I came across St. James Church on accident. While walking down from Dover Castle to the bus station I saw the strangely beautiful ruins of what was once one of Dover’s most important churches. Along with religious services, St. James was a popular meeting place for the local leaders and was even visited by the Duke of Wellington in 1851.
This Saxon church was believed to be one of the three Dover churches mentioned in the Domesday (Day of Judgement) Book. The book was written in 1086 to record the survey taken of England and Wales ordered by William the Conqueror. While the survey’s original purpose was to find out who owed what taxes, the book is now considered one of England’s greatest treasures.
St. James Church was originally built in the 12th century, but underwent extensive renovations in the 1860’s. The church was used until World War II, when it was hit by numerous shells before collapsing.
The city of Dover decided to let the ruins remain to commemorate the people of Dover, who like the church, suffered much during the war. I wonder how many people who walk by the ruins today know what it symbolizes. Judging by the amount of broken beer bottles atop ancient stones of remembrance, and the homeless man taking a nap on the grass that was once a holy sanctuary, probably not many.
In a country like England, where every stone has a story, I feel grateful to learn about the tragedies and triumphs of it’s past first hand.