Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Salisbury and the Magna Carta

Salisbury is an hour and a half by train from London and near Stonehenge so it is a perfect place for a day trip. Southern Rail offers promo return fares.
It's a pretty little place but its main claim to fame is its wonderful Gothic cathedral and adjoining Chapter House which houses one of the four copies of the Magna Carta still in existence.

Seeing the Magna Carta was worth the trip by itself. It is written on cow skin parchment in such beautiful but tiny writing you wonder how the scribe managed it. He must have been young with a steady hand and excellent eyesight.

Photo of part of the Magna Carta
The Salisbury Cathedral is one of great beauty. It is very plain grey-brown stone, built in the 13th century, with high arching columns. How did the builders manage to get those columns so perfectly round I wonder. Wooden lathes and lots of elbow grease said the friendly guide, Steve Dunn. 
How did the stonemasons get these surfaces so perfect in 1220? 
Steve Dunn was a mine of information and said that the interior of the church would once have been painted (you could see traces on the walls and roof if you looked hard enough) but that this was all scrubbed off during the reformation as it was considered too Popery. It remains the oldest purely gothic church in exsistence.

The scrubbed version of the church, which lacks any of the fancy trimmings that came in the later gothic, is entrancing. 
Gothic cathedral at Salisbury.
(Photos don't do it justice)
There is a modern and stunning window in one wall dedicated to  'all prisoners of conscience'.

Window dedicated to all prisoners of conscience
One of the things the cathedral houses is the world's oldest working clock. I found out just how complicated clocks are when I was at Dunedin art school and make one. It was so complicated I gave up. This clock in Salisbury was constructed in 1368 and is still working.
World's oldest clock
There are lots of tombs in the church and a wonderful plaque to the 'vertuous (sic) and religious Elhonor Sadler'. I said to Steve Dunn that she looked like someone you wouldn't want to cross and he replied that she had had a reputation for timing the sermon with an hourglass and then complaining if it was a single minute less than an hour.
'vertuous and religious'
An interesting exhibition of figures by artist Ama Maria Pacheco called Dispersing the Night was set up through the cathedral. The figures included John the Baptist's head on a plate seems to have followed me from Leipzig where Salome cut it off.
Dispersing the night

There was also a floral tribute to the victims of the Grenfell fire. (Steve Dunn's comment : 'We'd be remiss if we didn't have one.)
Floral tribute to Grenfell victims
at Salisbury Cathedral
As you can tell, I was captivated by this church and it's history. Definitely recommend a visit!

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