|Bankside Walk in London
(June 26, 05)
We decided that the Margery Kempe thing was just not going to happen today. Maybe Tuesday if both of our studies are going well. Instead we walked around London and did the serious tourist thing. Well, that and went to church twice. I'm not sure how many miles we walked, but we walked pretty continuously from about 9:30 on. (With breaks for Church services.)
The sung service was at 10:30 at St. Margaret's Church. (Part of Westminster Abbey.) I didn't realize the Abbey and Westminster Cathedral were two different things, but there you go. They are. We sat in one of the transcepts off the altar facing a rose window that Henry VIII and Catherine gave to the church. (This was before he broke with the Catholic church and his wife.)
The service was a Catholic mass, and it was fabulous to hear the choir singing in the middle of the church. Okay, lets stop for Cathedral terminology 101:
You come into the church into the nave. Then there are two rows of ornate wooden choir stalls that face one another across the aisle. Then there's an altar behind that in the sanctuary. Behind the altar is an area called the retrochoir (but none of the churches seem to use that area, or let you back there.) Confused? Take a look at the diagram in today's photos.
So the church is so large at St. Margaret's that the choir and organ, which are both in the center, stay together very well. But the congregation hears the choir with a tiny lag in time. So the singing is always a bit like a wave rolling over, starting with the choir and ending at the ends of the church. People always think that Cathedrals are echoey, but that's when they are empty. The only flat surface in the whole thing is the floor, so once you have the floor covered with living people, the building sounds very alive, but doesn't reverberate sounds strongly. One of the pieces the choir did was by Thomas Tallis, the organist for Elizabeth I that I did a paper about last semester. (He was a blatant Catholic, but Elizabeth just turned a blind eye to it all.)
Quick break for the whole reformation thing. Okay, so after the War of the Roses we get the Tudors on the Throne (late 1400s.) Eventually we get Henry VIII who marries Catherine of Aaragon. (She's the aunt of the King of Spain.) They never have a son, which Henry thinks he has to have. So since he can't talk the Pope into granting him a divorce, he starts the Church of England and makes himself the head of his new church. (Surprisingly this has all worked out better than it seems like it would.) However, he has lots of people and wives executed. (Watch A Man for All Seasons if you need a summary of this part.) He dies and his young son Edward takes the throne (he's still a protestant.) Then comes Edward's sister Mary when he dies. (She's a Catholic so the whole country flips back to Catholic.) Then when she dies we get Elizabeth I. ( And the whole country flips back to being Protestant.) It was a confusing time for everyone, but the Spanish Armada gets ripped up by a big storm, and Sir Walter Raleigh keeps running about being dashing and chivalrous, and England lives through it all. (So by about 1600 things had more or less settled down.)
The Bishop of Grantham (the Right Reverend Dr. Alastair Redfern) was there to confirm several of the kids from the Abbey choir. (Hey and one of the members of the boy's choir was a little girl.) He gave a good sermon talking about the levels at which we can live our lives, taking care of our own needs only, reaching out to take care of our relationships with other people, or striving to be part of a larger plan to do good. His frame for the sermon was a medieval parable about a man on the road who sees three different men pushing a wheel barrow full of stones and asks them what they are doing. The first says that he has to work to eat, the second that he must support his family, and the third replies that he is hauling stone to build the cathedral.
The wording in the program said that "if you receive communion in your own church you are welcome to do so here. Those who do not wish to receive Communion are invited to come for a blessing. Please carry this booklet with you to indicate to the priest that you are asking for a blessing." So an open communion. Just lovely.
After the service we walked about a bit. The Abbey has a square garden area in the middle with building all the way around. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the church, but we could in the walkways around the square. There were several tombs built into the sides of the walls from the 1100s.
Rick Steve's Guide to London
Dara sent me Rick Steve's Guide to London before I left the States, and so for today, I carefully ripped out the "Bankside Walk" tour section and we followed it from Black Friar's bridge to Tower Bridge (what we American's always call London Bridge. There is a London Bridge but it's just a punky looking, utilitarian highway bridge. The pretty one is Tower Bridge.)
