Showing posts from 2018

Bishop Herbert and St. Felix

Eight years have past since I last puzzled the Elmham Question
( See and the matching  Bishop Herbert built two matching churches, each with the same ground plan at both North and South Elmham.

Recently, I have been puzzling the relief sculpture of St.Felix in Norwich Cathedral. It was part of the furniture around the Bishop's Entrance in the North Transept. Both the sculpture and the architecture around the door were deliberately antiqued to look old even when they were new! This latest round of puzzling is connected with The Norfolk Saints' Way , one of  Norwich Cathedral's Green Pilgrimage projects. Along the route from Burgh Castle are two churches, at Reedham and Loddon, that were founded by St.Felix.

This very morning I was at the 8 a.m. Holy Communion service in Norwich Cathedral, kneeling beside Bishop Herbert's grave, once again ponder…

St.John of the Cross and the Broads National Park

Yes, I know he never came here but.........    I have been revisiting the arguments of the Reformation. The echos of the bad tempered arguments are visible in -  broken 7 sacrament fonts, a few remaining pieces of medieval glass,  rood screens where the saints faces have been scratched out and empty niches once occupied by the images of saints.

And then there is Lollards' Pit

In some ways St.John of the Cross was a Reformer too and he got a lot of grief because of it!  When I think about him as a bare foot friar,  I am reminded that John Wycliffe had four such friars supporting him when he appeared before the Bishop of London.

I find it a very odd thing that the Norfolk Saints Way on its way into Norwich Cathedral has Lollards' Pit as a way station. I wander what the Lollards might have thought about 21st Century pilgrims!  In their day they were dead against it.

St.John of the Cross is more nuanced. He has this to say about pilgrimages and images :- 
he that makes a pilgrimage doe…

St.John of the Cross Pilgrtimage

On this feast day of St.John of the Cross I remember a trip I made to walk in his footsteps!
I think I am right and that this (unlabelled)  photo is the view looking south from the site of his Los Martires Friary looking south towards the Alpujjas. Granada was the last city to be re-conquered from the Muslims. The Alpujjaras the last part of Spain ruled by Muslims!

It is a site just round the corner from Grenada's beautiful, Islamic gardens of the Alhambra and the Generalife. It seems to me that John uses  poetry to reach out to newly converted Muslims by using Song of Songs imagery  which was accessible to Christians and Muslims alike. 
In one of the last stanzas of the Song of the Soul and the Bridegroom. He gives more than a hint of the time and place of its composing  We shall go at once To the deep caverns of the rock Which are all secret, There we shall enter in And taste of the new wine of the pomegranate.   In Spanish the word Pomegranate is Grenada . 

Thank you Matthew Champion

Read this at
"A moment in time - when a resigned population took stock of what God had sent their way, and what the church had failed to protect them from, and carved, painted and gilded their own reactions to events in the very fabric of the church itself. A stark irreverence combined with open elements of humour and parody. Fat friars and stupid priests, lecherous monks and harlot nuns, green men and grotesque beasts - all thrust into the very body of the church. Gone is the quiet reverence, and instead flows out a stream of self expression that obliquely questions the very structure of the church and the society in which they lived." in

I think it encapsulates so much about post Black Death religion in Norfolk. I will quote it often!

Rescued from the Sea of Chaos

This font base was recently rescued from the church of Holy Trinity, Hautbois before the redundant church was handed over to the Guides as an extra building for their Hautbois Activities Centre.

As far as I know it's providence is as follows :
It had been buried and discovered in the 19th C when the nave of , the now ruined, church of St.Mary (a.k.a. St.Theobald) was being cleared. Historic England record the font in these terms:
Early C12 font base, supporting C19 square bawl. Base carved with entwined winged serpents, divided from the foliated base section by double keel moulding.

 I imagine bawl is a typo. What they do not say, although this is true The square 19th Century bowl plunked on top of a wonderful 12th C font base, which still appears to have some of red pigment on the winged serpents, is hideous!

To my mind the lower layer of the font base is not so much foliat as waves of the sea, but perhaps I am reading too much into it. In any case, the meaning of the iconography…

Circular Path - Claxton

Brilliant walk following the Norfolk Trails Circular Route  from the New Inn, Rockland

With a warm welcome from Claxton Church  and  The New Inn, Rockland
I recommend both if you are thirsting after righteousness!

