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Friday, August 24, 2007

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I was in Ypres (Ieper) earlier this year and took the attached
photographs, which you might like to use.



They show the interior of St Martin’s Cathedral, which, during the First World War, was razed to the ground (along with the rest of this mediaeval town) by the German artillery--as you probably know. Under the post-war reparations, the cathedral was rebuilt to the original plans, and with a lot of the original materials. It is a heart-lifting sight as you enter from the main door. (See photo No 1), but what a different story it is when you arrive at the sanctuary. There stands an incongruous and insignificant collection of furniture almost lost on a large open stage, as if awaiting the performers of a cheap drawing-room drama.

The trestle table brings to mind Nicholas Ridley (1503-1555), the Protestant Bishop of London, who, in 1550, justified the introduction of such objects in these blasphemous terms:

"The form of a table shall more move the simple from the superstitious opinions of the popish Mass unto the right use of the Lord's Supper." [Reasons why the Lord's board should be after the form of a table than of an altar]

His biography--written by a descendant--describes the effect of replacing altars with dining tables:

"The removal of altars brought home to every subject in the kingdom that the central object which had stood in the churches for over a thousand years and which they had watched with awe every Sunday since their early childhood, was condemned as idolatrous and thrown contemptuously away by the adherents of the new religion which had been forced upon them." [J. G. Ridley, Nicholas Ridley (London, 1957), pp. 218-9]

I wonder: "Why haven’t the good burgers of Ypres woken up to the fact that a new religion has been forced upon them also?"

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