Ekklisia Agios Niklaos, Hersonisos, Crete

IMG_0260

It was with some nervousness that I clicked “buy now” on my first ever package holiday. Would it be nice weather? Would it be a nice hotel? Would I like it and not feel claustrophobic? Turns out packages are great, particularly when you get the surprise of a cute, cute church like this close by!

So, Mystery Church, what secrets do you have to share?

Continue reading “Ekklisia Agios Niklaos, Hersonisos, Crete”

Advertisements

Church of Our Lady, Bruges, Belgium

Bruges has a surprising number of spires and towers. Surprising, if, like me, you rarely research the place you’re visiting. That way get immense surprises like this:

IMG_9464

Wandering around the streets while we decided if we wanted to go on a boat trip (we did!) we popped in to one of many churches I’d been holding back from darting into – my travelling companions are not quite as church-crazy as me. At the time I didn’t know the name of this church, or the significance of the artwork, but as the Magi are my favourite part of the Christmas story, I was just so excited to see this.

IMG_9462

The painting is by Gerard Seghers, dated 1630, and shows The Adoration of the Magi. Seghers was born in Antwerp and was a master painter by the age of only seventeen in 1608. He travelled in Italy and Spain, and in Italy he became influenced by the legacy of Caravaggio’s work. However, by the 1630s he was greatly influenced by the work of Rubens and this picture is one of the earliest productions and used the same composition that Rubens painted. It’s naturalistic and colossal. Really took my breath away.

The rest of the interior was difficult to explore as there was a charge (I’m a firm convert to PAYF) and as well as major restoration work to the interior. And my pals had certainly got ‘church fatigue’.

Highlights of our brief explore included this amazing church chest:

IMG_9458

And this beautiful textile:

 

IMG_9461

More information would be much appreciated! It’s just wonderful!

The Church of Our Lady has the second tallest brick spire in the world at 199m high and we got some great views of it around the city. The nave began to be built in 1225, and there were several further phases of construction and addition of works of art. Since the church is Roman Catholic, the decorations and treasures are in situ and it does give an amazing impression of conspicuous consumption.

 

I’ll have to return when the restoration finishes in 2018, but in the meantime it’s well worth a ten minute trip in – light a candle and be astonished!

St Anne & St Agnes, London

IMG_8994

Whenever I visit London, I always try and walk between places. I’ve never had an urge to live there, and like (even when I’m there for work) to feel like a tourist. Walking helps that. Walking between Liverpool St and the British Library, I followed part of the London Wall and then rounded a corner to this church. It was open. Beguiled, I went inside.

The church in question is St Anne & St Agnes, a former church, now a music centre. Designed by Christopher Wren, preached in by John Wesley, with fascinating stories to tell. Continue reading “St Anne & St Agnes, London”

Westminster College Chapel, Cambridge

A recent visit to Cambridge led to me staying at Westminster College. I didn’t fancy a Travelodge and Air BnB was pricey! Lucky for me though – it’s a lovely place to stay AND the added bonus of a chapel to explore.

IMG_9174.jpg 2

What a lovely apse.

Westminster College is a teaching arm of the United Reform Church. I know I’ve seen URC churches in towns across the UK, but I’d never really thought about the church as a whole. From what I understand:

Work and worship, as is typical of the Reformed way, are one.

The chapel was particularly peaceful in the evening. Founded in 1859, a public fundraising campaign in the 1890s led to the design and building of the college in 1897-99 by architect Henry Hare. (He also built Oxford Town Hall.) The land the college was built on was donated by two amazing biblical scholars Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson. Twins, they inherited a fortune, taught themselves ancient languages and biblical scholarship and journeyed to the Sinai peninsula and discovered manuscripts that altered biblical scholarship forever.

Here they are:

I feel pretty inspired by them. You can read more here.

IMG_9176

I felt Westminster was really welcoming. As a sucker for an icon, I was really pleased to see this one. Bishop Konstantin had only been appointed in 1996. I’d love to know more about his visit.

IMG_9181

The stained glass at Westminster is beautiful. It feels very pre-Raphaelite (unsurprisingly). The blue colour is the light – it’s multi-coloured when it’s not pre-Breakfast exploration. The glass itself is by Douglas Strachan and it would be well worth popping in to see. I loved this Nativity, the three wise men being the part of the story I am fondest of. They felt a bit Narnia to me!

IMG_9182

Strachan is considered the most important Scottish glazier of the twentieth century. Interested in vorticism, futurism and cubism, he had also worked as a political cartoonist. You can find several examples of his work in Aberdeen, at St Magnus Cathedral Orkney and (closest to me) East Rounton, North Yorkshire. His style is described as ‘drawing with lead’ or one that uses broad swathes of colour bordered in white. There’s a lovely set of Westminster’s glass here.

IMG_9178

The carving was just as elegant in the church. I’d love to know who the craftsman behind this was.

Touching also, were the memorial plaques in the passage leading into the church, commemorating men from the college who had died in the war. There was also a book of remembrance and a lovely community display.

I really loved my visit to a United Reform Church building. If you’re wondering about their spiritual lives, this is taken from their website:

Who is the United Reformed Church? We are a family of Christians, worshipping in the name of Jesus in about 1500 local churches from Orkney to Cornwall.

  • ‘Reformed’ means that we delight in the Bible, we do not fear change, and we try to run our churches in ways that take everyone’s insight and contribution seriously.
  • ‘United’ is an important part of our story. We started when English Presbyterians merged with English and Welsh Congregationalists in 1972. Churches of Christ joined in 1981 and Scottish Congregationalists in 2000. We still work as closely as we can with Christians of all traditions and styles.
  • And we are one ‘Church’. We aim to grow through supporting one another and taking decisions together.

All our tasks and posts are open to women as fully as to men. We are an intercultural church, where people with varied ethnic roots enrich each other’s Christian living. Our people hold a range of opinions about theology and church life.

IMG_9184

With falling numbers of congregations (not unique to the URC), Westminster College has taken some decisions to ensure the survival of the college. Recently they sold the manuscripts from the monastery of St Catherine in Sinai, that Gisbson and Lewis had collected. The money was used to fund a comprehensive restoration plan of the college. Chatting to staff this now means they can use half of the college as a B & B (where I stayed), which will hopefully then fund the continuation of the college as a theological college. Smart move, all told, more secure futures for both the manuscripts and the college itself.

If you’d like to stay there, get in touch with the phone, or book online. Pop in the chapel while you’re there.