Wednesday, 19 September 2007

A Visit to the Abbey

The Friends of Westminster Cathedral went on Monday this week to Westminster Abbey, for a tour of the great building. It was an enormous privilege to explore the Abbey by ourselves in the evening, and we were accompanied by the Dean, the Rt Revd John Hall (below, left) and the Precentor, the Revd Graeme Napier (below, right). It was a remarkable honour to have such eminent guides, and the visit further cemented the ties of friendship between our two great churches.

The scarlet robes worn by the clergy of the Abbey are reserved (in the Church of England) to those institutions which are 'Royal Peculiars', that is, which are directly responsible to the Crown, and not to a diocese or bishop. This is a relic of pre-Reformation days, when a handful of institutions, such as the Abbey at Westminster, were directly under the jurisdiction of Rome, and it was the Pope himself who appointed the Abbot. At the break with Rome, this function was transferred to the Monarch.
We were able to visit the shrine of St Edward the Confessor, one of the very few intact medieval shrines in the country, where the Dean led us in prayer.

Afterwards, there was a reception in the Jerusalem Chamber. The title of this magnificent room was a cruel joke for King Henry IV (his bust can just be glimpsed top right of the photograph above), of whom it had been prophesied that he whould die 'in Jerusalem'. His fond hopes of a crusade to the Holy Land were, however, misguided, for it was in this Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey that his dead body was laid out.


Andrew Teather said...

I am always torn between which or the two great churches to visit when in London as well. The Cathedral usually wins, however, if only because of the close proximity of St Pauls bookshop, Watts and the Cardinal Public House!

John the organist said...

ata7What a splendid visit!