Ely Cathedral

In times like these, I think it is important to have beautiful things to read about. So I thought I’d put together a post on Ely cathedral. I’m not religious, but it is a truly beautiful building with a fascinating history. I have written about it before in my tour round medieval cathedrals post a couple of years ago, but I decided it deserved its own post.

Ely is a largely Romanesque Cathedral, which is unusual in the UK. Most UK cathedrals are gothic or later, with the occasional romanesque element remaining. But Ely retains many of its Romanesque features, especially on the exterior. You can see the curved and solid shapes rather than the more common gothic pointed and etherial shapes in the photos above and below. The building you see on the site today is an amalgam of centuries of development, the Romanesque style is largely Norman and in the case of Ely was mainly completed by 1189.

Ely is known as the ‘ship of the fens’ as it dominates what is pretty much the only high point in surrounding areas. In the medieval period it would have been surrounded by fenlands. Even now that a large amount of the fens have been drained you can see how it commands the landscape. The images below are taken from the roof of the cathedral.

Ely’s origins trace back further even than the Normans, back to the 7th century CE when it was founded as a monastery by St Etheldreda. Etheldreda was a Saxon Queen and when she died in c. 680 her shrine at Ely became a pilgrimage site. It was destroyed in 1541, but there is a slate in the cathedral in front of the high altar (I unfortunately don’t have a photo of it) to commemorate where it stood.

This original building was destroyed by the Danes in 870 but was re-founded as a Benedictine monastery in c.970 The buildings you see today were begun in the reign of William the Conquerer under the direction of Abbott Simeon. Ely was partly built as a mark of Norman authority in the aftermath of rebellions in the area such as Hereward the Wake’s against the still reasonably new Norman authority. Originally Ely church was the church for the monastery, but Ely became a cathedral in c.1109 when the Diocese of Ely was carved out of the Diocese of Lincoln. It still retained its place as a Benedictine foundation. You can see some of the remains of the monastic buildings in the photo below.

Ely was dissolved as a monastery in the dissolution of the monasteries in the mid 16th century though it continued as bishopric and ultimately a college of priests was run from the old monastic buildings. Remains of the cathedral’s time as a monastic site still remain in the cathedral itself, such as the prior’s door you can see in the photo below

Although the name is contemporary this intricately decorated door is one of three 12th century doors that led from the monastic buildings and the cloister into the cathedral. The other doors lead into the choir and the south transept (see below).

The prior’s door led straight onto the nave, which was serving as the parish church until the 1360s. The nave itself is one of the most spectacular parts of the cathedral.

One of the key remaining parts of the original Norman church, the nave itself is 75m long and the ceiling is 32m high. The roof is not original. There is a ledge that runs along the top of the Romanesque columns where the original roof would have rested. In 1240 the roof was reconstructed when the cathedral was extended. You can see some the extended areas in the photos below, they are noticeable more gothic than the Norman parts of the cathedral.

The basic interior structure of this secondary roof largely survives today, but it would have been open.

In the 1850s, however, the Dean of the Cathedral Dean Peacock was one of many who thought the open roof detracted from the overall beauty of the cathedral. As part of the restoration of the cathedral by architect Sir George Gilbert Scott he had a boarded ceiling inserted that followed the lines of the open roof. The painting you can see below, was also undertaken at this time.

Henry Styleman Le Strange was the artist. Originally he was painting other smaller areas of the cathedral, but by 1856 he’d agreed to Dean Peacock’s suggestion that he paint the entire ceiling, he began in 1858. The immense work was undertaken by tracing the drawings onto the ceiling. You can see local figures including Dean Peacock and the artist himself in the ceiling panels which depict biblical scenes. Sadly Le Strange was unable to complete his work as he died in 1862 and it was completed by Thomas Parry. To find out more about the ceiling, see the article I’ve listed in the references. Much of stain glass work in the cathedral dates from the Victorian era as well.

Even though the nave is spectacular, the highlight of the cathedral interior is, arguably of course, the octagon

The octagon is not original to the cathedral either, but its construction came about for a very different reason. In 1322 the original Norman crossing tower collapsed. It was said that the noise was so loud that the monks though there had been an earthquake. The sacrist Alan de Walsingham was given the job of rebuilding. He could have rebuilt the tower conventionally, but instead the master mason whose name we don’t know he had an octagonal lantern built of 23 m across. It was a truly mammoth task of engineering, the lantern itself is 12 m high. You can see some of the beams the hold the lantern below.

The view from the lantern down to the cathedral floor is dizzying.

Ely Cathedral has stood as the ‘ship of the fens’ for hundreds of years, and although it is built for the glory of god, I like to look at it as building that is beautiful in its own right regardless of if you believe in God or not. And I think beautiful things are what we need right now.

