Monday, 31 August 2015

Finding common ground in dialogue
as we step across the water on stones

The afternoon rain leaves little opportunity to enjoy the gardens between Mong Hall and South Court in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

The IOCS summer conference in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, is looking at ecumenical and interfaith dialogue this week, and in the third session this afternoon [31 August 2015], the Greek theologian the Revd Professor Nikolaos Loudovikos of the University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki, shared his personal experience in ecumenical dialogue between the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions.

For 10 years, Father Nikolaos has been the Orthodox co-secretary of the Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group. He is Professor of Dogmatics and Philosophy at the University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki, a Visiting Professor at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Winchester.

This afternoon he spoke at the conference in Cambridge on “The International Catholic / Orthodox academic dialogue in the Saint Irenaeus Group: Adventures of an Orthodox Secretary.”

Father Nikolaos Loudovikos (π. Νικόλαος Λουδοβίκος) was born in Volos in 1959. He studied psychology, education, theology and philosophy in Athens, Thessaloniki, Paris and Cambridge. His PhD dissertation in Thessaloniki in 1989 was The Eucharistic Ontology in the Theological Thought of Saint Maximus the Confessor.

It was a discussion that brought us through the thinking of Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Maximus the Confessor, Saint Thomas Aquinas, through debates and discussions about the filioque, consubstantiality, perichoresis (περιχώρησις) and primacy.

He suggested that many disagreements arise when theologians from the past are pitted against each other when in fact they were talking about very different things.

He spoke with humour about the differences that can be expressed in formal dialogue and the common ground that can be shared in the informal discussions on the margins of talks.

He drew an analogy with the neurotic patient who either talks to the psychiatrist without talking about his neurosis, or who talks about his neurosis without talking to the psychiatrist.

Two priests are fishing in a lake in Switzerland one day, but fail to catch anything.
The Orthodox priest throws down his rod, throws up his arms and calls out: “Saint Gregory of Palamas, help me.” He gets out of the boat, walks on the water, goes across the lake to an island and starts catching fish.

The Catholic priest sees what is happening, throws down his rod, throws up his arms and cries out: “Saint Thomas Aquinas, help me.” He steps onto the water, and immediately steps out of the boat, tries to start walking on the water, and immediately begins drowning in the lake.

His Orthodox friend shouts out: “Step on the stones!”

Father Nikolaos has said: “Fortunately, Christianity is neither Platonism nor Stoicism. Everything in our body and soul is created by God, and as such absolutely sacred. It is up to my own freedom to get angry, fall in love, play, create, eat, rejoice, be sorrowful, in such a manner that will bring me continuously closer to the Divine Source of my being: this is what Incarnation means. God does not call me to escape from this world, but to transform it into a place of His manifestation.”

And he has told a Greek interviewer some years ago: “Anselm says: why did the Incarnation happen? So that the Son of God could be punished in the place of man. Gregory the Theologian says the Incarnation happened ‘because humanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God’. Quite the opposite, in other words … Now try and build legalism on a position such as that of the Greek Fathers! It is impossible. That’s why many of my fellow students in France marvelled at us Greeks, saying: ‘vous êtes anarchistes’ (you are anarchists)!”

Our day concludes with Vespers in the Chapel of Sidney Sussex College at 5.30 p.m. and dinner at 6.30 p.m.

Journeys in exile, through icons
paintings, poetry and imagination

Learning in Cambridge … books illustrate a hoarding on a building site near the railway station (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

“Try not to be attached to any place, every place is for you little, every place is for you, there is a place of journey in you.” So Father Sergei Bulgakov wrote in his diary on 25 November 1924.

We were taken on a journey with Russian exiles through paintings and poetry, poetry and imagination, this afternoon at the second session of the IOCS summer conference in Cambridge when Dr Kateřina Bauerová (Charles University of Prague) spoke to us on “To Live Otherness: Sergei Bulgakov, Joanna Reitlinger and Maria Skobtsova in Exile.”

The conference is looking at “Christian Faith, Identity and Otherness,” and at the possibilities and limitations of dialogue in ecumenical and interfaith discourse.

Sister Joanna Reitlinger (1898-1988) (Julia Nikolaeyevna Reitlinger) was a Russian Orthodox nun and iconographer, who while in Paris was the spiritual child of Father Sergei Bulgakov and was present when he died after a stroke. Sister Joanna was one of three people who saw the divine light on Father Bulgakov’s face as he died.

Sister Joanna wrote dozens if not hundreds of icons in her life, including frescoes for the Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius in London. She studied under the French painter Maurice Denis (1870-1943), and she influenced modern iconographers such as Leonid Ouspensky and Father Gregory Krug.

After World War II, Sister Joanna went to England in 1946-1947 and created the frescoes and icons in the chapel of the Anglican-Orthodox Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius and a triptych for the Anglican Monastery of the Resurrection in Mirfield.

In 1947-1956, she decorated the east wall of the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius in Prague.

She returned to Soviet Russia in 1956, but was exiled to Tashkent with her sister, and there she supplemented her pension by decorating silk scarves. Sister Joanna gradually became reconciled with the Orthodox Church, and in 1974 a mutual friend introduced her to the enlightened and ecumenically-minded Russian Orthodox priest, Father Alexander Men (1935-1990).

She became the spiritual child of Father Alexander, and gave him Father Sergei Bulgakov’s vestments. Encouraged by Father Alexander, she returned to her icon writing at the age of 76, and once again produced palm-sized icons.

She had found a spiritual father who was completely in tune with the questing, intellectually outward-looking Orthodox tradition of her youth. He encouraged her to emerge from her reminiscences of turbulent times in émigré Orthodox theological circles in Paris, and to discuss Catholic and Protestant theology without any question of betraying their Orthodoxy.

Sister Joanna died in 1988 praising God to the end, dressed in the severest nun’s habit (the skhima). Despite her doubts and fears, and critics within the church of her free spirit, she is remembered as an artist of true merit and moral stature.

However, perhaps because of time, we never got to discuss Sister Maria Skobtsova of Paris (1891-1945), also known as Mother Maria of Paris. She was a Russian noblewoman, poet and nun who became part of the French Resistance in World War II, and she too had Father Sergei Bulgakov as her confessor.

In July, 1942, when the order requiring Jews to wear the yellow star was published, she wrote her poem Israel:

Two triangles, a star,
The shield of King David, our forefather.
This is election, not offence.
The great path and not an evil.
Once more in a term fulfilled,
Once more roars the trumpet of the end;
And the fate of a great people
Once more is by the prophet proclaimed.
Thou art persecuted again, O Israel,
But what can human malice mean to thee,
who have heard the thunder from Sinai?


Later, Mother Maria was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. There, on Holy Saturday 1945, she took the place of a Jewish woman who being sent to the gas chamber, and died in her place.

According to Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh: “Mother Maria is a saint of our day and for our day; a woman of flesh and blood possessed by the love of God, who stood face to face with the problems of this century.” She has been canonised a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Later in the afternoon, the Revd Prof Nikolaos Loudovikos (University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki) describes “The International Catholic / Orthodox academic dialogue in the Saint Irenaeus Group: Adventures of an Orthodox Secretary.”

The day concludes with Vespers in the Chapel of Sidney Sussex College at 5.30 p.m. and dinner at 6.30 p.m.

Can one say ‘Christ is divided’
for believing Christians?

