Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ampleforth Abbey Church

The heart of Ampleforth Abbey is the church dedicated to Saint Lawrence. The church is small but lovely with many nice little touches.

The nave is simple. When we were there, several of the pews were marked off with surnames. We had seen some people running around in fancy dress, so I suppose a wedding was later in the day. We were there at lunch time and were able to hear monks chant the Little Hour at mid-day.


Main altar

Behind the altar is the choir area where the monks pray the Divine Office.

The choir (after the monks left)

They were chanting as we came in. It sounded quite nice though we didn't have the books and couldn't follow along. They were done quickly, allowing us some time to explore. One of our discoveries was mice all over the church. "Yikes!" you might be thinking, but they are all decorative.

That's what they mean when the say "quiet as a church mouse"

The man who produced a large portion of the furniture for the Abbey was Robert "Mouseman" Thompson.  He had a habit of adding mice to his furnishings after a conversation where he talked about being "poor as church mice."  If wikipedia is to be believed, a bunch of other Yorkshire woodworkers imitated him but used different animals, like Thomas "Gnomeman" Whittaker (1910-1991), Colin "Beaverman" Almack, Wilf "Squirrelman" Hutchinson, and the like.

The stained glass is nice and has an interesting realism to it, in that many of the images cross between adjacent windows leaving out the part of the image that would have been blocked by the wall.


East (or possibly west) facing window

They have more typical items, like a Madonna and Child statue and a fancy chair for the abbot.

Madonna and child

Tall canopy for the abbot's chair

Who was Saint Lawrence?

One of the seven deacons of Rome, he was martyred under Emperor Valerian's persecution in 258. As deacon, he took care of the material possessions of the church in Rome. When Pope Sixtus II was condemned to death, Lawrence was commanded to bring the treasures of the church before the Roman Prefect. He asked for three days to collect them. Gathering the poor, lame, widowed, and orphaned, he presented them as the treasures of the church. The infuriated prefect had a large, red-hot griddle prepared. Lawrence was bound to it. With that strange humor of the martyrs, at one point he said, "I'm done on this side, flip me over." According to Catholic Encyclopedia, the story of his martyrdom may be exaggerated, but he is a historical figure who was martyred and who had a great impact on the faith in Rome. His feast day is August 10.

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