The sky was clear blue, the winds were light and the sun brilliantly shining. It was a perfect late September afternoon as we left Sneaton Castle after lunch in order to make our way into Whitby. Some walked, others caught a bus and then we met together by the harbour to walk together up to the Parish Church and the remains of the Abbey.
Whitby is a fascinating town, divided by the River Esk, with much to see on each side. A swing bridge connects the two and we crossed over and began the walk along the narrow cobbled street to where begin the steps that take you up to the church.
There are 199 steps, shallow ones, broken by places where you can catch your breath. And as you climb you get increasingly beautiful views of the harbour and the sea beyond whilst above you the church and the abbey come into view.
The Parish Church of St Mary is one of the most unusual that you can see. The mediaeval church was filled in the eighteenth century with box pews, an amazing ‘bot belly’ boiler (which is still the only source of heating) and a triple decker pulpit. It is an amazingly chaotic statement about church – a place for sermons and not for liturgy – baffling in its complexity and strangely beautiful.
Around the church is a graveyard full of stones commemorating ‘mariners’. This is a community that must have experienced its share of the horror of loss at sea.
And just beyond was where St Hilda’s Abbey stood, alongside the remains of the medieaval abbey, a haunting relic of the monastic past lived out in this place.
We had a wonderful afternoon, walking where saints have walked and arriving back for Vespers on the eve of the Feast of St Michael and All Angels.
St Hilda, pray for us.
Holy Angels of God, pray for us.