Wednesday, July 30, 2014


On one of the four days of the conference, Med-Ren took us all to Coventry, where we had the morning to see the city before the paper sessions and a concert in the afternoon. Coventry was deeply moving, and I wished husband had been there to share the experience. Someday we'll go back.

The official reason for our trek to Coventry was to allow all of us scholars of early music to view new-found manuscripts of the anonymous Missa Caput. We not only got to see these up close, but even touch them! (Though I didn't - too nervous of damaging them.) There's a big difference between facsimiles, even really high-quality ones in color, and the real thing.

(Note: I snagged all these photos from the friend I roomed with, with her permission. I'd left my camera with husband, because he planned several adventures in London while I was away. More on those trips of his soon!)

After seeing the manuscript - in carefully-regulated small groups we'd had to sign up for - we had a few hours before the conference resumed after lunch. For me, that meant a cup of tea and a scone with jam and clotted cream at the museum housing the manuscript, and then a visit to three neighboring churches. Coventry isn't very big, but it has so much history packed into a small space.

First we saw Coventry Cathedral, and to be honest, it was by far the most moving experience I've had on this entire trip to England. In this first photo, you can see the old cathedral on the left, and the edge of the new one on the right. Coventry Cathedral was bombed in the Blitz, and almost completely destroyed. But England and its Church are resilient, and a new cathedral was constructed just next to the old one.

The stunning tower survived, with a gift shop now in what was once the narthex:

I don't actually have the words to describe the intense emotions inspired by these empty stained-glass windows.

Here's a closer shot of the altar. Engraved on the wall behind it are the words "Father forgive." Not "Father forgive them" - for England too participated in a war of destruction. Every Friday, this bombed church celebrates a liturgy of peace and reconciliation, and even when it was first destroyed, this cathedral stood as a monument for peace. Iron nails pulled from the wreckage were shaped into crosses and sent to churches all across the globe, including churches in Berlin that had been bombed by England. I was deeply disappointed that despite being there on a Friday, our conference commitments prevented me from attending the liturgy that day.

Practically next door stands Holy Trinity, a church that was left almost unharmed in the Blitz despite its proximity to the cathedral. One of the church staff told us that the vicar had stood on the roof during the bombing in order to knock off any bombs that landed on Holy Trinity, and thus saved the church. I've no idea if this story is true! But I'm glad the church survived. Holy Trinity is really gorgeous.

Holy Trinity is most famous for this "Doom" - a fifteenth-century mural of the Last Judgment. It's well worth seeing in person, especially in conjunction with their leaflet that explains who everyone in the painting is. The church has posted a bit more about their Doom here.

And then next to Holy Trinity is the remains of the twelfth-century priory, which was closed as part of the English Reformation. It was turned into a boy's school in the 1700s, and later the school building was rebuilt in the nineteenth century. That's why part of the wall you can see in this photo has three different layers of stone. The bit we walked through is called the Priory Gardens, the part of the remains open to the public after the archaeological excavations ten and twenty years ago.

After so many beautiful buildings, returning to the conference wasn't a hardship, because the afternoon was held in the beautiful St. Mary's Guildhall, home of the Coventry Tapestry (c. 1500):

Photo credit: found here

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Every other summer, the annual Medieval/Renaissance Music Conference takes place somewhere in England. It was fantastically convenient that this summer was one of them, so I took a week off from my work at the BL in London and headed up to Birmingham, the second-largest city in England. As with the Cambridge trip, husband came along just for the first day, which was really convenient as he helped carry my suitcase from the train station to the very small and hard-to-find hotel.

A word about British hotels: they're nothing like American hotels. Many of them are former houses that have been turned into bed-and-breakfast-style hotels. This unfortunately means the rooms are more like dormitories, with terrible mattresses and bathrooms shared by the whole floor. This one was neat in that it had a sink right in the room - useful for brushing one's teeth! - but I shouldn't have expected it to provide a hair dryer or bar of soap like an American hotel. So after checking in, husband and I set off to buy these items. It was harder than we thought; we stopped at four shops (two pharmacies, an electronics store, and a home-improvement store) before finally finding a small folding travel hairdryer at a grocery store.

