Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Westminster Abbey honours CS Lewis alongside literary elite 50 years after his death

CS Lewis: Belfast-born author of the Narnia books
CS Lewis: Belfast-born author of the Narnia books

CS Lewis – Belfast's most famous literary son – has been honoured in the hallowed halls of Westminster Abbey, with his heritage shining through at the ceremony.

The memorial stone in Poet's Corner places the Ulsterman among the greats, including William Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, William Wordsworth, John Keats and Shakespeare.

Born in 1898, the renowned scholar and theologian is the first Belfast writer to receive such recognition.

Almost 1,000 guests from around the world attended the unveiling in Westminster, 50 years after his death.

The stone set in the floor of Poets' Corner is inscribed with lines from one of his theological lectures: "I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I can see it but because by it I can see everything else."

The main address at the ceremony was delivered by former Archbishop of Canterbury and fan of his work, Dr Rowan Williams.

The east Belfast roots of Clive Staples Lewis – who was known to his family as Jack – played a particularly poignant role in the ceremony.

The son of the theologian's wife Joy, Douglas Gresham, spoke at the service.

A prayer read by Rev Adrian Dorrian, the current rector of St Mark's church, Dundela, also paid tribute to the family's links with the church. The writer's grandfather was the first rector there.

Perhaps most famous for the Chronicles Of Narnia, which has sold 100 million copies across the globe, the honour is a true accolade for the Oxford Scholar.

Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir said the honour was "a great day for our city and our wealth of writers, past and present".

The Lord Mayor hosted a literary celebration in the City Hall's parlour last night for 100 people to commemorate the historic recognition.

"Everyone deserves credit for its success, and I too was delighted to get involved by doing a reading at Falls Library," he said.

"I feel honoured to host a reception for the finest modern Belfast writers, who follow a proud local literary heritage which the likes of CS Lewis helped to build."

At the Linenhall Library, four of the city's finest writers – Glenn Patterson, Michael Longley, Ciaran Carson and Leontia Flynn – delivered readings.

It marked the culmination of months of work by the CS Lewis Festival to give the city a week of events to celebrate and enjoy the work and life of one of Belfast's greatest exports.

PROFILE

Clive Staples Lewis was born in 1898 in Belfast. He studied at Oxford and joined the Army at the outbreak of the First World War. He wrote more than 30 books, including The Chronicles Of Narnia (right), Out Of The Silent Planet and Mere Christianity. He died in Oxford on November 22, 1963.

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