Fr. Z in Portsmouth

I am presently visiting a priest friend at Sacred Heart in Fareham, near Portsmouth.  Yesterday went to the historical harbor, where we were able to visit Lord Nelson’s famous flagship HMS Victory.  I am a great fan of books about the Royal Navy of that era (e.g., Patrick O’Brian’s great series), so this was a real treat.

Here is a view of one of the gun decks.

Also, we saw the Mary Rose, a warship of the era of Henry VIII which sank 30 years after being built and raised back up in the 1980’s.  Amazing.  It is being treated with wax to penetrate its wood so that it can be dried and put in a new museum.  Amazing things were recovered with the ship.

Today I am heading off to see Salisbury, Winchester, and perhaps Portchester, the ancient Roman castra.  It would be wonderful to see the D-Day Museum while I am here, but I am not sure I will be able to fit it in.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. prof. basto says:

    Officially, HMS Victory has never been decommissioned, and as such, it is the
    oldest commissioned ship in Her Majesty’s Navy.

    It is the official flagship of the Second Sea Lord and commander-in-chief of the Royal
    Navy’s Naval Home Command, presently Vice-Admiral Sir Adrian James Johns, KCB,CBE, ADC.

  2. jaykay says:

    Oooooohhhh Father… careful with the terminology!! It’s “HMS Victory” or “the Victory” but not both!! :)

    I’ve seen the Victory and splendid she is. Never seen the Mary Rose but I recall a BBC programme about the finds which included many devotional items including, I think, part of a Rosary? And I seem to recall that when she was first raised, around 1984?, there was a Requiem in Portsmouth Cathedral (Anglican) using the Sarum Rite, being the Rite in use when she went down.

  3. Diane says:

    Oh, Fr. Z – I’m so jealous.

    I was a HUGE tallship enthusiast before I got absorbed in my faith. My whole kitchen is loaded with nautical items and tallship replicas, including the USS Constitution. No regrets for turning my attention to better things, but tallship history and lore is fascinating. I had just started reading the O’Brien series when I got sidetracked by the good Lord.

    The HMS Victory was seen in wallpaper on my desktop for the longest time. Now, it has been replaced with my own photographs of other things, but that is one beautiful ship.

    The numbers of people it use to house are amazing. And, when you consider basic things like water, food, and even using the restroom – for up to 800 people, which is what she held, it gets interesting. It’s my understanding the officers had a special place to go that was private, while others stuck their buns through some holes near the bow without an ounce of dignity. Talk about a power wash!

    There is a wonderful documentary about the HMS Victory packaged in with the first set of Horatio Hornblower DVD movies which explains these many things. It not only talks about the ship, but tallship culture. It also explains how many expressions we use today, such as “three squares a day”, “knots”, “son of a gun”, and others originated. The niece and nephew loved the movies, which were clean and good on values, as well as giving a glimpse into some historical characters.

    I should be so lucky to visit the UK and get to see her up close and personal.

  4. jaykay says:

    I have close family with a Royal Navy background who also are keen sail enthusiasts, so for Christmas a while back I got them a book I spotted on Amazon called “Patrick O’Brian’s Navy” – absolutely jampacked with facts and figures and great pictures. Try it on Amazon if you haven’t seen it already – magnificent book.

    While reading a book about Trafalgar it struck me how many of the Spanish ships still maintained religious names e.g. the Santisima Trinidad (officially the Santisima Trinidad y Nuestra Senora del Buen Fin), Santa Anna, San Agostino, San Francisco etc. The French Navy of the Ancien regime, although of course Catholic, never seems to have gone in for that tradition.

  5. elizabeth mckernan says:

    I expect you saw the small raised plaque marking the spot where Nelson fell. There is a story that when King George V was shown the plaque and told that that was where he fell, he is supposed to have said ‘I’m not surprised – I nearly fell over it myself!’ Probably apocryphal but the story persists to this day.

  6. Richard says:

    Ah – another O’Brian fan.

    I envy you your trip.

  7. Fr Ray Blake says:

    Sounds as if you are having a good time, hope you are getting some sleep too. Sad not to see you this trip.

  8. Jim says:

    Hearts of Oak, eh?

    When my father was in the ‘Andrew’ he recalled ‘Roman Catholics fall out’ at each Church Parade. He was a Devonport man; Guzz rather than Pompey

    Bet you don’t know about this

    Oggie, Oggie, Oggie….

  9. Guy Power says:

    The reck of the Mary Rose also yielded 138 yew longbows, bracers, arrows, and archer’s bones (larger shoulder and arm bones, and twisted spines).

    I enjoy shooting the longbow a bit, myself. I have a replica Mary Rose longbow made of single-stave yew; it pulls only 45 lbs instead of the 98-190 lbs of those days! Robert Hardy, known as “Sigfried” in the BBC program “All Creatures Great And Small,” is an avid longbow archer and expert. He and some scientists ran controlled experiments on some of the Mary Rose bows and documented three that they decided to flex — all flexed. Two cracked at about 65 lbs, but the other pulled “full compass;” using computer modeling incorporating celluar degradation, etc., they estimate that longbow would have pulled at about 160 pounds [or thereabouts — I haven’t read his book Longbow: A Social and Military Historyin about five years]

    I also enjoy leatherworking and have previously made a few medieval-style archer’s bracers (arm guard). The Mary Rose Foundation kindly provided me with 1:1 scale archive drawings of the bracers they recoverd. A few had religious motifs.

