Visiting the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at Gibraltar
I spent some quiet time admiring the architecture of this very beautiful Cathedral in August of 2001. No one else was there except a few members of the Clergy. As streams of brilliant light poured in through the remarkably shaped windows, my eyes traced the open forms of the arches high above and fell upon the manifold decorative accents located throughout the building. This particular photograph gives another view of the ornate pipe organ just above the entrance to the Cathedral, showcasing some of the magnificent detail and rich hues of the casework and pipes. The colors and shapes are magnified by rows of flags which accent the sides of the main sanctuary. One notices the memorable effects of light and shadow in a space such as this, with the high ceiling providing a natural reflection towards Heaven and an attendant call to prayer.
Visiting the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at Gibraltar
The pipe organ sits above the entrance to the Cathedral and provides a very decorative counterpoint to the magnificent walls and stately white columns. The organ case is comprised of dark wood fitted with colorful organ pipes painted in blue, turquoise and gold hues, adding immensely to the exotic charm of the interior. High above are soaring arches which catch the eye and blend smooth forms with the light-filled atmosphere provided by the large windows. There are neat blends of colors from ivory, pure white, light gray, cream and gold interwoven with the dark wood benches and a noble array of colorful flags and festive banners along the sides of the main sanctuary. I spent some time here admiring the beauty and serenity of this lovely Cathedral, thinking about the history of Gibraltar and beginning to fathom the longevity of both this building and King's Chapel just a short distance away. It was a supremely quiet day, filled with marvelous introspection and grand respect for local custom and culture.
A Visit to the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at Gibraltar
In August of 2001 I visited Gibraltar and managed to spend some time at both King's Chapel and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. The official title of the cathedral is "The Cathedral for the Church of England Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe." This magnificent structure displays the prominent influence of Moorish revival architecture, exhibiting "horseshoe arches," splendid decorative elements and very beautiful columns. Originally, King's Chapel was set aside primarily for use by the military, so it was thought prudent to erect a new house of worship for the civilian sector of the local population. Work began on the cathedral in 1825, reaching completion in 1832, with the building consecrated in 1838 and assigned cathedral status in 1842. The building sustained significant damage in April 1951 when the RFA Bedenham accidentally exploded in Gibraltar harbor. The RFA Bedenham was a Naval armament carrier which was offloading depth charges to a smaller craft when one of the depth charges ignited, causing a fire which spread and caused a violent explosion. Both King's Chapel and the Cathedral have been restored and are today in an excellent state of preservation.
A Visit to King's Chapel at Gibraltar, August 2001
I spent 30 to 45 minutes in the splendor of King's Chapel, admiring the spectacular architecture and observing all of the marvelously decorative elements in this very beautiful place of worship. One can almost feel the pulse of history which courses through these glorious surroundings, as if in one moment one may envision the many years of service provided in this remarkable space. As the building was badly damaged during the Great Siege of Gibraltar from 1779 to 1783, it is a wonder that these walls and ceilings have not only survived but also been the dedicated object of considerable renewal, preservation and restoration. During my visit here I was not disturbed by anyone and spent the entire time in quiet repose and methodical thought, glad of my opportunity to see this Chapel in person and to glean its importance in the history of Gibraltar, its people and its cultural surroundings.
A Visit to King's Chapel at Gibraltar, August 2001
In my last post I mentioned visiting King's Chapel and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at Gibraltar in August of 2001. Here is another journal entry dated Friday, 31 August, written while I was living and working in Algeciras, Spain with an international team. "The windows and ceilings were bathed in light at the Chapel and the Cathedral. Both had interestingly designed pipe organs. I prayed at the Chapel. At both Churches I was the only one there. Time for reflection and encouragement!"
History of King's Chapel
The Chapel adjoins the Governor of Gibraltar's residence, The Convent. Originally the building was part of a Franciscan friary, with the Chapel built in the 1530's. The Chapel was given to the Church of England by the British after the capture of Gibraltar in 1704. Military memorials and heraldic flags adorn the interior, with many memorials dedicated to members of the British Armed Forces. There are also tombs and memorials to past governors and their wives. The building was badly damaged during the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779-83), and also damaged more recently in April, 1951 by an accidental explosion of a ship in Gibraltar harbor. Extensive restoration has been made with new stained glass windows installed in 1952 and repairs to the remarkably decorative ceilings and walls. The Chapel is used by the Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force and is open to the public for services and visitation.
