One year ago on, November 22, 2013, a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis took place at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, London. A full gathering of those grateful for the life and work of C.S. Lewis watched the unveiling of a memorial stone in his honor, placing his legacy alongside memorials for over three thousand other men and women revered in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the English-speaking world.
The Wade Center was very pleased to be able to obtain video footage from the ceremony via a UK-based company filming a documentary on C.S. Lewis, and this video is our featured November “Artifact of the Month.” The film from What Larks Productions Ltd. features unedited footage of the Abbey, ceremony guests arriving and departing, and excerpts from the service itself. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, gave the Address.
The complete video is available for viewing at the Wade Center (call number CSL-Y / VR-78), and we are glad to provide a sample of it with this excerpt on YouTube.
The video excerpt includes a reading from the final chapter of Lewis’s The Last Battle by Douglas Gresham (younger stepson of C.S. Lewis), prayer, and the unveiling of the Lewis memorial stone. The participants in the video are shown in the photo below.
The memorial stone, shown below, contains the following quote by C.S. Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.”
The quote comes from his address titled “Is Theology Poetry,” which he gave at the Oxford debating society called The Socratic Club on November 6, 1944. Dr. Michael Ward reflected on the meaning of these words in the service program for the ceremony:
“The address was one of many he gave to the Socratic Club, the forum for debate between Christians and non-Christians, of which he was President. Thus the inscription points to his role as an apologist who publicly – and not without professional cost – defended the faith … The sentence is straightforwardly confessional, marking the centrality of his faith at a personal level.”
Dr. Ward served as the organizer of the Poets’ Corner event, is on the Wade’s VII Advisory Board, and has been a member of the Wade Board since September 2007.
Walter Hooper, Trustee and Literary Adviser to the Lewis Estate, and his godson Gregory Lippiatt, placed a floral arrangement by the stone during the dedication. The bouquet contained 64 white roses (one for each year of Lewis’s life), 7 sprigs of holly berries (one for each Narnia book), 3 sprigs of rosemary (one for each book of the Ransom trilogy), and a single red rose (for the medieval poem “Romance of the Rose,” featured in Lewis’s Allegory of Love).
In addition to the video footage of the ceremony available through the Wade Center, a number of related resources surrounding the anniversary’s events can be found online. An audio excerpt from the Poets’ Corner ceremony is available here. The first words of the recording are of C.S. Lewis himself from one of his BBC Radio broadcasts which later became the book Mere Christianity. This excerpt is from “Beyond Personality: The New Men.”
The Westminster Abbey Institute also sponsored a C.S. Lewis Symposium on November 21, the day before the memorial stone ceremony. Audio recordings of the talks from the symposium are available via the links below:
Telling the Truth through Rational Argument by Alister McGrath
Telling the Truth through Imaginative Fiction by Malcolm Guite
Panel Discussion: What can 21st Century Apologetics learn from C.S. Lewis? Chaired by Michael Ward