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Through My Lens: Fountains Abbey Nave

Without the lay brothers who built the abbey and did all the daily chores necessary to keep body and soul together, Fountains Abbey would never have become as wealthy as it did. At the time of Dissolution, the abbey’s land holdings had increased to 500 acres, making it one of the richest religious houses in England.

Which also made Fountains Abbey awfully attractive to Henry VIII, who used the proceeds from dismantling England’s abbeys to fund his military campaigns. (More on that next week.)

For today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, I’m posting a photo of the nave of Fountains Abbey. Imagine, if you will, that the roof is still in place and the monks are singing and chanting as they process down this nave towards the Great East Window.

Through My Lens: Fountains Abbey Cellarium

For the Third Sunday of Lent, I’m posting a photo of the cellarium at Fountains Abbey. Cellarium is a fancy monasterial word for “storeroom,” and this one was located beneath the dormitory where the lay brothers slept. It was used mainly to store food.

Fountains Abbey had two orders of monks: choir brothers and lay brothers. The choir brothers did all the praying and singing, while the lay brothers did all the manual labour required to run the abbey, including stonework and metalwork, tanning hides and making shoes, brewing and baking, and herding sheep.

Through My Lens: Fountains Abbey Great East Window

Fountains Abbey was founded by 13 rebel Benedictine monks from St. Mary’s Abbey in York. They were sent packing because they wanted to live by a stricter rule than the Rule of St. Benedict that the monks in York followed.

The rebel monks were given 70 acres of land in a valley near Ripon in North Yorkshire. They decided to establish a Cistercian order, which is a French monastic order. Cistercian monks supported themselves by farming. The land near Ripon had everything the rebel monks needed: a valley setting to shelter them from the North Yorkshire weather, stone and timber for building, and plenty of water. The name of the abbey, St. Mary of Fountains, is thought to have originated from some nearby springs.

Not long after founding their abbey, the monks built a church out of stone. The Great East Window above the Chapel of Nine Altars behind the High Altar is featured in this photo, which I am posting for the Second Sunday of Lent.

Through My Lens: Fountains Abbey and the River Skell

For this year’s Lenten series, I’m going to follow up on last year’s series of photos of Mission Abbey with photos of another abbey. This time, though, we are once again back on the other side of the pond.

This year’s abbey is Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, England. It was founded in 1132 and operated as a religious house until 1539 when it was surrendered to the Crown during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII.

For the First Sunday of Lent, here is the view of Fountains Abbey when walking towards it from the west. All that is visible of the abbey is the church tower, which is reflected in the River Skell.

Fountains Abbey and the River Skell

Through My Lens: Bayeux


Heh. Why Bayeux? Why today?

Wait for it. It’s because this history geek can’t let the day go by without acknowledging the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

Yes, 1066 and all that. The Battle of Hastings is when William the Conqueror of Normandy changed the course of English history.

I haven’t been to Hastings ― yet ― and not so much as the southern coast of England. So here’s a photo of Bayeux, a Norman town in France.

What’s the link between Bayeux and the Battle of Hastings? There’s a pretty famous tapestry in Bayeux called the Bayeux Tapestry. It tells the story of the Norman conquest of England and the Battle of Hastings. I didn’t actually see the tapestry when I was in Bayeux, but I did take this photo.

Through My Lens: Float Planes

Float Planes

There was a wee bit of excitement in Vancouver today about a couple of visitors. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are in British Columbia for an eight-day visit and today was their whistle-stop tour of Vancouver.

What I find amusing about the media coverage of the Royal Tour is how every story highlights that the Royals are being flown around the province by float plane. Float planes are, to put it mildly, a way of life in coastal BC. For some communities, it’s the only way in or out.

I took this photo of the planes docked at the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre (aka Downtown Vancouver’s seaplane terminal) last summer. The Duke and Duchess arrived here from Victoria this morning ― by float plane.

Big Ben

Big Ben

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain why I’m posting this photo tonight. What I suspect is the world’s most iconic clock is, I think, the best metaphor for what Brexit will do to the United Kingdom and Europe.

There is no turning back.

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Brontë!

Haworth Moors

Not that I need a reason to travel, but I often select my travel destinations based on the books I’ve read. A setting comes alive in a way that it never can, quite, in a book. You don’t completely understand Sinclair Ross’s short story “The Painted Door” until you’ve witnessed a prairie blizzard. And I didn’t realize how much small-town Ontario influenced Robertson Davies’ fiction until I saw small-town Ontario for myself, many years after being introduced to his work.

And so it was when I saw the moors near Haworth.

Haworth Moors and Fields

Haworth in West Yorkshire is where the Brontë sisters grew up. And the moors in Yorkshire just might be the bleakest landscape in all of England. They are certainly not what you picture when you hear the words “English countryside.”

And that is why I had a new appreciation for the Brontë novels after walking the moors by Haworth. I realized that the despair Jane felt when she walked away from Thornfield Hall was mirrored by the landscape she found herself wandering through, and I understood Heathcliff’s angst and turmoil after feeling the wind blow across the moors. (Wuthering, incidentally, is a Yorkshire word for “stormy weather.”)

Haworth Crossroads

Of all the Brontë novels, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is my favourite, and today is the 200th anniversary of her birth. Which is the reason for this post.

Happy birthday, Charlotte Brontë!

And thank you.

Through My Lens: Little Cloister of Westminster Abbey

Little Cloister

This year, for Lent, I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of European cloisters.

For the First Sunday of Lent, here is a photo of the Little Cloister at Westminster Abbey in London that I took in 2007. That’s Victoria Tower behind.

Through My Lens: Jets on the Taxiway

Heathrow Jets

Eventually, and usually inevitably, the European vacation comes to an end ― and we come home.

The long journey goes much quicker if you can find something to amuse yourself with en route. Like I was here. I took this photo of jets lined up on the taxiway at London’s Heathrow Airport in March 2011.