Photos from two pilgrimages from Calgary to Ely, in 2009 and 2015, to mark today’s feast of St Etheldreda, otherwise known as St Audrey.
‘Ely: it is a dull man who is not thrilled by his first sight, from rail or road, of this unexpected “isle” which rises out of the flat Fenlands like a tall ship riding calm seas. It is blown upon by winds of wine-like quality, encircled by the high dome of the East Anglian sky, broader and more luminous than the skies of other parts. The excitement which stirs the traveller on his first visit does not fade, but ever afterwards quickens his pulse when he remembers Ely, as do similar heights of the English landscape, age-old, crowned with ancient churches with a wealth of history, often prehistoric; Glastonbury, Lincoln, Durham, Ludlow.
…In the seventh century England was a land of small warring kingdoms whose chiefs, whether pagan of Christian, lived in constant warfare with each other. In the mid-century the King of East Anglia was Anna, a devout Christian who brought up his family most religiously. One of his daughters was Etheldreda, of great beauty, given early in marriage to a chief of the wide Fens, who died soon after, settling upon her the Isle of Ely.
…[Etheldreda] is the brightest of a constellation of royal and related ladies of the Saxon race, who left their noble homes for the simplicity and devotion of monasteries, where they reveal remarkable powers of government and a genius for organisation and for pioneering in the ways of spirituality: so that in venerating her we can, in one mental sweep, give thanks for all these strenuous women who consented to follow God in the most challenging and startling way of the three vows, and by this single-hearted fervour presented the newly-learnt faith in the boldest and plainest manner. Those years were the golden age of our national saints’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
Fr Lee Kenyon