustine became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 597. The good news spread northwards.

Edwin King of Northumbria heard it, converted to Christianity and established Roman practice in his realm. After his death and a year of political instability, Oswald gained the throne. He had learned Christian practice and to speak Irish from the monks of Iona during a period of political exile. He encouraged Ionan missionaries to preach in Northumbria, making St. Aidan bishop of Northumbria in 635 with the seat of his diocese on Lindisfarne.

The two schools of Christianity had different ways to determine the date of Easter. Problems arose at the Northumbrian court with King Oswiu, Oswald’s successor, observing Easter on a different day than the good Queen Eanfled. While one royal faction was celebrating Easter, the other would be fasting for Lent. After Aidan’s death matters became so serious that the issue had to be debated at the highest level. It was decided at the Synod of Whitby AD664 to follow the method devised by our friend Dionysius Exiguus, the Roman way.

So far I’ve mentioned a whole bunch of places that deserve another visit but with so little time the best I could do was to visit The Church of the Holy Cross and St Lawrence aka Waltham Abbey.

Until the Norman’s popularised the practice of building with stone, churches in Britain had been mainly timber and thatch affairs. None has survived to the present day. So 1066 marks the beginning of church architecture in Britain and the end of King Harold. Guess where he’s buried.

The first church on the site dates back to about AD610. It was wooden. It was followed by a partially stone church built in the eighth century.

Cnut King of Denmark defeated Edmund Ironside at Assandun, Essex, in 1016, and became king of all England on Edmund’s death. During his reign the manor of Waltham was held by his friend Tofig who also held another in Somerset. According to a twelfth century source, De Inventione Sanctœ Crucis Nostrœ  (The Discovery of our Holy Cross) a blacksmith on the Somerset estate had a dream that led him to discover a crucifix buried on a hill top. Said crucifix might have been made of flint. Tofig had the cross loaded onto an ox-cart suggesting it was of some considerable size. The oxen would only go in one direction and continued every day until by a striking coincidence they reached Tofig’s Waltham estate, 150 miles away. The Holy Cross was installed in the church and soon became an object worthy of pilgrimage.

Such were its powers that when Harold Godwinson became ill, Wulstan, Bishop of Worcestor sent him to pray before it. Harold, then Earl of East Anglia made a miraculous recovery. In gratitude he had the church rebuilt on a grander scale and donated considerable wealth to it.

Subsequently Harold became the last Anglo-Saxon King of England. It was a brief reign. Crowned in January 1066 dead in October. Harold took his army north to defeat an invasion by Harald Hardrade King of Norway aided and abetted by Harold’s own brother and rival for the throne, Tostig. He won a crushing victory at Stamford Bridge on September 25th.  Then it was a race south to meet William of Normandy stopping en route to pray again to the Holy Cross at Waltham. The Battle of Hastings on October 14th ended in his death.

The subsequent disposition of his remains are shrouded in mystery. One version, by far the most appealing in my biased opinion, has his body identified by his mistress Edith Swanneck and taken to Waltham for burial under the high altar of his own church.

In 1090 Harold’s church was torn down and a new one in the Norman style erected. What you see today is mostly from that  fourth incarnation.

History hadn’t finished with it though. In 1184, Henry ll, as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, raised the status of the church to an abbey. Part of the Norman church was demolished and a grand extension built in its place. Cloisters were added.

The Holy Cross continued to attract pilgrims that included the noble and famous. Henry Vlll and Anne Boleyn stayed for five days during their summer progress of 1532.

Then came the reformation. In 1540 it was the last abbey in England to close. The extensions made after 1184  were demolished although the tower on the west end was built in 1556. The interior continued to evolve.

Although only a shadow of its former glory, it is still a very impressive church.

The ceiling was part of restoration work completed in 1876 under the direction of William Burgess.

One of the workers put out of a job when the Abbey closed was Thomas Tallys, one of my favorite composers. He’d been on the staff for about two years at that time. His redundancy payment was quite generous and he soon found work at Canterbury Cathedral. The Holy Cross disappeared at the same time but we’ve already established that it was too big to fit in his pocket.

Best heard at full volume before getting out of bed on a Sunday morning … which is exactly the way my neighbours were introduced to it when I lived in a flat in Melbourne.

 

 

Kennesaw …

In March 1861 the Republican Party candidate, Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President of the United States. He did not carry a single southern state. The Republicans had taken a position against slavery. The south took a position against the federal government.

The first military action of the American Civil War took place at Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina in April 1861. The war was a brutal affair that took the lives of about 8% of America’s white males aged 13 to 43; 6% in the North and 18% in the South. In the aftermath the North prospered and the South was impoverished for a century.

By 1864 the South were losing but progress was very slow and costs were high. It was an unpopular war. Lincoln seemed unlikely to win a second term, his opponents were promising to sue for peace rather than continue to fight for victory. Atlanta, Georgia was a crucial resource to the Confederates. It stood at the intersection of four important railroad lines that supplied the Confederacy and was a centre of military manufacturing.

Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman was commanding the Union forces ranged against Confederate troops commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. Rather than make a frontal attack, Sherman had chosen several times to pass Johnston’s position and threaten his supply line. Johnston had fallen back each time.

After two months and 70 miles (110 km) of gaining ground with few casualties on either side , Sherman’s progress was blocked by imposing fortifications on Kennesaw Mountain, near Marietta, Georgia. This time Sherman ordered a large-scale frontal assault.

The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought on June 27, 1864. The Union forces suffered about 3,000 casualties in comparison to Johnston’s 1,000. Sherman wrote to his wife …

I begin to regard the death and mangling of couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash.

Essentially it was a Confederate win but on the far right of the Union lines troops under the command of Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield were able, once again to outflank Johnston’s position, all that lay between them and Atlanta was the Chattahoochee River. Johnston withdrew to the river where he was outflanked yet again and was relieved of his command in favour of John Bell Hood.

Sherman took Atlanta after a month-long siege. It was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy and enough to swing public sentiment behind Lincoln. He was reelected and concluded his second inaugural speech with a plea for reconciliation …

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.       Abraham Lincoln March 4 1865.

The visitor to Kennesaw Mountain can walk to the summit passing the positions where the Confederate army was dug in. The city of Atlanta can be seen from the top. A few cannons remain on duty where so many lost their lives.

At the foot of the hill there is a museum and an informative video is shown regularly.

Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865. His successor, Andrew Johnson was able to announce the end of the war the following month.