Wholly too holy

I come to the magnificent churches ad cathedrals much as I look at works of art. I come not to glorify God, nor to revere him. I come to marvel at the works of man, to delve into history and to admire the beauty. 

Still, while I am an atheist, I am deeply interested in what draws people to spiritual practices. It was interesting to see how Catholic the Church of England services were. (I didn’t attend any but watched one in Westminster Abbey from the sidelines and read the order of services at the sites we visited.)

We visited Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Temple Church and St George’s Chspel at Windsor Castle.

Go to all four I say. The architecture of all is impressive. They all have memorials and sarcophaguses to famous people. And they all have works of beauty – stained glass, wood carvings, sculptures, brass works. 

As is our way, we spent hours at the Abbey and Cathedral and were probably in St George’s Chapel longer than any other visitor. I had to drag Mr S away from reading all the explanatory panels in the Temple Church. We were there in our first week of sightseeing. “We don’t have time to read everything in every place or we won’t see everything we want. You won’t remember it anyway.cand if you’re so interested, read up on the Internet.” Luckily by the second week, he agreed and didn’t need much reminding to move on. Just a tug on his shirt sleeve.  

Westminster Abbey

Yes, it is expensive. Mr S initially baulked at the cost. He dropped his objection once entering. We got there early but there was still a little queue but it quickly dispersed. The crowds that have an hour “to do” each site, race through the main part of the Abbey. Go to the Little Cloister garden and College garden (which are not always open) and you escape the crowds but have views from different angles. Do try to get to the Chapter House too. 

View of the Abvey from the College Garden


Little Cloister Courtyard


View from Little Cloister courtyard


We were going to have a cuppa in the Cellarium cafe but went upstairs and had the set lunch at the Terrace. So glad we did. Both for an unusual setting and for the food. Windows look out on different aspects of the Abbey; it is peaceful and quiet and the food was good value for money. Mr S had soup and mains. I had mains and desert. The soup was simply divine. Get the fish (which was very good) but not the steak (though this might just be because we are used to really tender and big steaks). The desert was OK but I so wish I’d ordered the soup. 

View from Abbey upstairs restaurant from my seat

St Paul’s

Similarly expensive. But you are not paying to see more of the same. It is so different from the Abbey, with different takes to tell on architecture and English history. 

My recommendation is to walk to the very top and admire the view of London.  You do stand on a very narrow ledge which is worn and slopes to the sides, so it is a little, dare I say it, edgy. The most freaky thing for me was, although most people don’t do the climb, it feels very crowded on the uppermost ledge as it is single file and a little worrying. I can’t compare this to the London Eye, as I didn’t go on that but the view was pretty impressive. It was a clear day and we could see for miles. Don’t forget to go down the crypt. You know Mr S and I stayed for hours, looking at everything. 

Temple Church

I had forgotten all about the popular read and movie, The Davinci Code. This church features in both apparently. I wouldn’t know about the movie. Not my style. 

Walking up the tower, I “accidentally” rang the bell. I am a very tactile person and I wanted to see if it was heavy or if they had a stopper on it. Nope! Tolled loud and clear. I was suitably embarrassed. Maybe it wasn’t me? The cord was so light. Maybe someone else had pulled it at the same time. Anyway, I’m not the only careless heathen. When we were outside someone else rang it. Or maybe the cord isn’t connected and the bell tolls the quarter hour. Anyone want to visit the church and test the cord? Dar, you visit London regularly. Take a dose of Aussie Bogan and try it. 


View from the upper gallery onto the effigies in the round


Tile work

St George’s Chapel 

You’ve paid to get into Windsor Castle, so you may as well look into the chapel. It’s funny because to me a chapel should be a smallish place of worship. Then again, everywhere in London there are churches that are as magnificent as our few cathedrals. 

This is the resting place of many a monarch. I love the beasties around the outside. There is an amazing memorial sculpture inside. Marble that looks like draped fabric. I didn’t notice the curtains at the rear of the sculpture were actually marble, until it was pointed out. It is also a very poignant memorial, with the hand of the too-early deceased young girl slipping out from the clothe draped over her. 

Oh! To have such beauty around you on a regular basis. And to have your family remembered in this way. And for so far back! We only remember a few generations. Each generation only seeming to hang onto the names up to grandparents, with stories of great-grandparents and a few, possibly erroneous, stories of family lore. 

Formal entrance to the chapel



4 thoughts on “Wholly too holy

  1. It is hard work getting Rom into a church but he would go for Knights Templar history! I am a fan of the art & architecture too, and love the idea of little hidden gardens and lunch spots.

    • Mr S is very anti-religion. Hates “hocus pocus” as he calls it. But loved the history – there’s so many memorials in all of the ones we visited and the internal architecture is something you feel as well as see. The Knights Templar info is interesting. Of course, the info presented is from their side (as all the info presented was from the perspective of the site owners). But that still makes it interesting.

  2. We didn’t have time to visit any of the London churches or cathedrals. I really regret that now, after reading your account.

    They charge money, though? Wholly holy, indeed. I guess it’s all a scale of upkeep and visitor numbers that is hard to imagine.

    I did go to 7am Mass at Sacré Coeur Basilica when we were in Paris (no cost to enter!) Montmartre has an interesting religious history dating back to the Romans and Druids. I did find it almost a little eerie though that you can rock up with a small group of strangers, on the other side of the world, speaking a foreign language…yet still know precisely what was going on, how to participate and what would come next. Such is the ritual and routine of the church. I enjoyed it but missed seeing Montmartre in full flight later on. It was almost deserted at 7am!

    • If you go to a service they don’t charge you. The maintenance and restoration of these places would cost a bomb. If you went to a service, you’d know what was happening and all the responses. Next time you can see some churches.

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