The Great Fire
So we stood at the spot where Samuel Pepys drank ale while watching the City across the river burn to the ground in 1666. The fire burned 80% of the city. (13,000 houses and 89 churches!) So, the view across the river is of a bunch of newish looking warehouses and buildings. Which would make sense, because all the medieval buildings were burned away.
Following the river more or less, brought us to the new reproduction of Shakespeare's theater called "The Globe." The reproduction is so good that it uses wooden pegs instead of nails. It seats 1500 people, which I thought was impressive, but the one that Shakespeare built seated 3,000! I went to the box office to pick up the tickets I had reserved for Thursday night. Maggie, Ox and I are going to see A Winter's Tale. Jim looked pretty glum about the fact that all the tickets for seats were sold out, but is thinking he may come along with us and be one of the "groundlings." It means he has to stand up for the whole play, but he was told he could bring in his own beer.
Since the new Globe is close to, but not exactly where the old Globe had been, we had to go look for the plaque to show where it had been. (I also took a photo of the street where the bear baiting square used to be. After all, can't have a playhouse without a bear baiting pit nearby.) The spot where the Globe used to be is a bunch of apartments and a parking lot. But they have a nice brass plaque.
We walked past a medieval wall that was obviously the ruin of some larger structure, and when I got home I realized that it was all that is left of Winchester Palace. The Bishops of Winchester lived there from 1106 to 1626. Since they were outside of London proper, they held their own courts and had their own prisons. One of the prisons is still there actually, The Clink. That's where our expression comes from, when we say we're going to throw someone in the Clink. Funny how a jail on the bad side of London could still be a word that we all know and use.
We also walked past the Golden Hind. It's a replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship that he used to sail around the globe. I'm always amazed at how small these ships are. It's about a hundred feet from tip to tip.
The George Inn is a half a block from where the old Tabard Inn was. The Tabard is where the pilgrims in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales set out on Pilgrimage from. The George is an old coaching inn, that's now a pub. It's so old, and so close to where the Rose was that it's very likely Shakespeare wet his whistle there on occasion. We did to and were grateful for the restrooms. (Not an easy thing to find in London.)
Oh my gosh. People always say, "the Tower," like it's... well.... a tower. They never say, the big castle with two or three curtain walls that stands next to the bridge. It was too late to go in, and we would have been knee deep in school children anyway. But it's on my list of things to try to get back to see inside. Very very cool. (Lots of pictures of the outside of it in today's photos.)
We ended the day hearing compline at Southwark Cathedral. It was a completely sung service. We chanted the prayers and the liturgy to music that's called Sarum Chant. The program had music written in medieval square notes. (Well, it's actually also called chant notation, and it's still alive and well in the Anglican church.) Once again, the building just came alive once there were people in there and the sound of the chanting sent chills up my spine. The gothic churches really do cause my eyes and my heart to look upwards for God.
After the service we walked around the edges of the church inside. The presiding priest told Jim he could take pictures. (And to tell the Verger that he said we could if the Verger was feeling officious.) The church has sections from the 1200s. John Gower is interred in a brightly painted crypt on the left side of the nave. There are also stain glass windows honoring Shakespeare, John Bunyun, and Chaucer. All the glass appears to be relatively new. There are so many things that could have destroyed things in the churches, that I started to loose track of which church was damaged by the Great fire, which one had been gotten by a gunpowder explosion that happened in the Renaissance, and which ones had been gotten by the bombing of London during WW II. In all the churches, there are windows missing where there is plain clear glass, in spots where all their sister windows have stained glass.
So tired that I just stopped and bought a loaf of bread, some black berry current jam, cheese, and a loaf of bread. When I arrived back, I boiled water in my kettle and made up some Ramen noodles and had a jam and cheese sandwich. A long day, but lots of sites. Tomorrow is a long day of work at the Library. Hold good thoughts for me that all my manuscripts will be available.