Rain and reflections in Chapel Court in Sidney Sussex College today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

Last night’s rain has continued all day today [Monday 31 August 2015] in Cambridge, but we are still calling this a Summer Conference. The conference in Sidney Sussex College is organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, and is looking at “Christian Faith, Identity and Otherness.”

This is an ecumenical journey this week, and as Dr David Frost, the founding principal of the institute, said in his welcome, it is appropriate that the people here come from a wide variety of traditions, backgrounds, nationalities and institutions.

Dr Christoph Schneider, the Academic Director of IOCS, marked out three distinct levels of dialogue for discussion at this conference: intra-Orthodox dialogue, dialogue within Christianity, where there is still a common point of reference, and the third type which is the most challenging – dialogue with non-Christian beliefs, including different religions and secularism, with different understandings of being and reality.

In the first conference session this morning, Professor Ivana Noble of Charles University of Prague, asks: “On what common path do we embark when we converse with the other? Three different visions of ecumenism: Berdyaev, Bulgakov, Lossky.”

Dr Noble is Professor Ecumenical Theology Protestant Theological Faculty. Before looking at the ecumenical visions of Berdyaev, Bulgakovand Lossky, she introduced us to the influential lifestory and experiences of Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov (1853-1900), the Russian philosopher and theologian who played a significant role in the development of Russian philosophy, theology and poetry at the end of the 19th century and in the spiritual renaissance of the early 20th century. His book The Meaning of Love was one of the philosophical sources of Leo Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata (1889).

Solovyov was a friend and confidant of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), and it is widely held that he was one of the sources for Dostoyevsky’s characters Alyosha Karamazov and Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov.

But, unlike Dostoyevsky, Solovyov was sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church. He favoured the healing of the schism – (ecumenism, sobornost) – between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Eventually, “through an ethical and social standpoint,” he was received into Roman Catholic Church. But he continued to regard himself as Orthodox, and when he was dying he received the last rites from a Russian Orthodox priest.

Solovyov influenced the religious philosophy of Nicolas Berdyaev, Sergey Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky, Nikolai Lossky, Semyon Frank, the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and the poetry and theory of the Russian Symbolists. Hans Urs von Balthasar explores his work as one example of seven lay styles that reveal the glory of God’s revelation in The Glory of the Lord.

Puddles in Hall Court in Sidney Sussex College today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (1874-1948) was a Russian religious and political philosopher. His mother was Orthodox by birth but in her views on religion she was more Catholic than Orthodox.

He was charged with blasphemy in 1913 and sentenced to a life in exile in Siberia. But World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution intervened. Although he later fell out with the Bolshevik régime, he continued to lecture and write and founded a private academy, the Free Academy of Spiritual Culture, in 1919.

In 1920, he became Professor of Philosophy at the University of Moscow, but was accused of taking part in a conspiracy, he was arrested and jailed.

Although he was a practising member of the Russian Orthodox Church,he was often critical of its institutional policies and un-Christian behaviour, yet believed that Orthodox Christianity was the true vehicle for Christianity.

Father Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov (1871-1944) was a Russian Orthodox theologian and philosopher, and a key founding figure in the Ecumenical movement. He helped found the Orthodox Institute of Saint Sergius in Paris, formed an Anglican-Orthodox dialogue group, and after World War I he lead the way for the Orthodox engagement with ecumenical groups such as Faith and Order.

Bulgakov was certain that the Orthodox Church was the true Church of God, and that ecumenical work was essentially a reconciliation of all Christians to Orthodoxy. But he differed from his colleagues, such as Georges Florovsky, in that he never understood Church reconciliation as a movement to any particular cultural form of Orthodoxy – Hellenised or Slavofied – but simply Orthodoxy and simply Christianity.

This simple Christianity, moreover, in its spiritual essence, is shared by every true Christian who loves Christ. Therefore Christian reconciliation becomes simply the renewal of a physical unity manifesting an already present spiritual unity. In this he illuminated the most salient point of unity for Christians and avoided the snares of ethnophylism that he thought Orthodox Christians fall into far too often.

For Bulgakov, all Christians are united dogmatically through the confession of the Apostolic creeds. This underlies a deeper spiritual unity that already binds all Christians – the Name of Christ is hallowed among all Christians, and every Christian calls on him in worship, love, and faith. This very personal relationship of every Christian with Christ constitutes the very basis of full ecumenical reconciliation; it is a spiritual oneness that unites every Christian. Bulgakov says that we must begin here in order to pursue unity.

He believed that the labels of “heretic” and “heresy” were used too often; although perhaps true of the teaching itself, the label is used to “completely anathematise” the entire person.

Bulgakov writes: “By casting another Christian as a ‘heretic,’ a spiritual judgment is also made which asserts that that person holds this belief because of spiritual pride and eristic boldness. But why is such a judgment placed on a Christian who truly loves our Lord and follows what he has been taught, though it may be doctrinally incomplete?” He asks, “can one say that ‘Christ is divided’ for a contemporary Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or believing Protestant? In their love of our Lord and their striving towards him all Christians are one.”

Bulgakov regarded it as unfortunate that “we tend to stress our dogmatic disagreements much more than our common Christian heritage.” This is very often tied in with culture, since language creates the mode of expression of creeds, and when we have an inflated love for our own language and terminology – which comes from ethnophylism – we condemn those who prays to the same Lord in a different tongue.

He points out that a great fruit of coming together in dialogue has been the realisation of our common Christian love and devotion to God, which empowers us all to work out the doctrinal differences, so that we may pray with one voice.

As an Orthodox Christian, Bulgakov stated that the ancient canons that forbade common prayer with heretics did so because heretics were in error in teaching as well as leading spiritually destructive lives. But Bulgakov says that if a Christian truly desires unity and seeks to love Christ just as any Christian, these rules no longer apply, since “there is no attacking party.”

Bulgakov argues that “the spirit of schism and division is not only a characteristic of ‘heretics’ and ‘schismatics’.” A Christian could be entirely Orthodox in confession, but entirely heretical in obstinacy, stirring up of dissension, hatred, rancour, and an unforgiving spirit, he believed. Indeed, he thought, “we all are heretics in various ways.”

If a Christian manifests the fruits of the spirit – love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – and, for example, does not hold that Christ ordained priests, will he not more quickly connect with a humble Catholic than with one who is filled with bitterness and hatred?

Bulgakov states that the common priesthood shared among the Apostolic Churches creates a unity in the sacraments that transcends divisions. If we receive Christ at the altar through a priest ordained sacramentally by the Apostles, and Christ cannot be divided, then we also receive each other. This sacramental unity in the priesthood also reflects – and becomes indeed the fountain of – the common phenomenon of sanctity experienced by Orthodox and Catholics saints through this Eucharist.

Vladimir Nikolayevich Lossky (1903-1958) was an influential, exiled Russian theologian who emphasised theosis as the main principle of Orthodoxy.

His main theological concern was exegesis of mystical theology in Christianity. He argued in The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (1944) that Orthodox theologians maintained the mystical dimension of theology in a more integrated way than those of the Catholic and Reformed traditions after the East-West Schism because the latter misunderstood such Greek terms as ousia, hypostasis, theosis and theoria.

He cites the Philokalia and Saint John Climacus’s Ladder of Divine Ascent, as well as works by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory Nazianzen, and Saint Gregory Palamas, so that his close friend Georges Florovsky describes his approach as a “neopatristic synthesis.”