References

Site visit 2012

https://www.elycathedral.org/history-heritage/a-descriptive-tour-of-ely-cathedral

https://www.elycathedral.org/history-heritage/the-monastic-buildings

elycathedral.org/files/pdf/the_nave_ceiling.pdf

The Companion to Cathedrals and Abbeys by Stephen Friar

Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel: Technology and invention in the Middle Ages by Frances and Joseph Gies

The Cathedral Builders of the Middle Ages.

The English Cathedral Through The Centuries by GH Cook

A Book of Medieval Outlaws: Ten tales in modern English edited by Thomas H. Ohlgren

Click to access the_nave_ceiling.pdf

Gerald of Wales

Gerald of Wales also known as Giraldus Cambrensis was born in c. 1145 in Manorbier Castle which you can see in the photos below.

IMG_5277IMG_5316IMG_5292IMG_5294Below you can see the room that the castle has set up to commemorate Gerald.

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Gerald described Maorbier as “in all broad lands of Wales Manorbier is the most pleasant place by far”[1]

Gerald was of both Norman and Welsh stock. His father was William de Barri, a Norman knight, and his mother was Angharad the daughter of Nest, one of the most fascinating Welshwomen of the period who you can find out more about her here. Nest was the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr Prince of South Wales. So Gerald’s lineage was rooted in both sides of the Norman French and Welsh divide. He described himself as strikingly handsome in his mid thirties, as well as very tall. He was confident of his own ability, sharp-tongued and sharp-witted and apparently an excellent horseman.[2] So much of his work has survived, and he wasn’t shy about describing himself and his opinions, that we are left with a surprisingly complete picture for a man who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries. He died in 1223 in his 80s, extraordinarily long lived for the time.

He travelled extensively and succeeded in being involved in several of the most momentous events of his time. His ultimate aim was to become Bishop of St Davids in Wales, an ambition at which he never succeeded. He was elected, but he never managed to have it confirmed by the king. He refused four other bishoprics to try and get St Davids, he even travelled to Rome to try and secure the bishopric and ended up in gaol whilst there. In the end, though, he was never made its bishop. When he died, however he was probably buried there. You can see an effigy in St Davids today which is thought to be either Gerald of his nephew. See the photo below

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You can see some photos of St Davids below

IMG_5561IMG_5565IMG_5598IMG_5604IMG_5605 St Davids has been a site of worship for more than 1500 years since it was founded by St David in the middle of the sixth century.  As St Davids is a cathedral it makes the town of St Davids, arguably, the smallest city in the UK with a population of only 1800 in 2011.

Gerald was a scholar, diplomat, churchman and theologian, but he is best known for his extensive surviving writings. He was the author of a number of works, including a life of St Hugh of Lincoln. The best known and, to me, the most interesting are: The Journey Through Wales, The Description of Wales and The Topography of Ireland. These texts are part travelogue, part nature guide and part diary and are not always flattering to the local inhabitants and geography. They also place Gerald at the heart of several key events. They give an almost unique depiction of the reality of Gerald’s world.

The Journey Through Wales covers the journey that Gerald, as the Archdeacon of Brecon, made with Baldwin Archbishop of Canterbury in 1188 to preach what would become the 3rd Crusade. Phillip Augustus of France and Prince Richard of England, later Richard I, had both taken the cross in 1187 and Archbishop Baldwin was trying to recruit more people. He preached in towns across Wales as well as saying mass at a number of cathedrals. The Journey Through Wales is an almost diary like account of this journey, and is one of the best descriptions of Wales at the time as they preached to both the Welsh and the Norman French. Gerald had connections throughout Wales with both groups and he presumably spoke Welsh, though he avoided preaching in it and didn’t act as a translator.

The Journey Through Wales has chapter headings that cover where Gerald and Baldwin journeyed. I’m not going to cover each in detail, but I have photos of quite a few, so I thought I’d include the list with a number of photos.

