St. Alban’s and Cambridge

April 26, 2017

From London we headed to the town of St. Alban’s to the cathedral and shrine, located where St. Alban, England’s first martyr, was killed by the Romans during a time of persecution. He was a pagan visited by a Christian cleric, who later versions of the legend say could shoot basketball equally well with either hand. After his conversion and baptism, he was visited by the Romans. Since he swapped clothes with his houseguest, he was the one arrested and killed, and the guest went free to continue his missionary work. We had a guided tour of the church. Our guide said the nave is the longest one in England. That may be true, given that some of the larger churches have choir areas about as big as their nave. But she seemed to me to exaggerate some other things, so it may be sort of true.

The church was built and rebuilt in a variety of styles, so it includes both Romanesque round arches and Gothic pointed ones. The right side of the roof collapsed at some point, so that was rebuilt in a later style.

As we ended the tour, an organ concert began. We then had time to pray at the shrine, just off the choir. My time of prayer coincided with Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in C Minor. It was an interesting performance, but I can't recall in what way. I was more focused on the prayer, though the T&F was part of its fabric. The experience was more transcendental than emotional. I got to hear one of the modern pieces before we left. As a group we headed to a lunch of fish and chips. The fish was quite good, but the chips weren't any better than average fries here. Dessert was six little cream puffs drizzled with a bit of chocolate. Not everybody ate all of theirs, so extras were passed around.

I might have had a total of eight or nine myself.

The choir screen includes scuptures representing martyrs ancient and modern, with Archbishop Ramirez on the left and Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the right.

Much earlier there were paintings on the old columns. Taking off layers that had covered them leaves only vestiges of the original paintings.

Then we headed to Cambridge. As we rode around, we saw some of the colleges, but not King’s. The only place we stopped for a visit was the round church, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built about 1130, inspired by the rotunda of the eponymous church in Jerusalem. During rebuildings and repairs and restorations it went from Norman style to Gothic and back in many respects. It is one of the four remaining mediaeval round churches in Britain still in use. I'm sure I visited one during my previous trip, and it must have been this one, since I don't think I was ever in any of the other three towns. But I could be wrong.


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