Monday, February 6, 2012

Chichester and Portsmouth - Day 3


On the Sunday of my southern-England adventure, I took the train back to Chichester to attend worship at Chichester Cathedral.

By now I had the whole cross-shape city layout figured out - still it would have been nice if I'd seen this sign on Friday in my frantic attempts to find where I was going:


I wandered around a bit before making my way to the cathedral - the streets were very quiet at just after ten on a Sunday morning. I had a look at "The Buttery at the Crypt," a tea house in the old cathedral crypt, not unlike the delicious cafeteria in the crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London. I made a mental note for "next time."

I made my way around the grounds of the cathedral to the main entrance on the far side. My plan was to attend the main choral Eucharist service at 11am, but I had arrived just after the start of Morning Prayer. I decided to have a quick look around and then sneak into the latter part of Morning Prayer.


Doorway to the deserted cloisters.
Beautiful figure  above the main entrance.
I happened to be visiting on the 700th anniversary Sunday of the canonization of St. Richard, former Bishop of Chichester and a key figure in the cathedral's history. His statue stands outside the cathedral here:


The Chichester Cathedral website has this to say about him:

Richard of Wych, bishop of Chichester from 1245 - 1253, was canonized in 1262 when plans were made to move his body from its first burial place in the Nave to the Retroquire.  The ceremony of translation took place on 16 June 1276, in the presence of King Edward I.  From that day  until the shrine was destroyed in 1538, the Shrine of St Richard attracted pilgrims from all over England and beyond.  In 1930 an alter was restored to the site of the shrine. 
Pleae click here for more information on St Richard.


I slipped in for the end of morning prayer. The sanctuary was relatively empty. Unlike at Westminster Abbey, even at such a small service as this the congregation sits in the nave, separated from the altar and most of the celebrants by the stone chancel screen. In the main choral service, I do appreciate the ethereal effect this gives, with the choir's voice drifting back over the congregation as if from the heavens. However, I do find it hard to get past the cut-off feeling this setup engenders, the separation between the leaders of worship and the congregation.

A gentleman chatted with me between the two services, and told me a number of historical details about the cathedral, including that it has the longest Lady Chapel in the area or possibly even in England, and that it is a rarity that the cathedral has a detached bell tower as it does. He was very interested that I was from Canada and wanted to know what had brought me to Chichester for the weekend, and I explained.

The nave filled up essentially to capacity for the 11am service. The service was lovely, and I noticed that the liturgy was taken from the Anglican Church of Canada's Book of Alternative Services - score!! The choir sang beautifully. As I processed up into the choir to take communion (which felt very significant, so I do appreciate that about the architectural separation), I took in the beautiful chancel and vaulted ceilings. I knelt down at the rail and the Dean administered communion to me. (It would have been totally obvious by this point in the service who he was, but for the record, the O'Sullivans and I totally Googled him ahead of time. But I swear I wasn't thinking of googling as I received the sacrament.) I noticed as I returned to my seat that a lot of the congregants were leaving straight after taking communion - is this something Anglicans have held over from their Catholic roots?

After the service I went to the coffee time - a number of members of the congregation chatted with me and were very welcoming. I had a chance to speak to the Dean and thank him for his permission. I told him a bit about my research. He said he had been to Toronto and quite liked it, and that eating in a Persian restaurant on the U of T campus, with people of all different backgrounds sitting together, had been like a foretaste of heaven. I can't think of a more lovely anecdote to tell a Torontonian! He told me to keep them posted about the progression of my research, which I will certainly do!

After that I wandered around the building a bit. I peeked in the Lady Chapel at the very back of the church, which is an absolutely beautiful space that I didn't manage to get a perfect picture of.

The Lady Chapel of Chichester Cathedral.
I was very excited to be in the place where Walter Hussey had served and for which he had continued his wonderful ministry of patronage of the arts. I saw the stained glass window which was commissioned from Marc Chagall. The red tones in the window are meant to reflect the joy and praise of the Psalm which inspired it.
Chagall window.
There is also a memorial stone honouring Gustav Holst.



I am trying to decide if this little figure who is on one side of the main entrance is a likeness of Walter Hussey.


The detached bell tower.
After that I took a slightly weary train ride back to London for the quick turnaround into my next work week (my "other life.") It was wonderful to have such an interesting adventure - I hope to have the chance to revisit Chichester again some day. 

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