Friday, 12 July 2002

Yesterday afternoon, this morning, and tomorrow were or will be free time to explore London; Cheryl and I won't necessarily be touring with others, but I think the pictures we post will be representative of what others are up to. I mean, who would want to go to London and not visit the Tower, as we hope to tomorrow? However, I have nothing to show from this morning, as Cheryl and I slept in, then grabbed a quick lunch before everybody boarded the buses to go to Canterbury.

Canterbury Cathedral

Here is a view of Canterbury Cathedral, the heart of the Anglican church, in the city that is the cradle of Christianity in England. St. Augustine arrived in 597 AD, and dedicated the first cathedral here a few years later; it was destroyed by fire in 1067, and rebuilt 1070-1077 (with latter additions and replacements, including the replacement as late as 1832 of the northwest tower with one that matched the southwest tower). The cathedral is of course immense; I couldn't find a vantage point that would let me encompass all of it in one camera frame, so this is a view eastward from just past the west wall (and those two now-matching towers).

Inside Canterbury Cathedral

This is the view from just inside the quire, which I have also seen spelled as "choir," looking east from the middle of the cathedral. Canterbury became a great pilgrimage site after the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop, in his own cathedral in 1170; the original quire burned down four years later, and donations from pilgrims coming to pray at the shrine of Saint (as of 1173) Thomas already added up to enough to pay for this grand structure to replace it.

Thomas Becket had quarreled repeatedly with the King, Henry II, mostly over how much control the Crown should have over Church property and personnel. In the heat of a discussion of the problem with another clergyman, the king shouted, "Who will rid me of this low-born [or possibly 'turbulent' or 'troublesome'] priest?" Four knights took this as a veiled order, went to Canterbury, and assassinated him near the steps down to the crypt, just to the left of where I stood to take the photo above.

Ecumenical tablet

There were a number of altars and memorials near the site of Thomas Becket's martyrdom, but what I found most impressive was this tablet. It commemorates an important ecumenical moment when the Pope of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Archbishop came together to work against the long estrangement between their two churches.

Candle at site of St. Thomas' shrine

The cause of that estrangement was of course King Henry VIII's takeover of the church in England. Since his quarrel with the then Pope had to do with the same issues of power of Church and Crown over one another, Henry VIII had no sympathy with Thomas Becket, who had been on the other side of that argument 350 years previously, and he ordered the shrine of the saint destroyed. This large candle on the floor now marks the former location of the shrine.

Choir members in front of Norman Castle

After touring the cathedral, we had a little over an hour before we had to gather for our final formal concert of the tour in the evening. Cheryl and I tried to catch a city tour bus as we had in other cities, but after we finally found where to catch it we discovered that we had just missed the last one. So we simply got a little something to eat and headed for the rendezvous; others found other things to see in Canterbury. There are some very well-preserved Norman walls extending partway around the city, and a ruined castle; the photo shows us gathering to meet the buses and grab our concert gear in front of the castle. And many of us saw an exhibit on the "Canterbury Tales," which Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in the late 14th century. Chaucer's book presents a variety of stories, supposedly told by each of a group of pilgrims to entertain the others on the way to Canterbury. (As I recall, he intended to write another book on the tales they told each other on the way back, but he never got around to it.) Our director, Pat Edwards, is thinking of doing another "madrigal dinner," or something like it, on the theme of the Canterbury Tales; so remember, you read it here first.

St. Mildred's church

After collecting our formal suits and dresses and our music from the buses, we went to St. Mildred's Anglican church near the castle. Its full name is the Parish Church of St. Mildred with St. Mary de Castro (that is, "St. Mary of the Castle"); the nearby congregation of St. Mary was consolidated with that of St. Mildred in the 16th century, and St. Mary's church was later demolished. There has been a church on this site for over a thousand years; the current building dates to around 1000 AD, and is the oldest building within the Canterbury city walls, edging the cathedral by 70 years or so. As it happens, St. Mildred's feast day is tomorrow, so on Sunday they will have the Bishop of Canterbury leading the service.


I'm kind of short on pictures of the interior of the church, and of our concert; I had bought some cheap batteries for our camera a day or two before, and, sad to say, I got what I paid for. (Our final concert of the tour went pretty well; the church has excellent acoustics, and we performed some songs that we had skipped because they just didn't work right when we rehearsed in other places where we've given concerts.) The one thing of which I did get photos is this set of "hatchments," three of the collection of eight in the church. When a prominent man died, the hatchment, a painting of the deceased's coat of arms on canvas, was made and carried in his funeral procession. It then was hung in his house for a year, and finally was displayed in his home church. This custom fell out of fashion in the 19th century, so these are some pieces of not-too-ancient history from the 18th century.

After the concert the people of the church gave us a tasty pot-luck dinner. We then boarded the buses for the long return drive to London, and arrived just before midnight. I'm actually a couple of days behind on email, since there are often no set times while we're in London when we are all or mostly together, which is when I usually deliver email. I'll clean up the backlog, but it's probably not useful for you to send any more emails, as they may not reach the recipient until after the tour's over; I've also removed the "Contact Us" links and webpage from the website. Thank you very much for giving the members of the choir so much personal contact while we were across the ocean!

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new 12 July 2002, revised 21 July 2002