The genius of Eastern mystical theology lay, he contended, in its apophatic character, which he defined as the understanding that God is radically unknowable in human, thus philosophical, terms. Consequently, God's special revelation in Scripture must be preserved in all of its integrity by means of the distinction between the ineffable divine essence and the inaccessible nature of the Holy Trinity, on the one hand, and the positive revelation of the Trinitarian energies, on the other.

“When we speak of the Trinity in itself,” said Lossky, “we are confessing, in our poor and always defective human language, the mode of existence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one sole God who cannot but be Trinity, because He is the living God of Revelation, Who, though unknowable, has made Himself known, through the incarnation of the Son, to all who have received the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and is sent into the world in the name of the incarnate Son.”

Lossky and Florovsky were opposed to the sophiological theories of Bulgakov and Soloviev. For Lossky, Christian mysticism and dogmatic theology were one and the same. According to Lossky, mysticism is Orthodox dogma par excellence. The Christian life of prayer and worship is the foundation for dogmatic theology, and the dogma of the Church helps Christians in their struggle for sanctification and deification. Without dogma, future generations lose the specific orthodoxy (right mind) and orthopraxis (right practice) of the Eastern Orthodox path to salvation (see soteriology).

A week in Cambridge discussing possibilities and
limitations in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue

Cloister Court, where I am staying in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge ... the venue for the IOCS annual conference this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I am in Cambridge for the annual conference of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies which begins in Sidney Sussex College this morning [31 August 2015] and continues until Wednesday evening [2 September 2015].

I have been a regular participant at this conference since 2008, and having stayed in Trumpington at the weekend, I am staying in Sidney Sussex College throughout the conference. This year, I am on Stairs M in Cloister Court, in a room looking out onto the Gardens and Jesus Lane.

This year’s conference is looking at ‘Christian Faith, Identity and Otherness: Possibilities and Limitations of Dialogue in Ecumenical and Interfaith Discourse.’

The conference is investigating the nature of Christian faith and identity and how Christians can appropriately relate to internal and external otherness. One of the main aims is to reflect on the possibilities and limitations of dialogue in ecumenical and interreligious debates.

I began this morning attending the early morning Eucharist at 8 a.m. in Saint Bene’t’s Church, which is just five minutes stroll from Sidney Sussex College. The Revd Richard Ames-Lewis presided at the Eucharist, and we remembered Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne whose feast day is today.

Saint Aidan, who was one of St Columba’s monks from the monastery of Iona, was sent as a missionary to Northumbria at the request of King Oswald, who was later to become his friend and interpreter. He was consecrated Bishop of Lindisfarne in 635, worked closely with Oswald and became involved with the training of priests. From the island of Lindisfarne he was able to combine a monastic lifestyle with missionary journeys to the mainland where, through his concern for the poor and enthusiasm for preaching, he won popular support. This enabled him to strengthen the Church beyond the boundaries of Northumbria. He died on this day in the year 651.

In the first conference session this morning, Professor Ivana Noble of Charles University of Prague, asks: “On what common path do we embark when we converse with the other? Three different visions of ecumenism: Berdyaev, Bulgakov, Lossky.”

At the second session this afternoon, Dr Kateřina Bauerová (Charles University of Prague) speaks on “To Live Otherness: Sergei Bulgakov, Joanna Reitlinger and Maria Skobtsova in Exile.” Later in the afternoon, the Revd Prof Nikolaos Loudovikos (University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki) describes “The International Catholic / Orthodox academic dialogue in the St Irenaeus Group: Adventures of an Orthodox Secretary.”

The day concludes with Vespers in the Chapel of Sidney Sussex College at 5.30 p.m. and dinner at 6.30 p.m.

We begin tomorrow morning [1 September 2015] with Dr Razvan Porumb (IOCS) speaking on “Orthodoxy and ecumenism: towards active metanoia.” Later in the morning, the Revd Dr Alexander Tefft (IOCS) speaks on “Integrism and the Limits of Dialogue.”

In the afternoon, Dr Dominic Rubin (Higher School of Economics, Moscow), addresses “Orthodox-Muslim interaction in Russia today: between ideology and theology,” and Dr Mangala Frost (IOCS) speaks on “Karma and the Cross: a dialogic study of suffering.”

Once again, the day concludes with Vespers in the Chapel at 5.30 p.m. and dinner at 6.30 p.m.

On Wednesday morning [2 September 2015], Dr Gorazd Andrejč (Woolf Institute, Cambridge) asks: “Dialogue, Conversation or Discursive Encounter – How Relevant are the Conceptual Distinctions?”

Dr Andrejč, a philosopher and theologian, is a Junior Research Fellow at the Woolf Institute, and a research associate at Saint Edmund’s College, Cambridge. His academic interests: include the ways in which religious language, belief-attitudes and felt experience are intertwined, especially in Christianity, and inter-religious and religious-secular relations, both their verbal and non-verbal aspects, and how these aspects are related, especially in Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and the UK. Before joining the Woolf Institute in 2013, he was a lecturer at the University of Exeter, where he designed and taught philosophy of religion courses.

The Woolf Institute is a global leader in the academic study of relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims. The institute was established in Cambridge in 1998, with close links to the university. The Institute aims to connect the multi-disciplinary study of these relations with broader practical and theoretical questions, including the importance of trust in everyday life, the role of religion in international diplomacy, and improving end-of-life care in local hospices.

Later on Wednesday morning, Dr Brandon Gallaher (University of Exeter) introduces us to “The One Logos and the Many Logoi: Reflections towards an Orthodox Comparative Theology.”

The closing panel discussion on Wednesday afternoon is being chaired by Dr Christoph Schneider of IOCS.

The last of the flowers on the wisteria in Chapel Court in Sidney Sussex College this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2015)

In contemporary discussions, dialogue is often understood in different or even incompatible ways: Either, dialogue is uncritically idealised as the mode of discourse par excellence to access truth. The free verbal expression of the interlocutors’ different religious convictions, their mutual respect and tolerance, are celebrated as an end in itself.

The logic of dialogue is thus understood as the norm that prevents the dialogue partners from universalising their own religious beliefs and practices at the expense of the other. This position is only a small step away from the more radical view that dialogue enables us to transcend specific manifestations of lived religion, and to access the common, universal core of human existence.

Accordingly, the fact that differences are often irreducibly incommensurable is denied. Dialogue is seen as a strategy to unmask the apparent heterogeneity of different beliefs as a mere surface phenomenon.

Or, conversely, dialogue is exposed as a manipulatory rhetorical tool and the incommensurability between different religious beliefs and practices is absolutised. It is believed that the co-existence of proponents of different religious traditions necessarily has an agonistic character.

Any attempt to initiate dialogue is viewed as an encroachment of the dominant and more powerful dialogue partner on the ideological territory of the other.

Within this framework, even peaceful, non-violent mission and conversion are inevitably seen as forms of subtle coercion and manipulation. The conference seeks to explore alternative, more nuanced views of dialogue that do justice to the Christian understanding of truth, and that avoid the impasses of these two outlined approaches.

The speakers are being invited to address one of the following issues:

• The possibilities and limitations of dialogue in ecumenical or interfaith discourse.
• Historical and theological case studies of cross-fertilization across confessional boundaries.
• Historical and theological case studies of ecumenical or interfaith encounters and dialogues.
• Mission and dialogue.
• The contemporary ecumenical dialogue.

