Sanctuary Gate

Free stock photo of antique, architecture, art


An Entrance
To Space Divine
Sanctuary Realm
Where Soul-Burdens Unload
Prayer-gate – Splendid – Release
For Those Whose Faithful Pilgrim Feet
Pass Over The Threshold – Hope Awaits
The Entry – Becomes One To Their True Home


No Rest

Why have you come and disturbed my rest?

You have no intent, in this holy place, to utter a single prayer

Yet above me you stand and gawk and stare

Of my very presence you seem fully unaware

Some have come to rub my brass – but of me no interest is shown 

Of my might in battle, or service to throne

Of voyages and holy lands seen

So, why have you come and disturbed my rest?

What have you come to see?

Arches and pillars – is that all?

What of God – and what of me?




Many of the people that visit Medieval churches and cathedrals tour these places without an awareness of the nobles, knights, and clerics over whose memorial slabs and graves they tread.


A Visit To King’s Lynn

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Lynn Minster

King’s Lynn in North Norfolk is one of the principle settlements on The Wash.  It offers maritime history, historic churches, and some interesting museums.  We have visited on several occasions, and each time we find something new to check out.

The main place of worship in this once important Medieval town is the Minster.  Lynn Minster was established as The Minster and Priory Church of St Margaret, St Mary Magdalene and all the Virgin Saints,  in 1101.  It was originally a Benedictine house and its construction was authorised by Herbert de Losinga, the first Bishop of Norwich.   It remained a monastic house until the dissolution of the monasteries.  It then became the parish church of St Margaret’s.

The present church is a wonderful collection of 12th, 13th and 18th Century features with Victorian touches. The central nave is later than the chancel or entry as it was rebuilt after the spire collapsed in a 18th Century storm.  It has is really beautiful screen and the altar area is very nice as a whole.

We found the priest welcoming, very informative and the entire visit was inspirational.

Sea Henge Reconstruction


The Lynn Museum is small, but it does serve as the home to Sea Henge.   The Henge was constructed of oak timbers in the early Bronze age for ritual purposes.  The original was constructed fifty-five small split oak trunks forming a near-circular ring (7 by 6 metres).  The museum has the original timbers of this ancient monument as well as a modern material mock up. There are scale models of the life of the builders, and loads of interpretive data on hand, as well.

The museum has the original timbers of this ancient monument as well as a modern material mock up. There are scale models of the life of the builders, and loads of interpretive data on hand.

The collection also has collections documenting Lynn’s development from its monastic origins, to its importance as a medieval port, to its modern position today. I did particularly like the miniature carousel.

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The museum is fronted by the King’s Lynn bus station, so easy to access by public transport, though parking (nearby) is a little more difficult.

Our main meal in the town was at the Market Bistro.  We had heard good things about it in the past, so gave it a try.    It was wonderful experience!

We arrived just as they were opening the doors, but we were given a warm welcome and given a choice of seats. The decoration is casual with some features that are “shabby chic” and others showing off the venue’s 17th Century charms. The walls are a deep gray, but the paintings and other features keep it from having a dull feel. The overall impression is pleasantly cordial.

The service was very attentive and professional, and the carafe of iced water and serving of sourdough bread on arrival was an excellent touch.

The menu was posted on A4 clipboards, and specials on the chalkboard. We ordered the bistro burger,  a fish pie and a side of hand cut chips.  In addition, I enjoyed some really superior olives while we waited for the mains.

The main courses came in a timely manner, and were really wonderful.  Her burger was well presented, well cooked, and juicy.   The side of chips were some of the best that I have tasted, especially served, as they were, with homemade mayonnaise.  The wholegrain mustard mash topping the fish pie was excellent as well, and the salmon was some of the best I have ever tasted. The meals were full of flavour, really good in portion size, and satisfying to the extreme.

It was a pleasure to eat there.






Little Church in the Sea

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St Cwyfan’s in the Distance

We recently visited the Island of Anglesey in North Wales, and on the Holy Island there is a small church built on an island terrace at Aberffraw. This small white building is down a long single track road, and then on a foot path along the rugged coast.  This is Cwyfan’s Church and it is a 12th Century chapel style church named in honour of the Irish saint, Kevin.

It was originally built on the end of a peninsula, but centuries of erosion have left it on a small island (Cribinau), and is surrounded by a sea wall giving it the terraced look.

