BACK IN June when the Pope arrived in England, Charterhouse noted that Sussex was very proud to be the county in which he first set foot on English soil. Now I learn that long before he did so plans had been made to secure a unique memento of the event. As he stepped out of his aircraft and, according to the custom he has adopted in all the lands he has visited, knelt down to kiss the ground, an airport official watched closely, so as to fulfil a special task. He wanted to be able to mark the exact spot that had been kissed; and as soon as he could he did this.
Presumably he was permitted a 4-inch margin of error; for this is the size of the piece of airport concrete that has been cut out to keep in memory of the occasion. According to a spokesman of the British Airports Authority, it is to be mounted on a wooden plinth with an inscription. He said: "It has not yet been decided where it will be placed." But he thought it would probably be in the terminal building at Gatwick, the Sussex airport where the Pope landed. It might be housed in or near the chapel there. One report I read carefully noted — possibly to reassure nervous travellers — that the spot where the concrete was drilled out has been filled in.
I wonder if airports in other countries visited by the Pope have retained similar relics? I would like to think we were the first to have the idea.
Patroness of burglars
I HOPE that Gatwick security people will keep a careful lookout, because I have to admit with regret that Sussex has not always been meticulous in safeguarding relics. In this connection, I draw your attention to what ought to be the notorious case of the bones of St Lewinna, the only one of the five Sussex saints who is particularly associated with the eastern part of the county. I had intended to say something about her last week, because July 24 is the day on which she is commemorated; but in the previous Charterhouse I had mentioned the somewhat obscure English saint, Swithun, of Winchester, and I felt it to be rather too soon to produce another who is not exactly well known.
The fact is that of those Sussex people who have heard of St Lewinna, virgin and martyr, the majority will be aware, with varying degrees of chagrin, only that her bones were stolen — and by a foreigner! I know some further details, because I have been given an excellent pamphlet about her, compiled by the learned Fr Leonard Whatmore, of Hailsham, which is not very far from Seaford, where she is especially honoured, because somewhere in its neighbourhood she lived and died.
She is a very early English saint. What evidence there is about her suggests that she was martyred at some time between the years 664 and 673. It is not known by whom she was killed, but the martyrdom occurred before St Wilfred's evangelization of Sussex and, therefore, in times when it was dangerous to be a Christian in that place. What seems more certain is that she was famed for her sanctity, that her body was kept and venerated in a church dedicated to St Andrew somewhere near Seaford, and that sheets of parchment on its walls related the great deeds worked through her intercession, including cures of blind, crippled and paralysed people.
These parchments were translated for a visiting Flemish Benedictine monk named
Balger, who was so impressed that he decided the relics would be an asset to his own monastery; so he stole them, claiming Inter that-the-Saint, in a dream, had instructed him to, do so. Thus, about three centuries after her death, St Lewinna's remains were deposited by Balger in the monastery of St Winnoc, at Bergues, in Flanders. All manner of wonders were attributed to their influence.
The English do not seem entirely to have forgotten her. She was depicted in some frescoes of English martyrs and saints painted about 1580 on the walls of the English College in Rome. These were destroyed in the late 18th Century, but a book of engravings of them survived. When we hear the last of St Lewinna's relics, there were Englishmen close at hand in rather dramatic circumstances; for they have not been traced since Bergues was bombarded, and its church of St Martin largely destroyed, during the Dunkirk fighting in 1940.
back to Seaford, because Fr Whatmore says that it is only in the Catholic parish there that St. Lewinna is nowadays annually commemorated.
Antiquarians of Arundel
I MENTIONED Seaford's Catholic parish of St Thomas More a few weeks ago, when I recorded that, as an aftermath of the Pope's visit, the congregations of the Anglican churches in the town had handed the parish priest, Fr Kenneth McCarthy, a scroll expressing their appreciation and their belief that "things will never be quite the same again". They wanted to discuss ways of deepening "the relationships between our churches".
Since then, St Thomas More's Parish Council have started a first response to what Fr McCarthy called "a charming compliment" and "a call for action". It consists in the opening up of social contact between the Catholic and Anglican arishes at an individual and family level. From this, it is hoped, much may develop.
England's most romantic sight?
DURING MY small Sussex brag when the Pope was here, I noted that the dignitary who welcomed him on the Queen's behalf was the senior lay Catholic in Britain, the Duke of Norfolk. At the beginning of last week he was welcoming some visitors to Arundel Castle, who were possibly able to tell him a good many things about it that were new to him.
They were members of the international conference on Anglo-Norman studies, which was being held at Battle under the leadership of Professor R. Allen Brown, of King's College, London, and with representatives from France, West Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S.A., as well as from Britain. The conference, sponsored by East Sussex County Council, explores almost anything to do with history, art . .
each of the five years in which it has been held, it has visited one of the castles built by the Normans soon after the Conquest, and in the study of these, Professor Brown is a noted specialist.
The Arundel Castle we see today, crowning a hill with hanging woods and the old town sprawling below it, is for many people, including myself, one of the most romantic sights in all England. But what one sees is, in a sense, bogus, because it was mostly built in the 19th Century. Although the original structure was erected by the Normans not very much of this remains.
I gather that Professor Brown believes that what there is left shows the castle as a stone fortress to be a good deal older than expert opinion has hitherto maintained. No doubt he told the Duke about this; in any event, two assistants of the Castle librarian were taking copious notes from him and from one of the Catholics at the Conference, another specialist in medieval buildings, Dr Richard Gem, who used to be with the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments and is now with the Council for the Care of Churches. Another Catholic member of the Conference was Dom Frederick Hockey, O.S.B., from Quarr Abbey, in the Isle of Wight. He specialises in the doings of early Norman monastic foundations.
I think I have made a good guess about what the scholars told the Duke, but I wonder what the Duke told the scholars. I hope he may have recounted some of the historical anecdotes, Catholics and otherwise, with which Arundel abounds. Could ne perhaps have mentioned the owls? The Dukes for many years used to encourage the presence of a colony of owls in the keep, which grew from a number sent from America to the I 1th Duke who died in 1815. They were given names of important people whom the Dukes thought they resembled; and it is apparently a matter of record that a servant once interrupted the ducal breakfast to announce: "Please your Grace, Lord Thurlow's laid an egg." This was a bird which was reputed to be a hundred years old when it died in 1859.
Some architectural pundits such as Ian Nairn, co-author of the Pevsner volume on Sussex disapprove of Arundel Castle. The same experts seem equally to dislike the great Catholic church of Arundel, which is now the Cathedral of Our Lady and St Philip. Yet I have found that both also have ardent and articulate admirers. One of these was E. V. Lucas, who grew to love the church while it was still incomplete in 1904. Interestingly, he mentions as
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old Irish soldier, "humorous and bemedalled", who kept watch and ward over it. Can anybody tell me anything about this man?
To prevent this Charterhouse from being completely about Sussex — yes. I'm sorry, I promise to be more careful in future — I will go well north of Watford for my last paragraph and a final query. A woman told my wife the other day that her mother, who was from Cumberland, used to warn her away from a certain pond on the ground that it was full of "little popes". This was her name for tadpoles. Is this common usage in Cumberland? What might be its origin?