Canterbury Cathedral Assistant Guides Course

Jan Leeming

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL - Assistant Guides Course

Date: 12th February 2011

This week’s tutorial was on History and Architecture and took place in the Cathedral. We were divided into three groups and our tutor was Alan Bowman who was absolutely fab. He so obviously loves Canterbury Cathedral and is so enthusiastic you couldn’t fail to be enthused.

My two best subjects at school were English and History and I’ve always retained an interest in History – apparently that is one of many Capricornian traits. (Only wish I had a better head for remembering dates!)

Alan took us around the Cathedral for almost two hours and never flagged nor did my interest. Took five pages of notes – but whether I’ll understand the verbal shorthand I’ve written remains to be seen. How I wish I’d kept up my shorthand but there was no real necessity to use it over the last few decades – thank Goodness I’ve always kept up my typing – a necessity for scripts, interviews, book writing etc. (In fact I don’t know why typing isn’t taught in schools with all students using computers and the internet and still using the old two-finger method. Youngsters could learn to type in a term or two and the technique would be of use to them for the rest of their lives especially in these technological days. I bought my son a typing course when he was about fifteen but he couldn’t be bothered to learn. He’s pretty fast with two finger-typing but not nearly as fast as he could have been)

I really wouldn’t know where to start in extolling the wonders of Canterbury Cathedral. I can tell you that it is unique in the way that there are steps from the nave to the Quire, more steps up to St. Augustine’s chair and yet more steps up to the Trinity Chapel, all of which gives added dimension and grandeur. There’s a very big influence from one of the Master Builders, William of Sens (a Frenchman who sadly fell from the scaffolding and died not long afterwards) but he ensured that his apprentice, William the Englishman continued his work and what that young man achieved is truly remarkable. I’m not qualified enough to go into all this in depth but I am totally in awe of Canterbury Cathedral and hope so much that I’ll be able to ingest enough information and knowledge to be able to pass the Test at the end of our Course.

Alan also explained the significance of the Chantry in the Crypt  endowed by The Black Prince which he intended to be his burial place.  However he was held in such high esteem that his tomb is in the main Cathedral not far from where Becket's Shrine would have been.  Elizabeth 1 gave this Chantry to the Huguenots escaping from religious persecution in France and Holland and it is known as The Huguenot Chapel.

(A service is held in the there every Sunday afternoon at 3.00 pm. Because of my Huguenot ancestry I’ve attended the services there on several occasions just about coping with the service in French but a sermon in the language would, I think, defeat me. They do have many visiting preachers who deliver the sermon in English and  Father Malachy Steenson has given the sermon on two occasions. He’s a great preacher, a real life-wire with a great sense of humour  and is  just coming up to his 80th Birthday.  (If there were more folk like Father Malachy I think congregations would be bigger)  I struggle with the hymns because they are sung, I think, to the old tunes and I don’t know any of them. It’s a small and aging congregation but we all go for tea and cake afterwards which is fun – except as probably the least able French speaker, while the others natter away, I struggle. Still it doesn’t hurt to attune one’s ear to a language especially one you love.  I’m a mongrel in terms of religion in that I was christened C of E, always attended Catholic Schools and went to Methodist Sunday School because it was round the corner and I could walk there easily! – so I’m not really sure where I stand except that I do believe in a Power which we call God. I think Catholicism had the strongest influence on me because I cannot visit a Church or Cathedral without lighting candles and saying a prayer and when in Canterbury, almost always visiting  the Undercroft and lighting a candle to the Virgin Mary.)

Can’t wait for our next expedition into the History and Architecture of Canterbury Cathedral. I’ll also take a photo of the Nave sans chairs. (Apparently a decision was made to take away the chairs for the month of February to show the Nave in all it’s sweeping grandeur.)

(Note. Must try and visit the Cathedral at Sens in France and compare the two Cathedrals. Last week, Robin told us that Canterbury is very French in construction – not surprising when you look at the influence of the Frenchman, William of Sens and the wonderful uniformity of the stone work - all of it, limestone from Quarries in Caen in France which oxidises fairly rapidly and gives Canterbury that lovely warm colour.

Can’t wait for our next tutorial.

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