The conference opens this morning after registration and morning coffee. Further details are available at the IOCS website.

David’s Bookshop in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

I hope to begin each day this week at the early morning celebration of the Eucharist in Saint Bene’t’s Church. Hopefully too, there will be time too to enjoy the bookshops and cafés in Cambridge, for walks along the Backs or the banks of the River Cam and across the Fens, and perhaps even to visit Ely Cathedral or some of the other historic churches and towns around Cambridge before the week is over.

Collect of the Day:

Everlasting God,
you sent the gentle bishop Aidan
to proclaim the gospel in this land:
grant us to live as he taught
in simplicity, humility, and love for the poor;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The cloisters in Cloister Court, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

‘But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester!
There’s peace and holy quiet there …’

‘Stands the Church clock at ten to three?’ … the clock on the tower of Saint Andrew’s and Saint Mary’s Church, Grantchester, on Saturday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I’m not yet sure whether the summer sunshine is gone for this week, but the rains began to come down yesterday afternoon [30 August 2015] as I strolled through Cambridge, and are still pouring down this morning [31 August 2015].

But it was a glorious summer afternoon on Saturday [29 August 2015], and two of us strolled from Trumpington through the countryside to the neighbouring village of Grantchester, made famous or popular by both Lord Byron and Rupert Brooke, later by Pink Floyd and the novelists Tom Sharpe and Jeffrey Archer, and more recently by James Runcie’s television drama series Grantchester.

But Grantchester long predates poets, popular culture, paperback novelists and television drama.

The area was long settled in prehistoric and Roman times and later by the Saxons, according to artefacts that show provide archaeological evidence of settlement in this area.

The Domesday Book offers evidence of life in 1086, and the parish church in Grantchester has some Norman stonework, although it dates mainly from the 14th and 15th century.

Grantchester village has been part of the life of Cambridge for centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The village of Grantchester has been part of the life of Cambridge for centuries. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, became the patron of the Parish Church of Saint Andrew and Saint Mary in 1352, and a century later, King’s College acquired the Lordship of the Manor. An underground passage is said to run from the Old Manor house to King’s College Chapel two miles away.

Both King’s College and Corpus Christ College, Cambridge, have maintained their influence on village life ever since, along with Merton College, Oxford, which also owned property in Grantchester until the 1960s.

Grantchester is said to have the world’s highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners, most of whom were or are academics at the University of Cambridge.

The parish church in Grantchester provided many of the locations for the ITV drama series (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The village and many of its inhabitants form the backdrop to the ITV drama series Grantchester, based on the novels by James Runcie, son of the Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury.

In the series, the Vicar of Grantchester is the Revd Sidney Chambers (James Norton), a former Scots Guards officer who is an amateur sleuth and who solves a series of mysteries from the 1950s until 1978.

Grantchester was the location for extensive filming for the series, and the interior of the Parish Church of Saint Andrew and Saint Mary and the churchyard were used for many of the scenes.

The apples are coming to full fruit in the Orchard in Grantchester (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The apples are coming to full fruit in the Orchard, and as we queued for lunch there a few voices obviously thought they were among the first to ask: “And is there honey still for tea?”

The line from Rupert Brooke’s poem celebrates the place that first became popular in 1897, when a group of Cambridge students persuaded the owner of Orchard House to serve them tea in its apple orchard.

Those who stayed at Orchard House included the poet Rupert Brooke, who later moved next door to the Old Vicarage. While he was in Berlin in 1912, Rupert Brooke wrote of his homesickness in his poem The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. The house is now the home of the Cambridge scientist Mary Archer and her husband, the paperback novelist Jeffrey Archer.

Rupert Brooke is less than kind in his poem about the neighbouring villages and villagers, including Trumpington. But yes, I made my way back from the Orchard to the Church of Saint Andrew and Saint Mary on Saturday afternoon in that summer sunshine, and I found the answer to the poet’s questions: “yet Stands the Church clock at ten to three?”

An afternoon by the banks of the River Cam at Grantchester Meadows (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The Old Vicarage, Grantchester

(Cafe des Westens, Berlin, May 1912)

Just now the lilac is in bloom,
All before my little room;
And in my flower-beds, I think,
Smile the carnation and the pink;
And down the borders, well I know,
The poppy and the pansy blow …
Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through,
Beside the river make for you
A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep
Deeply above; and green and deep
The stream mysterious glides beneath,
Green as a dream and deep as death.
– Oh, damn! I know it! and I know
How the May fields all golden show,
And when the day is young and sweet,
Gild gloriously the bare feet
That run to bathe …
‘Du lieber Gott!’

Here am I, sweating, sick, and hot,
And there the shadowed waters fresh
Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.
Temperamentvoll German Jews
Drink beer around; – and THERE the dews
Are soft beneath a morn of gold.
Here tulips bloom as they are told;
Unkempt about those hedges blows
An English unofficial rose;
And there the unregulated sun
Slopes down to rest when day is done,
And wakes a vague unpunctual star,
A slippered Hesper; and there are
Meads towards Haslingfield and Coton
Where das Betreten’s not verboten.

ειθε γενοιμην … would I were
In Grantchester, in Grantchester! –
Some, it may be, can get in touch
With Nature there, or Earth, or such.
And clever modern men have seen
A Faun a-peeping through the green,
And felt the Classics were not dead,
To glimpse a Naiad’s reedy head,
Or hear the Goat-foot piping low: …
But these are things I do not know.
I only know that you may lie
Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,
And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,
Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,
Until the centuries blend and blur
In Grantchester, in Grantchester
Still in the dawnlit waters cool
His ghostly Lordship swims his pool,
And tries the strokes, essays the tricks,
Long learnt on Hellespont, or Styx.
Dan Chaucer hears his river still
Chatter beneath a phantom mill.
Tennyson notes, with studious eye,
How Cambridge waters hurry by ...
And in that garden, black and white,
Creep whispers through the grass all night;
And spectral dance, before the dawn,
A hundred Vicars down the lawn;
Curates, long dust, will come and go
On lissom, clerical, printless toe;
And oft between the boughs is seen
The sly shade of a Rural Dean ...
Till, at a shiver in the skies,
Vanishing with Satanic cries,
The prim ecclesiastic rout
Leaves but a startled sleeper-out,
Grey heavens, the first bird’s drowsy calls,
The falling house that never falls.

