01 September 2019

An early morning trek
to see the flamingos
on Korission Lagoon

Early morning by the shores of Korission Lagoon near Agios Georgios in south-west Corfu, with a line of flamingos in the distance (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

I got up early in the morning yesterday, to avoid the heat of the sun later in the day, and walked the 40-minutestrek to Korission Lagoon, a coastal lagoon just 3 or 4 km from Agios Georgios, where I am staying in this part of south-west Corfu.

The lagoon is separated from the Ionian Sea by the beach at Issos and Chalikouna. It has a surface area of 427 ha and drains into the sea through a channel that divides the beach in half.

The lagoon was created by the sand dunes that cut the lake’s basin off from the sea between 140,000 and 250,000 years ago.

Korission Lagoon and the surrounding areas are protected by the Natura 2000 Treaty. The protected area includes the nearby coastal areas, an unusual forest of prickly juniper Juniperus phoenicea, which is known as cedar, in addition to many sand dunes that rise to heights above 15 metres.

There are also small reed beds and groves of tamarisk, white water lilies (Nymphaea alba) and 14 different species of orchid in the dunes.

Over 126 species of birds have been recorded in the lagoon, including great cormorants, Eurasian wigeons, great egrets and greater flamingo. A white line of flamingos lined the opposite shore as I watched them early on Saturday morning [31 August 2019], but they were too far away to catch any details on the camera of my iPhone.

Early morning at the shore of the lagoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

I grew up not knowing the names of trees or birds, small creatures or plants. But I understand there are also many species of butterfly at the lagoon, as well as the Jersey tiger moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria).

The Corfu dwarf goby is endemic to the lagoon and its surrounding springs. Other fish species found in the waters of the lagoon include the Mediterranean killifish (Aphanius fasciatus) and the Epiros minnow (Pelasgus thesproticus).

Reptiles in the area include the chelonians Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni), the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) and the Balkan pond turtle (Mauremys rivulata), while among the snake species recorded are the javelin sand boa (Eryx jaculus) and the four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata). The mammals present include greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), long-fingered bats (Myotis capaccinii) and, possibly, European otters (Lutra lutra).

Korission Lagoon and the area around form an area that is archaeologically significant too. Geologists have found a tool said to be between 950,000 and 750,000 years old, the oldest known prehistoric artefact discovered in Greece.

Another find is said to be a large part of the right lower jaw of a hippopotamus. Other small bone fragments were found near the outflow of the lagoon. In all, 160 stone artefacts and 61 bone fragments have been found in the area around Korission Lagoon. These finds point to the need for further archaeological explorations of the area and the needs to protect it.

Before we left, we found a small taverna in a secluded spot that we thought of returning to some evening. As we walked back to Agios Georgios, the run was rising higher and the temperatures were rising too. But it was not too late to stop and enjoy breakfast close to the beach.

Tranquil rural Corfu in the early morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Southwark’s two cathedrals:
ecumenical neighbours
on London’s South Bank

Southwark Cathedral on the south bank of the River Thames has been the cathedral of the Church of England Diocese of Southwark since 1905 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

Patrick Comerford

For many visitors to London, there are three main church buildings to see: Saint Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in the Church of England, and Westminster Cathedral in the Roman Catholic Church.

Although Westminster Abbey is a ‘Royal Peculiar’ rather than a cathedral, all three are seen by many as the cathedrals of London.

However, London has two other cathedrals that are often missed, even by regular visitors. Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames has two cathedrals, one Anglican and one Roman Catholic.

Southwark Cathedral or the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of Saint Saviour and Saint Mary Overie, is on the south bank of the river, close to London Bridge. It has been the cathedral of Church of England Diocese of Southwark since 1905, but there has been a church on this site for more than 1,000 years.

Southwark Cathedral, built between 1220 and 1420, is the first Gothic church in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

Local lore and tradition

Local tradition says it was founded as a nunnery around the year 606 by a young woman named Mary, on the profits of a ferry across the Thames. Later it was converted into a college of priests by ‘a noble lady’ named Swithen. In time, people s tried to identify Swithen with Saint Swithun, Bishop of Winchester, who died in 863.

However, the earliest reference to the place is in the Domesday Book in 1086, when the minster at Southwark was controlled by William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux.

Southwark Minster became an Augustinian priory in 1106, under the patronage of the Bishops of Winchester, who had a London seat at nearby Winchester Palace in 1149. The Priory was dedicated to the Virgin Mary or Saint Mary, but it had the additional designation of ‘Overie’ or ‘over the river’ to distinguish it from other churches with the same name.

