This week we presented the near-completed works in the Cathedral to an invited audience of supporters. The picture shows Chris Johns and some of our singers entertaining our guests with a rendering of popular music from Richard’s time, and with which he was almost certainly familiar.
But as well as a new look Cathedral there will be new look furnishings inside it. And on that particular evening, as well as after church the Sunday before, we also spent some time sharing some of that. We’ve put out a Press Release about our new cathedra, the most stuunning element in what is, taken altogether, a pretty stunning combination. This cathedra (‘seat of the bishop’) is designed by Francesco Draisci, and amongst other things it puts a highly visible cross at the heart of our Cathedral. Surely not a bad thing! And alongside that there will be new canons’ and choir stalls, a new altar and new liturgical furnishings for the new sanctuary.
As for the centre-piece of the reinterment, on Friday I made another trip out to Rutland to the workshop of James Elliott, who is constructing the tomb and plinth for us – this time accompanied by David Monteith, who hadn’t had the chance to visit there until now. It was a lovely day for the hour’s drive, out east from Leicester through some of then most beautiful and yet not widely known countryside of England – and also a welcome respite from the piling up of emails and phone messages, I have to say! James is m amazing character, who I think we will be keeping good contact with well beyond this project. When we got there we were able to view the stone itself, almost complete, the several pieces that will make up the plinth (no, it’s not just a solid block with a hole in them middle), and view some of the footage of the work under way which he has commissioned. We’re very much hoping we can make that available to a wider audience once the reinterment events are over, as it’s amazing viewing! We also talked through just what will be involved in bringing the tombstone into the Cathedral itself – no small matter, as you can imagine, as it weights 2.3 tonnes.
James is also working on the new altar – which will be clad in alabaster sheets. No-one has mined alabaster in England for decades – but we’re bringing a block out from underground specifically for this purpose (actually at no great cost – because the our suppliers are keen to have a further supply for their own purposes).
And the Methodists are on board too…
A fair bit has been made over the past couple of years of the perceived ‘Anglican-Catholic’ issues in regard to Richard III’s reinterment. you know wha I think of that – no need to repeat it here. But it’s been pointed out to us recently by a Methodist colleague that John Wesley was also a staunch defender of the character of Richard III. He read Horace Walpole’s “Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of Richard the Third” and commented in his journal of Sat 17th June 1769: “what an amazing monster, both in body and mind, have our historians and poets painted him!….” He goes on to list the slanders against him and says... “What a surprising thing is it, then, that all our historians should have so readily swallowed the account of that wretch who ‘killed, and also took possession of the throne’; and blundered on one after the other! Only it is to be observed, for fifty years no one could contradict that account but at the peril of his head.”
As few years later, in 1776, Wesley comments on his A Concise History of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II that it might give offence as “in many parts I am quite singular, particularly with regard to those greatly injured characters, Richard III and Mary Queen of Scots” So we have the Methodists with us as well! And they, as is well known were born in song. So perhaps we’re all learning now to sing from the same hymn-sheet?