Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #6: Favourite English Churches

I am an inveterate Church visitor. Even Tevye has come to appreciate exploring Churches we come across in our travels - or at least, to enjoy the peace and quiet while I explore. Here are some Churches I love - some for the their beauty and historical value, others because they have spiritual significance for me.

1. St.Michael and All Angels, Stewkley, Buckinghamshire. My father's family are from this village, with branches going back centuries. It gives me shivers to realise that my ancestors would have worshipped here in pre-Reformation days. The Church itself is an unusually fine example of a Norman Church, with very few later alterations. This is for the prosaic reason that after the 12th century there was no rich land owner to make any!

2. St.Gregory's Minster, Kirkdale, Yorkshire. This tiny Church is even older, originating as a Saxon minster; parts of the building are over a thousand years old. My mother was baptised here, and many of her forebears are buried in the graveyard.

3. Our Lady of Grace and St.Teresa of Avila, Chingford, London. The Church in which I was received into the Catholic Church.

4. The Slipper Chapel, Walsingham, Norfolk. After the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was destroyed by King Henry VIII the little Slipper Chapel (where pilgrims removed their shoes to walk the last Holy Mile) survived, used as a barn. In the late 19th century it was rescued and returned to the Catholic Church, and is now the national shrine to Our Lady. I first visited as a non-Catholic child of six or seven staying with relatives nearby, and fell in love with the place.

5. Westminster Cathedral, London. The premier Catholic cathedral in England. Byzantine in style, it was intended to have a complete mosaic ceiling but it remains unfinished. I love that it has a busy, prayerful atmosphere - by busy, I mean many people making purposeful visits, to light candles, attend Mass, go to Confession and so on, in contrast to Westminster Abbey and St.Paul's Cathedrals (both Anglican) which are so swamped by tourists as to make prayer difficult if not impossible.

6. St.Mary's Chapel, Lulworth Castle, Dorset. This private chapel was the first new Catholic Church to be built in England after the Reformation, and is still in use.

7. Lincoln Cathedral, Lincolnshire. I decided to limit myself to just one of the great medieval Anglican cathedrals, which meant a tough choice. Salisbury, Winchester, York Minster, Durham and Gloucester are all favourites, but Lincoln won on points for its beautiful Angel Choir. (It also loses points for allowing filming of The Da Vinci Code to take place there.)

8. Church of St. Julian, Norwich, Norfolk. The home of the anchorite, Dame Julian of Norwich, where her cell can still be visited. Or rather, a recreation of her cell - the Church was largely destroyed by bombing during World War II and subsequently rebuilt.

9. Chapel of St.John the Evangelist, Tower of London. This is the oldest of the chapels in the Tower, at the heart of the White Tower built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. Tiny and thick walled, it resonates with history.

10. All Saints, Hillesden, Buckinghamshire. I could have picked any number of country churches, but chose this for its sheer unlikeliness. Known as the Cathedral of the Fields, this late medieval church in the perpendicular style dwarves the tiny village surrounding it. It also boasts bullet holes in the door dating from the English Civil War in the 17th century.

11. The Round Church, Cambridge. Because it is ... well ... round. And old, built around 1130.

12. Magdelen College Chapel, Oxford. C.S.Lewis worshipped here regularly during his years at the College, and it is a great example of the many college chapels at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

13. Oxford Oratory Church of St.Aloysius Gonzaga. A Victorian Gothic gem tucked away at the edge of central Oxford. Run by the Oratorians, it has beautiful liturgy to match.


Faith said...

Thank you for the lovely tour!

Romany said...

I've visted many of those. My parents used to like to take us to mass at W Cath.

When I was a little girl, my g'ma collected milk bottle tops to save, to help to built the new RC cath at Liverpool. For years, I imagined this great cathedral would be BUILT out of milk bottle tops!{g}



Jennifer said...

This Thursday Thirteen is terrific!