The cathedral retains the basic form of the Gothic structure built between 1220 and 1420, making it the first Gothic church in London.

The earlier church was severely damaged by fire in 1212, and was rebuilt in the 13th century. The rebuilt church was cruciform in plan, with an aisled nave of six bays, a crossing tower, transepts, and a five-bay choir. Beyond the choir stood a lower retro-choir or Lady Chapel, which was a group of four chapels with separate gabled roofs.

A chapel dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalen was uses by local parishioners. Another, later chapel became known as the Bishop’s Chapel because it was the burial place of Lancelot Andrewes.

The tomb of the poet John Gower (1330-1420) … a friend and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

The church was damaged by another fire in the 1390s. The Bishop of Winchester, Henry Beaufort, helped rebuild the south transept and complete the tower around 1420.

The poet John Gower (1330-1420) is buried in the cathedral. He was a friend and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer, and the Chaucer Window depicts 14th century pilgrims found in his Canterbury Tales.

A side aisle in Southwark Cathedral … at the Reformation, the priory church became a parish church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

From Priory to Parish Church

The priory was dissolved at the Tudor Reformation, and in 1540 Saint Mary Overie became a parish church with the new name of Saint Saviour.

Because Saint Saviour’s was close to the Globe Theatre, it had close connections with the great Elizabethan dramatists. A large stained-glass window dedicated to William Shakespeare depicts scenes from his plays, and an alabaster statue at the base of the window shows Shakespeare reclining, holding a quill.

His brother, Edmund Shakespeare, was buried there in 1607, and two dramatists, John Fletcher and Philip Massinger, were buried in the church.

An alabaster statue of a reclining William Shakespeare, with a quill in his hand (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

The connection with the Bishops of Winchester continued after the Reformation. Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester, and one of the translators of the Authorised Version of the Bible, was buried in the ‘Bishop’s Chapel’ in 1626. After the chapel was destroyed in 1830, his tomb was moved to a new position behind the high altar.

The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes beside the High Altar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

Ruins and restoration

The fabric of the church had fallen into disrepair by the early 19th century, and all the medieval furnishings were gone.

The tower and choir were restored by George Gwilt in 1818-1830, who sought to return the church to 13th-century appearance. He removed early 16th-century windows. The transepts were restored by Robert Wallace, who removed the Bishop’s Chapel and parochial chapel.

The vestry decided to remove the nave roof in 1831, leaving the interior open to the weather, and services were held in the choir and transepts. The roofless nave was demolished in 1839, and a new nave was built to a design by Henry Rose.

Pugin’s Tabernacle in the Harvard Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

The new nave was criticised by Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), the leading architect of the Gothic Revival who said, ‘It is bad enough to see such an erection spring up at all, but when a venerable building is demolished to make way for it, the case is quite intolerable.’

The Harvard Chapel in the north transept commemorates John Harvard, who was born in the parish and was baptised in the church on 29 November 1607. The tabernacle in the Harvard Chapel was designed by Pugin.

The nave was once again rebuilt in 1890-1897 by Sir Arthur Blomfield, who tried to recreate its 13th-century predecessor.

The church remained in the Diocese of Winchester until 1877, when Saint Saviour’s and other parishes in South London were transferred to the Diocese of Rochester. The Diocese of Southwark was formed in 1905, with Edward Stuart Talbot (1844-1934) as the first Bishop of Southwark, and the Collegiate Church of Saint Saviour became the new cathedral. Bishop Talbot is also buried beside the High Altar.

Lancelot’s Link was opened by Nelson Mandela in 2001 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

The cathedral and the surrounding area were heavily damaged by German bombing during World War II, and shrapnel damage is still visible on the outside of the building.

Nelson Mandela opened Lancelot’s Link, a new north cloister, in 2001 on the site of the old monastic cloister, with a refectory, shop, conference centre, education centre and museum.

Since 2012, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn has been the Dean of Southwark. Ian Keatley, former Organist and Director of Music at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, is being installed as Director of Music at Southwark Cathedral on Sunday 8 September.

Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark … first designed by AWN Pugin in 1848 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

A Pugin cathedral

Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark, is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark.

