Postcard from Banbridge

Banbridge Post Card

Banbridge July 2017 ext 01

This postcard view of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Banbridge along with the Methodist Church and what was then the library in Banbridge must date from before the First World War. It is not particularly rare but I was pleased to pick one up quite cheaply recently. I must have had the view in mind when I took the picture of the same group of buildings in 2017 and, apart from the inevitable cars parked in the way, the view has essentially not changed in a hundred years. The First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church, Banbridge is a remarkably imposing edifice both inside and out, the four fluted ionic columns tell the visitor that this meeting-house is a significant place. Built between 1844 and 1846 it speaks of the confidence of the congregation building anew immediately after the Dissenters’ Chapels Act of 1844 and choosing a style of architecture that eloquently expressed their identity.


A Victorian photograph of the exterior


St Patrick’s Day, Downpatrick 2018

Preparations underway

Preparations getting underway in the town


Going up to the Cathedral

Going up to the Cathedral for the service


Congregation photographed

The congregation gather for a photograph inside the Cathedral



Processing up to the grave after the service


Laying wreath

Visiting Bishop Alf Cooper from Chile lays a wreath


St Patrick's grave

St Patrick’s grave outside Down Cathedral


Giant Saint 01

The giant statue of the saint

Chester Cathedral Refectory

Chester Cathedral refectory ph

British Cathedrals are often good places to eat. Mindful of providing the full experience for the tourist market most large cathedrals are well-attuned to the culinary needs of visitors. Sometimes the restaurants are squeezed into the holy places in a slightly insensitive way but cathedrals do often have the ideal space for a café in the form of the refectory. The best cathedral that I have eaten in is undoubtedly St David’s in Wales, where the refectory is a very pleasant place to go. But the most interesting refectory in use as a restaurant, even if the food isn’t great, is probably that of Chester Cathedral.

Chester Cathedral refectory counter

The Early English Gothic refectory, originally part of the medieval Benedictine abbey, dates from the thirteenth century and is constructed in the red local sandstone used throughout the Cathedral and in many places in the region. It’s an impressive monastic space although the roof is entirely modern dating from 1939. For most of its recent history (from 1613 to 1876) the refectory was part of the King’s School, presumably used as the school dining room. But it has a very interesting ancient pulpit approached through a long arcaded staircase.

Chester Cathedral refectory pulpit stairs crop

Here a monk will have sat reading the scriptures while his colleagues enjoyed their repast. The walls contain the carved graffiti of seventeenth-century scholars and the early twentieth-century east window contains a whole selection of saints at the centre of which presides St Werburgh, to whom the original abbey was dedicated. At the other end a colourful stained glass window commemorates the millennium under which hangs a rather tired looking Mortlake tapestry which is not well displayed. But the full effect of the refectory is a good one, although the over-priced sausage rolls are probably best left un-sampled.

Chester Cathedral refectory pulpit stairs 02

Stairs to the pulpit

Chester Cathedral refectory pulpit


Chester Cathedral refectory roof crop

Refectory roof

Chester Cathedral refectory tapestry

Mortlake tapestry depicting Paul and Elymas

Chester Cathedral refectory graffiti ph crop

Seventeenth-century graffiti

Kolozsvár/Cluj monuments, inscriptions and doors

Unitarian Church door detail

Unitarian Church door

Unitarian Church inscription

Unitarian inscription

Franciscan Church

Franciscan Church plaque

Lutheran Church inscription

Lutheran Church inscription

Door to St Michael's Church

St Michael’s Church door

Catholic building door

Roman Catholic parochial house door


Obelisk commemorating the visit of the emperor. Built in 1831.

Obelisk detail

Obelisk detail by Austrian sculptor Josef Klieber. The emperor and his wife visit the city hospital. Note the gas lamp.

Original city arms

The  original arms of the city

Plaque commemorating visit of emperor

Plaque commemorating the visit of Emperor Francis I and Princess Caroline Augusta to ‘Claudiopolis’ in 1817

Downpatrick First Presbyterian (Non-Subscribing) Church

Downpatrick 1 Oct 2016

Downpatrick is one of the finest 18th-century T-shaped meeting-houses in Ireland. Built in 1711 at the start of the ministry of the Rev Thomas Nevin, a pioneer Non-Subscribing Presbyterian minister who became a founder member of the Presbytery of Antrim, the church is one of the most notable buildings in this part of county Down.

