August 15: Feast of the Assumption or Dormition of the Virgin Mary

The Christian calendar marks today as a "high holy day", a first class feast day. In many countries, the Catholic Church has made this a "Day of Obligation, requiring the attendance at the offering of Mass. The celebration remembers the death of Christ's mother, and the drawing up to heaven of her mortal remains.

In the Orthodox Church, the term used is that this is the feast of the #Dormition (passing of the Virgin Mary from earthly life, per Google). Additionally, the Virgin Mother is known as the Theotokos. So when I began looking for European cathedrals that I've visited and photographed which are associated with this holy day, I needed to search for several terms.

During my 2019 trip to Britain, in London I visited several - the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham: Principal Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, in Westminster. (Personal ordinariates are special churches, with cathedral-like privileges.)



In Knightsbridge, the Cathedral Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God and All Saints is the Russian Orthodox seat for the Diocese of Sourozh.





This was a particularly lovely church in an upscale neighborhood. The Russian Embassy is nearby.


Out in the west, in Chiswick, the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Abroad) Cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God and Holy Royal Martyrs is small but quite stunning. Due to my loss of my Canon camera, I visited twice, and was granted access into the church on the earlier visit.


[Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, exiles formed the #RussianOrthodox Church Outside Russian as they chose to separate from the Communist-influenced Moscow Orthodox organization.]

In my blog on the London #GreekOrthodox cathedrals, I included the Cathedral Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Wood Green.


Outside of London, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God and St Andrew in #Birmingham was a bit of a frustration, as it is situated on a slope in a residential area, was closed the Thursday midday I tried to visit, and was situated such that it was difficult to photograph.

In #Aberdeen, Scotland, the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of St Mary of the Assumption was one of the three cathedrals we visited. As the Roman Catholics and Scottish Episcopalians were only granted the right to have churches again in Scotland after the 1829 Emancipation Act opened up the regulations following the Scottish Reformation and founding of the Church of Scotland, which had assumed the Anglican churches, cathedrals and priories.


Built in 1860, it was consecrated to cathedral status in 1876-77. The other Aberdeen cathedrals are St Andrew's (SEC) and the former cathedral of St Machar (CoS).



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Interestingly, in 2018 when I visited the Iberian peninsula, I found that the same word in Spanish, Asunción, was used for both the Ascension of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary. Church history teaches that Christ, being part of the Trinity, ascended to heaven by His own powers, while His mother had her mortal remains brought up by angels.

On that 2018 trip, I visited the Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia - Iglesia Catedral-Basílica Metropolitana de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora de Valencia.


This large, magnificent cathedral sat at the head of a rotary in the center of the city, and was composed of several structures, making a comprehensive portrait a challenge.

Leaving Catalonia and #Valencia and heading south along the Mediterranean coast, I passed through Murcia into Andalusia. While there, I was part of a 4-person tour which was led by a native as we bicycled through the province. I took a day away from the group while they rode in a desert to go and explore #Jaén, a gem of a city located in the heart of #Andalusia. The Assumption of the Virgin Cathedral - Catedral de la Asunción de Jaén was a major surprise, and the city was delightful - an off the tourist path wonder.


When the 12-day guided cycling tour was over, I headed towards Gibraltar and Cadiz, stopping in Tarifa for the day to take the ferry to #Tangier. This was my first time on the African continent, and my research had two buildings to view - the Italian cathedral (now closed) and Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral, also known as the Tangier Cathedral.


When I crossed into Portugal, I travelled from south to north. After staying in Lisboa, I had a rental car to take me to Fatima before staying in #Coimbra. The old cathedral, Sé Catedral Velha de Nossa Senhora da Assunção, felt much more sacred to me than the new cathedral at the top of the hill by the university.


Continuing my journey, I arrived in Porto and gave the car back. During my 3 days in this wonderful port city, I went to the Sé Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Assunção twice. A large church, it also sits on a hill with a superb vista view of the hills of Porto.


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On what I called my 2017 Grand Tour, the core of my itinerary was cycling along the Danube from Passau, Germany to Vienna, and then continuing on to Budapest. Breaking the 2-week ride in half, I made a trip from Vienna to Salzburg, and then south into Slovenia. In #Koper I managed to snag a parking space quite near the Stolnica Marijinega vnebovzetja (Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary).


Then I drove on to Austria. In the Styrian city of Gurk, the Pfarr- und ehemalige Domkirche Mariä Himmelfahrt (Co-Cathedral of the Assumption) was just setting up a church fair.


Continuing on towards my evening destination of Graz, I stopped at an old monastery set in what would be called an idyllic hill country. I chanced on joining a tour, which took us into the sanctuary and nave, which were under construction. Variously called Dom- und Abteikirche Mariä Himmelfahrt / "Dom im Gebirge" / Benediktinerabtei Seckau, it would be Co-Cathedral and Abbey Church of the Assumption of Mary in English.





After seeing eastern #Austria, I rejoined the cycling tour, following the Danube as it flowed between #Slovenia and #Hungary. While in Hungary I encountered a few cathedrals dedicated to the Assumption.

The first was while cycling, when I was in the city of Györ. Mennyekbe Fölvett Boldogságos Szűz Mária székesegyház: Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady. The interior of the church had been gutted, so I was unable to enter. However, some of the treasury was in a building nearby, which had a tower where I was able to view the church from above the roofline.


As I continued cycling, after passing the Metrolpolitan cathedral in Estergom, I veered a bit off the prescribed route to visit Nagyboldogasszony székesegyház: the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and St. Michael the Archangel in Vac. My notes include the observation that the large plaza in front of the cathedral was used by the local school for physical education.


After arriving in Budapest and turning in my bike, I spent a few days exploring, and then rented a car to see more of Hungary. My second night on the road had me staying in Kecskemét, where I visited Nagyboldogasszony Főszékesegyház: the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Kalocsa. The bells were on the ground as exterior renovations were underway. I had to purchase an admissions ticket from the neighboring museum to enter the church, but the marvelous fresco work was worth it.


After returning to Budapest to turn in the car, I took a train to Brno in the Czech Republic. Taking a day to explore to the east, I visited Olomouc, Ostrava and the Co-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Opava.

The church was locked up tight, so I was limited to viewing a small dark shrine on the far side.

On that trip in Hungary, I also crossed the Danube into Slovakia, where, in Rožňava, I strained to see through the fence around the Katedrála Nanebovzatia Panny Márie (Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) on market day.

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In my book, #CathedralsToTheGloryOfGod, the only French cathedral I've visited dedicated to the Assumption is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption de Montauban. I visited this Occitanie commune in 2013 as I made my last solo bike venture, cycling along the Canal de Midi/Canal Entre Deux Mers. I'd crossed to the Tarn River, and fell in love with the town.



[This blog covers only the European (plus Tangiers) included in Cathedrals to the Glory of God. In Mexico, both the central Metropolitan cathedral in Ciudad de México and in Guadalajara honor the #Assumption. In the United States, San Francisco, Covington (KY) and Louisville are also included.]

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