London & Westminster goes to Cambridge

On the morning of Saturday 22 September, members and friends of the Commandery of London & Westminster gathered in the Cloister Court of Queens’ College Cambridge at the beginning of a day of fellowship and learning.

After some welcome refreshments on a damp and chilly morning, we settled down to hear from Irene Allen of LEPRA, who gave an excellent talk which considered the stigma attached to leprosy since biblical times. She talked about how leprosy was thought to have first come to the UK - with returning crusader knights - and the setting up of leprosy hospitals (or leprosaria) within England. After some excellent illustrations of some of the leprosaria still standing and in use for different functions, the talk concluded with some comments about how leprosy is seen nowadays and the work LEPRA does to combat both the disease and the stigma associated with it.

Next on the agenda was a tasty lunch in the College dining room, before we headed off on a tour of the college, led by Chevalier Roger France, Lay Chaplain to Queens’ and Almoner to the Commandery, who had organised the day’s programme in conjunction with our Commander, Chevalier Damian Riddle.  We were lucky enough to be able to visit Old Hall, built in 1449 and richly decorated with heraldic shields and stained glass, before being escorted up to the Old Library (1448) to explore some of its treasures.  These include a collection of Erasmus texts as well as many other early printed books and manuscripts.

A brief history of Cambridge and the college followed, full of local knowledge and architectural insights from Chev. France, and the day ended with Evensong in the magnificent chapel, designed by G F Bodley in 1886.  We were joined by the Wren Choir, who performed music by C V Stanford and Henry Wood, both of whom had strong connections with Queens’ College.  The sermon was given by the Commandery Chaplain, Fr Paul Bagott SChLJ, who also led members in the renewal of our knightly vows as members of the Order of St Lazarus.

A final stop for tea and biscuits in Cloister Court set us all up for the journey home at the end of a busy and enjoyable day.