Book One

1.Hereford and Radnor

herefordHereford Cathedral

2.Hay-on-Wye and Brecknockshire

hay on wyeHay-on-Wye castle

3.Ewias and Llanthony

4.Coed Grwyne and Abergavenny

5. Usk Castle and Caerleon

caerleonCaerleon Roman amphitheatre

6. Newport and Cardiff

Cardiff Castle

7. Llandaff and Margam Abbey

8. Rivers Avon and Neath. Swansea and Gower

avonRiver Avon

9. River Loughlor, Kidwelly

kidwellsView from Kidwelly castle

10. River Tywi, Carmarthan, Whitland

11. Haverfordwest and Rhos

haverford westHaverford-West castle

12. Pembrokeshire

pembrokshirePembrokeshire Coastline

13. Cambrose, Newgale and St. Davids

IMG_5562St Davids

Book 2

14. Cemais and St Dogmael’s

dogmaelsSt Dogmael’s

15. River Teifi, Cardiganshire and Newcastle Emlyn

teifiRiver Teifi

16. Lampeter, Strata Florida, Llanddewi Brefi

Strata FloridaStrata Florida

17. River Dovey

18. Traeth Mawr, Traeth Bychan, Nefyn, Caernarfon and Bangor

caernarfonCaernarfon

19. The Island of Anglesea

angleseaAnglesea

20. River Conwy, Dinas Emrys

conwyRiver Conwy

21. Mountains of Snowdonia

snowdonView from the top of Mount Snowdon

22. Degannwy, Rhuddlan, Llanelwy

23. River Dee, Chester

24. Whitchurch, Oswestry, Powys and Shrewsbury

shrewsburyShrewsbury Cathedral

25. Wenlock Edge, Bromfield, Ludlow Castle, Leominster, Hereford. 

ludlowLudlow Castle.

Gerald probably finished the first version of The Journey Through Wales in 1191 and started the Description of Wales most likely straight after. The Description of Wales covers much more of the people and landscapes of Wales and is often less than laudatory about the Welsh. Dwelling, for example, on the inconstancy and instability of the Welsh as well as their weakness in battle and their greediness. He also usefully outlines how they could be conquered. Including the need for a long sustained effort, how to blockade their supplies and the importance of sowing dissension amongst the ranks of the Welsh as a “spirit of hatred and jealousy usually prevails” [3] This is a reference to the Welsh practice of acknowledging all sons, illegitimate or otherwise, and dividing land amongst all the sons, which led to quite a lot of infighting and fratricide. [4] These condemnations of the Welsh should not be taken as unvarnished fact.

Gerald wasn’t only condemnatory, he acknowledges the beauty of Wales and he goes into detail about the geography and especially the rivers and some mountains. He also discusses everyday things like how the Welsh wear their hair and their love of music.

The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales were not the only works of Gerald’s to present a travelogue. He also wrote The Topography of Ireland and The Conquest of Ireland when he travelled with Prince John’s party when John was sent in 1185 to be the new Lord of Ireland. Gerald was sent along as an advisor and he stayed after John returned back to England. While there he began both texts. Neither are complimentary of the Irish, and are very much from the view of the Norman conquerers. That being said he does cover a lot of the landscape of Ireland from the birds, to the barnacles and especially the weather describing it as a country “exposed more than others to storms of wind and deluges of rain”[5]

Having spent some time in Ireland I can see his point…

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But coming from a Welshman it does seem a bit harsh.

Gerald’s writings remain some of the most detailed and interesting accounts of his time. They continued to be influential for centuries after he died, not always to the benefit of reality especially in the case of the Irish, and in his long life he truly succeeded in making his mark.

References:

Site visits to Manorbier and St David’s in 2015 as well as visits to other sites in Wales and Ireland in both 2012 and 2015.

Gerald of Wales, The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales, Thorpe, Lewis, (ed. and trans.) Penguin: London, 1978

Gerald of Wales, The Topography of Ireland,  http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/topography_ireland.pdf

[1] Gerald of Wales, The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales, Thorpe, Lewis, (ed. and trans.) Penguin: London, 1978. p.151.

[2] Gerald of Wales p. 23

[2] Gerald of Wales p. 267

[4] Gerald of Wales p. 261

[5] Gerald of Wales, The Topography of Ireland, 

http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/topography_ireland.pdf  p. 13

The photos are all mine.

 

 

Winchester Cathedral

IMG_4366IMG_4150Winchester Cathedral has a long history. A Saxon cathedral was begun on this site in c. 648, but was slowly replaced by the Norman Cathedral and finally demolished in 1093 when the old and new building converged. You can see the outline of the original Saxon cathedral laid out below.

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It is possible that there was the intention to later rebuild and extend the western structure in a more ‘modern style’ but the black death in 1348, which halved the population of Winchester and the population of monks, put a stop to any ambitious rebuilding plans. In the late 14th century the three west porches and the great west window were created to close off a cathedral that had been truncated by necessity. Henry IV and Joan of Navarre were married in the cathedral as were Mary Tudor and Phillip of Spain. Henry III may have been baptised there, he was born in the castle, and the ill fated Prince Arthur, the older brother of Henry VIII, certainly was.

Winchester Cathedral contains many fascinating and often surprising historical features and I thought it would be worth exploring a few.

