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It was a great day at Wells; and the occasion was one which called for prayer and meditation. The installation of a Bishop is certainly no light or trifling matter. Long before the choir doors were open, the nave was almost filled with people, but most seemed to forget that they were in the presence of GOD, and that He dwelleth in His holy Temple.
The service was of the usual Cathedral cast, with the exception of the Priest's part, which was read. If any doubt the superiority of intonation over reading, to fill a large building, we wish they had been at Wells on this occasion, as we did not hear one word of the prayers.
We (my party and myself) proceeded from Wells, to examine the glorious ruins of Glastonbury, magnificent still in its desolation. Far different were our feelings as we gazed in wondering awe at the fine remains. Though the rain was falling, we felt as if there we could have chanted our solemn Litany, and sung some of those olden strains which in other days resounded within those walls. A holy stillness pervaded the spot, and Wordsworth again came to my mind, as I thought of past and pre sent.
"Monastic domes! following my downward way,
Your spirit let me freely drink, and live,"
The rich specimens of architecture that still remain, are too well known to require any detail here. The his tory of its foundation is given at large by various monkish writers. They say that S. Philip, thirty-one years after CHRIST, sent over Joseph of Arimathea, (a chapel
dedicated to whom in part yet remains,1) at the head of eleven others, to evangelize Britain; and that, on their arrival, Arviragus, although he had not been converted to the faith, gave them 1400 acres of land, whereon to build a church. The death of Joseph and his companions, was followed by a decline in religion. About 166, however, King Lucius applied to Eleutherius, Bishop of Rome, to send over some missionaries. Phaganus and Diruvianus were subsequently despatched and, converting many, settled here with twelve of their disciples.
To trace the subsequent history of this institution, to its rise and fall, would require more than one number of the little "Mag." I must, therefore, content myself (though somewhat unwillingly) with saying, that it grew to be one of the richest Abbeys in England, standing in a close of about forty acres, and was dissolved by Henry VIII. Richard Whiting was the last abbat. The account of him given in Stevens's History of Abbeys, though somewhat long, may yet interest our readers :
"Whiting was Abbat of this monastery: a man both venerable for his age, which was almost decrepit, and really wonderful for the moderation of his religious life, which he had preserved amid the greatest plenty of temporal blessings. For this England had still retained, that, though the monasteries were extraordinarily wealthy, they should not be governed by any but monks. All the religious men also lived in community; were more assiduous in the Choir; and very rarely went abroad without the enclosure of their monasteries. Whiting, therefore,
1 Dr. Stukely says, "The present work is about the third building upon the same spot. It is 44 paces long, 36 wide without. It is so entire that we could well enough draw the whole structure. The roof is chiefly wanting. Two little turrets are at the corner of the west end, and two more at the interval of four windows from thence: which seems to indicate the space of ground the present chapel was built on; the rest beneath, and the church, was a sort of ante-chapel. Here was a capacious receptacle for the dead. They have taken up many leaden coffins, and melted them into cisterns. The roof
of the chapel was finely arched, with rib-work of stone. The sides of the walls are full of small pillars of Suffolk marble, as likewise the whole church: which was a way of ornamenting in those days. They are mostly beaten down. Between them, the walls are painted with pictures of saints, as is still easily seen.'
being Abbat, had an entire and enclosed monastery of about a hundred religious men; but according to the custom of Abbats, he maintained three hundred domestics in separate houses and places adjoining, and among them many gentlemen's sons. Besides he kept many at their studies in the Universities. He practised hospitality to all travellers passing by, upon any account whatsoever, insomuch that he sometimes entertained five hundred horsemen. On Wednesdays and Fridays, he distributed bountiful and fixed alms on the poor resorting from all the villages round about. And this was the custom of almost all the other monasteries and richer Abbots in England. The King's officers who went about to the monasteries having, therefore, acquainted Henry VIII. that Whiting could not be prevailed on to sign the instrument proposed by his Majesty, they were directed to bring him immediately to London, without hindering him to take a long and decent retinue, suitable to his dignity, but to take care that he should dispose of nothing that belonged to the monastery; and lastly, that a certain knight who was the chief of his family, and whom the King's officers had already corrupted, should come with him, as it were to assist him on his journey, but in reality, as a keeper and spy.
