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A Stranger Here

Thursday, 6 February, 2014

The early history of the city of Ely in Cambridgeshire is marked by religious convulsions. In AD 673, Æthelthryth founded an abbey that was destroyed in 870 by Viking invaders and rebuilt by Ethelwold in 970. Construction of Ely’s great cathedral began in 1083 and work continued until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 during the Reformation.

Following the accession of Mary I to the throne in 1553, attempts were made to enforce Catholic doctrine and during this time, two local men, William Wolsey and Robert Pygot, “were accused of not … believing that the body and blood of Christ were present in the bread and wine of the sacrament of mass”. For this heresy they were burnt at the stake in front of Ely Cathedral on 16 October 1555. Mary’s re-establishment of Catholicism was reversed after her death in 1558 by her half-sister, Elizabeth I, and it was into a Protestant Ely that John Amner was born in 1579. He worked as a chorister and organist at Ely Cathedral and he also wrote songs and verse. This is from his Sacred Hymns For Voices And Viols, which was published in 1615.

A Stranger Here

A stranger here, as all my fathers were
That went before, I wander to and fro;
From earth to heaven is my pilgrimage,
A tedious way for flesh and blood to go:
O Thou that art the way, pity the blind
And teach me how I may Thy dwelling find.

John Amner (1579 — 1641)

Ely Cathedral


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