Thursday, 30 April 2020

When memories of
the Holocaust haunt
the extended family

A group Jewish prisoners released from Ravensbrück when it was liberated on 30 April 1945

Patrick Comerford

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at Ravensbrück on 30 April 1945. The end of the Holocaust and of World War II 75 years ago has brought a number of anniversaries and commemorations this year, including the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau (27 January), Buchenwald (11 April), Bergen-Belsen (15 April), Sachsenhausen (22 April), Dachau (29 April), Ravensbrück (30 April), Mauthausen (5 May) and Theresienstadt (8 May).

About 130,000 women and girls from about 20 different countries ended up at Ravensbrück. Their stories have been told by the British journalist Sarah Helm, whose meticulous research and thorough analysis of survivors' stories has been published in her books, Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women and If this is a woman: Inside Ravensbrück – Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women. In a feature in the Sunday Times Magazine last Sunday (26 April 2020), she told how her research continues, and how the full story of Ravensbrück has not yet been uncovered.

Some years ago, I was chilled when I realised that a direct descendant of the Comerford family of Cork, and through that line a descendant of the Comerfords of Co Wexford, suffered horribly with her husband after the German invasion of France and that both died in the Holocaust – one in Ravensbrück and the other in Dachau.

Hedwige Marie Renée Lannes de Montebello (1881-1944) and her husband, Louis d’Ax de Vaudricourt (1879-1945) of Château Vaudricourt, were French aristocrats and did not bear the Comerford family name. Nevertheless, they are part of my own family tree, no matter how distant a branch. Their fate brought home to me how even today we are all close to the evils of racism and its destructive force across Europe and in North America, and we must never forget that.

Mary Teresa Comerford (1776-1840) was a little-known poet and author in the early 19th century who wrote under the name Mary Boddington. Some of her songs were written to Irish airs, but while she and her husband Thomas Boddington are referred to frequently in Thomas Moore’s Diary, her poetry is now regarded as vain doggerel, remembered only because of her prolific output and because she was a woman writer who managed to publish so much at a time when men dominated the world of literature and publishing.

Mary was born in Cork in 1776, the daughter of Patrick Comerford (d. 1796), of George’s Quay, Cork, and Summerville, Co Cork. He was a wine merchant in Cork in partnership with his father John Comerford, who was directly descended from the Comerford family of Co Wexford, while his mother Elizabeth Hennessy was a member of the well-known Hennessy family of Cognac fame.

In Bath in 1770, Patrick Comerford married Anne (Teresa), daughter of Thomas Gleadowe (1700-1766) of Castle Street, Dublin, and sister of Sir William Gleadowe-Newcomen (1730-1806), the banker, of Killester, Co Dublin.

Patrick’s younger surviving daughter, Belinda Isabella, married the Revd Francis Law (1768-1807), Vicar of Attanagh in the Diocese of Ossory and Rector of Cork, and they are part of the Comerford family stories.

Many of Belinda’s descendants kept the Comerford family name, including her son, the Revd Patrick Comerford Law. There were interesting family connections with clerical families, with Lewis Carroll, the creator of Alice in Wonderland, and with Sir Edward Fitzgerald Law (1846-1908) of Athens, who was involved in reforming the Greek economy in the 1890s and in the negotiations leading to the eventual restoration of Crete to the Greek state.

Belinda (Comerford) Law’s elder sister, Mary (Comerford) Boddington, wrote verse frequently for the Cork papers before she left Cork for London in 1803. On 16 April 1805, she was married in the fashionable at Saint George’s Church, Hanover Square, London, to Thomas Boddington (1774-1862), a wealthy West Indies merchant of Upper Brooke Street, London, and Marylebone.

Saint George’s was a fashionable church for weddings at the time. There the architect Henry Holland married Capability Brown’s daughter Bridget in 1773, the architect John Nash married Mary Ann Bradley in 1798, and a century later Theodore Roosevelt, the future US President, married Edith Carow (25), in 1886. In the musical My Fair Lady, Alfred Doolittle (Stanley Holloway), having just received an inheritance and having to move into ‘middle-class morality,’ invites his daughter Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) to his wedding at this church, leading to the song, Get Me to the Church on Time.

After her marriage, Mary (Comerford) Boddington continued to write and published some entertaining volumes on her travels on the Continent of Europe from 1815 on. She died in 1840, and the popularity of her poetry and her travel writing faded soon after her death.

Mary and Thomas Boddington had a son and two daughters. Their elder daughter, Mary Theresa (1806-1898), was born in London on 13 January 1806. She moved to France and at the age of 25 she was married in the British embassy in Paris on 27 April 1831, to Jean Ernest Lannes de Montebello (1803-1882), Baron de Montebello.

Jean Ernest was born on 20 July 1803 in Lisbon, where his father was Napoleon’s ambassador to Portugal. He died on 24 November 1882 in Pau, France, and Mary died there on 15 May 1898. There the memories of their side of the family might have died out in the narratives of the Comerford genealogies if I had not decided in some idle moment to explore what had happened to Mary Comerford’s daughter and her descendants.

A pile of shoes among the personal belongings plundered from the victims of the Holocaust (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When Mary Boddington married Jean Ernest, he was chef de cabinet at the French Foreign Ministry and a chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur. His father, Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello (1769-1809), was a Marshal of the French Empire. He was one of Napoleon’s most daring and talented generals. In his exile on Saint Helena, Napoleon said of the duke: ‘I found him a pygmy and left him a giant.’

Marshall Lannes was born on 10 April 1769 in the small town of Lectoure, in the Gers department in the south of France, the son of a Gascon farmer. He had little education and was first apprenticed to a dyer. But after enlisting in the army he quickly rose through the ranks and alongside Louis Nicolas Davout and André Masséna he is regarded as one the ablest of all of Napoleon’s marshals.

In 1801, Napoleon sent him as ambassador to Portugal. In 1804, Lannes bought the 17th century Château de Maisons, near Paris, and had one of its state apartments redecorated for a visit by Napoleon.

When the French empire was founded, he was named a Marshal of France (1804), and he commanded the advanced guard of a great French army in the campaign of Austerlitz. Napoleon took him to Spain in 1808, and gave him a detached wing of the army, with which he won a victory over Castaños at Tudela. As a reward in 1808, Napoleon gave him the title of Duc de Montebello.

He was sent to capture Saragossa in 1809. After his last campaign in Spain, he said: ‘This damned Bonaparte is going to get us all killed.’ That year, for the last time, he had command of the advanced guard. He took part in the engagements around Eckmühl and the advance on Vienna. With his corps he led the French army across the Danube, and bore the brunt, with Masséna, of the terrible battle of Aspern-Essling. He received a mortal wound on 22 May, and died on 31 May 1809.

Marshall Lannes and his second wife, Louise Antoinette, Comtesse de Guéhéneuc (1782-1856), had five children, including Jean Ernest Lannes, Baron de Montebello (1803-1882), who married Mary (Comerford) Boddington’s daughter, Mary Theresa.

Mary Theresa and Jean Ernest Lannes de Montebello were the parents of six children:

1, Marie (1832-1917), who married Henri O’Shea, a descendant of the family of wine merchants who had once been in partnership with the Comerford family in Cork.
2, Eveline (1837-1868), a nun in the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul.
3, Berthe (1838-1893), who married Auguste Guillemin.
4, Jean Gaston (1840-1926), 2nd Baron de Montebello, an artillery officer and a chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.
5, René (1845-1925), whose story continues this exploration of Comerford family connections.
6, Roger (1850-1878), who died in Paris.

Marie Lannes de Montebello (1847-1930), born Princess Marie Lubmirska … mother of Hedwige Marie Renée Lannes de Montebello (1881-1944), a descendant of the Comerfords of Wexford who died in Ravensbrück (Detroit Institute of Arts)

René Lannes de Montbello (1845-1925) was born in Gelos on 13 September 1845, and inherited some of the family fame and titles. In Paris on 4 November 1875, he married Princess Marie Lubmirska (1847-1930), the daughter of a celebrated Polish composer, Prince Kazimierz Anastazy Karol Lubomirski (1813-1871), whose family lived near Lviv in what is now Ukraine.

