Friday, August 14, 2009
Summer School trip to Lewes
Last Thursday, the Feast of the Transfiguration, the Summer School went to Lewes. There we were welcomed by the Parish Priest, Fr Richard Biggerstaff, who has been opposing the notorious local 'No Popery!' festival each 5th November with his own 'Know Popery!' campaign.
Fr Biggerstaff is currently building a new and enlarged parish hall next to his attractive historic chuch, which is dedicated to St Pancras in memory of the first church in Lewes, in Saxon times, and the Cluniac monastery which succeeded it, which had that dedication. St Pancras, an obscure Roman Martyr to many, a railway station in London to probably far more, was greatly venerated in the early Middle Ages.
Across the road from the Catholic Church is a surprisingly 'high' Anglican Church, of St Anne, a Medieval church whose Rector kindly showed us around. It contains the cell of a 13th Century Anchoress and an interesting Easter Sepulchre.
The great Abbey of St Pancras, alas, now lies under the railway line. But Lewes is a charming town, where St Richard of Chichester performed a miracle to help some poor fishermen get a good catch of fish in the river. It became a hotbed of Protestantism later, however, and as well as being the scene of the burning of 17 heretics under Mary Tudor, saw many ugly scenes between different Protestant factions, including the near-lynching of a high-church vicar during the Civil War, and a major protest against the building of the first Catholic church. I have written more about it all here.