When he was come to London, the King's counsellors did not think fit to say much to him, when they understood from his steward he was positively resolved never to subscribe that instrument: but the King would not seem to exact it from any man by force. Having searched Whiting's cabinets, the King had found a little book written against the divorce, brought in without Whiting's knowledge, by them that searched, which he thought a sufficient pretence to put him to death. Having, therefore, received a slight check, and being stripped of part of his retinue (for he came with about: 150 horse,) he was dismissed from London, to receive the King's pleasure at home. But when he arrived at the city of Wells, which is five miles from Glastonbury, he was informed that there was an assembly of the gentry, and he summoned to it. He went immediately, and, entering the court, was going to take his place among the prime of them, when the crier called him to
the bar, and bid him answer to the crimes of high treason laid to his charge. The old man wondered-looked about him, and asked his steward what the meaning of it might be. He, as he had been instructed, bid him be of good heart, whispering him that this was all done to fright him. Soon after, Whiting was condemned, and sent away to Glastonbury, yet never imagining that his end was so near. When he came near the walls of the monastery, a Priest was presented to him to hear his confession in the horse-litter that carried him: for they assured him he must die that very hour.
“The old man, with tears, begged he might have a day or two allowed him to prepare for death; or at least that going into the monastery, he might recommend himself to his monks, and take his leave: but neither was granted; for, being turned out of the horse-litter, and laid upon a hurdle, he was dragged along the ground to the top of a high hill which overlooks the monastery, where he was hanged in his monk's habit, and quartered, on the day above mentioned.
"The shepherd being slain, the sheep were easily dispersed; nor were there many religious men found after the death of these three Abbats, to oppose the King's tyranny. Henry, therefore, like a conqueror, invaded, threw down, plundered, and demolished all; but the pos sessions and revenues of the monasteries he, for the most part, distributed among the nobility, that they might never after be reclaimed or restored to the Church."
This was the destruction of an institution which had felt the fostering care of Ina, Edward, Edgar, and other kings, and reared within its walls Gildas the historian. Of other parts of the remains, the Abbat's kitchen is the most perfect; whilst the ancient well in Joseph's chapel, may claim more than passing notice.
And here, for the present, I must break off; reserving until next month an account of the remainder of my trip. Faithfully yours, W. B. F.
The Editor's Desk.
As our readers know, we take especial pleasure in chronicling those several celebrations that speak of the advancement of the Church, and show how she is gaining power and influence upon the people. The glorious celebration at Frome on S. John Baptist's day is noticed elsewhere. We have now to mention two of less pretensions, but which we are glad to record. The first is a village feast on S. Peter's day, at Witham, Essex, which is a most cheering sign of progress in a parish where much has been done during the last few years. On the vigil of S. Peter, an unusually large congregation met in the chapel of All Saints, when a sermon was preached by the assistant curate. Early on the following morning, long ere matins, which were said at the Parish Church of S. Nicolas at half-past seven, there were sounds and signs indicative of the coming festivity. The school rooms were decorated with evergreens, and emblematical floral devices adorned the exterior of the Church and schools. Over the principal entrance to the latter, a large white cross was reared, and the letters V.R. were conspicuous. The children, numbering more than three hundred, met at the schools, and went in procession to the adjoining chapel of All Saints, when the ante-communion service was read by the curates, Revs. A. Stone and W. Sankey, and a sermon preached by the Rev. J. Bramston, vicar. Immediately after service, dinner was provided for the children in the school rooms, where they made a most substantial meal, being waited upon by the gentry and tradespeople of the town, who seemed to enjoy their share as fully as the happy-looking children. As soon as dinner was over, the schools formed into procession, preceded by a banner, bearing the symbol of the cross, and accompanied by a band. Having made the round of the town, they dispersed in the vicarage grounds, for games and distribution of prizes, at which were present as spectators the greater part of the parish, high and low, rich and poor. These games were kept up with