    This one has “Ave M…… Gratia Plena” around the top and right border;
    It seems to end with “…VM” on the left border Which could possibly be “Dominus Tecum”; however, there would be a lot of blank border if that were the case.

    Another bracer had a stamped Crucifix motif:

    I have not decyphered the elements surrounding the Crucifix. The “J” might be “I”, part of “IHC”? The bottom elements might be Alpha and Omega — in reverse?

    Enjoy the UK, Father!


  10. James says:

    Father, while you were at Salisbury Cathedral, I hope you were able to take a tour to the base of the spire! It’s absolutely unique. You get to see the guts of the cathedral and remark at the piles of 700-year-old wood beams which are holding up the edifice. It’s amazing.

    Also don’t forget the world’s oldest running mechanical clock, which is located in the side aisle and dates from the 14th century.

    Also, check out the stunningly beautiful cathedral close and cloisters.

  11. James says:

    Father Z,

    When I was at Cambridge, two of my professors led me and my classmates on a jaunt, which included the Rushden Triangular Lodge in Northamptonshire, a building of special interest to Catholics. It was build in the late Elizabethan period by Catholic recusant Sir Thomas Tresham and is designed to display (in code) his Catholic faith. It’s really worth visiting and checking out all the little symbols and clues on the inside and outside of the building.

  12. Austin says:

    When I was at school one of the contestants in the interhouse quiz was asked,
    ‘Whose last words were, “Kiss me, Hardy”?’

    Long pause.


  13. Stephen says:

    Father Z,
    have you got Fr Joe to play you any jazz yet?

  14. O’Brien? He’s okay… but I prefer Forester’s Hornblower novels.

  15. JML says:


    One more, Douglas Reeman, under the pen name Alexander Kent, has written a whole series of books about Richard Bolitho and his nephew Adam. I began reading them in HS around 1970 and the series is still running!

    He is known to hang around Victory now and then.

  16. Boko says:

    Another vote for O’Brian.

  17. I had a great day today! We visited Salisbury and Westminster Cathedrals. I also went by Old Sarum and Stonehenge, where I had a distinctly ad orientem experience.

    I will post photos tomorrow if I have time.

  18. Emilio says:


    The Spanish tradition was that the “religious name” of a ship was normally never used in practice. A nickname was always used to avoid irreverence (or even blasphemy). Columbus always referred to his own ship in the first voyage as “the ship”, though he used the usual nicknames for the other two. Naturally, people wanted to know her real name, so they were told the formal “Santa María” rather then her normal nickname “la Gallega”. Unfortunately, they did not bother to ask the names of the other two, so although we know that “la Niña” was really called “Santa Clara”, there is no record of the real name of the greatest ship in maritime exploration history (commonly known as “la Pinta”). My SWAG vote is for “Santa Bárbara”.

  19. David Martin says:

    There’s a great passage in O’Brien’s “The Fortune of War” that is apposite to the contents of this (excellent) blog. Steven Maturin is a prisoner of war in Boston. He attends Holy Mass and is comforted by the timeless ritual and the Latin language that unites him with Catholics across time and space. Unfortunately I don’t have the book to hand and can’t give the exact quote. Perhaps some other reader can assist?

  20. Aelric says:

    Paraphrased: The Mother of All Puns (See Post Captain, by O’Brien)

    “But why, gentlemen, are those short watches called ‘dog’ watches; what is the, er, ‘canine’ connexion?”

    “Why, sir, it is because they are curtailed.”

    Complete silence. Stephen sighed: he was used to this.

    One of the midshipmen nudged his friend: “Cur-tailed” – “do you smoke it?”


    Best I can do from memory (as I’m too lazy to move 20′ to get the novels from my bookshelf).

    Also of note is Stephen Maturin’s oft-stated disdain for the classical pronunciation of Latin and gentle jibes at Jack Aubrey vis-a-vis England’s tossing over the religion of her forebearers.

  21. Aelric says:

    Meant to add mention of the restoration projects of HMS Trincomalee and HMS Unicorn, both Leda (38) class frigates (though Trincomalee had undergone the later conversion to a corvette – not certain about Unicorn). The former is at Hartlepool and the later at Dundee. HMS Trincomalee is particularly interesting having been built at Bombay of teak.

    “Come cheer up my lads, ’tis to Glory we stear.”

  22. Thanks for all the good reading tips! I am also inspired to go back and start reading the O’Brian books from the beginning.

  23. Boko says:

    And Maturin meets or sees that one admiral (it’s been a while since I read these-I, too, must go back to them) in a monastery chapel where the man had gone to hear the plain chant. Great conversations about music in the books and it was nice to see the chant get its due.

  24. Philip says:

    Did you visit our Cathedral in Portsmouth? Reordered very badly (the magnificent high altar was destroyed) it’s recently been restored to some of its former glory.

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