St. Mary’s Church, Redcliffe

Once upon a time, before cars were around and it took three days to travel from one side to the other of modern-day Bristol, Redcliffe was its own thriving port town next to the busy city of Bristol. History notes that there was a lot of rivalry between these two cities (for age-old reasons too numerous and odd to recite here). However, in 2019 Redcliffe is just a part of Bristol, sort of a neighbourhood area marginated on the edge of the river. We’ve driven through and around the area countless times.

One building Redcliffe is famous for is St. Mary’s Church. Its spire is the tallest building in Bristol (at 90m). While we’ve driven past and admired it many times, we’ve never gone in. I was at a charity shop a few weeks ago and found this awesome ink sketch dated 1940 and picked it up. It now hangs in our front hall.

So now it was on our ‘to-do’ list of places to get to, things to explore.

We learned a lot. St. Mary’s was the church where merchant sailors would began and end their journeys, praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Redcliffe.

John Cabot came to St. Mary’s upon his return from his renowned sail to America where he discovered Newfoundland. (There’s a big main road here called Newfoundland Rd, too). He presented St Mary Redcliffe with a whale bone from his journey. It still hangs there today, 500+ years later.

The whale bone is to the right, directly above Sophie’s head.

Beside Sophie is a statue of Queen Elizabeth I, who visited St Mary’s Redcliffe and described it as “the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England”.

In 1997, five-hundred years after Cabot first set sail Eastward, a replica of his ship The Matthew sailed from Bristol on the same journey to commemorate it. The crew of the second Matthew gathered at St Mary’s Redcliffe right before they set sail to pray for a safe journey and receive blessing.

Model of The Matthew over the door of the Church

Here’s some photos of this gorgeous gothic church:

Then we stumbled upon a neat science experiment, right there in the Church, The Chaotic Pendulum.

There were a lot of notes about the building through history since it was built, about various wars and conflicts that threatened the entire structure. Most notable was the Bristol Blitz in WWII. Because Bristol was a hub for both aviation and shipping, it was a prime target for the Nazis and was the 5th most heavily bombed British city in the war. St. Mary’s Redcliffe was right on the flight path of the German Luftwaffe and suffered some minor damage.

During one large raid on Good Friday, April 11, 1941, a huge bomb hit only a block away, and a large chunk of tramline was thrown from the blast over the rooftops of nearby houses and landed in the churchyard. It’s been left there since, as a reminder of how close a call the church had and of how senseless war is.

We enjoyed touring St. Mary’s, exploring a little part of our new hometown, and are happy that we’ve now seen the building behind our lovely hallway picture.

PS- Happy Thanksgiving to all those back home in Canada celebrating this weekend! We miss you! We’re doing a roast chicken and all the trimmings this weekend, and I made Nanaimo bars for dessert and to share with the neighbours. Have a fab turkey day!!!

The oldest building Sophie has ever been in

We have been busy this week! We’ve been to our house every day, painting, cleaning, doing yard work, etc. We’ve been all over town running errands such as getting the cell phones active, looking for a car to buy (we found one this morning and put money down!), picking up school uniforms, banking, going to the homes and hardware stores to get things- – – It’s really felt endless!

Today has been the first bit of pure tourism we’ve done- and we visited the Bristol cathedral (our hotel is literally right next door to the cathedral… and we’ve only got there now, after 5 days!).

We were waiting for a service to finish to go in and talking to Sophie about the history and importance of cathedrals across Europe (and this earth, really) and why we’ll be visiting them in almost every city we visit. Then we realised that because this was her first European cathedral, that we could be certain this was the oldest building she has ever stepped foot in.

Bristol Cathedral

Bristol cathedral was consecrated in 1148. That’s old. We found tombs of knights in it from the 1200s.

Most of the stained glass was broken and blown out during the Bristol Blitz early in WWII and the stained glass windows were all re-done after the war. The interesting fact about this is that a series of them shows the at-home heroes of the war – the nurses, St.John Ambulance, Red Cross, Home Guard, etc.

The inscription in the window

So yes, we’ve been ridiculously busy and still jet-lagged (okay, I think I’m the only one still jet-lagged), but while trying to set up our life and home here, we’re still managing to find a few moments here and there to enjoy to beautiful city and country we’re in.