Surprised by Belfast: Significant Sites in the Life of C.S. Lewis, Part 4, Queen’s University Belfast and the Surrounding Area - page 3


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From the Winter 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Surprised by Belfast: Significant Sites in the Life
of C.S. Lewis, Part 4, Queen’s University Belfast
and the Surrounding Area

by Sandy Smith, Ph.D.
Author of C.S. Lewis and the Island of His Birth

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  No visit to the reading room and to the McClay Library would be complete without inspecting the original copy of a letter from C.S. Lewis to a little girl called Anne Jenkins. Anne read The Chronicles of Narnia and was motivated by the stories to write to the author and ask a number of questions about the narrative. As a consequence of Anne’s curiosity, we have been left with Lewis’s own précis of the seven Narnian chronicles. He sums up each book in one line as part of his reply to Anne. The complete reply by Lewis to Anne is also reproduced on a bronze sculpture of the wardrobe displayed in east Belfast, close to Lewis’s birthplace. If QUB serves to focus our attention on Lewis’s mother and on some parts of his writing, there are three other buildings in the University Quarter that have associations with Lewis and his father. The first is the Crescent Church on University Road; the others are now pleasant terrace buildings formerly used as “nursing homes.”

Crescent Church

  The Crescent Church in Belfast is a large sandstone structure with Gothic-style arched doorways and windows and a unique, square, open bell tower rising majestically above the adjacent buildings. Lewis refers to this church in Surprised by Joy in an amusing reflection about his father. The piece is in chapter 8, “Release,” in which he describes the process that resulted in him leaving the boarding schools to which he had been sent and entering the tutelage of W.T. Kirkpatrick to prepare for university matriculation.
  In the reflection, Lewis gives a humorous insight into the cross-purposes and confusions that often characterized conversations he and his brother had with their father. Lewis had formed the view in his early life that their father absent-mindedly listened to their contributions to these conversations and all too hastily jumped to his own view of what his sons were saying without fully comprehending their intents. One of these confusions involved the Greek lettering displayed in the arch above the doorway of the Crescent Church. Lewis introduces and records the conversation as follows:

A certain church in Belfast has both a Greek inscription over the door and a curious tower. ‘That church is a great landmark’, said I, ‘I can pick it out from all sorts of places—even from the top of the Cave Hill.’ ‘Such nonsense’, said my father, ‘how could you make out Greek letters three or four miles away?’1


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