René was an army major and was known by the courtesy title of Baron de Montebello. But, when his son Henry was born in Paris in 1876, he assumed the title of count. Henry died in childhood, but René and his Polish princess were the parents of four other children. He died on 27 December 1925, and Princess Marie died on 18 May 1930.

One of their sons, Count André Roger Lannes de Montebello (1908-1986), was involved in the French resistance during World War II, and was the father of Count Guy Philippe Henri Lannes de Montebello, who, as plain Philippe de Montebello, was the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York until 2008.

But it is the fate of André’s elder sister that I have found distressing. Hedwige Marie Renée Lannes de Montebello (1881-1944), was born in Pau on 10 Mar 1881, and on 17 September 1910 she married in Biarritz Louis d’Ax de Vaudricourt (1879-1945), of the Château Vaudricourt, who was born on 20 May 1879.

Like her brother, Hedwige was involved in the French resistance. She was captured, and on 7 April 1944, named simply as Hedwig Ax, she was sent on a train from Gare de l’Est in Paris to the transit camp at Neue Bremm in Saarbrücken, Germany. She was transferred to the women’s concentration camp in Ravensbrück, 90 km north of Berlin, where her unique number was 47135. She died in Ravensbrück on 19 November 1944.

Her husband, named simply in his deportation papers as Louis Ax, died in the concentration camp in Dachau in January 1945.

Hedwige Marie Renée Lannes de Montebello (1881-1944), a direct descendant of the Comerfords of Wexford and Cork, died in Ravensbrück on 19 November 1944

I know no more than this about Hedwige Marie Renée Lannes de Montebello and her husband. They may seem like very distant twigs on a distant branch of the Comerford family tree. But if we don’t claim them as part of the family, they stop being part of ‘us’ and part being part of ‘them.’ And therein lies the beginning of all the dangerous thoughts that lead to racism and violent racism.

Hedwige Marie Renée Lannes de Montebello (1881-1944), a direct descendant of the Comerfords of Wexford and Cork, died in Ravensbrück on 19 November 1944.

The rise of the far-right in Europe and America and this year’s 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the end of World War II are stark reminders of the need to keep these stories alive, and to respect and honour the memories of the dead. We have got to stop making some people ‘us’ and some people ‘them.’ We are all part of the one, larger family.

Arbeit Mach Frei ... the slogan on the gates of Dachau, where Louis d’Ax de Vaudricourt died in 1945

Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’
and coffee … but is April
‘the cruellest month’?

‘And went on in sunlight, … And drank coffee, and talked for an hour’ … coffee and TS Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ in the Rectory garden on Poetry Day Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.


TS Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ was published in 1922. It is a masterpiece of modern literature and one of the greatest poems in the English language. Its opening lines are often quoted, even by people who have never read all five sections and 434 lines of the poem.

But is April the cruellest month?

It may yet have been the cruellest month we know in this part of Europe, in the way Covid-19 has taken a grip on our lives, forcing us to keep unnatural distances from one another, leaving many people isolated, and stealing the lives of so many people of all ages and backgrounds.

We have a new vocabulary that includes phrases like social distancing, cocooning, and self-isolation.

The opening stanzas of ‘The Waste Land’ refer to the blooming of flowers and the coming of spring, but in gloomy tones. Winter is recalled nostalgically, with snow keeping us warm.

‘The Waste Land’ was published in October 1922 in Eliot’s The Criterion and as a book in December 1922, the same year James Joyce published Ulysses. Well-known and oft-quoted phrases in ‘The Waste Land’ include ‘April is the cruellest month,’ ‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust,’ and the mantra in Sanskrit, ‘Shantih shantih shantih.’

The poem draws on the legend of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King and on the thoughts of Saint Augustine and Dante, shifts between voices of satire, prophecy and judgment, and constantly changes speaker, location and time.

The poem has long been read as a statement on the post-war atmosphere, although Eliot claimed it was not. He wrote most of ‘The Waste Land’ in the aftermath of the last global pandemic to shut down the world.

Between 1918 and 1920, as many as 100 million people around the globe died from the Spanish flu, far more than were killed in World War I. In England, a quarter of the population was infected with the disease, and more than 200,000 people died.

Eliot and his wife Vivienne caught the Spanish Flu in December 1918, and he wrote much of the poem during his recovery. Literary critics are only beginning to explore the profound influence that the global pandemic had on ‘The Waste Land.’

Eliot’s case of influenza was not a serious one, but he recorded that he was ‘very weak,’ Vivien noted that afterwards he was haunted by the fact that ‘his mind is not acting as it used to do.’ The heavy death toll did much more than even war to shape this masterpiece.

The first section, ‘The Burial of the Dead,’ introduces the diverse themes of disillusionment and despair. Re-reading ‘The Waste Land’ in the light of that pandemic a century ago sheds new light on lines such as:

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,

With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying “Stetson! “You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
“That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
“Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
“Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
“Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!
“You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!”


If Eliot did not have the pandemic in mind as he wrote these lines, he certainly evokes the atmosphere of the time, and the sense that the dead were so plentiful that they overflowed the boundaries of the living, while the physical and emotional senses could believe the living were only the walking dead.

But, by the end of ‘The Waste Land,’ we catch a glimmer of the faint possibility of hope. By 1930, the glimmer of hope becomes a bright flare in ‘Ash Wednesday’ (1930), Eliot’s first long poem after becoming an Anglican and described as his conversion poem. Even when April seems to be the cruellest month, pandemics end, rain falls again, and Spring rains renew the earth every year.

Today is Poetry Day Ireland (30 April 2020), and the theme is ‘There will be time.’ As I went out into the garden this morning, between the April showers of rain, I took with me a cup of coffee and ‘The Waste Land,’ and re-read Eliot’s lines:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.


‘A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, / I had not thought death had undone so many’ … a panorama of bridges in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Easter with USPG:
19, Thursday 30 April 2020

‘Let us pray … that … children will start learning from a young age to be good stewards of the planet’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections throughout this Season of Easter. USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

Throughout this week (26 to 2 May 2020), the USPG Prayer Diary is focussing on the Church of North India’s Year of Jubilee. This theme was introduced in the Prayer Diary on Sunday.

Thursday 30 April 2020:

Let us pray for CNI’s Green Schools project; that through it, children will start learning from a young age to be good stewards of the planet.

The Readings: Acts 8: 26-40; Psalm 66: 7-8, 14-18; John 6: 44-51.

The Collect of the Day (Easter III):

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

A lockdown ‘virtual
tour’ of a dozen
churches in Corfu

Welcome to the churches of Corfu … the bells in the Church of the Panagia Kassopitra in Kassiopi, 38 km north of Corfu town (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I had planned to be in Greece last week for the celebrations of Orthodox Easter in Crete. Instead, the restrictions introduced by the Covid-19 pandemic means most of my flights and travel plans have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, and this may yet be the first year in a very long time that I have not been in Greece.

So, this evening I am offering another ‘virtual tour’ – a ‘virtual tour’ of more than a dozen churches in Corfu. This follows in the spirit my ‘virtual tour’ in recent weeks of churches, chapels, monasteries, historic sites, restaurants and pubs in some of my favourite places, including Lichfield, Cambridge, Rethymnon, Athens, Thessaloniki and Mount Athos.

1, The Cathedral of the Virgin Spiliotissas and Saint Vlassis and Saint Theodora:

The Cathedral of the Virgin Spiliotissas and Saint Vlassis and Saint Theodora stands on a small square at the top of marble steps near the harbour of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The cathedral in Corfu stands on a small square facing out onto the harbour of Corfu and the Ionian Sea. It was built in 1577 and has served the Diocese of Corfu, Paxos and the Diapontian Islands since 1841.

The cathedral is often difficult for visitors to find in the labyrinth of narrow streets and side alleys. The marble stairway and the purple façade with a decorative sunburst surrounding the rose window are only appreciated by stepping out of the cathedral and down into Mitropolis Square.

The Diocese of Corfu traces its history to two disciples of Saint Paul, Jason of Tarsus and Sosipatrus of Achaea (see (see Acts 17: 5-9 and Romans 16: 21). The Bishops of Corfu took part in ecumenical councils from 325 to 787, originally as suffragans of Nicopolis and later of Kephalonia.