A Fascinating Connection with Lord Cardigan
In his 1953 book entitled "The Reason Why," author Cecil Woodham-Smith relates an interesting bit of history regarding Lord Cardigan, Major-General James Thomas Brudenell (1797-1868), 7th Earl of Cardigan, KCB. This officer led the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in October of 1854, during the Crimean War. Lord Cardigan commanded the Light Cavalry Brigade, under the direction of Commander-in-Chief General Lord Raglan and Cavalry Commander Lt-General Lord Lucan. Woodham-Smith writes that Lord Cardigan's second marriage took place at the Chapel when he married Miss Adeline de Horsey, relating that "...in the course of a cruise in Lord Cardigan's magnificent yacht the marriage took place in September, 1858, at the Military Chapel, Gibraltar; Mr. de Burgh was a witness." Further historical information on Lord Cardigan and the Light Brigade can be obtained through consulting Mark Adkin's book entitled "The Charge: The Real Reason Why the Light Brigade Was Lost" published in 1996, and Terry Brighton's book entitled "Hell Riders: The Truth about the Charge of the Light Brigade" published in 2004, containing many first-person accounts.
Journeys & Visions Along the Urban Landscape
Often we encounter glimpses of things which might ordinarily escape our notice. In the 1960's I frequently traveled via the Jersey Central Railroad to Newark from the station at Dunellen on my way to New York City. As you approach the more densely populated areas, one notices a more commercial, urbanized landscape and fewer pockets of picturesque trees. Yet I distinctly remember gazing dreamily northwards from the windows of the eastward-bound train as I prepared for a day in the City.
To Gauge the Map of Tracks, Trees & Hills
As you approach Plainfield, there is a point somewhere in the vicinity of Leland Avenue which affords an expansive view to the north. On one eventful train trip many years ago, I just happened to casually glance in this direction and noticed a spectacular sight which I had never seen before. Just overhead from the dense pocket of trees to the north, in the distance I could discern a beautiful building shining in the early morning sun. It was on the southern side of one of the Watchung Hills, looking like a magnificent palace, a stone castle or royal chateau. As the train crosses Terrill Road, you can still see this building quite clearly, but the image fades as you edge toward Martine Avenue, eventually dropping from sight as you approach Westfield Road. This view lasts only a brief moment on the moving train, then vanishes altogether, not to be seen again until the long homeward-bound journey.
A Vision Upon the Watchung Hills
The beautiful building within sight of the train is known as Mount Saint Mary Academy, an independent school which offers a college preparatory program for young women, 9th through 12th grade. Situated in Watchung, just north of Plainfield along Route 22, the Academy is under the direction of the Sisters of Mercy of the Mid-Atlantic. The first building to house the Academy was erected in 1908, unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1911. The new building (the present structure) was rebuilt in 1912, featuring a prominent bell tower with the inscription "Gratias Agamus Domino Deo Nostro," (We give thanks to God). Whenever I had occasion to travel via the Jersey Central, I would earnestly look northwards to see if I could spot the bell tower and the imposing facade of this magnificent building. On certain days, if the weather was overcast and grey with slight rain or fog, you might totally miss the vision upon the hill and the grounds adjacent to the Academy. If the trees seemed to grow somewhat taller, the view could be completely cut off and suspended from sight. Sometimes you really had to search the horizon or you might miss the occasion in a matter of moments.
Andante pastorale from Symphony No. 3 by Composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
There is a passage in this remarkable symphony (FS 60, Op. 27 "Sinfonia espansiva," composed in 1910-11) where two soloists enter the second movement and sing wordlessly in the "Ah" vowel, echoing one another and sounding profoundly beautiful together amidst the splendor of the orchestra. These two voices seemingly appear out of nowhere and rise to glorious heights of harmonious expression, drawing the listener in toward one of the most transcendent moments in all of Classical music. I find this music to be thrilling and resplendent in an all-encompassing manner, especially in the version offered by Dacapo with Michael Schonwandt conducting the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. In this performance, Inger Dam-Jensen sings the soprano part and Poul Elming the tenor part, recorded in cooperation with Danmarks Radio. (This recording is also available on Naxos.)
A Brief But Glorious View
The second movement of Nielsen's 3rd Symphony illustrates how a moment of divine music may inspire us in an extraordinary and long-lived manner. It is just a brief interlude in the overall structure of the Symphony, a passage which Nielsen refers to as "the purest idyll." Yet this passage reflects a visionary summit peak, a moment where voices soar wordlessly over the enchantment of the symphony orchestra. It is a reminder of the art of perspective, a vital reflection of looking upward and outward and noticing something we might have previously missed. From the train to a brief vision of the mountainside Academy, from a momentary passage in music, or from the written notes of Carl Nielsen regarding his Symphony, we may each engage "...a certain expansive happiness about being able to participate in the work of life and the day and to see activity and ability manifested on all sides around us."