Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sunday, July 3: Revisiting Anglican Roots & Drinking Lots of Tea

We started off the day by going to the main Sunday service at Yorkminster Cathedral.  This would have been special any week of the year, but it turned out to be super-special because it was an ordination service and the Archbishop of York was there.  Lots and lots of pomp and circumstance and beautiful music and fancy robes, but also a lot of humor and celebration for the people who were being ordained.  It was a wonderful service and we enjoyed it very much.  The choir was great and the organ was unbelievable. We love our little unassuming church in Kingston, but it's fun to experience the grander side of Christian worship occasionally.

Here's David on our way to church, with Yorkminster over his shoulder:
The apartment we're staying in is over the wall to his left.

The nave (the main part of the church, where the big services take place) has been in an unusual state during our visit because of the York Mystery Plays.  This is a series of short plays depicting the entire narrative of the bible.  They started in medieval times and have been revived during the 20th century.  They were performed in Yorkminster during May and June; we arrived just too late to be able to see them but soon enough to see how the nave was transformed.  They essentially installed a stage on top of the altar and front section of seats, which expanded into raised bleachers for the back section of seats, so that the whole thing looked like a theatre or stadium with tiers of seating.

Not what you'd expect in a church, but we could see that it must have been very effective for the plays.  All this was still in place for the ordination service and while we were at first disappointed not to see things as they normally are we realised that the raised seating gave us a very good view of the service even though we were seated far back.  The service was a beautiful one and extremely well organized.  David and I estimate that there must have been at least 500 people in the congregation and we were guided to the multiple stations for Communion in an extremely organized and stress-free way.  I particularly enjoyed singing some of my favorite hymns in a group that size, led by a very well-trained choir and an incredible organ.

They requested no photography during the service, but I figured it was OK after the service was over and everyone at front had processed out, since they allow photography on the tours.  Here's what the place looked like from our high vantage point:
After the service, the lady sitting next to me pointed in back of us to a huge stained-glass window.  We were seated near the back and so we were kind of high up.  She told us that this window is called the "heart of Yorkshire" because of the heart-shaped section near the top and that it's very unusual to have such a nice close-up view of it.

After church we had "afternoon tea" for lunch:
There are some nutritious sandwiches on the bottom tier under all the sweet stuff!  And of course a big pot of tea in the back, half-hidden by the food.  I'd always wanted to have a traditional British tea and this was a big treat.

After lunch we got on the city of York's tour bus -- one of those things where you can hop on and off to see the sights.  They had a wonderful guide giving live commentary as we went around.  We rode the whole cycle, which took about an hour and I'm not sure he ever stopped to breathe!  He was very informative and interesting and at times funny.  He  was a wealth of knowledge but he wasn't just reciting memorized facts.   He clearly adjusted his speeches according to the occasion.  David and I were sitting near the front and at one point he mentioned that the mother of "the famous General Wolfe" was born at a spot we were passing and nodded and smiled at us.  We were puzzled for a minute -- wondering how we knew we were from Canada -- until we remembered that David had a maple leaf on the bag he was carrying.  (For non-Canadian readers, General James Wolfe defeated the English in the "Battle of the Plains of Abraham" near Quebec City, which basically resulted in Quebec becoming part of Canada and no longer a colony of France.)

In my post about Friday, I very carefully said that we had walked around the whole "old city" and that the old city was surrounded by a wall.  We didn't technically walk the whole wall.  The wall has gaps in it -- parts of the wall that were demolished at various times for various reasons.  At one point on Friday we got to a break in the wall and walked along the streets thinking we were headed for the next bit of wall and we only rejoined the wall much later.  When we got back to our apartment we realized we had missed a section.  Today we decided we wanted to find and walk that section so that we would have really truly walked the entire York wall.  We rode around a little of the bus route again until we found the right place and we completed our walk.

Here's are views of the wall as we approached it from a distance:

and from up close:

This time we arranged things carefully so that David's good arm would be on the side that had something to grab onto in case he slipped and we were both much more comfortable.  In the picture below it may not be clear, but there's about a 6-foot drop down to the grass on David's left:

As we got onto the wall this time I was rather surprised by the following sign:

....until I took a second look and realised that the bridge was being declared free from TOLLS, not TROLLS!  (I used to love the Billy Goats Gruff story when I was a kid, with the trolls under the bridge...)

This is Clifford's Tower, a remaining bit of William the Conquerer's stronghold in York:

This imposing building was for a long time the headquarters of the Rowntree Chocolate Factory:
Chocolate wasn't the first thing to spring to my mind when I thought of York, but we've learned that it was big business here for over a century.  Rowntree developed well-known chocolate items such as Smarties and the Kit Kat and Aero bars.  It was taken over by Nestle in 1988, which continued to use this building for a while but fairly recently moved its operation to somewhere else where labor is cheaper -- a very sort point with the population of York, apparently.  The building is being converted to apartments.  A sweet place to live?

As you climb up onto the wall you see seals like this one:

This "gate" in the wall is called Walmgate Bar and has a special distinction, which we learned about on the bus tour.  It has a section jutting out in front which is called a "barbican".  It's a sort of entry area for people trying to enter the city by that gate, the idea being that if they were enemies the guards could slam down the doors on either side of the barbican and would have them trapped and could shoot them at leisure.  We learned on the tour bus that there are only a few surviving medieval barbican gates in all of Europe and this is one of them.
I was lucky enough to shoot a picture of one of the tour buses from inside the barbican:

 The rest of these pictures are views from the wall.  York is a very pretty city!

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