Father Thomas Doyle (1793-1879), the son of Irish immigrants, first came to Saint George’s Chapel in Southwark in 1820. He acquired the site of the future Saint George’s, then the Royal Belgian Chapel, and bought part of Saint George’s Fields, a site associated with the anti-Catholic Gordon riots in 1780. The local Roman Catholic community was served by a small chapel, but the arrival of large numbers of Irish immigrants made a larger church a pressing need.

The cathedral was designed by Pugin, who was critical of Henry Rose’s work at this time in Saint Saviour’s, later the other Southwark Cathedral. The funds available did not match Pugin’s first ambitious plans, however, and he was forced to compromise his design. The money for the upper part of the tower and a spire was never found.

Thomas Doyle had the vision that inspired Saint George’s … his memorial is on the north wall of the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

When it was built, Saint George’s was seen as the most important Roman Catholic Church in England. It could seat about 3,000 people, and the building was 240 ft long and 72 ft wide.

The church was solemnly opened on 4 July 1848 by Bishop Nicholas Wiseman, later Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, Archbishop of Westminster. Pugin was the first person to be married in Saint George’s, when he married his third wife Jane Knill there on 10 August 1848.

Two years later, when Pope Pius IX restored the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales in 1850, Saint George’s was chosen as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Southwark, which was to cover the whole of Southern England.

Inside Saint George’s Cathedral … chosen as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Southwark in 1850 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Saint George’s was one of the first four Roman Catholic churches in England and Wales – and the first in London – to become a cathedral since the English Reformation. Thomas Doyle, who became the Provost of Saint George’s, died in 1879.

For half a century, Saint George’s remained the centre of Roman Catholic life in London until Westminster Cathedral opened in 1903.

Saint George’s was the venue for the funeral Mass of the nationalist Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, in October 1920 after he died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, with its altar, reredos, encaustic tiles and wrought iron gates, is Pugin’s original work (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

War-time destruction

A German bomb hit the cathedral on the night of 16 April 1941, starting a fire that destroyed the wooden roof and much of the cathedral. An adjoining hall became the pro-cathedral, the architect Romilly Bernard Craze (1892-1974) was commissioned to rebuild the cathedral.

Work began in 1953, and in the new cathedral, Craze tried to blend an Arts and Crafts and Gothic Revival styles with surviving elements of the pre-war building. He used different types of Gothic used to suggest age, as in ancient cathedrals built over different time periods. The Day Chapel (1963) has a Tudor-derived pattern, while the Baptistry (1966) was inspired by the Perpendicular.

The addition of the clerestory introduced light, air and a grandeur that were previously lacking. But once again, there was no money for the upper part of the tower and a spire.

The rebuilt cathedral was consecrated on 4 July 1958, and solemnly opened by Bishop Cyril Cowderoy. When the Diocese of Southwark became a metropolitan see in 1965, Bishop Cowderoy became the first Archbishop of Southwark.

The Petre Chantry (1848) by AWN Pugin is a perfect Gothic gem in the Perpendicular style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the Petre Chantry date from 1848 and are among the few surviving parts of Pugin’s original work. In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, the altar, reredos, encaustic floor tiles and wrought iron gates are Pugin’s original work, the tiles are by Herbert Minton of Stoke and the gates by John Hardman of Birmingham.

The Petre Chantry commemorates Edward Petre (1794-1848) and his wife, Laura Stafford-Jerningham (1811-1886), who later became a nun. The Knill Chantry (1857), by Pugin’s son, Edward Pugin, commemorates the family of Janes Pugin, including her cousin, Sir Stuart Knill, who became Lord Mayor of London.

The Knill Chantry (1857) by Edward Pugin is dedicated to the family of Pugin’s third wife (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

The Lady Chapel holds a small 18th century Flemish statue of the Virgin and Child known as ‘Our Lady of Saint George’s.’ The Baptistry, the newest part of the cathedral, has a window by the Harry Clarke Studios depicting the Resurrection.

The Sanctuary was re-ordered in 1989 by the architect Austin Winkley to emphasise the focal points of the liturgy. The East Window depicts the crucifixion and saints in the history of the Church in England and Wales. The glass is by the Harry Clarke Studios, but the stone tracery is Pugin’s original.

The Lady Chapel was completed in 1963 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

Ecumenical friends

Archbishop John Wilson, a former auxiliary bishop of Westminster, was installed as Archbishop of Southwark earlier this summer, in succession to Archbishop Peter Smith.