It is not a new thing but it is worth flagging up the 360 degree virtual tour of the interior which was put online courtesy of VirtualVisitTours. The panoramic view can be explored here:





The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Cathedrals


Roman Catholic Cathedral

Diocesan notice

Diocesan noticeboard in four languages


The Archbishop greets us



Cathedral altar

High altar

John Sigusmund tomb

Tomb of King John II Sigismund

Queen Isabella tomb

Tomb of Queen Isabella Jagiellon

Roman inscription

Roman inscription

Habsburg Arch

Habsburg arch

The Edict of Torda

I was privileged to be present at the special celebration to mark the 450th anniversary of the Edict of Torda held in Torda, Romania, on Saturday, 13th January. It was a remarkable occasion with three churches filled in the town, the service relayed to a screen in the town square and the event broadcast live on Hungarian television.


The Edict of Torda was the first promulgation of religious toleration in Europe. From the point of view of Western Europe it came at the surprisingly early date of 1568 and took place in Transylvania under the rule of King John II Sigismund, the only Unitarian king in history.


Here I will post some images from the service held in the Catholic Church in Torda, traditionally regarded as the location for the meeting of the Diet of 1568.

Assembing in Torda near the Orthodox Church

Assembling in Torda near the Orthodox Church

Walking up to the Catholic Church

Walking up to the Catholic Church

Inside the Church before the service

Inside the Church before the service

Rev Marton Csesc and Rev Imola Molnar who introduced the 16 speakers in the Church

Rev Márton Csésc and Rev Imola Molnár who introduced the 16 speakers at the service

Laszlo Kover President of the Hungarian Parliament

Lászlo Kövér, President of the Hungarian Parliament

Preparing to unveil the new monument to religious freedom after the service

Preparing to unveil the new monument to religious freedom after the service

Some of the congregation outslde

Some of the congregation outside

Bishop Ferenc Balint Benczedi of the HUC and Archbishop Gyorgy Jakubinyi

Bishop Ferenc Bálint Benczédi of the Hungarian Unitarian Church, Archbishop György Jakubinyi of the Roman Catholic Church and other dignitaries

Rev David Gyero deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church delivers the homily

Rev Dávid Gyerő, deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church delivers the homily

Rev Istvan Kovacs Director of Public Affairs HUC

Rev István Kovács Public Affairs Director of the Hungarian Unitarian Church

Rev Jozsef Kaszoni

Rev József Kászoni-Kövendi, deputy bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church

UNveiling the memorial

Unveiling the memorial

The new memorial to religious freedom at Torda

The new memorial to religious freedom, Ad Astra, by Liviu Mocan

Faith and Freedom Calendar 2018

The 2018 Faith and Freedom Calendar is now available. A complimentary copy has been sent to every subscriber to the journal and additional copies can be ordered.

Faith and Freedom Calendar Cover 2018

If you would like to order additional copies please contact Nigel Clarke ( For any extra copies we suggest you consider making a donation of £5. All proceeds will be donated to the Send a Child to Hucklow Fund, to help further its work in enabling disadvantaged children to enjoy a much-needed holiday in the Peak District.

We have some magnificent images – and receive far more than we could ever use, although we try to include as many as possible in the cover. The image at the top of this page is taken from the cover – it is a detail of a mosaic at the monastery of Sumela, Trebizond, taken by Anne Wild, who contributes a number of spectacular images to the Calendar.

Here are some more images from the 2018 Calendar:

Chester Calendar

West Window, Chester Cathedral (Photo: Alison Steers)

Cows Calendar

Evening in Lissagally (Photo: Paul Eliasberg)

The back page of the Calendar lists some of the thanks owed to those involved in the production. Thanks also go to Trimprint, our printers, and to Nigel Clarke who directs the whole project. Order your copy while stocks last!

Faith and Freedom Calendar Back Cover 2018

Candlelight Carol Service

The congregations of Downpatrick, Ballee and Clough held their joint Candlelight Carol Service on Wednesday, 6th December at Downpatrick at 7.30 pm. The church was attractively decorated and as well as Alfie McClelland on the organ we were delighted to have the Laganvale Ensemble accompanying the carols and playing some other pieces. The mellow sound of the band filled the eighteenth-century meeting-house magnificently.

Candlelight 02 MS

Underneath the pulpit

Candlelight 04 MS

Laganvale Ensemble

We had readers from all three congregations, including one passage read first in German by Eleanor to commemorate Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible, begun 500 years ago. The readers were Amanda Ramsey, Thomas Rooney, Eleanor Baha, Tierna Kelly, Megan Neill, Elsie Nelson, Robert Neill, Doreen Chambers, Roy Kelly, and Charles Stewart.

Original of Readers


Candlelight Gallery daytime 02

The view from the Squire’s Gallery earlier in the day

Edinburgh in November

Princes Street in Edinburgh must have one of the most dramatic backdrops of any shopping street in Europe. At this time of year the dour presbyterian cityscape seems to glower at the frivolity of the market below.