Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In Search of an Angel

On my recent visit to England I went to Lichfield Cathedral in search of a very special angel ...  a limestone carving of Gabriel. If you wonder what connection this has with gardening, you may remember I made David Austine's rose 'Lichfield Angel' the focal point of my new rose garden.

I chose this particular rose for it's name which brings back happy memories. I attended high school in this beautiful city ...  Lichfield Friary High School for Girls  (that's right, there were no boys).  And my maternal grandmother was born in Lichfield. I have loved Lichfield Cathedral since during my high school years we frequently went there to worship. Back then the limestone angel was not to be seen. It was broken and buried for centuries - until, during excavation work in 2003, three pieces forming the 'Lichfield Angel' were found under the cathedral floor.

The city of Lichfield is dominated by the medieval Cathedral's three spires. (There is only one other cathedral with three spires. It is in France.)  The day I visited was cold but dry. I did not enter immediately, but stood admiring the extravagant statues and carvings on the outside walls. There are over one hundred life-size statues on the west front alone.

The elaborately decorated west front.
I was able to pick out the Saxon king, Wulfrun, who ruled Mercia before England was called England. I know him because I belonged to Wulfrun House in school.

King Wulfrun sits on his throne in a line of other Saxon kings above the west door.
Outside and inside, the medieval masons built innumerable Gothic arches. Once inside, I was directed to the Chapter House, the entrance to which was through another beautiful archway.

The Chapter House
Inside the Chapter House, visitors gaze in awe at a medieval painting of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

The Chad Gospels also adorn the Capter House. This manuscript has remained in Lichfield for 1,000 years, a few years older than the Book of Kells in Ireland. But I was in search of the angel, Gabriel. The Saxon limestone carving is thought to be from the original tomb of St Chad. St. Chad was the first bishop of Lichfield in 669 AD. Then I saw it ...

The 'Lichfield Angel'
I was not disappointed with the plaque's beauty. I was in awe of its antiquity. I can understand why David Austin chose to name a creamy-white rose for this limestone carving. I am glad he did and I am so glad I saw it.  I now feel I have a little bit of England and of my heritage in my Pennsylvania garden.

Pamela x

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. How lovely to be able to link the rose in your garden to this wonderful limestone carving. The detail on the outside walls of Lichfield Cathedral is amazing.

  2. Pam, That is a sweet story with a happy ending - it's wonderful to have that connection to home living in the garden!

  3. What a beautiful walk through a place filled with history, your memories, and a deep connection. I truly enjoyed this post and look into your past.

    Have a wonderful day, Pam.

  4. Such incredible history and architecture in the UK. The artistry of the carving is stunning. I love cathedrals, they were my favorite structures to study in University.

    Your rose, pardon me, David's rose, is so beautiful in its soft cream color. Bringing history in name to the garden,brings meaning. And having meaning in place is good design.

  5. Dear Pamela, What an interesting story of your Lichfield Angel Rose. The Cathedral is indeed very fine and I was most intrigued to read that you went to school in Lichfield as a child. I can well imagine that growing the Rose in your garden in America brings back such wonderful memories for you. And, yes, the Rose is very pretty too!

  6. The three spires do make it unique.
    Oh, the history has to be most interesting before and after the civil war. Glad they found some parts of the Angel. This Cathedral is so beautiful and to think you worshipped there.
    Thanks for this lovely tour.

  7. Great history lesson and with your personal connection to it. Lovely choice of rose.

  8. Historical links with plant names are so intriguing. It was very interesting how you followed up on this one. Carolyn

  9. Such an interesting post! ...and I've enjoyed the 'autumn in Pennyslvania' post as well... Have a great December! Larry

  10. Wow! I love David Austin roses and here I am stateside with no ability to go visiting their namesakes. Your childhood sounds very different from mine and it was fun to read such a nostalgic story. I'm glad you shared the historic angel, I'd never have known about it otherwise!

  11. By golly, one of these days David Austin is going to breed a hardy rose that looks just like this one so I can try it! Every D.A. rose I've tried thus far has died an ugly death.

    Christine in Alaska, no roses yet

  12. Dear Pam - I very much enjoyed your pilgrimage to Lichfield and cannot think why I never visited when I lived near to Birmingham for so many years. Your images are inspiring(!) and coated in the dust of Anglo-Saxon history. How lovely to have found the angel that gave rise to the rose.


  13. Pam, thanks so much for this. When you write of England, I feel like I am there, and I also realize how much more history you have than we do in our relatively young country.

    I'll carry the three spired Cathedral and the picture of the Virgin Mary and her assumption in my hear this Advent.

    thanks again.~~Dee

  14. I think it is so interesting to read the story behind the names of plants. David Austin really chose well with this one.

  15. Pam,
    What a touching post! I have never been one to put much thought into name of plants but this was really interesting! A stunning rose, I can appreciate that.

  16. Hello Pam,

    I enjoyed your post very much because I love visiting England AND I love roses. I can see why this is such a special rose to you and my hope is that if will flourish in your PA garden :-)

  17. Okay Pam, you win for worst Thanksgiving. Ham sandwiches in a funeral home are pretty bad, but spending Thanksgiving in the cardiac unit is worse. Is everything okay? Believe me, I am familiar with the cardiac unit, from hubby's bypass last summer. Hope all is well!

  18. To my old friends and new -

    I am overwhelmed by your lovely and generous comments on this posting. I was in England to put more supports in place for my mother who has dementia. My visit to Lichfield Cathedral acted as a catharsis in this stressful situation.

    As Robin says, on my return, I had a bad scare with my heart. I spent three days in the hospital. I am glad to say my heart is steady now. Writing about the Lichfield Angel and reading all your wonderful comments helps with the healing process.

    Many thanks dear gardening friends, Pamela x

  19. I am fascinated by the names of roses. What a privilege to see the Lichfield Angel which inspired this name.

    Sorry to hear you were down and out. I wish you well. Must have been a difficult time for you in England, difficult to leave, and still, difficult to be far away now.

  20. I don't expect to get that far from home, so it's cool I got to see what you saw, and the garden connections were fun, too.

    I hope things are going the best they can for your mother, and you are healing well.

  21. Whata wonderful post, and how lucky you are to be able to have a connection with your garden and your youth. What a beautiful rose, and a lovely angel! You've made me quite homesick.

  22. I did indeed enjoy this post. I finished Follett's Pillars of the Earth just this morning which as you may know is about building an English cathedral. It also helps that I am an anglophile.

  23. Thanks so much for your kind words on my blog. I am glad to hear you are feeling better and have said prayers for you this week. This post endears me to this rose all the more. Blessings & Health to you!

  24. Beautiful story! so glad that you got a bit of it for your garden

    PS: sorry for the late reply. Thank you very much for joining the carnival! it is great to have so many people from around the world to come