Monday, December 10, 2007

St. Agatha's Easby

Until the owner of the house in the foreground cuts down the non-native conifer hedge you wont see this picture again! None-the-less the ruins of St. Agatha’s Abbey, two miles down stream from Richmond, is as atmospheric as it was when Turner painted it in 1816.

Parking at the Old Station at Richmond, we crossed onto the north side of the River Swale and followed the track that leaves the road beneath the churchyard. By keeping to the right it follows the river all the way to Easby.

During summer months the church is open, when we called in the autumn it was closed. I think it is a good prospect to join the Small Pilgrim Places Network and will approach them as soon as SPPs new website is functioning. In spite of my disappointment in finding the church closed the Priory site, managed by English Heritage, was open and welcoming. I stood in the Priors Chapel, joining my prayers with theirs across the ages, then settled on a comfortable garden seat to have sandwiches and hot soup.

Continuing down stream we crossed to the south bank over the old railway line and returned to the Station along the rail bed. A leaflet describing the walk is available in the Tourist Information Office.

Pilgrim Prayer at York Minister

In the south transept is the seat of custom. Here they take your money and issue tickets.

If you have come to the Minster for a service or for private prayer and they will wave you through.
Away from the buzz of tourists and guided tours there is peace behind the doors of the Zouch Chapel. It is set aside for private prayer. I think it counts as a small pilgrim place – a pool of silence, close to the still centre of the turning world!

Beneath the east window, in the middle of a terrifyingly expensive restoration, is the Lady Chapel. Who should be presiding at the 12.30 p.m. Eucharist but The Very Rev’d Henry Stapleton one time Vicar of Wroxham et al and Dean of Rochester. Afterwards his eyes shine as he speaks St. Peter’s, Belaugh and asks to be remembered to God’s people on the River Bure

York Minster Pilgrimage

The statue is of Constantine lolling in a chair, just outside York Minster’s south door. On the other side of a pedistrianised roadway one of the great columns of the Roman Garrison’s Principia building has been re-errected. As I stood and surveyed the scene I was very close to the place where in 306 CE the IX Legion proclaimed Constantine Emperor, the successor to his father Constantius.

Constantine died in 337 CE he had converted to Christianity and the privileges and status that had once belonged to those who promoted the cult of the Divine Emperor fell to well placed churchmen. Some thought the privilege, power and status too much and retreated into the cleansing austerity of the desert. Other’s relished in it, climbing the dizzy heights of hierarchy and enthusiastically taking over Imperial Rome’s loveof monumental buildings pouring endless resources into the building, beautifying and maintenance of Christain basilicas.

I am inclined to say, “This is where, or at least one of the places where, the rot set in!” Of course, those who lived through those times would have argued that if kings had great palaces, the King of Kings should have even more splendid buildings dedicated to him! And yet I cannot avoid thinking that most were not simply built to the glory of God. And here, in York, we have what is said to be the biggest Gothic Cathedral in the world still sopping up great wodges of money just to keep it upright!

Do I think we should let it fall down? Probably not! It is a good thing that the Archbishop of York and Cathedral Staff in their stewardship of the building are steadfast in their allegiance to the Carpenter King.