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Photo by Cathie Bartlett

Freelance writer Cathie Bartlett recently spent a month in Europe, where she visited cathedrals in Germany, Sweden and England. This is the final article in her three-part series.  

From the start Guildford Cathedral was a must-see on our trip to England last December. 

For one thing, it was just 30 kilometres from where we were staying with friends Mary-Beth and Len, and for another, Mary-Beth had recently been ordained there into the clergy of the Church of England. And hearing it was consecrated a mere 50 years ago – compared to the six to eight century vintage-plus I was accustomed to for any other European cathedral I had toured – Guildford Cathedral definitely caught my interest. 

On venturing there, what struck me most was its location, its Lady Chapel and Children’s Chapel, and the intriguing works of needlecraft that add so much to the décor.  

Situated on the summit of Stag Hill, the cathedral offers the most commanding view of any I’ve seen. The city is spread all around, and the University of Surrey is below. The Earl of Onslow donated the land for the cathedral in 1931, a few years after the newly-created Diocese of Guildford decided the current cathedral church was too small and another should be built.  That was also the year after the open architectural competition for the design of a new cathedral was held, with Edward Maufe’s design chosen from 183 entries. 

In 1936 the Archbishop of Canterbury laid the foundation stone and a year later Queen Mary presided over the driving of the last concrete pile into the hill. Construction stopped with the outbreak of World War II and the structure was boarded up. 

By the time the permit was issued in 1952 the original budget of £250,000 was skewed, spurring a highly successful ‘buy a brick’ fundraising drive. Princess Margaret visited in 1955 to inaugurate the building of the nave and the Queen and Prince Philip stopped in two years later, buying and signing bricks now on display in St. Ursula’s Porch, an entryway off the south door.  

Finally the cathedral was consecrated in May 1961 with Her Majesty, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance. Even so, much remained to be done on this, the only Anglican church to be built on a new site in the southern Province of England since the Reformation. The Western Porches, the Sacristy, the Lady Chapel and the Chapter House had yet to be built, and the tower completed. It was 1966 before these projects were done. 

More development continued over the years, including the exterior statues on the West Front, completed in 2005, and the surrounding gardens. 

Over the years, the cathedral has become a beacon to residents and visitors alike, especially at night when it is beautifully floodlit, playing up the golden angel weather vane flying above the bell tower.

The view from the top of the hill Photo by Cathie Bartlett

 

Stately and dignified throughout, the cathedral is lighter and airier than most, no doubt due to the Somerset sandstone pillars and white marble floors. On the first stone pier in the nave is a carving of the Madonna and Child by Scottish sculptor John Cobbett. A brass stag set in the floor toward the front of the nave marks the centre of the cathedral and the summit of Stag Hill. Above the South Gallery the Jubilee Window depicts six scenes from the life of Christ. 

Being a keen stitcher I noticed the hand-worked kneelers as I walked down the Nave. The women of the diocese needlepointed more than 1,400 of them over seven years. 

“We had to use the same colours but we could show whatever we wanted,” Brenda Ainsley, licensed lay minister, said. 

The kneelers – no two the same – are rotated to prevent wear and tear.

“That’s one of the things I like most, finding kneelers I haven’t seen before.”   

A modern looking figure of the Madonna and Child, carved in a rare South American hardwood, adorns the Lady Chapel, a serene space located to one side of the Nave. Off to the other side is the lovely Children’s Chapel, intended as a memorial space

and also to encourage youngsters to worship. This simple, intimate room includes angels and other celestial figures at the ceiling corners, candles clustered on the windowsills and a Book of Remembrance in one back corner. A wooden cross and racks bearing cards from relatives of departed children stands at the front of the chapel – one of a very few in the country. 

En route to the Lady Chapel I came across a striking banner designed and worked by a professional embroideress named Irene Charleston in memory of her brother, Lieutenant Frederick Charleston, who died in action at Ypres in 1915. 

This beautiful labour of love featuring a descending dove with rays, two praising angels – one with a golden harp and the other with a silver trumpet – took 25 years to complete.

The cathedral receives about 3,500 visitors a month from all over the world, volunteer guide Gordon Stuart said, rolling out a map dotted with pins from the visitors’ countries of origin.

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In the fall of 2008, Mark and Joy van Marck celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary by returning to the site of their London honeymoon, followed by a 14-day Mediterranean cruise. Mark’s travel journal and Joy’s photography documented the highlights of their dream holiday. In the weeks ahead we’ll share some excerpts as the couple travels from the U.K. to Spain, Italy and Greece. If you’re considering a Mediterranean cruise, this will prove to be an excellent planning resource for you.

Chapter 3

Day Eight

Sunday, Sept. 7

Monte Carlo, Monaco

We had a light breakfast and then went to the promenade deck for a walk outside. We can see Monte Carlo in the distance and we’re expected to arrive about 11 a.m.