Inside Corfu’s cathedral, with the shrine of Saint Theodora to the right, behind the iconostasis (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The cathedral was built as a church in 1577 on the site of an older church dedicated to Agios Vlassis or Saint Blaise, an Armenian miracle worker and martyr whose feast is celebrated on 11 February. The new church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary Spiliotissas after the destruction of an older church with the same name. The name Spiliotissa is derived from spilia (cave), referring to an older church in a cave at the foot of the New Fortress.

The cathedral is a three-aisled church built in a Baroque style, with many Renaissance details and features.

The cathedral is filled with icons, treasures and large chandeliers, there is a carved wooden iconostasis or icon screen, paintings from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, Byzantine icons like the Panagia Dimossiana, painted in the 15th century on both sides, icons by Mikhailis Damaskinos from Crete, Emmanouil Tzanes and Panayiotis Paramythiotis, and three remarkable but dark paintings of Old Testament scenes.

The most celebrated relic is the shroud-wrapped body of the Empress Theodora, in a lined silver sarcophagus in a shrine on the right-hand side of the iconostasis.

Saint Theodora (815-867) was the wife of the Byzantine Emperor Theophilos. She lived during the conflicts and divisions of the iconoclastic heresy, and brought the conflict to an end in the Great Church of Aghia Sophia in Constantinople on 11 March 843, celebrated in the Orthodox Church as ‘the Triumph of Orthodoxy.’

Her body and the body of Corfu’s patron saint, Saint Spyridon, were moved to Corfu after the Fall of Constantinople. Her feast day is 11 February – the same day as feast of Saint Vlassis, and they both share the dedication of the cathedral. Her relics are carried in procession through the streets of Corfu on the first Sunday of Great Lent, the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

The bust at the foot of the cathedral steps depicts the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I. While still a deacon, he was elected the Metropolitan of Corfu in 1922. He was elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 1960. The meeting between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem in 1964 led to rescinding the excommunications of 1054. He died in 1972.

2, The Church of Saint Spyridon:

Inside the Church of Spyridon, the most prominent church in the heart of the old town of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The most prominent church in the heart of the old town of Corfu is the Church of Saint Spyridon. The church was built in the 1580s to house the relics of Saint Spyridon, who, according to legends, has saved the island four times from Ottoman invasions.

Saint Spyridon was born in 270 AD in Assia, a village in Cyprus. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), countering the theological arguments of Arius and his followers. He was the Bishop of Trimythous, near Larnaca in Cyprus, until he died in 348 AD. When the Arabs conquered Cyprus, his body was moved to Constantinople. After Constantinople fell in 1453, the relics of Saint Spyridon and Saint Theodora were brought to Corfu.

The tower of Saint Spyridon is the tallest on the Ionian islands (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The relics of Saint Spyridon were later housed in a private chapel owned by the Voulgaris family. This church was demolished in 1537, and the saint’s remains were moved to a new church built in the 1580s.

The church, just behind the Liston, is a single-nave basilica and the bell tower, the highest in the Ionian Islands, is similar in design to the contemporary Greek Orthodox church of San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice. Inside the church, in a small chapel to the right of the iconostasis, the remains of Saint Spyridon are kept in a double sarcophagus.

The ceiling was originally painted by Panagiotis Doxaras in 1727. But his work decayed over time and was replaced by later copies. Above the west door of the narthex, the imperial coat of arms of the House of Romanov stands as a reminder that the church was under the nominal protection of Russia from 1807 until 1917.

Spyridon, or Spyros, is a popular name throughout Corfu. Saint Spyridon’s body is carried around the town of Corfu four times a year to celebrate his miracles. His feast day is on 12 December.

3, The Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna:

Inside the Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna … a quiet and prayerful church on a busy shopping street in Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna is an unusual single-nave church on Saint Spyridon Street, built in 1700 and restored in 1765. It is smaller and less known that its immediate neighbour, but this makes its more peaceful and prayerful, and Olga who showed us around was eager to point out the treasures of the church, including its relics and icons.

The church was consecrated in 1700, after a private house was transformed into a religious building. A plaque in Greek above the entrance recalls that the church was built by Theodora Vervitzioti, daughter of Nikolaos Vervitziotis, in memory of her parents and opened in June 1700. She later donated the church to the town’s guild of grocers and cheese sellers in 1714.

A plaque above the door recalls the Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna was built in 1700 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The church was renovated several times in 1765, as recalled in a second plaque, and in 1850 and in 1915. The church was damaged extensively during the German bombings of Corfu on 14 September 1943 and was rebuilt in 1960.

Three plaques in Greek on the church façade commemorate its consecration in 1700 and, on each side on the façade, its renovation in 1765 and its rebuilding in 1960. The oldest plaque, above the main door, includes the coat of arms of the Vervitzioti family above the Greek text.

Inside, the treasures of the church include an iconostasis or icon screen topped with 12 icons of the apostles, a collection of relics gathered in one glass case that include relics of Saint James the Apostle and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and a much-revered icon of Saint Anne holding her daughter, the Virgin Mary, who in turn is holding her son, the Christ Child.

4, The Church of Panagia Mandrakina:

The Church of Panagia Mandrakina, below street level and by the harbour at the fortress (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of the Panagia Mandrakina is close to the palace of Saint Michael and Saint George, between Boschetto Garden and the Garden of the People in Spianada.

The official dedication of the church is to Agios Panteleimonas, and historical records mote that it was built in the 18th century, although some accounts say it dates from the mid-16th century.

The church is popularly known as the Panagia Mandrakina, referring to the Virgin Mary as the protector of fishermen. It is said to have acquired its name from an icon of the Virgin Mary that was found by fishermen at the small port of Mandraki, the harbour of the Old Fortress of Corfu that stands above it.

The Church of Panagia Mandrakina is a small, orange and crimson church with an impressive and elaborate bell-tower that stands out amid the trees of the two gardens.

Like the Church of Saint Eleftherios and Saint Anna, it was heavily damaged during the German bombardment of Corfu in World War II. Its present form dates from its restoration in the early 1950s.

Outside, the church is symmetrical with a pediment. The impressive bell tower beside the church is quadrangular and castellated. The church and its small courtyard stand below street level. Today, the Church is popular for baptisms and weddings.

5, The bell tower of the Church of the Annunziata:

The lonely and abandoned bell tower of the Church of the Annunziata (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A tall bell tower is all that survives from the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunziata, known locally as the Church of Lontsiada. This church, on the corner of Evgeniou Voulgareos and Vrahlioti streets, is dedicated to the Annunciation and Santa Luccia (Saint Lucy).

The church was built in 1394 by the Neapolitan captain Petró Capece, and dedicated on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March, a day also celebrating the founding of the Venetian Republic. The church was then handed over to the Augustinians.

The church is also associated with one of the great naval battles in the Mediterranean. The battle of Nafpaktos in 1571, the allied fleets of Venice, Spain, Naples, Sicily, Genoa and Malta fought the Ottoman fleet, which had been undefeated until then.

The Turkish fleet was completely destroyed in the battle in the Bay of Patras opposite Nafpaktos: its 251 ships were sunk or captured, and 20,000 of the 50,000 Turkish soldiers and sailors were killed. Many of the leading figures in the allied fleet who were killed in the battled, including prominent Corfiots, were buried in the Church of the Annunziata.

During World War II, the roof of the Church of the Annunziata was damaged by German bombs on 14 September 1943. The church could have been repaired, and the Italian government offered to help financially.

However, the church was torn down in 1953, along with the old municipal theatre, Porta Reale, the main gate of the old city, and other parts of the island’s history, by the Mayor of Corfu, Stamatios Dessylas. After the demolition of the church, the bodies of the heroes of the Battle of Nafpaktos were transferred to the Roman Catholic cemetery.

On some summer days concerts are often staged in the small square in front of the ruins, and occasionally banners are hung from the tower, demanding, ‘Save Annunziata.’

6, Vlacherna convent and church:

Everyone wants the picture postcard photograph of Vlacherna, with its convent and church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The tiny convent of Vlachеrnа has become the poster, calendar and postcard image of Corfu. It decorates the covers of guidebooks and is used in advertising campaigns to promote Corfu as the idyllic Greek island.