God! I will pack, and take a train,
And get me to England once again!
For England’s the one land, I know,
Where men with Splendid Hearts may go;
And Cambridgeshire, of all England,
The shire for Men who Understand;
And of THAT district I prefer
The lovely hamlet Grantchester.
For Cambridge people rarely smile,
Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;
And Royston men in the far South
Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;
At Over they fling oaths at one,
And worse than oaths at Trumpington,
And Ditton girls are mean and dirty,
And there’s none in Harston under thirty,
And folks in Shelford and those parts
Have twisted lips and twisted hearts,
And Barton men make Cockney rhymes,
And Coton’s full of nameless crimes,
And things are done you’d not believe
At Madingley on Christmas Eve.
Strong men have run for miles and miles,
When one from Cherry Hinton smiles;
Strong men have blanched, and shot their wives,
Rather than send them to St. Ives;
Strong men have cried like babes, bydam,
To hear what happened at Babraham.
But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester!
There’s peace and holy quiet there,
Great clouds along pacific skies,
And men and women with straight eyes,
Lithe children lovelier than a dream,
A bosky wood, a slumbrous stream,
And little kindly winds that creep
Round twilight corners, half asleep.
In Grantchester their skins are white;
They bathe by day, they bathe by night;
The women there do all they ought;
The men observe the Rules of Thought.
They love the Good; they worship Truth;
They laugh uproariously in youth;
(And when they get to feeling old,
They up and shoot themselves, I’m told) …

Ah God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!
To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
Unforgettable, unforgotten
River-smell, and hear the breeze
Sobbing in the little trees.
Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
Still guardians of that holy land?
The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
The yet unacademic stream?
Is dawn a secret shy and cold
Anadyomene, silver-gold?
And sunset still a golden sea
From Haslingfield to Madingley?
And after, ere the night is born,
Do hares come out about the corn?
Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? … oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

The Old Vicarage, Grantchester, once the home of Rupert Brooke and now the home of Jeffrey Archer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Caught off-guard beside the Syrian
Sea in two churches in Cambridge

At Evening Prayer in Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge, this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I was challenged unexpected;y not once or twice but three times in church today [30 August 2015] to think again and to pray more and do more about the crisis in Syria.

In the morning I attended the Eucharist at the parish church of Saint Mary and Saint Michael in the village of Trumpington, on the southern fringes of Cambridge, where I was staying for the weekend before moving into Sidney Sussex College for a study week.

The Offertory Hymn was that well-known hymn by the American Quaker poet and activist, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), Dear Lord and Father of mankind. I had been fumbling in my pocket for the collection, and as I returned to the hymn at the opening words of the second verse, I was struck by the lines:

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee;
rise up and follow thee.


After receiving Communion at the rails, I returned to my pew, and joined the Communion hymn at the fourth verse of Kate Wilkinson’s hymn, May the mind of Christ my Saviour:

May the love of Jesus fill me
as the waters fill the sea …


How could I not find myself thinking and praying this morning about Syrian refugees on the sea?

May I run the race before me,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only onto Jesus
as I onward go.


Later in the day, after I had settled into my rooms in Cloister Court in Sidney Sussex College, I slipped around the corner to Saint Bene’t’s Church for Evening Prayer. For the last few years, while I have been attending the IOCS summer schools and conferences in Sidney Sussex College, Saint Bene’t’s has been the nearest thing to a parish church I have in Cambridge.

This evening, Evening Prayer was being led by the associate priest at Saint Bene’t’s, the Revd Rachel Nichols. The Gospel reading this evening was Matthew 4: 23 to Matthew 5: 20.

Immediately before the Beatitudes we are told, “So his fame spread throughout Syria …” (Matthew 4: 24).

The crisis in Syria and the Syrian migrants on the sea cannot be pushed out of our minds and our prayers if we seek to be among those who are blessed because they mourn, because they are poor, seek peace and justice, peace righteousness and because they are merciful.

Looking out onto the world from Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge, after Evening Prayer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Trumpington parish church has
origins in Anglo-Saxon times

Parts of the parish church of Saint Mary and Saint Michael in Trumpington date from the mid-13th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

Trumpington, where I am staying this weekend, is about 3 km south of Cambridge city, is often overshadowed by nearby Grantchester, with its picture-postcard prettiness and its literary associations with Rupert Brooke.

Until the 20th century, Trumpington was an agricultural village with cattle and sheep as well as crops. Although most of Trumpington became part of the Cambridge city area in 1934, it has its own parish church and has existed as a separate parish from Anglo-Saxon times until the 20th century.

There is evidence of Iron Age and Roman settlements in Trumpington, near the ford on the River Cam by the road to Grantchester, and of a Roman cemetery. An Anglo-Saxon cemetery has also been found nearby at Dam Hill.

In 2012, archaeologists working in a field at Trumpington Meadows on the outskirts of the village found a seventh century Anglo-Saxon bed burial of a young woman aged about 16. She was buried on a wooden bed, and on her breast she had an ornate, jewelled gold pectoral cross inlaid with garnets. The cross indicates a member of a rich aristocratic family, and the grave may have been part of an Anglo-Saxon monastic community.

The Parish of Trumpington existed long before the Norman Conquest and has been known by several spellings. By 1086, in the time of the Domesday Book, there was a thriving community of 33 people here. The population had risen to 100 by the late 13th century, and the village was sizeable throughout the Middle Ages.

Although the original dedication of the church is unknown, many churches had their dedication changed to Saint Nicholas in the early Middle Ages and Trumpington Church was known by this name in 1291. The church was mainly built in 1200-1330. One of the oldest parts of the church is the stone at the base of a pillar, at the back of the nave, laid in 1200. The monumental brass of Sir Roger de Trumpington, a crusader knight, with the date 1289, is reputedly the second oldest brass in England.

The elaborate double piscina on the south side of the sanctuary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

On the south side of the sanctuary there is an elaborate double piscina. Pope Innocent III ordered the construction of these in churches in 1216. These basins, which drain into earth, are for washing the priest’s hands before celebrating the Eucharist and for draining off the water used to wash the sacred vessels afterwards.

The single piscina in the south chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

As a single piscina was considered sufficient for both functions after 1300, so this part of the church can be dated to the 13th century. Examples of a single piscina can be found in both the north and south chapels.

The nave was rebuilt in 1339, and there were several attempts in the 14th century to determine the true direction of East, which has resulted in the chancel and the tower not being in line.

Documents later in the Middle Ages refer to the church as Saint Mary and Saint Michael, and this dedication continues to this day.

In the Middle Ages the church was endowed with stained glass and the walls were plastered and probably painted. Although much of the glass depicting saints and biblical figures was destroyed at the Reformation, heraldic motifs and purely decorative glass survived largely intact.

Some surviving mediaeval glass on the south side of the chancel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The wooden rood screen, at the entrance to the chancel, dates from the 15th century. The top of the rood screen was roughly sawn off during the Reformation, when these screens were seen as barriers between the priest and people.

The pulpit, was which was given to the church in 1677 by Thomas Allen, came from the old chapel of Emmanuel College after Christopher Wren designed the present college chapel. Originally, it was a three-decker pulpit with sounding board and stood in front of the first pillar in the nave.

There is a restored tomb canopy with a coffin lid on the chancel wall, possibly to a member of the Trumpington family.

Trumpington’s parish church was renovated by William Butterfield in 1876, when the original Barnack stone was partly refaced with Bath stone, the roof was replaced, the walls were replastered, and the box pews were also repaired and replaced.

The church has a memorial window to Henry Fawcett (1833-1884). Although he was blinded in an accident when he was 25, he became the first Professor of Political Economy in Cambridge, an MP, and Postmaster-General in Gladstone’s government, when he introduced parcel post.

There are headstones to the Maris family near the south porch and memorials to the Pemberton and Foster families to the right.

Past Vicars of Trumpington include Edmund Cosin, (1510/1511-1574?), college head, William Palmer (1538/9-1605), John Palmer (died 1607), Dean of Peterborough, William Dakins, (1568/9-1607), biblical scholar, John Overall (1561-1619), Bishop of Norwich, John Hacket (1592-1670), who as Bishop of Lichfield restored Lichfield Cathedral, John Hailstone (1759-1847), geologist, John Grote (1813-1866), William Saumarez Smith (1836-1909), Archbishop of Sydney, the Revd AC Moule (1873-1957), a former missionary in China, and the Revd David Maddox (1922-1997), who was Vicar in 1956-1990.

