Inscription on the main door of the Chiesa Anglicana in Bordighera


Inscription at the Chiesa Anglicana

At the request of Gisella Merello, author of her new book La Chiesa Anglicana di All Saints a Bordighera (Alzani Editore), I helped decypher this worn inscription above the church door. This is a rendering into useful “title” English of a significant quotation from the Bible. Whoever chose this inscription (was it Mrs Fanshawe, Bicknell or another?) is describing the Chiesa Anglicana, built in a foreign place but primarily for the English or followers of the Anglican Church, as a sanctuary, a place of safety and peace. This is a neat way of using a bible reference to give some validity to a church in a foreign place.

The words are closest to the King James version of the bible: King James Bible         Ezekiel 11:16
Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.

The phrase “yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come” has been shortened by omitting “yet will” and “as” because they are not needed grammatically or spiritually. One can see from the length of each of the three lines that there is no space for those three words. We can guess that the inscription starts with “I” even though there is no trace of it in this image. At the end of the second line the “ES” is missing from the end of COUNTRIES, as it has been mended with some filler or cement.

Note that Ezekiel is not a writer/prophet of special significance to the Christians of the Anglican Church. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Ezekiel is acknowledged as a Hebrew prophet. In Judaism and Christianity, he is also viewed as the 6th-century BCE author of the Book of Ezekiel, which reveals prophecies regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, and the restoration to the land of Israel. Ezekiel is respected and quoted not only in the Jewish and Christian religions but also in Islamic tradition, by which it follows that Ezekiel is a token of eucumenical throught, i.e. whether one can achieve unity between varying religious. This was a strong part of Clarence Bicknell’s creed, both as a Reverend of the Anglican Church for nearly 15 years and thereafter as a layman in Bordighera. He believed in the value of all religions for his whole life; in fact it was this very belief which led to his disenchantment with the single-minded Anglicans in Bordighera (and their disenchantment with him) and his resignation from the church. If this is true then one can imagine that Clarence Bicknell could have chosen this text for the inscription on the church. Would he have proposed it knowing of its eucumenical background? He ran the risk of Mrs Fanshawe and others finding out about his ruse and reacting very badly to it. Or maybe he guessed that they would take it at face value, i.e. a nice church as a sanctuary for believers. We might never know if Bicknell was the author of this interesting feature of the Chiesa Anglicana.

I have no technical knowledge of lettering in stone but I have practical experience of carving such letters in wood. I am not an expert in the scriptures, but an internet search showed that this excerpt from Ezekiel is the only possible source of a quotation which fits with the letters in the image.

Marcus Bicknell 19th May 2022 in response to Request of Gisella Merello 19th May 2022