We were lucky enough to arrive at low tide, and it provided a wonderful effect, and was a reminder of the faith of those prepared to worship even in these bleakest of conditions.

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Rugged Coast

There is not much there for the “tourist” apart from the feel of holiness of the site, and the wild natural beauty of the coast.  The island itself has the church, a few graves and a bench in the churchyard. There is no parking (people park on the farm lane), and no amenities.  It is nevertheless, a moving place.

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A Visit to St Andrew’s Street, Cambridge

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St Andrew’s Street Baptist

St Andrew’s Street runs from the end of Regent’s Street into the city centre with Christ’s College on one end, and Emmanuel on the other.  It has a mall (shopping arcade) entrance along its route, and several nice eateries.

I recently had the opportunity to use St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church as a venue to teach my students about church architecture, and the symbolism of church decoration and furnishings.  I really like this meeting place as it has a fair share of quirks as well as being a great model of a evangelical Protestant church building.


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Sunday School


The Baptist Church’s lay out is interesting as it has incorporated old passage and alley ways into the present complex.  The church provides a wing in what was a Victorian Sunday School and it has a cafe and meeting area in a converted passage way.

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The Baptist congregation dates to the end of the 17th Century, and the building has expanded from the conversion of secular buildings, to the present structure which has had periodic expansions, and remodeling over the centuries. The present interior space of the chapel is Edwardian, and has some really wonderful features, especially in the Alpine style of its ceiling and upper gallery.

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Ceiling Detail

Christian iconography is evident but not in typical ways. The only initially evident cross is on the right hand gallery as one faces the pulpit. Yet is you examine the 21st century two-tone seating, you will find that the colour pattern of the chair upholstery forms a second cross as seen from the pulpit.  Examining the windows and carving of the older woodwork reveals a large number of triangles and other Trinity symbols, however.

The stained glass at the front of the chapel area is interesting as it does not depict scenes from the scriptures or of saints.  It instead shows characters and scenes from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The Celestial City adorns the top of the window, and Christian, Faithful, and Valiant for Truth feature in the panels.

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Pilgrim’s Progress

The older wooden pews have interesting bracket and tray fixtures which are often misunderstood.  They are simply umbrella stands for the worshipers and are practical considerations not ecclesiastical ones. In a similar vein, there are a number of ornate metal boxes along the walls.  These too a thought by many to be “suggestion” or prayer request boxes, but they are actually remnants of the Victorian heating system.

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The Livingstone’s Cafe in the church. I had a coffee and later a meal here while visiting the venue. The cafe which is built alongside the church building is in a covered area in what seems to have once been an alley leading to the Victorian Sunday School annex. The area is modern and clean, and the history is clearly visible as you can see not only the flint cobbled walls of the church, but also the red stone entry of the 1880s Sunday School.  The staff are largely volunteers but are attentive, if not a little busy with a fair volume of regulars and passing trade. Orders are taken at the table and payment made at the till (no card payments by the way).  The coffee is of good quality and at a fair price. I also had a good sized jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw. This was served with a small salad (cucumber, tomato, cress and iceberg lettuce. The coleslaw was good and still had a fresh cabbage flavour. The carrot cake I had was very nicely made, but rather high priced (as opposed to a very reasonable price for the meals and coffee). There is a small play area for children, and a disabled/play area toilet convenient to the dining area, as well as other conveniences further into the complex. For those interested in such things, there are several features that show a true social concern. There are also anti-poverty goods available and a friendly attitude shown to regulars, visitors, and passing students as well.

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Livingstone’s Cafe


Not far away is another lunch spot, the St Andrews Street Wagamama. The restaurant is upstairs, but there is a lift for those with mobility issues or with pushchairs. The tables are bench style with fixed stools, and the decor is rather plain, but the food is tasty and served fairly quickly. We had shiitake donburi which was in very big portions, and this was complemented by the infused oil, and choice of soy sauces on the table. Green tea is served for free with the meal, and all in all it was a tasty affordable lunch.


For a more Latin feel there is also a Nando’s outlet nearby.  The restaurant is convenient to the city centre and the Portuguese flavour does come through in the atmosphere, even if it is a chain restaurant. The decor is bright, Latin music is in the background, and the feel as a whole is positive. The staff were friendly, and very helpful; taking time to explain the menu and ordering process. While this is a order at the counter, served at the table system, the amount of time spent explaining the system to newcomers might as well allow for table service – but this is not to detract from the quality of the service that was received.  On a previous visit, I had a portabella mushroom wrap with a medium spice marinade with a couple of sides. All were well prepared, and the portions were good value for money.

