Sunday, 4 June 2017

Photoblogging Ely, 2017

With so much grim and ominous news about, I'm going to blog about something completely different. Following on from last year's visit to Ely:

This year, a slightly better picture of the famous octagonal Lantern...

...built to replace the former central tower, which collapsed in 1322 "possibly as a result of digging foundations for the Lady Chapel." Which ties in with what Tracy, the tour guide, told us about the foundations of this enormous building being only six feet deep (about 1.8m), due to the constraints of the local geography. The Lantern was designed to avoid another collapse by being lighter (made of oak beams with lead cladding, rather than stone and designed in such a way as to transfer the weight onto the main body of the building).
You must be ten years or older to take the 170-step tour up to the lantern, so this year we get to go up.
Up close and personal with the interior of the Lantern...

And looking back at the west tower from the parapet that surrounds the Lantern.

West Tower

Ah, the memories...
"Sitting in a sunken garden,
Pinking in a sinking sun,
Thinking of a summer long ago
When one was twenty-one;
Naming all the flowers so friendly.
Shouting at the shrubs so thick.
Lo, behold lobelia –
One bite and the bishop was sick.
How nice to be in England
Now that England's here:
I stand upright in my wheelbarrow
And pretend I'm Boadicea...

The view from the Palace Green, opposite the west tower - as per last year, note the Open University graduate, gowned up for one of the OU degree ceremonies being held on the 3rd of June. The marquees and stalls on the green aren't part of the OU event, by the way, but the annual Etheldreda Craft and Food Fair, which has taken place on this spot since time immemorial (only kidding, it started in the 1990s).

Saint Etheldreda (AKA Æthelthryth, Æþelðryþe, or Audrey), was the Northumbrian queen credited with founding the first abbey church on Ely in 672AD. It was Etheldreda, via her pseudonym, Audrey, who gave us the word "tawdry":
 .tawdry (adj.)
    "no longer fresh or elegant but worn as if it were so; in cheap and ostentatious imitation of what is rich or costly," 1670s, adjective use of noun tawdry "silk necktie for women" (1610s), shortened from tawdry lace (1540s), an alteration (with adhesion of the -t- from Saint) of St. Audrey's lace, a necktie or ribbon sold at the annual fair at Ely on Oct. 17 commemorating St. Audrey (queen of Northumbria, died 679). Her association with lace necklaces is that she supposedly died of a throat tumor, which, according to Bede, she considered God's punishment for her youthful stylishness:
Online Etymology Dictionary

I'm guessing that etymologists weren't the target demographic when they launched the Etheldreda Craft and Food Fair.

But never mind Etheldreda/Audrey, the lucky Open University graduates and their friends and family were treated to a graduation speech (or commencement address, as they call them in the U S of A) from none other than Professor Mary Beard:
In a thoughtful touch, Mary Beard ditched the usual formulaic rhetoric about believing that the new graduates would now go out, change the world and follow their dreams. Not that there's anything wrong with that stuff, but she had noticed that these were Open University graduates, most of whom had already gone out into the world of work, perhaps raised a family, been carers and done all sorts of worthwhile things before gaining their degrees. I was impressed with the sensitivity of framing the day as an integrated part of a process of life-long leaning, rather than a stand-alone Year Zero, after which things are transformed utterly.

From the wonderful Mary Beard to Bloody Mary and, not far from the cathedral, a terrible beauty is born (actually, just something terrible):

Ecumenical outreach fail. "Near this place on 16th October 1555 William Wolsey, constable of Welney, Upwell and Outwell, Robert Pygot, painter from Wisbeach, were burnt at the stake for their Christian faith."

Yes, definitely just somthing terrible - if there was anything like terrible beauty coming out of those times, it came from Oxford, rather than Cambridgeshire, with Hugh Latimer's famous last words:
"Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."
It seems pretty certain that the Reformation and the horrible religious conflict that followed  was driven by the advent of printing, from vernacular Bibles to the spread of propaganda works like Foxe's Book of Martyrs, but I wonder whether the apparent steep rise in inequality from the mid-1500s also played a part in stoking the social grievances that sustained the religious conflict through to the English Civil War and Thirty Years' War.

The Cathedral was also hosting the Ely Cathedral Science Festival.

"Touch the meteorites! They are the oldest things you will ever touch." Now that's what I call hands on.

It was nice weather for ducks. But only for ducks that could find a bit of shade.
"...pinking in the sinking sun..."