Much of the cathedral was refurbished in the gothic style in the early 1400s though some romanesque elements remain. When you view the interior of the cathedral these remaining romanesque elements are in stark contrast to the gothic majority. The nave below is an excellent example of the gothic majority.IMG_4280IMG_4288The romanesque style of the earlier cathedral can still be seen, specifically in the north transept (see below). The roof, in the Tudor style, in the photos below was inserted in 1819. The figure of Christ you can see in the first photo is by contemporary sculptor Peter Eugene Ball and was gifted to the cathedral in 1990.

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There are other remnants of the earlier style of the cathedral. In fact Winchester has a surprising number of exceptional survivals.

The Holy Sepulchre Chapel retains some of the finest 12th century wall paintings in England. They survived by chance because the vaulting was changed in the 13th century and the paintings were covered by plaster and the design was replicated on the new layer. These new designs did not survive, as is the case with the majority of wall paintings. It wasn’t until the 19th century, when some plaster fell, that the original paintings underneath became visible. In the 20th century modern restoration techniques allowed these paintings to be finally uncovered.  The paintings depict the deposition and entombment of Christ.

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The Holy Sepulcher Chapel is not the only surviving medieval painting in the cathedral. Another is the ceiling of the Guardian Angels Chapel. It was painted between 1225 and 1220 and repainted between 1260 and 1280. IMG_4331Another beautiful surviving element found in Winchester is the font. It dates to c.1150-1160 and is thought to be a result of the patronage of Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester.  It’s made of Tournai marble, which is in fact a dark limestone, and is carved with scenes from the life of St Nicholas.IMG_4294IMG_4293

IMG_4287IMG_4292The scene you can see in the image above is thought to depict the story that St Nicholas slipped money into a house to stop a nobleman from being forced to put his daughters onto the street.

Henry of Blois, who probably commissioned the font, was also responsible for commissioning the Winchester Bible, a fantastically decorated illuminated manuscript dating to the early 12th century. It is four volumes and was worked on for twenty years by scribes and illustrators. Bishop Henry of Blois was the younger brother of King Stephen, and it is thought that he is buried in the cathedral.

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The above tomb was for many years thought to be that of William Rufus, but more modern scholarship has argued that it is in fact Henry of Blois. William Rufus’ remains are thought to lie in mortuary chests in the cathedral along with, probably, those of King Canute.

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Winchester Cathedral is also the resting place of the remains of other important figures. These include St Swithun and Jane Austen. St Swithun’s shrine was destroyed by Henry VIII’s men in 1538, but a modern memorial now stands in its place. It was installed in 1962 on the 1100th anniversary of the saint’s death.

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Jane Austen was brought to Winchester in May 1817 by her brother Henry and sister Cassandra in the hope of obtaining help for her fading health. Sadly they were not successful and Jane died in Winchester on July 18th 1817. Her brother Henry used his contacts to have her buried in the cathedral.

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Some of the surviving tombs in Winchester can be found on a remarkable expanse of tiled floor. Medieval tiles don’t often survive in large quantities and I have written about some surviving Welsh tiles here. The tiles in Winchester date to the 13th century and carry a number of designs from the heraldic to the purely decorative. They are the largest area of medieval tiles to survive in England.

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The medieval tiles border an exceptionally interesting area of Winchester; the crypt. Unlike most cathedral crypts Winchester’s has never really been used to house bodies or monuments. This is due to the fact that since the cathedral was built the crypt has flooded regularly. Today you can see the contemporary sculpture Sound II by Antony Gormley reflected in the flooded crypt. It is a surprisingly haunting place. It feels in an odd way as if the silence has seeped into the stone. IMG_4302

Winchester Cathedral’s survivals from the early medieval period are all the more remarkable because it has suffered attack on a number of occasions.

Henry VIII’s men for example destroyed all the sculptures depicting the cathedral’s benefactors, old testament saints and the crucified Christ which was originally populated the Great Screen. The Screen was constructed in the late 15th century. The sculpture you can see on it now dates to the 19th century.

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The Puritans also did extensive damage to the cathedral when they came through Winchester. They stole all the treasures and used the bones of kings and prelates to break the main windows. The west window was, unusually, not reconstructed with a new image or a replica of the destroyed image. In fact the remnants of the broken glass were used, creating a fascinating mosaic affect which survives today.

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These are by no means the only treasures of Winchester Cathedral. It is well worth a visit, if possible, to see these and the other treasures. The Winchester Bible is worth it alone, unfortunately photos aren’t possible. Even after having visited a significant number of cathedrals Winchester remains one of my favourites largely because it holds so many remarkable survivals of an earlier time.

Source: Winchester cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9781857593990

http://www.janeausten.org/jane-austen-biography-page-2.asp

For more information: http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/

The photos are all mine.

An Easy to Evil Medieval British Quiz.

The way this quiz works.

