There can't be many institutions in the Kingdom of England which go back to 1018 ... as Buckfast Abbey does! Westminster seems like a New Boy on the Block in comparison. After the Henricean Interruption, the great monastery was rebuilt in the last century by French monks, on the same foundations and with the same River Dart running noisily but cheefully beside it.
When I turned up there for last week's Marian Conference, I had not realised that next year there are going to be massive celebrations for the Buckfast Millennium. These are to include ... Patrimony, Patrimony ... an event for the incumbents and churchwardens of Anglican parishes which belonged to Buckfast in the Middle Ages. (For my daily Mass, Dom Thomas Regan had very sensitively assigned me the twelfth century chapel of S Michael, where, I was told, the local Ordinariate group offers the Holy Sacrifice.)
When I was a tiny boy, so I recall, I was struck, visiting S Alban's Abbey, by the paintings of the Crucifixion on the West faces of the Nave pillars marking where the Altars had been for the Morning Masses. That is where the altars are for that same purpose at Buckfast. Much use of them was made last week by clergy attending the Conference.
But if, like me, you haven't been to Buckfast for some decades, what will strike you will be the incredible (research via the Search Engine and you will discover I don't often employ that hyperbole) make-over the Abbey Church has recently received. It looks ... just ... spectacular. Go and see! Find out what the Millennial Year has to offer you! Incidentally, 24-27 November this year, 2017, there is to be a big Vocations Weekend. I can think of nowhere better to go in order to listen to God, if you have any thoughts of living the Rule of S Benedict in an Abbey with a long history and which is also deeply rooted in the present because of the ministry it daily offers to the many thousands who flock there.
Dom David Charlesworth, the Lord Abbot, very kindly gave me some of his time telling me about the work of restoration. You wouldn't be disappointed if you only went there to look at the floor. The temporary floor left by the monks who did the original work has been replaced by square Purbeck limestone tiles; a stone so exquisite that it seems to generate light.
But this floor is but a taster for the Sanctuary floor. Those who have 'done' Westminster Abbey will remember the 'Cosmati' floor there and will recognise the magnificence of the floor at Buckfast. They will be further edified to be told or to read that the circular stones near the High Altar were originally given by Lord Elgin and came from the Temple of Diana of the Ephesians. What a very biblical floor! And there is purple stone from the Imperial Porphyry Quarry in Egypt. 'Nuff said!