Day after day, tourists cluster in large numbers on the balconies above on the Kanoni Peninsula, from early in the morning until late in the evening, to take photographs of Vlacherna and the neighbouring island of Pontikonissi, known popularly as ‘Mouse Island.’

The two islets and their monastic foundations often become confused, and merge into one. If you are fortunate enough to arrive or leave Corfu by daylight, then you flight passes immediately above both, and the fishermen peacefully working away in calm waters of the neighbouring lagoon of Halkiopoulos, separated from the bay by a long causeway.

The Monastery of Vlacherna stands on a small islet just south of Kanoni Peninsula and Corfu’s internationаl airpоrt, and about 3 km from Corfu city. The islet is connected tо Corfu by a 300-metre stone pier, making it easy to reach on foot.

Vlachеrnа Monastery is a convent and church dating from the 17th cеntury (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Vlachеrnа Monastery, the оnlу building οn thе tiny islet, dаtes from the 17th cеntury. The name Vlaherena or Vlacherna comes from a famous district of Constantinople. A Byzantine monastery of the same name there is an important place of Orthodox pilgrimage.

The church is a small white church with a red-tiled roof and a typical Greek Orthodox belfry with a three-storey bell tower that serves as the main entrance to the courtyard of the church. Inside, the chapel has a carved iconostasis and beautiful frescoes.

Vlacherna is still cаlled a mоnasterу, although it ceased to funсtiοn as a women’s convent by 1980. However, the small Church of Panagia Vlacherna (the Virgin of Vlacherna) on the islet is still used fοr liturgical celеbrations, including the monastery’s feast day on 2 July, and it remains оpen to visitors and tourists.

Vlachеrnа Monastery with the Church of the Transfiguration on the neighbouring island of Pontikonisi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Pontikоnissi island, just behind Vlаchеrna, сan only be reаchеd bу boat. Five-minute bоat trips аre normally available many times a dаy in the summеr season, but visitors are not allowed onto the island.

The church in the centre of the island is dedicated to the Metamorphosis of Sotiros or Transfiguration of the Saviour. The 13th century Byzantine church celebrates its feastday on 6 August with a large liturgical celebration.

7, Saint George, Aghios Georgios:

The Church of Saint George, above the long sandy beach of Agios Georgios in south-west Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Almost every town in Greece has a church named after Saint George, and almost every village – even the newest of resources – has a small church. There is a symbiotic relationship between the names of small villages and their small churches: did the church give the village its name, or did the church take its name from the village?

There are two resorts in Corfu named after Agios Georgios or Saint St George, one in the north, and one in the south-west. I stayed last year in Agios Georgios South, near the town small town of Argirades, and about 35 km from Corfu town.

The village, with its long sandy beach, lies to the south of the Lake Korission and is surrounded by olive groves, and boasting an amazing sandy beach. Even at the end of summer last year, this was a quiet, welcoming, family-friendly resort, suitable for a laid-back relaxing holiday, long days on the beach, walks by the saltwater lake, and evenings in the coastal tavernas for you to enjoy.

Inside the church in Agios Georgios … on a mid-week day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But Agios Georgios is a long way from most of Corfu’s other villages, towns and places of interest, although an irregular bus service connects the village to Corfu Town and beyond.

An indication of the resort’s isolation dawned on my first Sunday morning when I waited and waited for the small Church of Agios Georgios … and waited. I managed to visit the church when it was being cleaned on a weekday, but I spent the following Sunday visiting the monasteries of Meteora.

8, Church of Saint Spyridon, Palaiokastritsa:

The Church of Saint Spyridon is squeezed in between the coffee bars and a souvenir shop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Paleokastritsa is a popular family resort on the north-west coast of Corfu, about 25 km from Corfu Town. There are three main coves – Agia Triada, Platakia and Alipa – and many other tiny, secluded beaches around it, separated by the round-shaped capes.

My visit to Paleokastritsa last year was short, however, and I never got to visit Angelokastro or the monasteries of Palaiokastritsa and the Theotokos. But close to the main beach, jutting awkwardly between the coffee bars and a souvenir shop opposite the chaotic car park is the tiny, pink Church of Saint Spyridon, with a bell tower built in 2002.

Inside the Church of Saint Spyridon in Palaiokastritsa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The church is so small it is hard to imagine it holding a congregation of more than 10. But the door is open, candles are lit, and tourists are made to feel welcome to pop in and look at the icons or find time to pray.

The icons are all modern, with two archangels flanking the iconostasis or icon screen, which includes an interesting icon of the Samaritan woman at the well, and topped with a row of 12 icons of the apostles.

Keeping a traditional yet modern church like this open for the curious and for tourists in the middle of a busy resort beside a popular beach strikes me as a fine example of what mission should be today.

9, Church of the Panagia Kassopitra, Kassiopi:

The Church of the Panagia Kassopitra or the Virgin of Kassopitra stands on the site of the Temple of Zeus Kassios, which gives the its name to Kassiopi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of the Panagia Kassopitra or the Virgin of Kassopitra, in the coastal town of Kassiopi, dates from the fifth century, when the ruined Temple of Kassios Zeus was converted into a church by Saint Iasonas and Saint Sosipatros.

This beautiful church is near the main street of Kassiopi, the harbour and the castle. The church is mentioned by Latin travellers in the Middle Ages, indicating it was known beyond Corfu as a place of pilgrimage.

The Church of the Panagia Kassopitra in Kassiopi dates from the fifth century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The church once held the relics of Saint Donatos the Wonderworker, the Patron of Paramythia. These relics were later moved to Venice, although a small part of them were returned to Paramythia. The church has had a chequered past, and it was burned badly by the Ottoman Turks during the siege of Corfu in 1537.

The church was restored and rebuilt by the Venetians between 1590 and 1591 with the unusual provision of two altars to accommodate the liturgical needs of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic people of the town. The church has inscriptions dated 1590, 1670 and 1832.

The church made Kassiopi a centre of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Much of the church was believed to have been destroyed, but during restoration work in the 1990s parts of Byzantine frescoes dating from the 11th or 12th century were rediscovered on the walls of the church. The most important treasure in the church is the Icon of the Panagia Kassopitra or the Virgin of Kassopitra, said to be miraculous and revered as the protector of mariners.

Each year on 8 May the church commemorates a miracle said to have taken place in 1530 when the Panagia healed a blind man. Special liturgical commemorations also take place on 15 August, the Feast of the Dormition.

10, The chapel in the Achilleion Palace:

The large painting in the apse of the chapel in the Achilleion Palace depicts the trial of Christ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Achilleion Palace in Gastouri, 10 km south of Corfu city, was built for ‘Sisi,’ the Austrian Empress Elisabeth, at the suggestion of the Austrian consul, Alexander von Warsberg. She was deeply saddened by the death of her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, at Mayerling in 1889, and she had this summer palace built as a refuge a year later.

Achilleion provides a panoramic view of the city to the north, and across the southern part of the island and the Ionian Sea. The architectural style of the palace is said to have been inspired by the mythical palace of Phaeacia, and the motif centres on the myth of Achilles.

The first room on the right off the main entrance hall was the Empress Elisabeth’s private chapel, and is decorated with a apse fresco of Christ on trial before Pilate, a large painting of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child, and images of the Virgin Mary.

The walls in Sisi’s chapel are decorated with paintings and images of the Virgin Mary and saints (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This Roman Catholic chapel is a work of art in itself. While the rest of the palace was inspired by classical Greek culture, the chapel was decorated in the Baroque style.

The large painting in the apse depicts the trial of Christ. Above the altar there is a large painting of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child in a golden frame. Along the walls and in niches are statues and paintings of the Virgin Mary and saints.

None of the owners of the palace after the Empress was a Roman Catholic, so the chapel may never have served its original purpose after 1907. But through the Achilleion Palace the Empress Elisabeth influenced style and taste throughout Greece at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

11, Holy Trinity Anglican Church:

The former Ionian Parliament building became Holy Trinity Anglican Church in 1870 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When the former Anglican Church of Saint George in the Old Fortress in Corfu became a Greek Orthodox in 1864, the Anglican community was left without a church. On the other hand, with the incorporation of Corfu and the Ionian Islands into the Greek state, Corfu no longer needed a parliament building. The Greek government offered the former Ionian Parliament building to the Anglican community. The building was designed by a Corfiot architect John Chronis.