It’s pretty simple. You see the question with a photo underneath and underneath the photo you’ll find the answer. There’s twenty five questions so keep track of how many you get right and how many you get wrong and see how you do at the end. There’s also a poll at the end so you can see how you compare to everyone else if you’re interested.

As the title suggests, it starts off easy and gets much more complicated. There are five sections: Easy, Medium, Hard, Difficult and Evil.

Enjoy.

Easy

1. What year was the Magna Carta sealed?

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Answer: 1215.

Photo: Part of Runnymede the water meadow where Magna Carta was signed.

2. What year was the Battle of Hastings?

Bayeux Tapestry 35

Answer: 1066

Photo: The Battle of Hasting in the Bayeux Tapestry.

3. Henry II fought with which Archbishop of Canterbury?

henry close

Answer: Thomas Becket.

Photo: Henry II at Fontevraud Abbey.

4.  Eleanor of Aquitaine was the mother of which Kings of England?

eofa

Answer: Richard I and John I. You get a bonus point if you said Henry the Young King as well.

Photo: Eleanor of Aquitaine Fontevraud Abbey.

5. William the Conquerer commissioned which survey in 1086?

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Answer: Domesday Book

Photo: A recreation of the Domesday Book from in the National Archives.

Medium

 6. Which crusade did Richard the Lionheart fight in?

Richard I

Answer: Third Crusade

Photo: Richard the Lionheart and Isabel of Angouleme. 

7. King John married his daughter Joan to which Welsh Prince?

llew coffin 1

Answer: Llywelyn Fawr or Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. Either is correct

And I wouldn’t be deducting points if you spelt either wrong.

Photo: Llywelyn’s coffin.

8. William Marshal married which heiress, the daughter of Richard Strongbow?

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Answer: Isabel de Clare.

Photo: William Marshal’s effigy.

9. King John lost his baggage train in which inlet?

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Answer: The Wash

Photo: Part of The Wash as it looks now.

10. Empress Maud purportedly escaped through King Stephen’s army and the snow from which Castle?

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Answer: Oxford Castle.

Photo: 1800s drawing from Cardiff Castle of the escape.

Hard

11. William the Conquerer is buried in which town?

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Answer: Caen.

Photo: William the Conquerer’s tomb.

12. Which King was born in Winchester Castle?

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Answer: Henry III.

Photo: Great Hall of Winchester Castle.

13. How did the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle famously describe the Period of Anarchy 1136-1154?

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Answer: It was a time “that Christ and His saints slept.”

Michael Swanton, (ed) & trans, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, London: Phoenix Press, 2000, p. 265. You get the point if you got a variant of this, there’s different translations.

Photo: The current tomb of Empress Maud, one of the antagonists of the Period of Anarchy.

14. Name the children of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

henry and eleanor

Answer: William, Henry, Matilda, Richard, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joanna, John.

If you got all of them but not in order have a point, but you get a bonus point if you got them in order.

Photo: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

15. What year did Henry the Young King die?

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Answer: 1183.

Photo: Henry’s non contemporary tomb at Rouen Cathedral.

Difficult

16. Name the three places which hold the only four existing copies of the original Magna Carta.
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Answer: Lincoln, Salisbury Cathedral and The British Library (the British Library has 2).

Photo: Part of Lincoln Castle.

17. Ida de Tosny, the wife of Roger Earl of Norfolk, had a son out of wedlock before she married the Earl who was he?

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Answer: William Longsword Earl of Salisbury and bastard son of Henry II.

Photo: His tomb.

18. Which castle did William Marshal, according to the Brut y Tywysogion, subdue with a “vast army” in 1204?

The Rev. John Williams, (ed), Brut y Tywysogion, London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1860, p. 261

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Answer: Cilgerran Castle.

Photo: Recent wicker statue of Marshal at Cilgerran

19. How much was King Richard’s ransom?

riveaux

Answer: 100,000 silver marks and 200 hostages. You get the point if you got the monetary amount.

Photo: Riveaux Abbey, a Cistercian foundation. Cistercian foundations had to contribute part of their wool clips to the ransom.

20. Canterbury Cathedral was begun in which decade?

Canterbury Cathedral

Answer: 1070s

Photo: Canterbury Cathedral

Evil

21. Which illustrious figure ‘processed’ through the Temple Church in London for its consecration in 1185.

temple church

Answer: Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem.

Photo: Temple Church in London.

22. According to the History of William Marshal what three things did King Stephen threaten to do to the young William Marshal while he was the King’s hostage?

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Answer: Hang him, catapult him at the walls of his father’s castle and crush him with a millstone.

A.J Holden & David Crouch (eds) S. Gregory, trans, History of William Marshal, Volume I, London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 2002, p. 31.

You can have the point if you got these in any order but you have to have all three to get the point.