The old churchyard includes many 18th and 19th century graves, including the grave of Sir George Howard Darwin (1845-1912), son of Charles Darwin, mathematician and geophysicist.

Today, when visitors to Cambridge think of “Trumpington” and “church” they inevitably think of the Church of Saint Mary the Less (“LSM”) on the corner of Trumpington Street and Little Saint Mary’s Lane, next to Peterhouse. But the older Church of Saint Mary and Saint Michael in Trumpington itself is also worth a visit.

Mediaeval traces can be found throughout the church in Trumpington (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Saturday, 29 August 2015

A weekend in Trumpington, a country
village on the edges of Cambridge

The charms of Trumpington are often overshadowed by the popularity of neighbouring Grantchester(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

Before moving into into Sidney Sussex College tomorrow for the course organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, I am staying outside Cambridge for the weekend in the Lord Byron Inn in Trumpington.

Trumpington is almost fully integrated into Cambridge, and its charms are often overlooked by visitors to Cambridge and overshadowed by the popularity of neighbouring Grantchester, with its associations with the poet Rupert Brooke.

This afternoon [29 August 2015], I strolled through Trumpington village, which first developed around the junction of one route from the south towards Cambridge and another from the south-east to the ford to Grantchester. The earliest evidence of the village is a group of Saxon houses and graves excavated four years ago [2011], just south of the church.

By 1000, the local parishes and villages were well established. In the Domesday Book, 1086, Trumpington had 37 households, four manors and a mill. The focus was the church and the nearby manors, one of which was owned by the Trumpington family, whose memorial was placed in the church in the 1320s.

In 1314, the lord of the manor, Giles of Trumpington, was given permission to hold a three-day fair on the feast of Saint Peter in Chains, 1 August. The feast was still held in the 19th century although it was transferred to 28-30 June. It became known for the rowdiness and drunkenness of its many visitors. It was reduced to only one day, 29 June, in 1882 and was still held in the 1930s.

Geoffrey Chaucer sets The Reeve’s Tale in Trumpington, and mentions the water mill on the Cam, believed to be Old Mill Holt on the river to the south-west of the village.

By the late 1400s, the village had a green bounded by a triangle of roads with a village cross at its northern apex and another open area to the west of the cross.

By 1801, Trumpington had 494 residents. By the time the parish was dissolved there were around 1,200 inhabitants.

The parish was enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1809. Two manors had already been consolidated into two estates – the Pemberton estate at Trumpington Hall and the Anstey estate at Anstey Hall – and these were allocated most of the land.

Anstey Hall Farm ... on of the surviving ancient farms in Trumpington (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

In the early 1900s, the heart of the village was three working farms – Manor Farm, Church Farm and Anstey Hall Farm – and the usual ancillary services, including a village blacksmith. Although houses had been built on the village green and on either side of the High Street, the village was still compact and surrounded by farmland.

It was only in the mid-1900s that housing spread over the farm fields east of the High Street and east of the road to Cambridge, while the fields to the west and south-west were still used for farming.

Eric Gill (1882-1940), the artist, craftsman and social critic, designed the Trumpington War Memorial after World War I.

Trumpington Hall ... in the hands of the Pemberton family since the 17th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford,2015)

The most interesting houses in the village are probably Trumpington Hall and Anstey Hall.

The Trumpington family were the local landowners in the 13th and 14th centuries. Thomas Chaplin or Chaplen was the Lord of the Manor of Trumpington in the early 1600s.

The Pemberton family, who were the owners of Trumpington Hall from the 17th century, and lived in Trumpington Hall for over 300 years.

The family originated in Pemberton, Lancashire, but the direct line of the family is traced to Robert Pemberton, who was born in St Albans in 1523. He married Catherine Stokes in 1549 and they had 11 children, only two of whom reached the age of 21. The only surviving son, Roger, was born in 1554 and married Elizabeth More in 1579.

Elizabeth lived to the age of 85 in 1645. Roger went to Saint John’s College, Cambridge, matriculating in 1572. He inherited the estate in St Albans and died in 1627.

Their son, Ralph Pemberton (1588-1644), was Mayor of St Albans in 1627 and 1638, and was ancestor of the Cambridgeshire branch of the family.

Ralph Pemberton’s eldest son, Sir Francis Pemberton (1625-1697), was the most distinguished member of the family. He was an undergraduate at Emmanuel College and Peterhouse, entered the Middle Temple in 1645 and was called to the Bar in 1654. But he went on to become Chief Justice and a Privy Councillor in 1682. He was a lawyer in the trial of the Seven Bishops that indirectly led to the downfall of King James II.

A Pemberton family monument in Trumpington Parish Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Sir Francis Pemberton bought Trumpington Hall and 1,000 acres for 1,000 gold guineas in 1675. However, he never lived in Trumpington as the estate was subject to a life interest of the widow of the vendor, Thomas Pitcher.

Francis Pemberton (1675-1762), the eldest son of Sir Francis Pemberton, was educated at Eton and King’s College, Cambridge, and built the present Trumpington Hall.

The Revd Jeremy Pemberton of Trumpington Hall was the father of Jeremy Pemberton (1741-1788), who became the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. His brother, Francis Pemberton (1742-1794) was Mayor of Bombay and tried to buy the Anstey estate so that his family would own all of Trumpington.

Pemberton family heraldic memories in Trumpington Parish Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

When the Revd Jeremy Pemberton died in 1800, the estate passed to his grandson, Francis Charles James Pemberton (1781-1849, who was born in India and died in France. He made extensive changes to Trumpington Hall.

Patience Pemberton (1844-1929), who inherited Trumpington Hall in 1879, married Canon Thomas Percy Hudson in 1870. They both took the Pemberton name when she inherited the estate and moved to Trumpington in 1900. He was a Canon of York Minster, a gifted musician and the founder of the Hovingham Music Festival.

He was living at Trumpington Hall when he turned the offer of becoming Master of Magdalene College – the present Master of Magdalene is the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He declined on the grounds that Trumpington Hall was more comfortable, but he took part in the vote to admit women to Cambridge University in 1920, being wheeled to the Senate House in a bath chair.

During World War II, Trumpington Hall was used as a military hospital.

The The Trumpington Estate manages many of the farms in Trumpington, Grantchester and the surrounding villages (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Today, the 1,300 hectare estate, with Trumpington Hall at its centre, is still privately owned. Although agriculture is still at the heart of the estate, in recent years it has diversified to include residential and commercial property, and enterprises such as DIY, livery yards, fishing syndicates and a public house.

Last year, the estate hosted the annual Addenbrooke’s Garden Party and welcomed hundreds of people to events held on Grantchester Meadow, made famous by the poet Rupert Brooke and more recently by Pink Floyd.

The estate runs farm walks and other activities on the farm from time to time. To take part, contact the farm at info@trumpingtonestate.com .

Anstey Hall, built ca 1700, is now a popular wedding venue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Anstey Hall was built ca 1700, and the Anstey family were the owners of Anstey Hall until 1838. It was once the home of the writer and poet Christopher Anstey and later of Robert Leslie Ellis (1817-59), mathematician and classical scholar. The Foster family were the owners of Anstey Hall from 1838 to 1941.