The gift was ratified in Greek law in 1869, and the building was given to the ‘British community of Kerkyra (Corfu) of the Anglican faith so long as it might serve as a house of worship of the said persuasion.’ The deed of consecration was signed in 1870. The Ionian Parliament became the Holy Trinity Church and the premises to the rear became the parsonage or residence of the Anglican chaplain.

Holy Trinity Church was in a unique position because it belonged not to the British Government nor any church body, but solely and entirely to the Anglican community in Corfu. The church flourished from 1869, with a permanent resident chaplain until 1940, and for 71 years the church served the island’s many British residents.

The former chaplain’s residence now serves as Holy Trinity Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At the outbreak of World War II, most British residents left Corfu, and the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society (now ICS) was appointed trustee of the church.

The church was bombed during World War II, leaving only parts of the outside walls. Although the parsonage to the rear suffered bomb damage, it provided shelter for the Maltese community. However, with the slow return of British residents to post-war Corfu, the Mayor of Corfu took advantage of this situation, the city took over the church, restored the building, and retained it.

Later, through negotiations, the residence part of the building was retained, repaired and served many uses. While he was the British Vice Consul, Major John Forte set about bringing recovering this part of the building, and reopened Holy Trinity daily during the week for public worship from 9 until 1. On Easter Day 1971, Holy Trinity Church Corfu reopened on a permanent basis for the first time in 31 years.

Today, Holy Trinity Church has a vital congregation that continues to reach out to residents and visitors alike in Corfu.

12, Saint George’s Church, former Anglican garrison church:

Saint George’s Church was an Anglican and garrison church in Corfu until 1864 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There has been an Anglican presence in Corfu since 1814 Corfu, when Corfu and the other Ionian Islands became a British Protectorate. The High Commissioner, the administrators, and the soldiers and sailors based in Corfu, required a place of worship, and a chapel was built in the Doric style in the Old Fortress and was named Saint George.

Saint George’s remained the garrison church until 1864, when Corfu and the other Ionian Islands were incorporated into the modern Greek state. The Greek Parliament in Athens wanted to turn the old fortress into a military base, and Saint George’s became an Orthodox church.

Indeed, this was the church where Prince Philip, later the Duke of Edinburgh, was baptised according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1921.

The tower of Saint Spyridon Church is a landmark in the heart of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Some recent ‘virtual tours’:

A dozen Wren churches in London;

Ten former Wren churches in London;

More than a dozen churches in Lichfield;

More than a dozen pubs in Lichfield;

A dozen former pubs in Lichfield;

A dozen churches in Rethymnon;

A dozen restaurants in Rethymnon;

A dozen churches in other parts of Crete;

A dozen monasteries in Crete;

A dozen sites on Mount Athos;

A dozen historic sites in Athens;

A dozen historic sites in Thessaloniki;

A dozen churches in Thessaloniki;

A dozen Jewish sites in Thessaloniki.

A dozen churches in Cambridge;

A dozen college chapels in Cambridge;

A dozen Irish islands.

Praying in Easter with USPG:
18, Wednesday 29 April 2020

Kiran Bala of USPG and Asha Kasgar (to her left) at the community court at the Mahila Panchayat women’s empowerment centre, run by the Delhi Brotherhood Society, a USPG partner (Photograph: Leah Gordon/USPG)

Patrick Comerford

I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections throughout this Season of Easter. USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

Throughout this week (26 to 2 May 2020), the USPG Prayer Diary is focussing on the Church of North India’s Year of Jubilee. This theme was introduced in the Prayer Diary on Sunday.

Wednesday 29 April 2020:

We pray for CNI’s resolve to break down barriers of caste, class, gender and economic inequality. May India’s churches be places where all feel equally welcome.

The Readings: Acts 8: 1b-8; Psalm 66: 1-6; John 6: 35-40.

The Collect of the Day (Easter III):

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

A lockdown ‘virtual
tour’ of a dozen
Cambridge churches

Welcome to the churches of Cambridge … the porch at Saint Bene’t’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In my present state of semi-cocooning, due to the present Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and my pulmonary sarcoidosis, I have been offering a number of ‘virtual tours’ in recent weeks, including a dozen Wren churches and ten former Wren churches in London, a dozen churches, pubs and former pubs in Lichfield, a dozen churches and restaurants in Rethymnon, a dozen churches in other parts of Crete, a dozen monasteries in Crete and on Mount Athos, a dozen historic sites in Athens and in Thessaloniki, and a dozen churches and a dozen Jewish sites in Thessaloniki.

The way travel restrictions are being extended and my travel plans are being cancelled one after another, this may yet be the first year in many that I have not visited Cambridge. So, this evening I am offering another ‘virtual tour’ – a ‘virtual tour’ of more than a dozen churches in Cambridge, following on last night’s ‘virtual tour’ of more than a dozen college chapels in Cambridge.

For many years, I was a student at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, during the courses offered by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. I and stayed in rooms in Sidney Sussex all those years, and we used the chapel for prayers twice a day.

But, during that time, I appreciated Saint Bene’t’s Church, just a five-minute walk away, which effectively became my parish church while I was on study leave in Cambridge. In addition, I also went to church on occasion in both Great Saint Mary’s Church and in Little Saint Mary’s Church.br />
So, this evening’s ‘virtual tour’ is just a sample of the churches, apart from college chapels, that I got to know in Cambridge over these years.

1, Saint Bene’t’s Church, Bene’t Street:

Saint Bene’t’s Church dates back a millennium to 1020 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I skipped out of Sidney Sussex most mornings to attend the Daily Eucharist at 8 a.m. in Saint Bene’t’s, a short walk away at the corner of Bene’t Street and Free School Lane.

Tucked into a corner of Corpus Christi College, Saint Bene’t’s is a beautiful and ancient church, appreciated by many for its history and architecture. The name of the church may have inspired the setting for Susan Howatch’s Saint Benet’s Trilogy – although the three novels are is set in the fictional Saint Benet’s Church in London in the 1980s and 1990s.

This church is an oasis of calm in the middle of the university and the city, and there is something special and something deeply spiritual about Saint Bene’t’s, an ancient parish church.

This the oldest building in Cambridgeshire and has been a place of Christian worship for 1,000 years. This is an Anglo-Saxon foundation dating from ca 1020, when Canute was King of England. The church is dedicated to Saint Benedict, yet, despite of its name, Saint Bene’t’s was never a monastic place of worship, and has been a parish church from the very beginning.

Inside Saint Bene’t’s Church, the oldest building in Cambridgeshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Saxon tower was probably completed around 1033. The arcading separating the nave and the south aisle dates from around 1300. To the south or right of the altar, are two curved ogee arched recesses dating from the 14th century. One arch holds the sedilia or seating for the clergy; the other arch once held the piscina or shallow basin for washing the sacred vessels and for disposing of water used sacramentally.

In 1352 the Guild of Corpus Christi, which met at Saint Bene’t’s, joined with the Guild of Saint Mary, which met at Great Saint Mary’s Church, the University Church, to found the College of Corpus Christi. For many decades after the foundation of Corpus Christi, the college had no chapel, and the members worshipped at Saint Bene’t’s Church. Saint Bene’t’s was used as the college chapel for many years and the two still have strong links.

Tiny peepholes in a wall at the east end of the south aisle indicate a 16th century staircase leading to an upper room. The staircase is now blocked off, and the upper room is part of Corpus Christi College.

‘The Passion,’ a sculpture by Enzo Plazzotta in Saint Bene’t’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Since 1578, there have been 73 incumbents at St Bene’t’s and 52 of these have been members of Corpus Christi. Those former vicars include Michael Ramsey, who was here in 1938 and later became Archbishop of Canterbury. The church was staffed by Franciscans for 60 years from 1945 to 2005. A recent vicar was the theologian, writer and broadcaster, Canon Angela Tilby. The present vicar is the Revd Anna Matthews.

The church has an icon of Christ Pantocrator, an icon of Saint Benedict and Saint Francis given by the Franciscan brothers when they were leaving, a crucifix carved by a sister of the Community of Saint Clare, ‘The Passion,’ a modern sculpture by the Italian-born British sculptor, Enzo Plazzotta (1921-1981), and is about to dedicate a new icon of Saint Anne by Aidan Hart.

