Albion, ancient sites, Archaeology, Art, Books, Photography, sacred sites, spirituality, symbolism, travel

Discovering Albion – day 5: Déjà Vu…

scotland trip jan 15 061Where do ladybirds go for winter? I can tell you that… they go to Aspatria. The carvings on the gateposts were full of them. I had recognised the name immediately because it is so unusual. I couldn’t quite remember why I recognised it particularly… but the fact that I had probably meant the church would be worth a quick visit. I was pretty certain I should know why I remembered it too… I knew it was something to do with St Patrick, who keeps cropping up lately and vague ghosts of memory flitted around my mind, half-seen shadows desperate to be noticed.

scotland trip jan 15 074The church is dedicated to St Kentigern… also known as St Mungo. It is told that he passed through Apspatria and preached by the Holy Well on his way into exile in Wales. Kentigern’s mother was a princess, raped by Owain mab Urien. Her father, furious, had the pregnant princess thrown from a cliff. She survived and was then put to sea in a coracle. She drifted to land at Culross where her son was born.

scotland trip jan 15 084Many old folk tales are bound up with Kentigern’s story, including the one about the fish that is found elsewhere. King Riderch accused his wife, Queen Languoreth, of being unfaithful. He threw her ring into the river secretly and demanded that she show it to him, accusing her of having given it to her paramour. Distraught the queen sought Kentigern’s help; he commanded that a fish be pulled from the river… and when it was gutted the ring was found in its belly.scotland trip jan 15 118In spite of the tales about the saint, at first glance it didn’t look at all promising… more Victorian repro than ancient stone, but if there is one thing we have learned it is that, regardless of what we are taught in the writing community, you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. We parked the car and headed for the gate… a particularly nice one too, all carved with leaves. With the sun so strong behind us our shadows traced ghosts of their own upon the walls…I couldn’t get a shot without them, though in some ways it is rather nice to have them there. One, tall and stylish… so he informs me… the other, much shorter and holding up a camera. Pretty much a typical stance.

collageAspatria means the Ash of St Patrick. It is said that when the Irish saint came here he thrust his staff of ash-wood into the ground where it took root. It is also said that a sacred spring welled from the earth… the same that now stands in the churchyard. We missed that. There are benefits to doing research first

collage2An avenue of yew trees led up to the church, though we, of course, wandered around the back… we usually do, never knowing what might be hiding in plain sight. We couldn’t have missed this, though… another Gosforth Cross! Standing there, it looked identical to the one we had seen the day before… Largely because it was. Rev. William Slater Calverley, who lived in the last half of the nineteenth century, was an antiquarian and incumbent of St Kentigern’s church. Working closely with a master mason he had the replica made, reproducing all the details. Although the Aspatria cross is only a youngster therefore, it does allow a very clear view of the carvings of the weatherbeaten cross in Gosforth.

scotland trip jan 15 101Calverley’s grave lies just a few feet away, itself topped by a Celtic cross, intricately carved and modelled on the cross at another St Mungo’s not far away at Dearham. I can’t believe how much we missed… still, we can’t see everything… but by now we were wondering just what did wait inside the church…

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