Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Shrines: St. Paul's Cathedral in London

As this timeline from the Cathedral website shows, St. Paul's has been an important part of English history since the 7th century. Christopher Wren's cathedral is the "fifth cathedral to have stood on the site since 604, and was built between 1675 and 1710, after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. This was the first cathedral to be built after the English Reformation in the sixteenth century, when Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of the Pope and the Crown took control of the Church's life", according to the website. That's a rather remarkable fact, that the Wren Cathedral was the first built after the English Reformation--almost 150 years after the dividing of England from the universal Catholic Church.

Old St Paul's was a medieval pilgrimage site because of the relics of St. Earconwald, Bishop of London in the 7th century. His relics and shrine were destroyed during the English Reformation, although there is a Chapel to St. Earconwald and St. Ethelberga (his sister), which features the third version of William Holman Hunt's Light of the World painting.

Now the shrines visited are the tombs of the Duke of Wellington, of Admiral Lord Nelson, and the great funeral effigy of John Donne.

St. Paul's is, of course, dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle and the Old Cathedral, which was destroyed during the Fire of London, once featured St. Paul's Cross, site of preaching and other public demonstrations. Reformers and Catholics preached at St. Paul's Cross during the Tudor era. The Puritans destroyed the cross and pulpit in 1643.

As a follow-up to my post earlier this week about the Occupy Wall Street/London encampment forcing the closure of St. Paul's, comes this news from The Guardian:

The canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, has resigned in protest at plans to forcibly remove protesters from its steps, saying he could not support the possibility of "violence in the name of the church".

Speculation grew in the last 24 hours that Fraser, a leading leftwing voice in the Church of England, would resign because he could not sanction the use of police or bailiffs against the hundreds of activists who have set up camp in the grounds of the cathedral in the past fortnight.

Just after 9am on Thursday, Fraser tweeted: "It is with great regret and sadness that I have handed in my notice at St Paul's Cathedral."

In a statement to the Guardian, Fraser, who was appointed canon in May 2009, confirmed his resignation, saying: "I resigned because I believe that the chapter has set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church."

He is expected to take part in a service at St Paul's on Friday afternoon, the first since the cathedral closed its doors a week ago for health and safety reasons.

Check the website if you're in London today--St. Paul's may be open after all!

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