Husband has long had a fellow youth minister friend who has been working all over Europe. Since she's currently working just outside Birmingham, we couldn't lose the opportunity to share dinner with her. Husband was delighted to catch up with an old friend, and I was happy to meet a woman about whom I'd heard so much. We saw just a bit of downtown Birmingham on the way to the pub, called the Old Joint Stock, which has a theater inside it and serves great burgers. We very nearly got to tour Birmingham Cathedral, but arrived just as Evening Prayer was ending and the cathedral was closing.

After husband left that evening, I settled in for four days of intense musicology!

Monday, July 28, 2014

St. Bartholomew's Hospital

We've been attending church at St. Bartholomew the Great, which is near St. Paul's Cathedral but on the other side of St. Bartholomew's Hospital:

It's the oldest hospital in London, and was operated by a monastery. In the English Reformation, when monastic institutions were closed, it remained open by special dispensation from Henry VIII because it provided vital medical care for the area.

One day on the way to dinner at a pub we'd noticed and wanted to try (The Old Red Cow, which immediately became one of our favorites because they serve amazing Welsh rarebit), we walked around the hospital in the other direction than we usually do. We saw a couple of really interesting things on the way:

We particularly love the line "the Great Fire which beginning at Pudding Lane was ascribed to the sin of gluttony when not attributed to the Papists." Quite a memorial plaque! There's also an English Reformation-related memorial on the side wall of the hospital, but I didn't snap a photo so I don't remember what it was.

So I wonder how many of my readers are familiar with the more contemporary fame of St. Bartholomew's hospital?

The long-awaited third series takes place two years after Sherlock was seen hurling himself from the roof of St Bart's Hospital, London, in an apparent suicide
Photo credit: found here
 Sherlock jumped off this very building! Here's our photo to commemorate our geekery. We weren't quite clever enough to take the photo at the exact angle that Watson viewed Sherlock's fall.

The coolest bit is the phone booth just below the building (on the left in the above photo), where passers-by have left notes and mementos in support of Sherlock:

The sad ending to this little adventure is this: we happened to walk by this phone booth a few weeks later, and all the notes had been removed. :-(

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Off to Cambridge tomorrow

Now that I've collected about a month's worth of photos and stories, I figured it was time to resume posting! We've done a fair bit of traveling and touristing, but when we're just home, we've enjoyed not doing too much (which has unfortunately included posting on this blog, but I'll remedy that now!). Oh, and poor husband was dreadfully sick for a few days and home with a fever, so that wasn't fun.

Bright and early tomorrow morning, we'll catch a train to Cambridge, where I need to visit two different libraries in order to view a dissertation (Cambridge doesn't really share its dissertations, which I think is a real shame, as it doesn't really enable this scholarship to participate in larger conversations) and a sixteenth-century book (with annotations by the author!). I'll be there for two days, one day for each library just to allow for any delays or problems, or unexpectedly fascinating finds. Because the train tickets are crazy cheap - only 6 pounds each way - husband decided to come along just for the first day. He'll do the sight-seeing while I work in the library, and I very much look forward to his photos and stories. He hopes to see Ridley Hall (the theological school) and the King's College chapel, home of the choir that sings the Evensong broadcast worldwide on Christmas Eve.

So tonight, in between packing and other preparations - you wouldn't believe how many different documents I have to bring so they'll let me into the Cambridge libraries! - I'll write a few blog posts and schedule them over the next several days. Here's a sneak preview of our adventures:
  • Sherlock-related geekery
  • Birmingham
  • Coventry
  • the Royal Artillery Museum
  • a tour of the Bank of England
  • the Tour de France
  • Olympic Park
  • the Greenwich Observatory and the prime meridian
  • Nottingham
  • the V&A Museum
  • Hamley's
  • the Millennium Bridge
  • the Rose Theatre