My friend Mike drove me to Tewkesbury on a cloudy, drizzly day; what an interesting little town. And the Abbey is such a delight: a huge Romanesque tower, massive Norman columns in the nave, roofs with simple Early English vaulting, and the roof in the quire displaying gilded suns (the ‘Sun in Splendour’ was the badge of the House of York and Edward 1v had these suns set here after his victory in the Wars of the Roses). There are three chantry chapels, built so that masses could be said for the soul of the late person who had provided it. You may not want to know about the Wakeman Cenotaph which displays a decaying corpse being devoured by a worm, a frog, a mouse and a snail; the idea was to show how hollow is earthly pomp and position when the grim reality before us all is physical death. The Chapel of St Catherine and St John the Baptist has two magnificent modern windows designed and made by Tom Denny for the 900th anniversary in 2002 of the coming of the Benedictine monks to Tewksbury. Their theme is the Benedictine motto ‘Laborare est Orare’ (to work is to pray). We came upon a craftsman working on the brass eagle lectern – he was lacqeuring it, I believe.
Tewkesbury Abbey gives you a tremendous sense of the divine presence and of prayers and psalms and hymns offered up over the centuries – much as we find at St Lawrence but on a larger scale, of course.