A Pilgrim's Welcome at Phillack

Caitlin Green's research on the Hayle Estuary ( brought me to Phillack church to see the reused 5th century Chi Rho stone built into porch of the, Victorian re-build version of, a Christian place of worship.

Many thanks to Caitlin for sharing her insights so freely! Here's my rather poor pics -

A bit faint, perhaps, but none-the-less a witness to the on-going  Christian mission to Cornwall!

1,5000 years later this pilgrim was mightily impressed with the church's ongoing mission and the Children's Corner

"Not many children come on Sundays," a faithful Church member told me . That may be so, but a proud dad, not a church-goer by any means, spoke enthusiastically about going to  Phillack Church for various school events. 
Most especially, I liked a prayer station that opened a way into the heart of prayer

I expect I will be suggesting it as a model for seaside places in East Anglia.

Low Impact Tourism/Low Impact Pilgrimage

In a small and crowded island rural tranquillity and the remaining wild places require protection. Protection from any developments that compromise their status and change their character.  In the Mediterranean and Canary Islands we label such developments as costa-isation but it happens elsewhere too. Arguably, it has already happened in parts of Norfolk and the Broads

In the Ascent of Mount Carmel Book 3, Chapter 36, section 3 St.John of the Cross makes these observations. It is good to  "........withdraw ourselves from noise and from people when we pray, even as did the Lord. Wherefore he that makes a pilgrimage does well if he makes it at a time when no others are doing so, even though the time be unusual. I should never advise him to make a pilgrimage when a great multitude is doing so; for, as a rule, on these occasions, people return in a state of greater distraction than when they went. And many set out on these pilgrimages and make them for recreation rather than for devo…

Days of Rain ?

I marvel at the synchronicity.

After several weeks of heatwave and drought, we have had a couple of days of rain. Parking outside the church in advance of the 9.30 a.m. service,  Psalm 63 was playing inside my head by way of a prayer: “My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water."

For whom did I pray?  There was no shortage suitable targets: wildfire raged in California and Greece;  I was reading, and had been deeply disturbed by Rebecca Stott's book on the Exclusive Bretheren, "In the days of Rain"; and I prayed  for my own relationship with the mystery called God.  Psalm 63 was soon replaced replaced by,  "Morning has broken, ... and I was straining out to hear Black Birds’call  in the wet churchyard.

I had come to preside at the Eucharist and to preach in a thatched 13th Century church not far from Wroxham; excited/delighted that the Gospel reading for the day was St.John's story of the Fee…

Pilgrimage or Morris Tour?

Pilgrimage of Morris Tour ?  A good question! In the end, I thought the best answer was,"Yes !" And, when I began to treat it like a pilgrimage something changed.
Travelling down to Kent from Norfolk, we speculated about Thomas a Becket true martyr or something else? Silly fool, he bit the hand that fed him! That is the King's hand! What did he expect! Unlike Oscar Romero of El Salvador, gunned down in his own cathedral church for supporting the poor, Becket was trying to extend the rights of the Church. Not quite the same thing. And, of course, extending the rights of the Church was to the Pope's advantage. So, of course, he made Thomas a saint! 
Who gained from Becket's martyrdom ?  Who still gains?

It has even been suggested, on the basis of heraldry, that Canterbury Cathedral are offing pay day loans to cover the entrance fee!

Later, dancing at the White Horse at Chilham, we were able to contrast and compare the welcome pilgrims receive at Canterbury and Chil…

An Awkward Silence - St. Who?

How is it that a founding father was forgotten? When Herbert de Losinga built his new cathedral church in Norwich, he wanted to stress the continuity with the church that had been. Yes, he was a Johnie-come-lately Norman,  but he was a genuine successor of the founding father. So he placed an deliberately antiqued image of the first Bishop of  East Anglia - St.Felix - above the bishop's entrance in the deliberately antiqued north transept! It is a door still used by the Bishop of Norwich.

My servant Google searched high and low to see if he could find reference to the saint within the Diocese of Norwich. Save for an obscure mention in Norwich Cathedral's latest music scheme, to say 8th March is the feast Day of St.Felix, nothing! nada! zilch!  Why would a diocese not celebrate the feast day of a founding saint?
St.Felix is said to have founded minsters in South Elmham, North Elmham, Reedham, Loddon and Babing…