2, Great Saint Mary’s, the University Church, King’s Parade:

Great Saint Mary’s on King’s Parade is the University Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Cambridge is part of the Diocese of Ely and so, unlike Oxford, has no cathedral. But Saint Mary the Great is the parish and university church. It is known locally as Great Saint Mary’s or simply GSM to distinguish it from ‘Little St Mary’s,’ and is one of the ‘Greater Churches’ or part of the ‘Greater Churches’ network in the Church of England.

As the university church, Great Saint Mary’s its own role in the life of the university. University officers must live within 20 miles of Great Saint Mary’s and undergraduates within three miles. The church hosts the University Sermons and holds the University Organ and the University Clock.

Inside Great Saint Mary’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The first church on the site was built in 1205, was mostly destroyed by fire in 1290 and rebuilt. The present church was built between 1478 and 1519, with the tower was finished in 1608. Preachers at the time of the Reformation included Erasmus. Martin Bucer, who influenced Thomas Cranmer’s writing of the Book of Common Prayer, was buried here, and Mary I ordered his corpse burnt in the marketplace.

The clock chimes, the ‘Cambridge Quarters,’ were later used by Big Ben, the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament.

The present vicar-chaplain is the Revd Adrian Daffern.

A statue of the Virgin Mary at Great Saint Mary’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Little Saint Mary’s or Saint Mary the Less is on the corner of Trumpington Street and Little Saint Mary’s Lane, and dates from the 12th century. I was in Little Saint Mary’s at times for the Sunday Eucharist or High Mass, when Father Andrew Greany was the vicar.

Little Saint Mary’s (LSM) is next door to Peterhouse, directly opposite Pembroke College, and once served as both a parish church and the college chapel of Peterhouse. Richard Crashaw, the metaphysical poet, was associated with Little Saint Mary’s while he was a Fellow of Peterhouse (1638-1643). Less than ten years later, the church’s decoration and ornaments were badly damaged by the Puritan extremist William Dowsing.

The church was refitted in 1741, was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1856-1857, and further restoration work was carried out in 1876 and 1891.

Since the late 19th century, Little Saint Mary’s has offered both the City and University of Cambridge a distinctive liturgical and sacramental witness in the Catholic tradition of Anglicanism. The south chapel was added in 1931, designed by Thomas Lyon, the architect of the chapel in Sidney Sussex College.

The present Vicar of Little Saint Mary’s, Father Robert Mackley, is a regular columnist and reviewer for the Church Times.

3, All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane:

All Saints’ Church on Jesus Lane is one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Saints’ Church in Jesus Lane is one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England, with some of the finest interior decorations of the period. This was the first church in the Decorated Gothic style of the early 14th century by George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), one of the most important architects of the Tractarian Movement. It was one of his most successful churches and would become his favourite.

The church stands opposite Jesus College, beside Westcott House and just a few steps away from the Jesus Lane Gate of Sidney Sussex College.

All Saints was built in 1863-1864, but the parish dates back to the Middle Ages. The original church stood on a site opposite Trinity College and close to the Divinity Schools. This site, now marked by a triangular piece of open land with a memorial cross, stood in the old Jewish quarter of Cambridge, and the church was known as All Saints in the Jewry.

The original All Saints’ Church stood on a site opposite Trinity College and close to the Divinity Schools (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The patronage of All Saints was held from the 13th century by Saint Radegunde’s Nunnery, which became Jesus College in 1497. After that, the Vicars of All Saints were appointed by Jesus College.

Through the centuries, the old church was rebuilt and restored on several occasions, but the site was cramped and dark, and by the mid-19th century the parishioners realised it would be impossible to enlarge the building.

Jesus College donated a site on Jesus Lane for a new church. Although Gilbert Scott was the first choice as architect the commission was awarded eventually to Bodley. The foundation stone was laid in 1863, the church was consecrated in 1864.

When the spire was completed in 1869-1871, All Saints was the tallest building in Cambridge, until the Roman Catholic Church was built. Although both have since been out-passed by the chimney of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, the spire of All Saints remains a landmark that can be seen from parts throughout Cambridge.

Bodley was closely associated with William Morris, and the Morris work in All Saints includes the spectacular stained-glass East Window. Later decorations are the work of the studios of the Tractarian artist, Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) and the Cambridge-based studio of Frederick Leach. Kempe had studied architecture under Bodley, and the Cambridge church historian Owen Chadwick once said Kempe’s work represents ‘the Victorian zenith’ of church decoration and stained glass windows.

Bodley devised all the wall paintings in the nave of All Saints, the nave aisle, the sanctuary, and the east end of the south chancel aisle. The pulpit was designed by Bodley in 1864 and the panels were painted by Wyndham Hope Hughes in 1875. The oak chancel screen was designed by the Cambridge architect John Morley and is the work of Rattee and Kent. The choir stalls in the chancel were also designed by Bodley.

The East Window is one of the great treasures of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The East Window (1866) is a memorial to Lady Affleck, wife of the Master of Trinity College and the woman who had laid the foundation stone of the church in 1863. This window is one of the great treasures of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, with 20 figures designed by Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and William Morris. The whole work was assembled by Morris & Co.

The nave windows include one designed by Kempe as a memorial to three former vicars and showing three saintly Cambridge Anglicans: the priest poet George Herbert, the theologian Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott and the missionary Henry Martyn. The last addition to the church, a window celebrating womanhood, was erected in the nave in 1944, and depicts Elizabeth Fry, Josephine Butler, Mother Cecile Isherwood and Edith Cavell.

With a decline in the number of resident parishioners, the church closed in 1973, and the parish was merged with the Parish of the Holy Sepulchre at the Round Church. The church is now in the Churches Conservation Trust and is used by Cambridge Presbyterian Church and occasionally by Westcott House and the Cambridge Theological Federation.

4, Saint Michael’s Church (Michaelhouse), Trinity Street:

Michaelhouse café and Saint Michael’s Church on Trinity Street, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Michaelhouse is an interesting café located in Saint Michael’s Church in Trinity Street in the oldest part of Cambridge. It is just a few steps from Sidney Sussex College, around the corner at the end of Green Street. It stands opposite Gonville and Caius College and is close to Great Saint Mary’s Church, Trinity College and King’s College Chapel.

The café is set within the 14th century church of Saint Michael’s, a parish and collegiate church. But, while it is an award-winning café and restaurant, Michaelhouse remains a church – you could say it offers refreshment for both body and soul. Church services are held in the chancel several days a week, and the mediaeval Hervey de Stanton Chapel offers a peaceful space that is also a setting at times for concerts.

Michaelhouse recalls the name of one of the earliest Cambridge colleges, which flourished from 1324 until 1546, when it was merged with King’s Hall to form Trinity College. Michaelhouse was the second residential college in Cambridge, following Peterhouse (1284) – although King’s Hall was established in 1317, it did not acquire premises until it was re-founded by King Edward III in 1336.

Trinitarian truths expressed in in a stained-glass window in Michaelhouse, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Michaelhouse was founded by Hervey de Stanton, Edward II’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Chief Justice, who had acquired the advowson (or right of presentation) to the parish of Saint Michael along with property on the High Street.

In May 1324, Edward II granted a royal charter to the new college for scholars in Holy Orders. Three months later, Bishop John Hotham of Ely granted his own charter. De Stanton suggested to the bishop that the master and fellows, who were all priests, could provide daily worship for the parish as they were using the church as their chapel. And so, the first Master of Michaelhouse, Walter de Buxton, was also Vicar of Saint Michael’s.

When de Stanton died on All Souls’ Day 1325, he was buried in the unfinished chancel.

The college continued to acquire more properties, including property between Saint Michael’s Lane (today’s Trinity Lane) and the river, an area now occupied by the south-west corner of the Great Court of Trinity College, New Court, Scholars’ Lawn and the Wren Library, property around Garret Hostel Lane leading down to the river, and a navigable stream.

Nothing much remains of the original Michaelhouse buildings, apart from Saint Michael’s Church. Until a chapel was completed at Gonville Hall in 1396, both Michaelhouse and Gonville shared the use of the two aisles, with Gonville using the north aisle and Michaelhouse the south.

