As I said in my previous post, I didn’t take enough photos on my recent trip to the UK. One reason is that it felt like a bit of a pilgrimage. I was looking forward to attending my first Masses in the UK, the land of my forefathers. Now, Wales is a real backwater as far as the Catholic Church goes so I was unsurprised to find my local church in a rather shabby, but not unloved, state. Lancashire, however, is known to be a strongly Catholic county of England and it was surprisingly hard to find the church I was looking for in Preston because everywhere we turned there seemed to be a steeple. My mother and I thought we had found the right one but it was eerily quiet. When we were wandering around it we asked a couple of guys where St. Walburge’s was and they seemed quite amused at our inability to find what is reputedly the third tallest steeple in the UK. When we followed their directions and saw the steeple in the distance my mum claimed that it looked smaller than the one we had just been wandering around. I was reminded of this sketch from Father Ted. Sorry mum. 🙂 I also visited a church in Blackburn dedicated to St. Alban. The interiors of both these churches were lovely, and the Masses (one Novus Ordo, one traditional Latin) were beautiful. Here are some of the few photos I took:
There were many more photos I could have taken. I didn’t get a good shot of the rose window at St. Walburge’s for example. However, I think these kinds of places are best seen in person so that one can absorb the atmosphere and let a little of the sanctity seep into one’s soul.
Here are a few titbits of information that I picked up on my first visit to St. Walburge’s. The hammer beams of the roof creak like the timbers of a ship in high winds. The steeple rests on bales of cotton so that it can move with the wind without cracking. The church was originally going to be dedicated to a different saint but somebody associated with the project was healed by the oil streaming from St. Walburge’s tomb. The choir loft was originally situated so far from the organ loft that it made it very difficult for the choir to sing in time with the organ. The windows behind the main altar were originally set into a flat wall. This wall was subsequently turned into the curved apse you can see in the photos. The windows were put back in the wrong order so that the inscription relating to the donors no longer makes any sense.
I hope I’ve tempted you to take a closer look at the beautiful churches of Lancashire (I’m looking at you Simon! 😉 ).
See here for tours and Mass times at St. Walburge’s.
Having recently shown you some of the beautiful architecture in France I thought I would show you the danger that it is in. As far as I know, the French state owns most of the churches. It just allows the people use them for worship, and so on. When I was in Rouen I saw impressive repairs that had been made to the cathedral but I also saw plants growing on the roof of St Ouen’s (see here for my photos of these buildings). It seems that there isn’t enough money to go around. The huge church of St Ouen holds only one Mass per year and is used for art installations, and the like, for the rest of the time. It was very sad to see a consecrated church crumbling and full of inappropriate artwork.
If a church is a big tourist attraction then it is safe for the time being but the rest…
2800 churches in France have recently been, or are soon to be, demolished.
And, before I get complaints, I know this is not just a problem in France. For example, I know that the Church in Britain has sold a lot of its old high-maintenance buildings in favour of cheaper modern ones. At least there, a lot of the old buildings are being preserved by private owners after being deconsecrated.
I didn’t have the time to line up artistic shots but here are some quick snaps I took while I was in Normandy. (As usual, I haven’t included any identifiable photos of my companions, out of respect for their privacy.) Because the photos may take a while to load I’m going to split them into batches. The snaps in this post were taken at Saint George’s Abbey, Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville. As you will see, we took the Irish sky with us. 🙂