We drove yesterday from Cambridge to Canterbury, where we visited the cathedral. Graduation services for the University of Kent were just concluding, but we still got a good look at the tomb of Henry IV and his wife Joan and that of the famous “Black Prince” (father of Richard II), as well as the place where the shrine of St. Thomas Beckett stood until Henry VIII ordered it destroyed in the early 1500s. This church has, of course, been an object of pilgrimage for many centuries (as reflected, among other places, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). I think the sheer fact of generation after generation of prayer and piety in a place sanctifies it, even if the theology is mistaken, and I felt a spirit of holiness there, as I have before.
My neighbor and I spent some time talking with a Methodist minister there, who, curiously, spends much of his time in the cathedral. We had a good talk about his experiences there, sitting very near to the chapel of — can it get any better than this? — St. Anselm.
We then drove to see Deal Castle, one of Henry VIII’s artillery forts, built (along with a number of other, similar, fortifications in the area) not long after he commenced the infamous “Dissolution of the Monasteries” — and probably paid for with money he’d stolen from churches, abbeys, and convents. By his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his schism from Rome, he had so enraged the Catholic powers of the Continent that he expected an imminent invasion from France.
Then it was off to Dover, to see both the great castle there, built by William the Conqueror, and the underground bunkers from which the great 1940 rescue from Dunkirk was directed. A fascinating site. We saw France from here last year, but, this year, although the day was sunny and bright, there was just a little bit too much haze — perhaps evaporation from the Channel, precisely because it’s so warm — to allow a clear view of the Continent.
We had a dinner of fish and chips in what appears to be a major hangout in Folkestone, and began thereupon the substantial drive to Heathrow. My wife and I dropped the Flacks off at an airport hotel near Heathrow for their flight home, and then proceeded to Basingstoke.
Posted from Basingstoke, England.