Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A day at Ely

I took the train and my legs over to Ely Cathedral today. It was a full day.

When I got there, a couple guys were putting in extra chairs. I asked them why, and they said there was going to be a Thanksgiving service there tonight, mainly for the U. S. military in the area.

I joked with friends back home that I would miss Thanksgiving this year because the English don’t celebrate people fleeing from them. Looks like I was wrong!

The cathedral is amazing and very, very old. Some of it dates to before 1100, most of it before 1400. The history and art of it had me poking around it (and gawking) for hours.

I also visited the tiny Prior Crauden’s Chapel and the Lady Chapel there, and also St. Mary’s parish church. On it is the following plaque:

Here lye interred in one grave the Bodies of

William Beamiss
George Crow
John Dennis
Isaac Hurley
Thomas South
Who were all executed at Ely on the 28th Day of June 1816, having been convicted at the Special Assizes holden there of divers Robberies during the Riots at Ely & Littleport in the Month of May in that Year.

May their awful Fate be a warning to others.

How would you like that plastered about you on the side of a church? Maybe that’s a good way to discourage looting.

Back at the cathedral, about 100 kids from a school came for the day, in uniform, of course. I got a lot of amusement from them. There’s nothing like English school kids (and stern English adults hectoring them).

Two things that saddened me, though. A priest there asked a group of about twenty of the kids how many of them went to church. I saw only one raise a hand.

And the Lady Chapel – it is a barren place. The iconoclasts destroyed all the statues and stained glass. It seems very big (And I was told it’s the biggest Lady Chapel in England.) and empty. And to make things worse, above the altar there’s a year 2000 statue of Mary that looks more like a screaming harlot than the Blessed Virgin. It’s a bad joke. I forget who it was, but someone I know that said the Lady Chapel is one of the saddest places he has ever been. I understand why.

Back in Cambridge, I was one of four at evening prayer at Little St. Mary’s. I’ll probably worship there Sunday.

And I discovered the English actually can make a hamburger. I had an excellent cheeseburger and half-pint at a pub next to the hotel.

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