Photo: William Marshal

23. The Bayeux Tapestry is how many metres long?

Bayeux Tapestry 16

Answer: 70.34m, but you can have the point if you said 70.

Photo: My favourite scene in the Bayeux Tapestry with the Hand of God coming out of the sky.

24. Which papal legate played a significant role in the Magna Carta negotiations and in the Regency of Henry III?

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Answer: Guala Bicchieri. You can have the point if you only got Guala, or said Gualo. It is a variation of the spelling and often only Guala or Gualo is written.

Photo: Facsimile of Salisbury’s Magna Carta in the Temple Church.

25. Who did Geoffrey of Monmouth describe as “an accomplished scholar and philosopher, as well as a brave soldier and expert commander”?

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Answer: Robert Earl of Gloucester and oldest illegitimate son of Henry I. The passage is from Geoffrey’s dedication of his work History of the Kings of Britain.

http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/geoffrey_thompson.pdf pg 2.

Photo: Monmouth Castle. Geoffrey was born somewhere in the region of Monmouth

The End

So that’s it. How did you do?

1-5: Well you’ve got some basics down pat. Good start.

6-10: You know more than basics, well on your way.

11-15: Good work, beginning to build a wealth of obscure facts.

16-20: Impressive. You know you stuff.

21-25: Incredible effort. You may know more about this period than is sensible 🙂

26-27  remember the two bonus points: Speechless. Incredible. You definitely know more than you need to about this specific period and area.

27: If you got them all… Sure you didn’t write the quiz?

Now if you feel like it put your results in the poll below.

The photos are all mine.

A Pictorial Tour of Medieval Cathedrals.

This is by no means a comprehensive survey of medieval cathedrals. It does however cover a significant number in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France. These are immense buildings with varied history and the survival of some is truly remarkable. You will find that some cathedrals have more information than others, this is simply because I either have more information on these cathedrals or more information is known.

They are sorted alphabetically by location

All the photos are mine

1. Albi

Saint Cecile Cathedral

Building Begun: 1282

Building Finished: Not entirely complete until 1492 but mainly finished by 1383

It was built as a statement of church authority over the surrounding populous as part of the conclusion of the Albigensian Crusade, something I will write more about at a later date. It is not an accident that it looks like a fortress.

Length: 113.50 m

Width: 35 m

Height: The belfry is 78m

Biggest brick cathedral in the world.

Style: Southern Gothic

The paintings in the nave were done between 1509 and 1512 and are surrounded by 29 chapels

Source Albi information booklet: ISBN: 9782913641792

For more information

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/albi-cathedral

Albi Cathedral Albi cathedral inside

2. Angers

Saint Maurice Cathedral

Building Begun: 12th century. This cathedral is the product of several rebuilding projects. The striking west front that you can see in the first image dates from c. 1170.

Building Finished: The cathedral was finished  in the late 13th century with the chancel dating from c. 1270, the steeples were added later in the 15th century and and a central tower in the 16th.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic, with some Renaissance additions.

Height: The steeples stand at: southern 70 m northern 77 m

Length: The nave is 950 m

The nave dates from the mid 12th century and is an excellent example of the emerging Gothic style, with some features remaining Romanesque.

Sources: Angers information booklet.

For more information

http://www.spottinghistory.com/view/1111/angers-cathedral/
Angers CathedralAngers Cathedral inside

3. Bayeux

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building Begun: Early 1000s, but what remains now is largely 13th century

Building Finished: This cathedral was built in several stages due to a number of disasters, but the majority was finished by the end of the 13th century with some chapels built in the 14th century and the central tower in the 15th century.

Style: Norman Gothic and some Romanesque inside

People involved: Much of the early construction was continued under Bishop Odo the brother of William the Conquerer

Major Disasters: In 1105 Henry I King of England set fire to the town of Bayeux and the cathedral. The cathedral was also set on fire during the English period of anarchy (1136-1154). Raids in the Wars of Religion in 1652 resulted in interior destruction.

The cathedral was also the original home of the Bayeux Tapestry which depicts the Battle of Hastings and its lead up. In fact it is possible that the tapestry was commissioned by Bishop Odo for the consecration of the cathedral. For more on the tapestry read my earlier post.

Source: Bayeux Cathedral information booklet. ISBN: 9782915762549

For more information see

http://bayeux-bessin-tourisme.com/en/visiteguidee/the-cathedral-of-bayeux/

Notre Dame Cathedral Bayeaux

bayeaux inside

4. Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral

Building Begun: The building you see now was begun in 1070s but it stood on the site of an earlier church. There have been several additions since then: The eastern arm of the church was extended in the 1130s and the staircase towers date to 1166. The quire was rebuilt in 1175 after a fire gutted it in 1174. The current nave was begun in 1377 and the main tower was finished in 1498. In the 1800s the north west tower was found to be dangerous so it was demolished and replaced by a copy of the south west tower.

