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13 November 2015


Blessed configuration

I HAVE noted, over the years, that it often rains heavily on 1 November in Rome — a dampener on my regular relatively good spirits at this season. But not this year, when golden days for both the feast of All Saints and the commemoration of All Souls delivered an entirely undampened air of well-being.

Another improvement was the occurrence of All Saints’ Day on a Sunday, enabling a big event (the Bishop’s first visit, confirmation, and a celebratory lunch) on the day itself, and then a quieter visit to the non-Roman Catholic cemetery for a requiem for All Souls the day after.

It was a wonderful way to spend our patronal-festival period, and doubly so since these past few days have seen the beginning, too, of the 200th anniversary of our community. The church buildings came later — the first chapel was used from 1827 to 1887, the year in which the present church was completed — but the worship began on 27 October 1816, when a visiting English clergyman read the morning service publicly for the first time, attracting a congregation of four.

Within a month, it had risen exponentially, and the chaplaincy of All Saints’, Rome, was well on its way.

We are planning to re-roof as our big anniversary project (anyone interested in donating?), and three letters have been sent off in the preceding calendar years, drawing Pope Francis’s attention to the occasion and humbly asking him to visit. Watch this space for news on both roof and Pontiff.


Boldly he rode

FOR some unknown reason, the stained-glass window of St George at All Saints’ was given in memory of Captain George Lockwood, of the 8th Hussars, who, as aide-de-camp of Lord Cardigan, died in the famous charge of the Light Brigade during the Battle of Balaclava in October 1854.

His body was never found, and his mother erected a marble cenotaph in Lambourne church, memorialising her “dutiful son”. Clayton & Bell’s exquisitely figured representation of England’s patron saint is one of a series of single near-life- size images of saints which fill the lancets of the north and south aisles, and must have been dedicated to Captain Lockwood’s memory, nearly 40 years after his death.

My researches into the church archives have not revealed the identity of the donor. A comrade-in-arms who lived through that dreadful day in the Crimea, perhaps, or a family member who was a Rome resident — or maybe a broken-hearted sweetheart with a long memory? Or just conceivably a person who might unite all three descriptions.


Poppy at the palace

I MET an aide-de-camp de nos jours last week, looking for a poppy for his lapel.

Jack Straker studied at Queen’s College, Oxford (where he was, coincidentally, a contemporary of my niece, and remembered her unsuccessful candidature for JCR president), and now serves as ADC to the Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Fra Matthew Festing.

The palace that locates the knights’ independent sovereignty after their expulsion from Malta by Napoleon is not far from All Saints’, just a few steps down the Via Condotti from Piazza di Spagna. I am glad to say that he did not leave unrewarded in his quest, and that strange thing, the little paper poppy, perfectly complemented his turnout of classic English tailoring, and even a properly made matching hat.

Sadly, I was not able to persuade him to remain for the choral evensong I was setting up. He probably has quite enough church to go to in his official position.


Birthday calculation

I WROTE to my godson, Jonty Poward, this year, on the birthday that we share. I remember being told of his birth in a phone call with his father, Peter Powell, a paediatrician married to Frances Ward, the Dean of St Edmundsbury, my friends from Westcott House, Cambridge.

I was on a placement in Rome at the Venerable English College, and it was, of course, on a landline that we spoke in those days. I think I must have rung to find out whether Frances had given birth, and was overjoyed that she had, and on my own birthday, and that the child would be called Jonathan (Jonty).

I dined on the night of his birth with my friend Ingrid Rowland, as I did again this year. My message to Jonty was short: until now, I have always been more than twice your age; from today, you will always be more than half mine.

I don’t know whether this was profound, but I love the connection between my 52 and his 26.


The Ven. Jonathan Boardman is the Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, and Chaplain of All Saints’, Rome, in the diocese in Europe.

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