Monday, July 7, 2014

Ely Cathedral and the Parables

One of the side (research) trips I took during my two weeks in England last month was to Ely Cathedral. 

Ely Cathedral, June 18, 2014

I must confess that in all the years I have been coming to England, I had never been to Ely Cathedral (even when I studied in nearby Cambridge). A few years ago, my sister (Nancy Gowler Johnson) discovered that the Gowlers come from the surrounding area (Warboys, Somersham, etc.), so I decided to visit the cathedral this year, especially when I heard that some of the stained glass windows were illustrations of NT parables. 

I am grateful to my dear friends, Chris and Catherine Rowland, with whom I stayed in Cambridge. They took me up to Ely to visit.

Chris and Catherine Rowland, Ely Cathedral   

Chris is The Dean Ireland's Professor for the Exegesis of Holy Scripture (The Queen's College, Oxford University). In fact, the main reason I came to the UK when I did was to be able to attend a couple of Oxford "farewell" events in Chris's honor, who is retiring soon: The Oxford New Testament Seminar on June 13 was in honor of Chris (e.g., Christine Joynes gave an excellent paper analyzing Chris's work). Also, the next day there was a surprise in store for Chris: Unbeknownst to Chris, John Ashton has edited a second Festschrift in honor of him: Revealed Wisdom: Studies in Apocalyptic in Honour of Christopher Rowland (the link will take you to the Brill page), and a surprise book launch was held at Wolfson College. Zoe Bennett and I were invited, because we co-edited the first Festschrift that was presented to Chris two years ago, in honor of his 65th birthday: Radical Christian Voices and Practice (the link will take you to the Oxford University Press page). Chris's colleagues, friends, and family (except for one son and his family) were able to celebrate the launch of this second Festschrift.  

I am also grateful to Christine Joynes, because she was able to schedule my lecture at the Centre for Reception History so that I could attend those two events. Both celebrations were wonderful tributes to an outstanding scholar and a wonderful human being.

My friendship with Chris and Catherine goes back to 1987, when I studied with Chris at Jesus College, Cambridge. So it was appropriate that I took Chris's picture in Ely Cathedral, just outside of the Chapel of Bishop Alcock at the end of the Northeast aisle. Bishop Alcock was the founder of Jesus College, Cambridge.

Dr. Chris Rowland outside Bishop Alcock's Chapel, Ely Cathedral

As you can see, the inside of the cathedral is impressive:

Ely Cathedral, The Nave

Etheldreda founded a monastery in Ely in 673, but the North and South Transepts are the oldest part of the current Cathedral (ca. 1090). The view from the Presbytery through the Choir is also impressive:


I certainly regretted not bringing my good camera on this trip. I decided to live with the photos my iPhone took:


The famous octagon was created after the Norman central tower collapsed in 1322.


Most of the stained glass windows in the cathedral are Victorian, and most of them depict scenes from the Bible. In my next post, I will discuss the stained glass windows that depict parables, such as this one not too far from Bishop Alcock's Chapel (the Northeast corner at the front of the cathedral). Hopefully you can tell which parable it depicts, but more on that next time.


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