May 06, 2003

It appears that listeners to

It appears that listeners to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 have more spiritual sense than I would have assumed if I had ever thought about it. A survey of listeners found that St George should be replaced by St Alban as the patron saint of England.

It’s not that I have anything against St George. I’m not one of the sceptics of doubting his existence. I just don’t think he has any particular connection to England. He wasn’t adopted at the patron saint until the 14th century. St George was martyred in the third century in Palestine. Worthy of veneration? Of course. English? No.

St Alban is often called the Proto-Martyr of Britain, as he is the first person recorded to have laid down his earthly life for the Faith on these shores. The first English Church historian, the Venerable Bede, tells us that he gave shelter to a Christian priest being pursued by the Roman authorities. The priest shared the Gospel with Alban and he was converted to Christ. He was subsequently martyred for refusing to say those simple words, “Caesar is Lord”. Instead he said, "I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things."

The holy martyr Alban was beheaded in the Roman town of Verulamium, which is now called St Albans. The cathedral of the eponymous diocese was built on the site of his execution.

St Alban won the vote by a large margin over St George. In third place was St Cuthbert. I’m a big fan of Cuthbert as well. He was the successor to the successor of St Aidan as bishop of Lindisfarne. I have often suggested to Mrs Holford that we name our next man-child Cuthbert, but she has so far vetoed this choice.

The BBC’s cluelessness about saints is clear. They said his “dramatic life and death caught the attention of many” noting that “he was reputed to have conversed with angels, demonstrated the power to heal, plus legend has it that when his body was dug up over a decade after burial, it hadn't composed”. This doesn’t seem particularly extraordinary for a saint. Not everyone talks with angels, but the gift of healing is, relatively speaking, fairly common and the bodies of lots of saints are found to be incorrupt much more than a decade after death.

I probably would have voted for St Aidan. After all, I think enough of him to have named my first-born for him.

Monday, May 5, 2003

I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately, what with the folks visiting and all.

Today we took a day trip to Ross-on-Wye and nearby Goodrich Castle. In all their visits to Herefordshire, my parents had never been to Ross. We visited the Ross Heritage Centre and I was impressed to learn that St Thomas Cantilupe had twice hosted Henry III at the bishop’s palace that was built there. I suppose that whichever bishop built it decided that if he had to be as far away as 15 miles from his main palace next to the cathedral, he should have a spare palace handy. I also learned that this palace had a prison for “delinquent clergy”. I’m not sure what a clergyman had to do to become delinquent, but I’m sure he tried to avoid it, as when the prison was excavated, they found shackles for chaining the prisoners to the wall.

At the Heritage Centre, I was impressed with the audio-visual presentation about the history of the area. I wasn’t impressed with the quality or technology, but rather that they mentioned our family patron, St Dyfrig and the importance of his church at Hentland and his seminary at what is now Llanfrother Farm. (At some point I hope to develop a website about St Dyfrig, but I haven’t had the chance to pull it together.)

After a bit of shopping by Mrs Holford and her mother-in-law, we ate some lunch and then made our way Goodrich.

Goodrich Castle is the only ruin in Herefordshire that is substantially preserved enough for English Heritage to charge admission. Mrs Holford and I have been there before. We decided to take my parents there because Goodrich was hosting medieval entertainment for the bank holiday. The Harlech Medieval Society goes around to various castles in England and Wales putting on displays of 13th century weapons and combat. We have seen them at other venues.

It rained part of the time we were there, and we had to take shelter in the chapel. After the rain was over, we watched mock fights. We were the second show they had done for the day (and probably the fourth over a two-day period). The ground was slippery from the rain. All in all it could have been better. Mrs Holford’s in-laws didn’t seem to enjoy it that much.

Aidan was pretty much oblivious to the whole thing, other than all the kids running everywhere. We had to keep him either in his pram or on his leash to keep him from cuddling any available child.

Posted by david at May 6, 2003 02:00 AM

My great great grandmother was Susanna Pymble and was born at Llanfrother Farm and I was aware it was St. Dyfrig's monastery and I would love you to pull a web page together - you and I agree St Alban has a much stronger case for being the patron saint of England.

A wandering Australian Margaret

Posted by: Margaret Hardwick at August 14, 2003 07:42 AM