John Fisher, who was Master of Michaelhouse in 1497-1501, was Chancellor of Cambridge University, and was instrumental in the foundation of Saint John’s College and Christ’s College. As Bishop of Rochester, Fisher took a conservative stance on the royal supremacy and the reformation in the reign of Henry VIII and was executed in 1535.

By the time of the dissolution of the monastic houses, Michaelhouse had an income greater than that of Westminster Abbey. The college was dissolved in 1546 and was merged with King’s Hall to form Trinity College, the largest and wealthiest college in Cambridge to this day.

Until the completion of Trinity College Chapel in 1565, Trinity used Saint Michael’s as its chapel. As the new chapel was being built, 36 scholars’ stalls from the former chapel of King’s Hall, some with carved misericords, were moved to Saint Michael’s, where they remain to this day.

Trinity College continued to hold the patronage of the living of Saint Michael’s and from the 16th to the 18th centuries, Trinity College fellows were chaplains of Saint Michael’s.

Inside Michaelhouse café and Saint Michael’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

After a fire in 1849, the church was rebuilt by George Gilbert Scott and his son, George Gilbert Scott junior. Their work included a new stone porch, a new East Window, and a three-tiered new reredos. The artists who worked with Scott included FR Leach, who also worked with GF Bodley on the ceiling and frescoes of All Saints’ Church, the ceiling of Jesus College Chapel, and the dining hall ceiling at Queens’ College. Leach painted the chancel ceiling and arches in Saint Michael’s to designs by Scott as a thank-offering, without accepting any payment. Parts of the north aisle had been painted previously to designs by Holman Hunt.

In time, the parish was too small to be sustainable, and it was finally united with Great Saint Mary’s Church, the university church, in 1908.

By the early 1990s, the church buildings were increasingly in need of significant repair, and an ambitious fundraising and building project began. The Michaelhouse Centre opened in 2002, and is a registered charity. Michaelhouse is now a key cultural and spiritual location in Cambridge, a unique community resource in the heart of the city, and a place of beauty and tranquillity.

5, The Round Church, Bridge Street:

The Round Church, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the corner of Bridge Street and Round Church Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Round Church, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the corner of Bridge Street and Round Church Street, is a landmark building in Cambridge, and one of only four round churches that survive in England.

The Round Church in Cambridge was built ca 1130 by the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre. The brothers of the fraternity were probably a group of Austin canons, and were given the land by Abbot Reinald of Ramsey between 1114 and 1130. The Austin Friars had their principal house in Cambridge at the nearby Hospital of Saint John, later the site of Saint John’s College.

They were influenced by the design of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a round church or Rotunda in Jerusalem, built by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century on the site of Christ’s tomb and the Resurrection.

The Round Church was built in the Norman or Romanesque style, with thick pillars and rounded arches. At first it consisted of a round nave and an ambulatory, with a short chancel, probably in the shape of an apse.

Initially, the church was a wayfarers’ chapel serving travellers along the main Roman road – the Via Devana, now Bridge Street – just outside the town. By the mid-13th century, it had become a parish church under the patronage of Barnwell Priory. Around this time, structural alterations were made, with the rebuilding of the chancel and the addition of a north aisle, with the aisle shorter than the chancel.

During the 15th century, the Norman style windows in the nave were replaced by larger Gothic style windows. The carvings of angels in the roofs of the chancel and aisle were added. A heavy, polygonal gothic tower or bell-storey was built over the round nave in the 15th century.

In 1643-1644, during the Civil War, the Puritans destroyed many of the images in the church. William Dowsing refers to the destruction of the church in his journal on 2 January 1644: ‘We break down 14 superstitious Pictures, divers Idolatrous Inscriptions, one of God the Father, one of Christ and of the Apostles.’

The Round Church was repaired and restored by the Cambridge Camden Society (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The weight of the massive the 15th century Gothic tower was too heavy and it collapsed in the round ambulatory in 1841. The Cambridge Camden Society offered to repair the church. Anthony Salvin replaced the bell-storey with a conical spire that he believed was similar to the original roof and faithful to the nave’s Norman origin. At the same time, the 15th-century Gothic windows were replaced by windows in Norman style, a gallery and staircase were remove, a new south aisle was added, the east wall of the chancel was replaced, and the north aisle was rebuilt.

The communion table, dating from 1843, was made by Joseph Wentworth. In 1899, a vestry was added to the north of the north aisle.

During World War II, the Victorian East Window was destroyed by a bomb in 1942. It was replaced by a modern window portraying the Risen Christ in Majesty, triumphant over death and suffering. The cross is depicted as a living tree with leaves that are for ‘the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22: 2).

The church is entered by a Norman west doorway with three orders of colonnettes, decorated with scalloped capitals and zigzags, and crenellations in the voussoirs. Most of the stained glass in the church was introduced during the 19th century restoration and was designed and made by Thomas Willement and William Wailes.

The vestry was extended in 1980. But by then the congregation in the Round Church was overflowing, and the building was too small for their numbers. In 1994, they moved down Bridge Street and Sidney Street to the much larger church of Saint Andrew the Great, by Lion Yard, opposite the gate of Christ’s College.

Christian Heritage now manages the building, with an exhibition on the story of Cambridge and the impact of secularism on western culture. Behind the church is the Union Building, the red brick Victorian home of the university debating society.

6, Saint Botolph’s Church, Trumpington Street:

The chancel of Saint Botolph’s was rebuilt by Bodley (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Botolph’s Church on Trumpington Street is beside Corpus Christi College and close to Little Saint Mary’s Church. Like All Saints’ Church, it too has work by the architect GF Bodley and windows by CE Kempe.

Saint Botolph, an abbot from East Anglia who lived in the seventh century, is the patron saint of travellers, and this church once stood at the South Gate or Trumptington Gate of Cambridge, used by travellers arriving from or leaving for London, or travellers from the west who crossed the River Cam where Silver Street Bridge now stands.

There may have been a Saxon church on this site in the past. The nave and aisles of the present church were built in the early 14th century, ca 1320, the period that was influential in Bodley’s design of All Saints’ Church.

The tower was built in the 15th century, as were the west end of the nave, the south chapel and the south porch, as well as the carved rood screen separating the nave from the chancel. This is only mediaeval rood screen to survive in an ancient parish church in Cambridge. The panels were painted in the 19th century with images of the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, and together they tell the story of the Annunciation.

The mediaeval font has an elegant, octagonal Laudian wooden cover and canopy that date from 1637.

Looking towards the west end, the tower and the mediaeval font with an elegant, octagonal Laudian wooden cover and canopy that date from 1637 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bodley was invited to rebuild the chancel of Saint Botoloph’s in 1872, and he brought with him two local artists, GR Leach, who was also working at All Saints’ Church, and G Gray, to carry out the high Victorian decoration of the chancel.

The north window in the chancel is a memorial the Revd Canon Dr William Magan Campion (1820-1896), who was the Rector of Saint Botolph’s (1862-1892) and President of Queens’ College, Cambridge (1892-1896). The window shows Saint Botolph between Saint Bernard and Saint Margaret, the two patron saints of Queens’ College, which was patron of the living.

Campion, who was born in Maryborough (Port Laoise), Co Laois, was instrumental in bringing Bodley, and Kempe and Leach along with him, to work on the restoration of Saint Botolph’s as a result of their work at All Saints’ Church in Jesus Lane. An earlier association with neighbouring Corpus Christi College is recalled by with the pelican in the Crucifixion window by Kempe in the north aisle.

The Revd Stephen Anderson is the Priest-in-Charge of Saint Botolph’s.

7, Saint Clement’s Church, Bridge Street:

Saint Clement’s Church, Bridge Street, is one of the oldest churches in Cambridge

Saint Clement’s Church, on the corner of Bridge Street and Portugal Place, Cambridge, is shared by the Church of England parish with the Greek Orthodox Parish of Saint Athanasios and Saint Clement in Cambridge. Saint Clement’s Church, Cambridge, and Saint Clement Danes on the Strand, London, are examples of the popularity of dedicating churches to Saint Clement in Danish settlements in England.

Saint Clement’s is one of the oldest churches in Cambridge and was built in the first half of the 13th century. The advowson of Saint Clement’s was given to the nuns of Saint Radegund ca 1215 and 1217, but it is believed Saint Clement’s is on the site of an earlier, larger building.