Trumpington’s association with agriculture was extended further in 1955, when the Plant Breeding Institute – founded as part of the University of Cambridge, was based at Anstey Hall from 1955 to 1990. It is now a popular wedding venue and conference location.

Trumpington still feels and looks like a country village (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

A weekend with Lord Byron
in an old inn in Trumpington

The Lord Byron, Trumptington … a weekend visit before a week’s study leave in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am back in Cambridge this morning [29 August 2015], and I am staying in Trumpington for the weekend, before moving into Sidney Sussex College tomorrow evening for a week’s study leave to take part in the annual conference organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.

Trumpington is about 3 km south of Cambridge city, and about 3 km from Cambridge rail station, with the No 7 bus connecting the station and the Lord Byron, where I am staying for this weekend.

Because of its proximity to Grantchester, with its picture-postcard prettiness and its literary associations with Rupert Brooke, Trumpington is often quickly passed by. But it is an equally appealing and historic place. Indeed, Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘The Reeve’s Tale’ in The Canterbury Tales was written about the Miller at Trumpington. It begins:

At Trompynton, nat fer fro Canterbrigge,
Ther goth a brook and over that a brigge,
Up-on the whyche brook ther tant a melle;
And this is verray soth as I yow telle.


The Lord Byron Inn on Church Lane dates back to the 17th century. It has a restaurant, a large conservatory, a large garden with a children’s play area and bed and breakfast accommodation.

Previously known as ‘The Unicorn,’ this is one of nine public houses that have been run in Trumpington over the last 500 years, and the one surviving pub not located on the main road through the village. It was extended in 2008 to provide bed and breakfast, and after 170 years as ‘The Unicorn’ it was renamed The Lord Byron Inn three years ago [May 2012].
The Green Man, Trumptington … originally built as a timber framed 15th century hall-house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Trumpington has had several inns over the centuries. The Ram’s Head was owned by Edward Pychard in 1547. The White Lion was recorded in 1667 and 1764, and the Black Swan in 1686 and 1704.

By the late 18th century two inns, both still open, faced one another at the north end of the village. The Green Man on the east of the road occupies a timber framed 15th century hall-house with cross wings. In the 16th century its hall was divided to give two floors. Substantial later extensions include a bay window towards the main road. Remodelling carried out ca 1954 has largely concealed its original character.

The Coach and Horses to the west has been converted in recent years into a Chinese restaurant and grill. It included an early 17th-century northern section, and once had early 17th-century panelling in two ground-floor rooms.

The Green Man and the Coach and Horses were the only inns recorded in Trumpington in the 1790s. By the 1840s, the Tally Ho and Red Lion had been opened further south along the Main Street.

The Tally Ho is still open, but the Red Lion, although it was rebuilt ca 1950, closed around 1975.

Trumpington is close to the pretty village of Grantchester, and Byron’s Pool, where Lord Byron swam regularly while he was an undergraduate in Cambridge is about a mile away, which explains the new name for the old Unicorn.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Grantham Street offers a masterclass
in Dublin in classical architecture

No 3 and No 4 Grantham Street … the doorcases of Nos 3-13 Grantham Street offer a masterclass in the classical orders or architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

At times, it seems, when the architectural heritage of Dublin is being promoted or advertised, there are only two options: either the great imposing buildings of Church, State and Society, such as the Parliament House (Bank of Ireland), Trinity College Dublin, the GPO, Dublin Castle, Leinster House and the cathedrals; of the great Georgian squares and terraces, such as Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, Fitzwilliam Place, Fitzwilliam Street, and Pembroke Street.

The architectural historian Maurice Craig once listed the five major elevations of Dublin as: the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham; the Parliament House; Trinity College; the Custom House; and the Four Courts.

In advance of the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York in 1970, a colourful collage of Dublin doors appeared in the window of the Irish Tourism offices on Fifth Avenue. People on their way to watch the parade were so mesmerised by the collection that the offices were inundated with requests copies. There were so many requests that Joe Malone, then North American Manager of Bord Fáilte, commissioned the poster that has since become an icon of Ireland and Irish architectural heritage.

The doors are on houses on the Georgian squares and streets of Dublin that were laid out during the Hanoverian period in the 18th century as Dublin attracted new wealth.

But the focus on Dublin’s Georgian heritage means we often neglect the equally attractive and beautiful heritage of domestic architecture, including the houses and terraced villas built in the narrow but elegant streets on the south side of the city as Dublin found renewed prosperity in the Victorian age.

On my way to speak at a protest in the city centre yesterday afternoon [27 August 2015], I stopped off at the south or Kelly’s Corner end of Camden Street, and strolled through the area on the west side of the street, which is an almost complete Victorian suburb in itself.

The development of these streets probably began in the late 1830s. They include Pleasants Street, Heytesbury Street, Grantham Street and Synge Street, which were laid out and built over the space of three decades between the late 1830s and the late 1860s.

The name of Pleasants Street honours Thomas Pleasants (1729-1818), a Carlow-born merchant, property developer and philanthropist in Dublin. His bequests included over £12,000 for the erection of a large stove-house near Cork Street for poor weavers in the Liberties, £8,000 towards building the Meath Hospital, and his own house at 67 Camden Street to provide a girls’ school and orphanage, along with £1,200 a year to run it and extra sums for dowries for the girls.

Heytesbury Street was named after Lord Heytesbury, who was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1844 to 1846. But I wondered how Grantham Street could have been named after the Earl of Grantham, the aristocrat at the centre of the storyline in Downton Abbey, still less that it could have been named after Margaret Thatcher’s home town.

It turns out, though, that the title of Baron Grantham was one of the minor titles held by Heytesbury’s predecessor, Thomas de Grey (1781-1859), 2nd Earl Grey and 3rd Baron Grantham, who was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1841 to 1844.

He was known as Lord Grantham from 1786 until 1833, and perhaps his interest in Ireland was sparked many years earlier, for his wife Lady Henrietta Cole, was a daughter of the Earl of Enniskillen. During his time in Ireland he disagreed with Sir Robert Peel’s religious conciliation of Ireland, claiming that economic conciliation was a greater priority. He called for more legislation focused on Ireland while Peel pursued economic legislation aimed at benefitting the UK as a whole.

But, apart from an open declaration of loyalty, there may have been other reasons for an aspiring and ambitious architect to name Grantham Street after Lord de Grey: when the Institute of British Architects was founded in London in 1834, he became its first president. The institute received a Royal Charter in 1837 and became the Royal Institute of British Architects. He remained its president until he died in 1859.

A house on the south side of Grantham Street in a sad state of neglect and decay (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The buildings on the south side of Grantham Street, between Synge Street and Heytesbury Street, are larger than those on the opposite, north side, but some of these houses are now in a sad state of neglect and dereliction, and it seems some of their finest Victorian features are being purloined.

Camden Market, built in 1907, is later than the domestic buildings on Grantham Street (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

On the east end of the street, the Camden Market was built in 1907. This is a row of red-brick shops with brick pilasters and a balustrade parapet.

Saint Kevin’s Female National Schools, built in 1886, was designed by George Coppinger Ashlin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

A few steps away is the former Saint Kevin’s Female National Schools built in 1886 and designed by George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921), a son-in-law of AWN Pugin and a partner of first Edward Welby Pugin (Pugin and Ashlin) and later of Thomas Aloysius Coleman (Ashlin and Coleman), two partnerships for which my grandfather and great-grandfather worked, and of William Henry Byrne (Ashlin and Byrne).

