Saturday 13 March 2021

Worship From a Distance

A former glass warehouse, originally that of the Venezia-Murano Glass and Mosaic Company, and an outpost of Protestantism may strike one as something of an odd connection. Notwithstanding, those of a curious disposition who have ventured into the Campo San Vio, with its outlook to the Grand Canal in Venice, will have almost certainly been drawn to the imposing doors of St. George's Anglican Church which, consecrated in 1906, has occupied the building to this day.

Lance Hattatt waiting for the service to start

Indeed, the entrance is not without interest, having been designed by Luigi Marangoni in 1920 and which, in part, serves as a memorial to the British soldiers, sailors and airmen who died in Italy in the Great War of 1914 - 1918. A slightly later, 1926, bas-relief by Napoleone Martinuzzi above the doorway depicts St. George slaying the dragon and, together with the statue of St. Michael, alludes to the British military order of valour, the 'Order of St. Michael and St. George'.

Front door of St. George's Church, Venice [Wikipedia image]

It is to St. George's that, when in Venice, we make our way on a Sunday morning, successors to those who in previous times would have been transported to the Campo in a flotilla of gondolas, in time for the Service of the Eucharist where the interior is flooded in light from a series of stained glass window and where the eye is directed towards the altar piece, a C19 copy of 'The Redeemer with Saints George and Jerome' painted by the Venetian Renaissance artist, Giovanni Buonconsiglio.

Sunday in Venice: Going to the English Church [of St George in Campo San Vio]

Drawing by W. Logsdail published in The Graphic, 6 July 1895

The congregation is not large. Made up of a handful of English speaking residents of Venice, it is supplemented by regular visitors, such as ourselves, to which may be added the occasional tourist who finds himself or herself en route for, and in search of, the Peggy Guggenheim collection. But no-one should be disappointed for, regardless of faith or belief, the service is always uplifting and the Chaplain, the Reverend Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, assisted by Philip Gwynne Jones, will always engender much upon which to reflect.

Interior of St. George's Church before removal of the wooden pews.
Image courtesy of Luisella Romeo of

And so, in these days of a global pandemic when to travel abroad is both restricted and unwise, we greatly miss our Sunday mornings at St. George's as they once were and will, most assuredly, be so again. Instead we 'Zoom'. Under the technical expertise of Philip, whose rôle as assistant curate now doubles with that of technician, and led by Father Malcolm from the Chaplaincy house, we are able to participate in an online service which, although different, reaches out to an ever growing number of participants.

Monument to Frederic Eden and his wife, Caroline,
who made a 'Garden of Eden'  in Venice 

Our Budapest drawing room may not contain a C19 classical frieze, is without an organ donated by the Dowager Duchess of Northumberland, cannot boast memorials and tablets to merchants, bankers and benefactors, contains not an echo of Browning or Ruskin, but each Sunday, accessing our computer screen, it serves to bring close to us a very real fellowship of people and a city that we know and love.  

Friday 5 March 2021

Bureaucracy and Brexit in Budapest

We are not for making political statements. At least not here. Suffice it to say that since January 1st., and the end of the so called Brexit 'transition period', life for us here in Hungary has taken on a new meaning.

The National Directorate General for Aliens Policing, Budapest

It began back in 2019 when, at what was described as a 'Town Hall' meeting, but in reality a gathering of hopeful ex patriots in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in Budapest, we were informed by the then HM Ambassador that we would be required to exchange our current residency cards at some future point for new, post Brexit ones as we relinquished citizenship of the European Union to be classed instead as Third Country Nationals. It would, we were assured, be a simple, straightforward matter. How things have moved on. Today the British Embassy chooses to communicate through a Facebook page! But that is another story.

'Get Ready for Brexit', 'Town Hall' meeting, Marriott Hotel, Budapest

Nothing could be more misleading. Yesterday, at the National Directorate General for Aliens Policing, we presented ourselves for interview, submission of application, photographs and finger prints, thus complying with the current ruling.

Way In.

The National Directorate General for Aliens Policing is a force not to be reckoned with. Situated in a desolate, outlying suburb of Budapest it is housed in an isolated, heavily protected former villa with an armed guard in attendance. Indeed, the possibility did cross our minds that in former times it might well have been a centre for serious interrogation.

Car Park - we arrived by taxi.

But before ever reaching that point, it became necessary to engage the services of a company to assist us with, and take us through, the application process. The form, some ten pages in length, in Hungarian, once downloaded had, on completion, with attached photograph and an additional paper, signed separately, to be scanned and forwarded to the Directorate before an interview date could be considered. That we also were required to include some authorisation from a Hungarian lawyer is neither here nor there.

Top page of ten pages needed for the registration application.

The interview itself passed almost without a hitch. The photograph attached to the application form, which itself had of course been sent in advance, was deemed unsuitable on the hard copy. Happily we were prepared for all eventualities and, knowing from past experiences that the gas bill of some date in 2011 might have to be produced, we were well equipped with a selection of holiday snaps, so to speak, from which to choose. That we had failed to mention the date of our marriage and the precise place of issue of our most recent passports did not, in the event, prove an impediment.

So, retrieving masks and gloves in line with Covid-19 rules and regulations, we fled the photography and finger print booth and made our escape. As we left, the steel, electric gates silently closed behind us.

Gates firmly closed.

The new documents should arrive, courtesy of Magyar Posta, within 30 days!