Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Our War Zone

The Pope has visited the war-torn Central African Republic and the ubiquity of the ludicrous headline ‘The first Pope to enter an active war zone’ (which I’ve found at the BBC, in the religious press and internationally) must, I suppose, mean it was a clever ‘attention grabbing’ line from a Vatican Press Release which has initially been uncritically bought into by most reporters, although a quick search a few days later shows that most have toned this down with something like ‘in living memory’.  

My second thought was that the truth is that, from the barbarians working their way down Italy repeatedly to sack Rome in the fifth century to the Allied troops working their way up Italy to liberate Europe one and a half thousand years later, it is as often the war zone which has come to a Pope as a Pope who has gone to a war zone.  

But my present obvious thought is that he and we all live in a war zone now, not because terrorism continues to brings the consequences of war to European capital cities, but because everything from drones (many ‘driven’, as it happens, from Lincolnshire air bases) to the present on-line lobbying of MPs ahead of their vote on bombing Syria means war no longer happens elsewhere for anybody.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Thy kingdom come

One in five Moslems in this country (or rather, one in five of 1000 particular practicing and non-practicing Moslems responding on the spot to a particular set of loaded questions) agree with the statement “Western liberal society could never be compatible with Islam”.
I am as shocked as everyone else in the country by this. 

Why is the percentage so small?  How can 80% of Moslems possibly think that Western liberal society is compatible with Islam?

Are there any Christians out there at all, for that matter, who think that the consumerist, individualistic and exploitative assumptions all around us (however often unconsciously absorbed by us) could ever really be compatible with Christianity? 

Why do we bother praying “thy kingdom come” if any of us think that the Western liberal society is the standard by which we want the will of God for our lives and world to be measured?

Friday, 20 November 2015

Bell story background

I’ve done a bit of fresh work on the names related to the 1833 bell at St George’s, Bradley.

I’m glad because it made me find a 1799 land tax record for the parish which I’m sure I hadn’t seen before.  This record shows, as expected, that Sir John Nelthorpe owned most of the land, although small portions were owner by Mrs Spendlove, --- Heneage Esq and Mrs Scott.  It is their tenants who are taxed, almost all of the tax falling on two of them who must, I assume, have been the largest farmers.  John Nicholson paid £35 and Jas. Phillipson £24 but the five others paid less than £5 between them.

In passing, I notice the Heneage tenant was Nathaniel Kirk (who paid a few shillings).  I assume he was the one whose gravestone (from 1831) was posted here and who has descendants still in farmhouses in the parish today.  I also notice how the surnames largely overlap with those I already knew were the five farmers in the parish in 1841 when the earliest surviving census was taken - then William Phillipson had most land, Samuel Gooseman lived at the Manor, and there was Robert Richardson and both a John Kirk and a Thomas Kirk.

But it is the Nicholson name which stands out in 1799 as the likely father of the man at whose wedding the church bell was damaged.  I suppose it is possible that it was he who lived at the Manor at the time.  There is a gravestone of a Jane Nicholson also from 1831; she was 33 and married to John’s son George, so it might even have been their wedding that the bell was damaged (although I discover George had a number of brothers).

I’ve also easily tracked down the Samuel White of Waltham who recast the bell in 1833 and put his initials on it.  A Waltham man of that name lived 1790-1876.  He is listed as a blacksmith there in a directory entry in 1826.  He is a blacksmith in Kirkgate consistently through the census returns from 1841 to 1871.

Meanwhile, the picture illustrates something quite different, and was taken in St Michael’s on Thursday when the firm which installed the heating system nearly fifteen years ago tracked down to this point and repaired for us the underground leak which had led to system malfunctioning a couple of weeks ago. 

It is the only unpaved bit of the floor; the concrete covers a gap revealed when the 'return stalls' next to the chancel screen were removed ten years ago and was never an aesthetically good idea nor, if it damaged or has put pressure on the pipe, a good idea in any other way.  The repaving of this whole area (where other paved sections of the floor have been damaged by water ingress when the roof leaked) was already on our list of priorities. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Bells

North East Lincolnshire Council’s archivist has contacted me because he wants to go up our church towers.  

His e-mail gives me more details than I remember having before, and solves a puzzle for me about the initials on the bell at Bradley which I once photographed.

According to 'The Church Bells of Lincolnshire' from 1882, Great Coates should have three bells all recast in 1807 from bells taken from Beelsby by James Harrison of Middle Rasen who also made the bell frame (the book says it is actually a rebuild of an earlier frame as it also carries an inscription to the curate and churchwardens, 1739).

Bradley is best described by the book itself which says: "In 1553 there were here 'iii gret belles and one Sanctus bell.'  The ancient cage for these three bells still remains, but sometime prior to 1833, two bells had disappeared: the remaining bell was cracked by three men endeavouring to imitate a peal upon it with three hammers on the occasion of the wedding of a farmer named Nicholson.  It was then melted down and recast by a blacksmith of Waltham (a neighbouring village) named Samuel White, who placed upon it his own initials, and that of his dwelling place.”

Sunday, 1 November 2015

An earlier Hagia Sophia

The famous sixth century building actually replaced two earlier churches on the site.  Those bits of its immediate predecessor (which was burnt down by rioters) which have been dug up not that long ago look quite new and sharp having escaped exposure to the weather.  It would have looked much more like a classical temple and one would have walked in beneath a frieze which included the sheep, which represent the apostles.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Resurrection

The significance of this icon - which western art sees as 'the harrowing of hell' (the Lord drawing out Adam and Eve while Satan lies bound beneath) but which the eastern church sees as the primary representation of the resurrection - has been explored in this Blog before, and some of its development in western art in Florence has been explored more recently.  So discovering this fourteenth century mosaic icon of it (roughly contemporary with the Florence art) at the church which is now called Chora Museum was worth coming to Istanbul for.

We were almost equally struck by this unusual representation of the entry of the saved into heaven close by.  On the left (in darkness) they come along, led by Peter who is putting his key into the door.  The door is guarded by a six winged seraph, just as the gate to the Garden of Eden was guarded by an angel.  On the right (in the light), the good thief (carrying his cross) has got there first and gestures them foward towards Mary - it looks as if she is enthroned between two angels almost as the Queen of the garden-like Heaven which they have reached.