The third building noted in most architectural guides is the three-storey, three-bay, brown-brick Widows’ Almshouse at No 3 Grantham Street, designed by John Louch and built in 1858.

But there is an attractive and often unnoticed terrace of 11 houses on the north side of Grantham Street, between Heytesbury Street and Synge Street, and walking along them, attending to each one by turn, one-by-one, from No 3 to No 13, it is possible to have a masterclass in architecture in a few quick minutes, learning about the orders of classical architecture from the pillars and porches of each house.

There are three orders in Greek architecture, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian, to which the Romans added the Doric and the Composite (Image © Merriam-Webster, 2006)

The Architectural Orders or ancient styles of classical architecture are distinguished by their proportions and characteristic profiles and details, and most readily recognisable by the type of column employed.

Three ancient orders of architecture that originated in Greece are the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders. To these, the Romans added the Tuscan, which they made simpler than Doric, and the Composite, which was more ornamental than the Corinthian.

It has been said that the architectural order of a classical building can be compared to the mode or key of classical music, or the grammar or rhetoric of a written composition. It is established by certain modules like the intervals of music, and it raises certain expectations.

Each style has distinctive capitals and entablatures

Each style has distinctive capitals and entablatures. The column shaft is sometimes articulated with vertical hollow grooves known as fluting. The shaft is wider at the bottom than at the top, because its entasis, beginning a third of the way up, imperceptibly makes the column slightly more slender at the top, although some Doric columns are visibly “flared,” with straight profiles that narrow going up the shaft.

The capital rests on the shaft. It has a load-bearing function that concentrates the weight of the entablature on the supportive column, but it primarily serves an aesthetic purpose.

The necking is the continuation of the shaft, but is visually separated by one or many grooves.

The echinus lies atop the necking. It is a circular block that bulges outwards towards the top to support the abacus, which is a square or shaped block that in turn supports the entablature. The entablature consists of three horizontal layers, all visually separated from each other using mouldings or bands.

The three distinct orders in Ancient Greek architecture, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian, were adopted by the Romans, who modified their capitals from the 1st century BC. The three Ancient Greek orders have since been consistently used in neo-classical European architecture, and the terrace of houses on this side of Grantham Street, from No 3 to No 13, almost provides a textbook illustration of their use.

Sometimes the Doric order is considered the earliest order, but there is no evidence to support this. Rather, the Doric and Ionic orders seem to have appeared at around the same time, the Ionic in eastern Greece and the Doric in the west and mainland Greece.

Both the Doric and the Ionic order appear to have originated in wood.

Nos 7, 8 and 12 Grantham Street are examples of the Doric order (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The Doric order is the simplest of the orders, characterised by short, faceted, heavy columns with plain, round capitals or tops. The Greek forms of the Doric order come without an individual base. Later forms, however, came with the conventional base consisting of a plinth and a torus.

The Temple of Hera in Olympia, built ca 600 BC, may be the oldest well-preserved temple of Doric architecture. But perhaps the most famous example of a Doric building is the Parthenon in Athens, the most studied work of architecture. The Doric order later spread across Greece and into Sicily, where it was the chief order for monumental architecture for 800 years.

Nos 9 and 10 Grantham Street are examples of the Ionic order (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The Ionic order came from eastern Greece. It is distinguished by slender, fluted pillars with a large base and two opposed volutes, also called scrolls, in the echinus of the capital. The echinus itself is decorated with an egg-and-dart motif. The Ionic shaft comes with four more flutes than the Doric counterpart (totalling 24). The Ionic base has two convex mouldings called tori which are separated by a scotia. No 11 Grantham Street is an example of the Corinthian order, the most ornate of the Greek orders (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The Corinthian order is the most ornate of the Greek orders, characterised by a slender fluted column having an ornate capital decorated with two rows of acanthus leaves and four scrolls. It is commonly regarded as the most elegant of the three orders. The shaft of the Corinthian order has 24 flutes.

The Roman writer Vitruvius credited the invention of the Corinthian order to Callimachus, a Greek sculptor of the 5th century BC. The oldest known building built according to this order is the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, built in 335-334 BC.

The Romans adapted all the Greek orders and also developed two orders of their own, basically modification of Greek orders. The Tuscan order has a very plain design, with a plain shaft, and a simple capital, base, and frieze. It is a simplified adaptation of the Doric order by the Romans.

Nos 4 and No 13 Grantham Street are examples of the Composite order, combining the volutes of the Ionic with the leaves of the Corinthian order (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The Composite order is a mixed order, combining the volutes of the Ionic with the leaves of the Corinthian order. However, until the Renaissance it was not ranked as a separate order but was considered a late Roman form of the Corinthian order.

No 5 and No 6 Grantham Street are paired, displaying consoles or ornamental brackets, with compound curved outlines, worked in the stucco plaster (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Many of the door cases on the Victorian houses in this part of Dublin are decorated with consoles or ornamental brackets, with compound curved outlines, and usually worked in the stucco that my grandfather and great-father were familiar with. But the houses on Grantham Street, with their classical-style stucco and mortar pillars are worth the same attention we give to the Georgian houses and grand public buildings of Dublin.

The doorcase at No 3 Grantham Street stands out from the rest of the terrace … an interpretation of the Tuscan order, or perhaps a sign of hurried work or indecision? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Celebrating Saint Augustine
with the community in Orlagh

What is the future for Orlagh? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

I have been invited to the celebrations in the Orlagh Restreat Centre this evebing marking Saint Augustine’s Day [28 August].

Sadly, this may the final celebration of Saint Augustine’s Day in Orlagh, which is due to close in the coming months.

The evening begins at 5 p.m. with a lecture by Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin, who is a recognised authority on Saint Augustine, and who has been asked to reflect on the relevance of Saint Augustine today, under the title ‘Catholicity and confusion.’

He says: “The early Augustine uses the image of the Ark of Noah as an image for the Church of God on earth. The skunk and the snake need to come to some accommodation, otherwise the alternative is ecclesiological cannibalism.”

And he says: “A first pointer from Augustine is a recognition at a human level of a need for a community of friends and a community of ideas.”

Saint Augustine is one of the few saints named in the 39 Articles (see Article 29), and he strongly influenced the writing of the collects and the Book of Common Prayer.

The lecture is followed by Mass at 6.15 p.m., when Archbishop Jackson is also the preacher, and there is a buffet meal at 7.30 p.m.

The Orlagh Retreat Centre … another chapter is about to come to an end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Many years ago, I had one of my pre-ordination retreats at Orlagh. The Augustinian community there, the Orlagh Team and the house staff have created a welcoming atmosphere and a warm welcome in a beautiful setting in pasture and woodland, with panoramic views over Dublin City and Bay out to Howth Head. It is a combination that has created an atmosphere that encourages and instills contemplation and reflection.

A statement issued by the Orlagh community and team earlier this year[15 March 2015] said that the Augustinian Province and council have decided “with regret, to close Orlagh.”

The team was asked not to take any booking after next month [September 2015], not to prepare programmes for 2015-2016, and the property will be placed on the market next Spring [2016]. So long as Augustinians are living in the house, Sunday and weekday masses and the weekly meditations will continue, but this evening’s celebrations seem to be the last ones there marking Saint Augustine’s Day.

The mist-clouded view from Orlagh across the city and Dublin Bay (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)