Paying Homage to John and Paul (but not George & Ringo)

Monday, October 07, 2013 Road Junkies 0 Comments


Searching for information on Westminster Abbey in a copy of The London Encyclopedia we found in the apartment, Jeanne stumbled across the fact that John Wesley, founder of Methodism, lived and founded his church in London.  Since we have a great great grandfather who is Wesley's namesake and Jeanne is an adherent of Methodism, she was very interested in visiting the Wesley site in London.  And that's where our day began.

Wesley's Chapel
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by volunteers who staff the church and Museum of Methodism located there.  After an excellent ten-minute video overview of Wesley's life and work, volunteer Amelia Harding led us on a guided tour of the church and the house built adjacent to the chapel in 1779.

As a bachelor, Wesley occupied only the first floor, opening the remainder of the house to visiting preachers.  Since he spent most of the year riding the length and breadth of England on horseback evangelizing, Wesley used the house as his London base mostly in the winter.  It is estimated that he rode more than 250,000 miles over his lifetime spreading what he believed to be God's teaching.
An advocate of physical exercise as a means to maintaining good health, Wesley purchased a chamber horse for his cold weather confinement.  It was used by sitting atop the cushions, gripping the armrests, and pulling one's self down while bending the knees, thus mimicking the motions of riding on a trotting horse.
The chamber horse
Another interesting feature of the house was a small annex added after the house was complete.  To each floor, the addition provided a compact prayer room.  Wesley went to the prayer room adjacent to his bedroom each morning when he arose at 4:00 and spent several hours studying his Bible and praying.  
Organ in Wesley's Chapel
Considered a nonconformist within the Church of England (Methodism did not become a separate religion until after Wesley's death), John Wesley struggled to obtain permission from the city of London to construct a church within the city.  When it was finally granted, Wesley's permit included so many restrictions he decided to build just outside the city limits.  Opened in 1778, the church has undergone numerous changes over its history as church organizations worldwide have been inspired to donate materials and items to its improvement.  Still an active congregation, the chapel added a display of flags during the recent Olympic games to represent the various nationalities of its members.

Bunhill Fields
Leaving the Wesley site, we walked through Bunhill Fields burial ground.  Bunhill (derived from 'bone hill') had been in use as a burial ground for more than 1,000 years when it was closed to further interments in 1854.  By this time, almost 125,000 people had been interred in its ten acres, including many famous nonconformist clergy and writers.  John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, William Blake, and Susanna Wesley (mother of John) are among the notables resting there.  After its closure to further burials, the city adopted the cemetery as an open space, building fences to protect the gravesites and adding benches, walkways and garden areas.

Near the Moorgate tube station we stopped into the local All Bar One, a contemporary glass-fronted restaurant, for a lunch that was adequate but not inspiring.  Refreshed, we took the train to St. Paul's Cathedral to visit a very different kind of church.  

Walking through the cathedral's garden on the way from the tube station, the first statue we encountered was none other than John Wesley, who was, after all, an Anglican minister even though his views didn't always conform to the mainstream.  We continued to the main entrance, paid our £14 admission fee, picked up our free iPod audio guides, and entered this spectacular edifice.  In an interesting twist, many of the more famous museums in London offer free admission while its churches charge an entry fee for visitors.  Though the Anglican church is the official church of England, it receives no state funding.  When one imagines a local congregation trying to pay operational costs as well as upkeep for these ancient buildings, it's easy to justify an admission fee.  (We were not required to pay the admission fee to attend the service at Westminster.)

Main entrance, St. Paul's Cathedral
Constructed between 1675 and 1720, this particular St. Paul's Cathedral is the third structure to bear that name in this spot on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London.  Its dome has dominated the London skyline for more than 300 years.  Like Westminster, St. Paul's has a choir school, dating back to the 9th century, which educates the 30 boys who serve in the cathedral choir along with a dozen professional adult singers. 

Cathedral interior 
The ceiling of the quire area is lavishly decorated with colored glass mosaics depicting the concept of the redemption of man.  The artist's use of jagged, irregular pieces of glass set at angles allows the mosaics to catch the available light and gives them a vibrant, sparkling appearance. 
During World War II, German forces made St. Paul's a primary target of blitz attacks, obviously intending to break the British spirit.  The church was hit several times, including one bomb which destroyed the high altar.  When the altar was replaced, an American Memorial Chapel was built behind it to commemorate the sacrifice of the 28,000 Americans who died in the defense of Britain during the war.
We had planned to make the climb up to the top of the dome but ran out of steam before we made it up the 528 steps.  Climbing the equivalent of a 30-story building is an activity better suited to the beginning of the day than the end—for three sixty-somethings anyway.
After our visit, Ken wanted to check out one of the two pubs we heard about that survived the Great Fire of London in 1666.  We passed on Nicholson's The Old Bell and walked to the nearby Ye Ole Cheshire Cheese, whose vaulted cellars, part of a 13th century monastery, had been unscathed in the fire while the parts above ground had to be rebuilt.  After enjoying a pint at the Cheese, we fell into our regular routine of stopping at the grocery store—this time the Waitrose at Westfield—for dinner supplies and having a relaxing evening meal in the apartment as we schemed and planned for tomorrow.
Ms. Magnolia's Manners Tip of the Day: 
"If they ask you to pay an admission to go into a church, don't fuss about it, honey.  They probably need the money."

Side of Wesley home, including markers for those buried there
Tour guide Amelia shows Ken and Jeanne the chapel garden.
John Bunyan's grave in Bunhill Fields
A surprising appearance by John Wesley in the gardens of St. Paul's
Stunning Corinthian detail on the portico of St. Paul's