Style: Romanesque, English Perpendicular Gothic, French Gothic.

Height: The central tower in 249 feet high.

The cathedral was part of the monastery until it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540

Major Disasters: Parts were damaged in WWII

The Cathedral is arguably best known as the site of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket ,Archbishop of Canterbury, at the hands of Henry II’s  knights in 1170. Becket was canonised in 1173 and was arguably more of a problem to Henry II dead than alive. He was also very profitable for the cathedral as it became an important place for pilgrimage. For an eyewitness account of the death of Thomas Becket http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/Grim-becket.asp

Sources: Canterbury Cathedral Booklet. ISBN 9780906211441

For more information

http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/conservation/history/

Canterbury Cathedral Canterbury Cathedral inside

5. Carcassonne

Saint Michel Cathedral

Built: Originally in the 13th century, but rebuilt in the 14th century as a fortified church following damage during war.

Style: Gothic with a little Romanesque

It was originally built as a parish church but was elevated to cathedral status in 1803.

For more information

http://archiseek.com/2009/1879-carcassonne-cathedral-france/

Carcassone real

Carcassone real inside

6. Cashel

Ruined cathedral on The Rock of Cashel

Building: c. 1230, main part finished c. 1270. But the tower dates to the 15th century. It was squeezed in between the earlier Cormac’s Chapel and the Round Tower

Style: Predominantly Gothic.

Major Disasters: Sacked by Lord Inchiquin on behalf of the English Parliament in 1647.

The cathedral was used until 1749 when the old site was abandoned and St John’s in the town below the Rock was conferred cathedral status. The cathedral was allowed to become a ruin.

Source and for more information: http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/media/NEW%20Rock%20of%20Cashel_3.pdf

Cashel cathedral

Cashal cathedral inside

7.  Chartres

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building: The foundations of this cathedral are Romanesque. The crypts are the only surviving part from this time and are the largest in France. Building of this part of the cathedral was begun in 1020 after a fire, though there have been earlier churches on the site. After another fire in 1194 construction of a new Gothic cathedral, which is primarily what remains today, was begun and took roughly 30 years. The two towers are a mixture of styles because they were built at different times. The cathedral also suffered an earlier fire in 1134 and the bell tower was destroyed, it was after this that the north west tower was built in the Romanesque style. It originally had a wooden spire, but this was destroyed in the 1500s and a stone spire built. The tower was originally free standing. The majority of the cathedral is 13th century with an astonishing 80% of the original stained glass remaining. It has not been substantially rebuilt, which is unusual in medieval cathedrals.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic.

Height: NW tower: 113 m SW tower: 105m.

Length: 130m

As well as it’s asymmetric towers Chartres is also known for its labyrinth. This can be seen in the the image below. The labyrinth probably dates to the 1200s, though it may have been earlier. It was a form of prayer and meditation for pilgrims and clergy as well as possibly the site of rituals.  Pilgrims of all types still come to Chartres to walk the labyrinth. It is surprisingly calming. For more labyrinth information

http://www.labyrinthos.net/chartresfaq.html

Sources: Chartres Cathedral Guide: ISBN: 9780853726593 and http://chartrescathedral.net/chartres-cathedral-facts/

For more information http://chartrescathedral.net/chartres-cathedral-facts/

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral. inside

8. Dublin

Christ Church Cathedral

Building Begun: c. 1030 , but rebuilt after the Norman invasion in 1170 in Romanesque style. It was also extended in 1358. The south nave wall and roof collapsed in 1562 which necessitated more rebuilding. It was also heavily restored in the mid 1800s.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic.

Richard Strongbow, father in law of William Marshal, and one of the leaders of the first Norman invasion of Ireland, was buried in Christ Church Cathedral when he died in 1176. His effigy was destroyed when the wall fell on it in 1562, but as it had been the site where rents had been paid in that part of Dublin a new Strongbow effigy had to be supplied the replacement dates from the 14th century. This is the effigy you see today.

Sources: Christ Church information leaflet

For more information http://christchurchcathedral.ie/visit-us/history-and-guides/

christ church cathedral dublin

christ church cathedral dublin inside

9. Dublin

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Building: A stone church was built on this site in 1191 but it was rebuilt in the early 13th century. The Lady Chapel was added in 1270, the west tower was rebuilt after a fire in 1370 and the spire dates to 1749. It was also restored in the 1800s.

People Involved: In some ways it’s best known for its connections with Jonathan Swift who was Dean there from 1713-1745, he is also buried in the cathedral.

