The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Winchester, Rain or Shine

Wednesday, 16 October.
When we started out this morning, it had begun to rain. The rain continued, and even intensified, as we drove to Winchester, and by the time we reached the park-and-ride lot on the edge of the city, it was pouring. When our bus reached city center, we decided to jump into a nearby coffee shop and wait out the rain. The coffee was hot and welcome, but the rain continued. It was then we discovered that Winchester Cathedral, the one place we wanted to visit, would be closed today, indeed, closed all week, because it was the venue for a series of college graduations. And so, the day began with disappointing weather and disappointing news. We decided to walk to the cathedral nevertheless so I could at least photograph the exterior. As you can see in the below photo, faculty members, graduates and their guests were all gathered in the rain in front of the cathedral.

We made our way to the cathedral gift shop, if only to get out of the weather, bought a few trinkets, and found that we might be able to enter the cathedral at 4 p.m. if we could sneak in after the last graduation. Buoyed by this bit of good news, we noticed it was time for lunch and found the nearest pub, a locally owned place called The Old Vine. Once again Diane had the soup but I surprised her and myself by ordering a brie and bacon sandwich. Of course I allowed myself a pint of fine ale. It was all excellent, and adding to our joy, the sun had begun to poke out from behind the thinning clouds. Things were looking up. Here's a photo of the pub...

With the sun warming things up and the rain gone, we strolled around the cathedral's beautiful grounds and made our way to nearby College Street and to the house in which Jane Austen spent the last few weeks of her life. Her illness -- thought to be either Addison's Disease, some type of lymphoma, or even tuberculosis -- had progressed to the point that her family moved her from Chawton to Winchester so she could receive better medical treatment. Alas, nothing could be done and Jane died in this College Street home (see photo below) at the age of 41 on 18 July 1817.

To kill time until we could enter the cathedral we stopped by a few nearby shops, including a bookstore and print shop. The print shop owner suggested we pay a visit to a tiny church above his shop, St. Swithun-upon-Kinsgate church, which the locals claim is the smallest church in England. While in this little church I noticed a memorial to an 18th century apothecary that I found particularly moving. I've included photos of the church and the memorial below.

During our stroll we happened on a couple who live on Cape Cod, where Diane and I had our home for 25  years before we retired in 2003. As we compared notes on our trips we discovered that their best friends will be aboard the ship (Celebrity Infinity) on which Diane and I will return to the USA. We promised to look them up once we're aboard. Interesting coincidences.

We managed to enter the cathedral surreptitiously and spent a few minutes searching for Jane Austen's grave. With the help of a young college student we found it and paid our respects. Unfortunately, I have very few good photos of the interior of the cathedral. Before entering I changed lenses to take advantage of a fast, wide-angle lens. But I later discovered this lens was having trouble communicating with the camera and so most of the photos are out of focus. Ugh! Ah, well, no day is perfect.

Jane's grave is marked by a stone slab inscribed with a personal tribute describing her virtues, but with no mention of her writings. The inscriptions reads:

"In Memory of JANE AUSTEN, youngest daughter of the late Revd GEORGE AUSTEN, formerly Rector of Steventon in this County. She departed this Life on the 18th of July1817, aged 41, after a long illness supported with the patience and hopes of a Christian.

"The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections.

"Their grief is in proportion to their affection, they know their loss to be irreparable, but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER."

Here's a photo of her grave:

It was only decades later that family members added a memorial plaque on the wall of the cathedral adjacent to her grave. This second memorial pays tribute to her as an author. Below is my poor photograph of this memorial, which reads:

Jane Austen, known to many by her writings, endeared to her family by the varied charms of her Character, and ennobled by Christian Faith and Piety, was born at Steventon in the county of Hants Dec xvi mdcclxxv and buried in this Cathedral July xxiv mdcccxvii. "She opened her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness."  Prob xxxi vi xxvi

We left the cathedral, took the bus to our car, and drove back here to Chawton. For a day that began so poorly, it really turned out quite well. I'll leave you with a few more photos...

Blessings friends...

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