Monte Carlo…the highest income per capita in the world! The richest people in the world come to play here.

The harbour is filled with yachts. The Lady Moura, owned by the finance minister of Saudi Arabia, is the 16th largest yacht in the world and it’s docked next to our ship.

The tour we take climbs up the side of the mountain with a spectacular view of Monaco. We take many of the same streets as the famous Monte Carlo Grand Prix, the same road where Princess Grace was killed in the car crash. If you go off some of these roads it’s straight down for a thousand feet or more.

This has got to be the most beautiful city in the world. Lamborghinis and Ferraris are a common site. We stop at the famous Monte Carlo casino where the very wealthy come to gamble. 

That evening, back on the ship, we are treated to an incredible view of Monte Carlo at night. The lights, the harbour, the yachts. The view was worth the price of the trip!

Day Nine

Monday, Sept. 8

Livorno, Italy

We wake up and now we’re in Livorno, Italy. If Monte Carlo was the most beautiful, this dock is the ugliest. Apparently there is not room to dock the ship close to the city, so they put us in the container port. Nothing but cranes, containers, new cars ready to be shipped out or in. A real let-down but our buses are waiting for us and they take us to our first stop, Lucca. 

In the heart of the Tuscany province we passed vineyards and olive groves in a picturesque countryside. We visit ancient Lucca, with its massive walls and numerous towers. Much of this town was built over a thousand years ago.

Next we stop in Pisa and visit, of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Built in 1173, it has a spiraling staircase of 294 steps running around the cylindrical core of the tower. It started to lean because of shifting ground at its base. They have stopped the leaning and could straighten the tower but choose not to because it has become so famous.

Lots of walking and our feet and backs are sore. Once back at the ship, Joy and I head straight to the hot pool and then for the thermal lounger. Oh that feels good! 

We have dinner reservations for 7 p.m. at the Pinnacle Grill. That’s the upscale restaurant. We want to treat ourselves tonight (boy, are we spoiled!).

Day Ten

Tuesday, Sept. 9

Civitavecchia

Today we go to Rome. We dock in Civitavecchia. It’s about an hour and a half drive to Rome. Beautiful day. We arrive at St. Peter’s Basilica. When we enter into St. Peter’s Square, it’s an awesome sight. You see it so often on TV, but to see it in person is an incredible sight. You can see the balcony where the Pope would stand and lead the service where over 150,000 people can gather. The church is the largest in the world and is a monument to Christianity. It’s decorated in mosaic tiles where the craftsmen who built St. Peter’s were able to produce a large array of colours reaching as much as 28,000 variations. The Vatican Mosaic School was established for the purpose of decorating this church. Inside it’s 32 stories high!

Next we go to the coliseum. The famous arena held 50,000 spectators who came to watch horrifying “entertainment” as live unarmed people confronted lions, or re-enacted famous battles and of course, gladiators.

Most of the famous buildings are ruins today but still give a sense of what it was like in Rome about 2,000 years ago.

It’s very hot today! So it’s tiring walking around. Next we stop at the Trevi Fountain where we throw in a coin which promises that we will return.

It feels good getting back into the air-conditioned bus. We stop at a restaurant and have a nice cold salad with lasagna and a couple glasses of vino. Very enjoyable lunch.

We start back to the ship but have to turn off the main highway because of a fire along the route. It gives us a nice opportunity to go into the town of Civitavecchia. This town is a resort town where many Romans go to get out of the city and close to the ocean and beaches. We spot a helicopter scooping up water to bring to the fire!

Now back on the ship, we again head to the hot pool for a relaxing dip. We meet up with Ken, Dianne, Carol and Derek and afterwards have dinner with them. After dinner, we head up to the Crows nest for a nightcap and learn a new dice game, which was a lot of fun. 

Wow. Another great day comes to a close.

Day Eleven

Wednesday, Sept. 10

Messina, Italy

We wake up still cruising to Messina. We pass by the Stromboli Volcano, which is smoking. It’s hard to believe that there is a village right at the base of this active volcano.

We arrive in Messina about 12:30 p.m. We don’t have a tour planned for today, so we decide to walk around the town. Joy wanted to go to the shopping area, but after a half hour walk, we find out the stores are all closed between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. From what we can see, there’s not too much to see in Messina. We do find a few souvenir shops open and Joy bought a few things. 

We stopped at a sidewalk café and ordered an espresso and a tea. Another beautiful day. Very hot. It has to be about 35 C but with the humidity it feels hotter.

We head back to the ship and decide to just hang out at the pool and relax. It’s just too darn hot to walk around.

We played “win a cruise” bingo and I came so close to winning. Just one number left to be called but no cigar. Darn!

Got together with Ken and Dianne and Carol and Derek to celebrate anniversaries. Had dinner and then got together on our balcony for drinks, and played dice to the wee hours of the night. A beautiful Mediterranean night.

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