Gift # 1169: Cathedrals and Gardens

Whew!  It was a long and busy week.  I’ve been trying to rest and gather strength for the one coming up.  As I’ve enjoyed some quiet peace this weekend, I wanted to share one of the special places that we visited on our England trip – the city of Lichfield.  We had migrated up from London for our next stage in our trip – exploring the Midlands and Peak District.  This involved my first experience with the National Rail System.  I had been looking forward to all the train travel we would be doing and I loved being on the trains.  In less than 2 hours we found ourselves on the outskirts of a quaint city with a whole day of exploring to do.


Naturally our first order of business was the cathedral.  Lichfield has a beautifully impressive three-spired cathedral (the only Medieval cathedral in Europe to boast 3 spires).  It was so large that I couldn’t manage the whole thing in my viewfinder from any vantage point.

Construction on the cathedral was started in 1195 and was completed in the 1330s.  It is built of sandstone quarried at Lichfield and is heavily carved with ornate motifs, kings, queens, and saints.


The inside is stunningly beautiful.  A9E06F63-EAE8-4B53-904C-C7BA9ED65D23Although we visited a number of stunning churches I never got tired of gazing down through the center of the church and marveling at the arches and and columns and high vaulted ceilings.  They sent chills up my spine.  In this photo you can see the interior lights from the church mingling with the stained-glass tinted light filtering in through the windows and playing along the sandstone walls.  The original stained glass from the church was destroyed during the Civil War, but has been replaced with medieval stained glass from other sources.


As you enter a cathedral, you move down the nave – which is the center aisle leading to the crossing.  At the crossing, there are north and south transepts that host quiet, smaller chapels for prayers and reflection.  In this crossing area, is the lectern, which I took pictures of in every cathedral we visited.  This one at Lichfield was stunning in the way it wrapped around the sandstone columns with the ornate metal screening on the railing.


As you continue moving eastward through the cathedral, you enter the Quire, which is usually separated with a carved or decorated screen.  The Lichfield Cathedral’s screen (pictured above) dates from Victorian era when this intricate metal screen replaced the stone carved medieval screen.  I was absolutely enchanted with the Quires in all the cathedrals we visited.  They were filled with ornate metal and woodwork and there’s scarcely a square inch in these spaces that hasn’t been embellished. Along the sides of the Quire are the stalls where officials of the city would gather during services and these featured beautiful carvings and decoration as well.


Beyond the Quire lies the heart of the cathedral – the sanctuary, or high altar, where eucharist is offered.


At this point I must confess to a certain amount of envy.  The churches that I’ve attended did not emphasize architectural beauty and I’ve never had so much as a pane of stained glass, let alone sculpture in a church.  This filled my heart with inexplicable joy and awe.  My soul was fashioned to worship in such surroundings as these.   Everything in the cathedral is designed to lift the hearts and souls of the worshipers to see God in these surroundings and to tell His story of redemption.  The church was meant to be a separate and sacred place from the dirt, grime, and distress of daily life; a place where those who entered could find refuge, restore their souls, and catch a glimpse of heaven.


Cathedrals are a feast for all the senses – not just the eyes.  The music of worship is an integral part of the cathedral.  Glorious music is designed to capture the heart and lead worshipers in praise and honor of God, celebrating His mighty deeds and His faithful love.  It was a delightful experience to be able to hear the organ and choirs throughout our visits to the cathedrals.

After our wonderful time in the cathedral, we sought out a brief respite of tea and scones before exploring the rest of the city.  Several notable individuals lived here, and Lichfield was known as a city of residence for philosophers and poets.  We spent some time exploring the gardens of Erasmus Darwin.  (His home is open for tours as well, but we got there later in the afternoon and didn’t go inside).


The gardens were beautiful and in the height of blooms.  Afternoon sun drenched the area in golden light.  The gardens were arranged down a winding brick path according to the plant’s uses – cutting garden, medicinal garden, dyer’s garden, etc.  While we were there admiring the garden, we met the garden caretaker herself:


She was deeply appreciative of our admiration of the garden and only demanded many pets as admission.  She was an enthusiastic and affectionate guide who proceeded to accompany us through the garden and show us her favorite spots.  (Apparently she was also quite fond of our feet as she planted herself on them frequently and refused to move till we had petted her).  Artwork and sculpture dotted the garden and this was our guide’s favorite one (I know because she told me so).


I complimented her taste and told her it was my favorite too.  We thanked our hostess and gave her many goodbye pats as we had to start making our way to the train station.  As we left I turned back for one more look and took my favorite photo in Lichfield – the view of the Cathedral framed by Darwin’s garden.


I hope you enjoyed this peaceful stroll through Lichfield.  It was a charming English country town and I enjoyed every moment here – from cathedrals to gardens, there were ordinary miracles everywhere you looked.

Blessings to you,


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