Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Few Days in London

We had a whirlwind time in London for about 4 days, spending nights in Ealing at St. Benedict's Abbey.  My apologies for not writing for a few days, as I don't have my own computer.  Some of us (myself included) don't have cell phone service either, which for me means no timepiece.  But it all comes out in the wash.
Our first day we got settled in Ealing and went to Allen Hall, a seminary in Chelsea.  Allen Hall is built on the site of Saint Thomas More's estate.  His garden wall and a mulberry tree survive from his time and are located in one of the seminary's courtyards.  The seminary community gave us a terrific meal and tour of their house.  It was wonderful to see how similar seminarians are no matter what country they are from.  The big difference though is that the English seminarians I talked to have not ever heard of the Settlers of Catan, arguably the no. 1 boardgame at SPS, so if there was any disappointment, that was it.
The Next day (Thursday) we visited the semi-cloistered community of sisters whose house is right by the site of the Tyburn Tree, a notorious site of executions.  Hundreds of Catholics and others were hung, dismembered, drawn, and quartered on this site.  Now it is in the middle of a busy road on a traffic island and only commemorated by a plaque on the ground.
The 'tree' was actually a triangular gallows from which the condemned were hung.  The altarpiece in one of the sisters' chapels is a replica of the tree, with beautifully carved statues of martyrs.  The hanging candles represent martyrs who hung from the Tyburn Tree.  The sentences written in gold were some of the dying words of certain martyrs.  Being in this place and hearing an account of the martyrdoms from one of the sisters was moving.

The sisters are praying for the canonization of their foundress, Mother Adele Garnier.  Her tomb is in their courtyard.
Next we went to the Tower of London.  Don't let the name fool you--it's so much more than a tower!  There are probably about twenty towers in this massive fortress which was begun by William the Conqueror in about the 1080s AD.
A couple candid shots as we viewed the Tower from afar.
William the Conqueror began building the White Tower, the central citadel of the fortress.

The White Tower is surrounded by two walls and a moat.  Those walls are thick!

So many things happened here: the monarchs lived here for centuries, massive amounts of arms and armor were stored here, and noble prisoners were kept here, including Sir Thomas More.  The Anglican chaplain of the Tower brought us to the Tomb of St Thomas More under the chapel.

St. Thomas has a dignified tomb.  Another martyr, St. John Fisher, was also probably buried under the chapel but many hundreds of others were as well, and it was impossible to identify his bones with the certainty that they identified those of Saint Thomas.
We wandered through the other exhibits of the tower at our leisure after the formal tour.  Afterwards we had dinner at a nearby pub.  Goodnight, and I will continue to try to catch up on these posts!
Part of the Tower with a modern skyscraper (under construction) in the background.
The Tower Bridge.

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