Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Recently I was delighted to discover an influential African connection to the Cathedral, dating back centuries! Thank you to my father for sharing with me SACRED BRITAIN: A Guide to the Sites and Pilgrim Routes of England, Scotland and Wales by Martin & Nigel Palmer.

"For over fourteen hundred years God has been worshipped in this Cathedral through the prayers and praises of countless generations." This is imprinted on the evening prayer handouts at Canterbury Cathedral, serving as a reminder of the age of the place, and of all the people who have passed through it. Yesterday evening the Cathedral choir was quite, quite superb - the boys' voices in particular absolutely soaring. While the sun is setting later, it was not direct shafts coming through the windows, but a resonating glow of light through the medieval stained glass.

Among the many who have passed through, Adrian the African, comes as the greatest and most wonderful surprise to me:
In 668 the Archbishop of canterbury elect, Wighard, died while in Rome to receive his authority. The Pope, St. Vitalian, decided to appoint in his place a man who would broaden the understanding of the newly established Roman Church and assist in establishing a Catholic hierarchy in Britain. In fact he sent two men: one was St. Theodore, the other St. Adrian.

Theodore was a Greek monk born c.602 in Tarsus, in what is today central Turkey. Adrian was an African - possibly a black African - who had become abbot of the great monastery of Monte Cassino. It was to him that the Pope originally offered the archbishopric, and it was the African who recommended the Greek from Turkey. The Pope agreed, so long as Adrian went as well. Adrian was in fact to live for thirty-nine years in England until his death.

Theodore laid the foundations for a just and equitable administration of the Roman Church in England and tried to heal the wounds between the Roman and Celtic Churches. It was his brilliance that set the Church on firm foundations. St. Adrian became abbot of the monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul just outside the city walls in Canterbury. This later became St. Augustine's, and today its site is occupied by St. Augustine's College. This gentle but firm and utterly incorruptible African monk established the monastery as a place of high learning, teaching Greek and Latin as well as philosophy and ethics. So when you walk through Canterbury today and see and hear people from a wide range of religious and ethnic backgrounds you are part of one of England's great cosmopolitan cities - where once Greeks and Africans ran the show and did so in such a way that what we have today we owe in no small part to these two men. (pp.114-116)
Canterbury Cathedral is the seat of the Anglican Church worldwide, a fascinating architectural and historic UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it is falling apart. Pollution is causing the outside stone to peel off and disintegrate, and towards the end of last year a section of one of the rose windows simply fell out overnight. It is a mammoth task. They have launched a fundraising drive, should you feel inclined to dig deep into your pockets.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home