Other Foodie stops include the Castle Bar, which has a really good ice cream kiosk on the sidewalk during the summer months, and the Regal which is a Wetherspoon pub. I have eaten at the Regal on a couple of occasions. The first was for a breakfast (before visiting the church in a previous year), I found the offerings, and quality quite good. The restaurant/pub is large, yet a comfortable, and welcoming place to visit. The ordering system is the pay at bar, served at table type, but the staff were very efficient and helpful.  I had eggs royale, which was nicely prepared and the salmon very nicely complimented by the hollandaise sauce. The coffee was a bit basic, but not bad. On my recent visit, my wife and I had lunch there, and there are some very good Friday Fish deals.

If churches and colleges aren’t your thing there is always the Grand Arcade. I am not one for malls and shopping precincts, but the Grand Arcade is a well maintained, attractive centre. I was there to use the Apple Store, but found the other shops interesting as well, and the Costa Coffee hidden away under the escalators provided a nice place to wait while significant others are doing their thing.

While a little off the beaten track of King’s College, Senate House, and the Queen’s College Bridge, St Andrew’s Street has a lot to offer, and it is worth checking out if visiting the home of greatest university in the world.

A Visit to Vilnius, Lithuania (Day 1): The City

Vilnius Cathedral (detail)

Cathedral Detail

I made a short visit to Vilnius in part to see the Baltic states, and in part to further my research and knowledge of the Holocaust.  I found this to be a beautiful city, with good food and quick easy transport.

My base of operation was Hotel Runmis in a double room, booked for a single person. The hotel from the outside looks modern, and inside is a bit basic, but is very much what can be expected of economy accommodation.

The hotel is about 400 meters from the main rail station via a foot bridge over the tracks. In this regard it is convenient if able-bodied, but requires negotiating multiple stairs if disabled (so taxi or other transport might be needed).

There seemed at first to be a slight musty smell to the room, but this soon passed, and was not noticed again on any returns to the room. The furniture seemed very much Scandinavian flat pack, but the room was comfortable. The room was clean, and the shower good. The bathroom tap water was very cloudy, but cleared if let to set. There was however a water cooler in the reception area. The sleep quality was good, and the mattress firm.  The staff’s English is very limited, but they tried to be helpful.

My exploring was via the Vilnius Tour Bus on day one, and by rail and taxi on day two.  Both were affordable and easy to use. The bus route began in front of the cathedral and took in many of the city’s splendid churches.

The image of the Iron Wolf was found throughout the city. It is the symbol of the city, and is based on a legend about the founding of Vilnius. The Grand Duke of Lithuania, Gediminas was hunting in holy woods in the Valley of Sventaragis in the year 1323. He had a dream in which he saw an iron wolf on the mountaintop. This lone wolf of iron howled as loudly as hundreds of wolves in unison. Confused by the dream, the Grand Duke sought an interpretation.  A wise priest told him, “the Iron Wolf signifies a large and mighty city. The city will stand as strong as iron and its walls will protect the land from its enemies. The howling means a clamor will arise from it reaching far beyond the country’s borders and proclaiming through long centuries the glory of Lithuania.”

Iron Wolf of Vilnius

Iron Wolf

Ausros Gates (Gates of Dawn) are a must see if in Vilnius.  These former defensive city gates are beautiful, and packed with religious significance.  The icon of Our Lady of the Gates of Dawn is at the chapel there.

I ate a few of my meals at Gusto Blynine. I happened onto this place in my wanderings, and found it a great place for a bite and a bit of a break. The food is tasty and the selection of fillings was good. Yes, the menu is primarily pancakes, but there are also main courses, “beer snacks,” and other options. On my first stop in, I had a stewed salmon pancake and a cup of coffee (served with a biscuit by the way). The food was well prepared and the service good so I returned for dinner that night and breakfast the following day (Potato pancake with herring and omelette with strewed carrot and peppers respectively.  The atmosphere is pleasant, though very “family restaurant” in its feel.

Day two was the research day.  But that is a different post.


Gusto Blynine link

Vilnius Tour link