These two cathedrals in Southwark have a close working relationship. They are a few minutes’ walk from South Bank and the Thames, Westminster Bridge, the London Eye, and landmarks including Saint Thomas’ Hospital and Waterloo Station.

The East Window by the Harry Clarke studios depicts the crucifixion and saints … the stone tracery is Pugin’s original (Photograph: Patrick Comerford 2019)

Canon Patrick Comerford blogs at www.patrickcomerford.com . This feature was first published in September 2019 in the Church Review, the Dublin and Glendalough diocesan magazine

Four Irish politicians
in 19th century Corfu:
4, Sir John Young

The town hall in Gaios on the island of Paxos … John Young proposed converting the neighbouring islands of Corfu and Paxos into British colonies (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Four Irish politicians and administrators played key roles in shaping 19th century political life in Corfu: Sir Richard Church (1784-1873) from Cork; Sir Charles Napier (1782-1853) from Celbridge, Co Kildare; George Nugent-Grenville (1789-1850) from Co Westmeath, 2nd Baron Nugent of Carlanstown; and John Young (1807-1876) from Balieborough, Co Cavan, later Lord Lisgar.

Sir John Young (1807-1876), from Bailieborough, Co Cavan, who came to the Ionian Islands in 1855, was a benign if bumbling reformer.

Young, who later became Lord Lisgar, is commemorated in stained glass windows in the Church of Ireland parish church in his native Bailieborough.

John Young was born into an Irish family in Bombay on 31 August 1807. His father, Sir William Young, of Bailieborough Castle, Co Cavan, was a director of the East India Company; his mother, Lucy, was a daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Frederick.

He was educated at Eton and Corpus Christi College, Oxford (BA, 1829), was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1829 and was called to the Bar in 1834.

He married Adelaide Adelaide Annabella Dalton, daughter of Edward Tuite Dalton of Fermor, Co Meath, and a step-daughter of Thomas Taylor, 2nd Marquess of Headfort, in Kells Parish Church, Co Meath, on 8 April 1835. Young was an MP for Co Cavan from 1831 to 1855. As an MP, he generally supported Sir Robert Peel and was closely linked politically with WE Gladstone and the fifth Duke of Newcastle.

He was a Lord of the Treasury in 1841-1844, Secretary of the Treasury in 1844-1846, and was Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1852-1855.

Young was appointed Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands in March 1855, and was knighted as a Grand Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, a British order of chivalry associated particularly with Corfu.

The post proved difficult for Young, and the members of the representative assembly or Ionian Parliament which sat in Corfu demanded union with Greece. In a gesture of goodwill in 1857, Young freed prominent patriots, radicals and journalists from Kephalonia who had been jailed or exiled.

In secret dispatches to London in 1858, Young recommended that the neighbouring islands of Corfu and Paxos should be converted into British colonies. However, the private despatches were published in the London Daily News, embarrassing the government, which had just arranged for Gladstone to report on the problem.

Young’s position became untenable and he was recalled from Corfu in January 1859. However, he made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) and his administration in the Ionian Islands was publicly praised.

Young was replaced as Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands by the future British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone.

Perhaps Young’s intemperate proposals hastened the inevitable, and the Ionian Islands were united to Greece in 1864, realising the hopes that Church and Napier had long cherished for Corfu, Zakynthos and Kephalonia.

Meanwhile, Young was appointed Governor of New South Wales in 1861, although he was not given the title of governor-general held by his two predecessors.

He worked diligently for the Sydney Ragged Schools, the Society for the Relief of Destitute Children, the Sydney Female Refuge Society, the Female School of Industry and the House of the Good Shepherd.

A devout, evangelical Anglican, he appealed for non-sectarian sympathy and tolerance, raising the ire of some Protestants when he chaired a meeting in 1865 to organise rebuilding Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

Young left Sydney at the end of 1867 and became the Governor-General of Canada in 1868. In November 1870 he was made a peer with the title of Baron Lisgar of Lisgar and Bailieborough, Co Cavan. He resigned in June 1872, and he died on 6 October 1876 at Lisgar House, Bailieborough, Co Cavan.

Lady Lisgar married her second husband, Sir Francis Charles Fortescue Turville of Bosworth Hall, Leicestershire, in 1878. She died at Paris on 19 July 1895. However, Lord and Lady Lisgar are buried together in Bailieborough Church of Ireland graveyard.

Early morning at the small harbour at Mesongi in Corfu … Young’s proposals for Corfu and Paxos forced his departure from the Ionian Islands (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)