The early building works consist of the four west bays of the north and south arcades of the nave, the responds and the arch of the chancel-arch. The wider east bay of the nave indicates some form of transept chapels. The nave arcades remain from the 13th century. The east bay of the arcades appears to have been rebuilt in the 14th century.

The chancel was rebuilt in a Gothic style ca 1726, when the present capitals of the responds of the chancel-arch were inserted. The west tower was built in 1821, the church was restored in 1863 and the vestry was built on the site of the former north chapel in 1866. The spire formerly on the tower was removed in 1928.

Four large iconic panels act as a chancel screen, depicting Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Athanasios. Above these icons is an old rood beam and there are interesting grave slabs around the church. The east wall is filled with a fresco of Christ standing in a vesica and robed as a High Priest, surrounded by angels and saints.

Bicycles chained to the railings at the side of Saint Clement’s Church on Portugal Place (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Clement’s is in the ‘Prayer Book Catholic’ tradition, and Canon Nick Moir has been Priest-in-Charge since 2014.

When I first got to know Saint Clement’s, the church hosted the Greek Orthodox Parish of Saint Athanasios, until the parish moved to Cherry Hinton Road. Saint Clement’s now hosts the Parish of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, an English-speaking Russian Orthodox parish in the Diocese of Sourozh. Father Raphael Armour, the parish priest, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.

8, Saint Edward King and Martyr, Saint Edward’s Passage:

The Church of Saint Edward King and Martyr is surrounded on three sides by Saint Edward’s Passage (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Saint Edward King and Martyr is on Peas Hill in central Cambridge. It is dedicated to Edward the Martyr, the murdered King of England (975-978). Saint Edward’s, on the west side of the Guildhall, is hidden away, surrounded on three sides by Saint Edward’s Passage, a pedestrian alleyway better known for David’s bookshop.

This is the only ‘royal peculiar’ in Cambridge. The church was founded in the 13th century on what is believed to be the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon church. The church was rebuilt ca 1400, creating the present chancel and arches of the nave. The arch at the base of the tower remains from the original building.

The living of Saint Edward’s Church was granted to Trinity Hall in 1445 in compensation for the loss of lands at the foundation of King’s College, and the Chaplain is still appointed by Trinity Hall. Two 15th-century side-chapels were built in Saint Edward’s, the north chapel for Trinity Hall, and the south by Clare Hall (now Clare College.

Latimer’s pulpit in Saint Edward King and Martyr (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1525, Robert Barnes preached what is said to be the first openly evangelical sermon in any English church. Over the next decade, many of the great reformers preached here, including Hugh Latimer, who was a regular preacher until he left Cambridge in 1531, and Saint Edward’s became known as the ‘Cradle of the Reformation.’

The east window, designed by George Gilbert Scott, and was added during the restorations of 1858-1860. The theologian FD Maurice was chaplain in 1870-1872.

A bicycle at the railings of Saint Edward King and Martyr (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the 1930s, Saint Edward’s was the Toc H church for the east of England, and became known to students as ‘Teddy’s.’

The acting vicar-chaplain is the Revd Dr Mark Scarlata, Old Testament lecturer and tutor at Saint Mellitus College, London.

9, Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Hills Road:

Our Lady and the English Martyrs was built in 1885-1890 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs (OLEM) is the English Roman Catholic parish church in the centre of Cambridge. It stands at the junction of Hills Road and Lensfield Road and is a large Gothic Revival church built in 1885-1890.

The Lensfield estate was bought in 1879, with the aid of the Duke of Norfolk, the church was designed by the architects Archibald Matthias Dunn and Edward Joseph Hansom, and the foundation stone was laid in 1887.

Our Lady and the English Martyrs was designed by Archibald Matthias Dunn and Edward Joseph Hansom (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Building one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in England on such a prominent site, and its dedication to the ‘Forty Martyrs of England and Wales,’ caused controversy in Cambridge.

The stained glass windows include depictions of Cambridge colleges and scenes from the lives of English martyrs, in particular Saint John Fisher.

10, Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Trumpington Street:

Emmanuel United Reformed Church … the building has been bought by Pembroke College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Emmanuel United Reformed Church, beside Little Saint Mary’s Church on Trumpington Street and close to Corpus Christi College and Pembroke College, was sold in 2017 to Pembroke College, which intends to retain it as a lecture and performance area.

The congregation began in 1687 as the Cambridge Great Meeting at Hog Hill or Hog Hill Independent Church. From 1691, the minister was Joseph Hussey, who is commemorated in the apse windows, alongside John Greenwood, Henry Barrow, Oliver Cromwell, John Milton and Francis Holcroft.

The church was rebuilt in the late 18th century and opened as Emmanuel Congregational Chapel in 1790. The congregation moved a new church on Trumpington Street in 1874. It was designed by the architect James Cubitt and became Emmanuel Congregational Church.

As a child, the future Archbishop Michael Ramsey attended Emmanuel Congregational Church, where his father was an elder (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As a child, the future Archbishop Michael Ramsey attended the former Congregationalist Church, where his father was an elder.

Emmanuel voted to join the new United Reformed Church in 1972. In addition to its Sunday worship, Emmanuel ran several community activities, including a volunteer-staffed Fairtrade café and lunchtime recitals.

The congregation recently merged with Saint Columba’s United Reformed Church on Downing Place as Downing Place URC. Saint Columba’s began as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church of England in 1879, and held services in the Cambridge Guildhall until the present church opened at the corner of Downing Street and Downing Place in 1891.

The merged congregation retains the use of Emmanuel Church until September 2020, although it is now closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

11, Saint Andrew and Saint Mary, Grantchester:

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

On summer afternoons, I have strolled to Grantchester, a village 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 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. The oldest part of the parish church in Grantchester, Saint Andrew and Saint Mary – the chancel – dates from the 14th century, the nave and tower are 15th century, and the south aisle was added in the 1870s. The font is believed to be Norman, and the 17th century pulpit probably came from the chapel of Corpus Christi College.

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

The Orchard in Grantchester 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, Brooke wrote of his homesickness in his poem The Old Vicarage, Grantchester, asking:

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?


The house is now the home of the Cambridge scientist Mary Archer and her husband, the paperback novelist Jeffrey Archer.

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 church interior and the churchyard were used for many of the scenes.

The Revd Rachel Rosborough is the Priest in Charge of Grantchester and of Saint Mark’s, Newnham.

12, Trumpington:

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

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. But the older Church of Saint Mary and Saint Michael in Trumpington itself is also worth a visit.

Trumpington, 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. However, the Parish of Trumpington existed long before the Norman Conquest, and by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 there was a thriving community there.

The church in Trumpington was known as Saint Nicholas by this 1291 and was mainly built in 1200-1330. 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.

There are documentary references later in the Middle Ages 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.

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. The church was renovated by William Butterfield in 1876.

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.

The Vicar of Trumpington is the Revd Dr Mandy Maxwell.

A banner was once displayed at Saint Andrew’s the Great, beside Petty Curry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Walking from the railway station along Hills Road and Saint Andrew’s Street to Sidney Sussex College I have become familiar with many other churches in Cambridge, including Saint John the Evangelist at the junction of Hills Road and Blinco Grove, where the curates have included Canon Angela Tilby and Bishop Stephen Sykes; Saint Paul’s on Hills Road, and Saint Andrew’s Street Baptist Church, which dates from 1821; and Holy Trinity Church, with its slogan, ‘Come to Christ, Learn to Love and Love to Learn, in Cambridge and beyond.’

I have already blogged about my strong opinions about Saint Andrew’s the Great, across the street from Christ’s College, HERE.

Cambridge Synagogue and Jewish Student Centre on Thompson’s Lane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But there are many other places of worship in Cambridge to be positive about, from the the magnificent Methodist Church next to Christ’s Pieces, to the synagogues at Ellis Court on Thompson’s Lane and on Auckland Road.

Hopefully, when the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic are over, I can organise another return visit to Cambridge, revisit these churches, visit some more for thefirst time, and even broswe through the books at David’s bookshop, in Saint Edward’s Passage.

David’s bookshop in Saint Edward’s Passage, seen from the small churchyard at Saint Edward King and Martyr (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)