Sources: St Patrick’s information booklet and http://www.stpatrickscathedral.ie/History-of-the-Building.aspx

St patrick's cathedral dublin

St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin inside

10. Elgin

Ruined Cathedral in Elgin Scotland

Building: Elgin began to be built in 1224. It was expanded after a fire in 1270 and remodelled again after an attack by Earl of Buchan in 1390 and Alexander Lord of the Isles in 1402. Its roof was lost shortly after the reformation and the central tower fell down in 1711. In the 1820s its potential as a visitor attraction was recognised and what remained of the ruin was stabilised.

Sources: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_133

Elgin Cathedral

Elgin cathedral inside

11. Ely

Ely Cathedral

Building: Known as the ship of the fens, work on the existing building began in the early 1080s. It was built on the site of older churches founded on Etheldreda’s monastery. The shrine to Etheldreda remained a pilgrimage point until it was destroyed in 1541. The central tower also fell over in the 1300s and the octagonal tower you can see today was built. The west tower was extended in the 14th century with a belfry and supporting turrets added to the existing Norman tower. The lady chapel was completed in 1349. The interior hammerbeam roof dates to the 15th century. The cathedral was originally a monastic community, but it this was dissolved in the dissolution of the monasteries and the the cathedral was re-founded in 1541.

Style: Romanesque, with some Gothic additions.

Height:  West tower is 66m.

Length: The nave is 76m long.

Sources: Ely information leaflet and http://www.elycathedral.org/history-heritage/the-story-of-ely-cathedral

Ely cathedral

Ely Cathedral inside

12. Glendalough

Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Building: Part of the Glendalough monastic community. The nave probably dates to 900-1000 and the chancel and sacristy probably date to 1100-1200. It ceased to be a cathedral when the diocese of Glendalough was united with Dublin in 1214. The light coloured stone in the arch comes all the way from Bristol in England, which gives a pretty good indication of how wealthy the Glendalough community was at one point. The “flight of the earls”, which is the name for the departure of many of the last of the Gaelic chieftains of Ireland,  in 1601 really spelled the end for the Glendalough community and the buildings all began to fall into disrepair. In the 1870s Glendalough came under he control of the Board of Works  and they undertook to renovate what remains.

Style: Romanesque and a little Gothic.

Length: 29.6m

Source: Glendalough Booklet. ISBN: 9781905487462

For more information: http://visitwicklow.ie/item/cathedral-of-st-peter-and-st-paul-glendalough/

Glendalough Cathedral

Glendalough cathedral inside

13. Hereford

The Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Ethelbert the King.

Building: The building was begun in the early 1100s and the nave, the quire and the crossing still largely date from this time, although it was altered in the 1300s to reflect changing tastes. The wooden interior of the quire dates from the 14th century. The lady’s chapel and crypt below it both date to the 1220s and the north transept was also reconstructed in the mid 1200s. The main tower was constructed in the 14th century. The greatest change to the building work of the cathedral came in 1786 when the west end and its tower collapsed on Easter Monday. The west front was rebuilt and completed by 1796 but it was never popular as it was quiet plain, so it was replaced again in 1908. There was also rebuilding work done in the 1800s

Style: Romanesque and Gothic

Hereford Cathedral is also home to the chained library which was originally held in the lady chapel and is an amazing example of medieval book security. They also hold the Hereford Mappa Mundi, a spectacular map of the world dating to c. 1300.  For more on the Mappa Mundi http://www.themappamundi.co.uk/ for more on the chained library http://www.herefordcathedral.org/visit-us/mappa-mundi-1/the-chained-library

Sources: Hereford Cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9780904642148

For more information: http://www.herefordcathedral.org/

Hereford Cathedral

Hereford cathedral inside

14.  Kilfenora

Cathedral of Saint Fachtna

Built in the late 1100s after Kilfenora became a diocese. The chancel is now roofless, but parts of the cathedral are still used today. A wooden roof painted with small stars on a blue background remained over the chancel until the last century. Interestingly the diocese of Kilfenora is so small that there is not a specifically appointed bishop, therefore the Pope takes the role of Bishop of Kilfenora.

Kilfenora is also home to several high crosses, which mainly date to around the 12th century. It sits in the fascinating landscape of the Burren.

Source: A site visit in 2012. For more information http://www.theburrencentre.ie/the-burren/kilfenora-the-city-of-the-crosses/

Kilfenora cathedral

Kilfenora cathedral inside

15.  Kilkenny

Saint Canice’s Cathedral

The building work for the existing cathedral began in c. 1202, but it was on the site of an earlier monastery and the round tower was already standing as it had been built in c. 849. The work on the existing cathedral was complete in 1285.  The central bell tower collapsed in 1332 and had to be repaired, though the ribbed vaulting you can see from the interior was added in 1475 and is purely decorative.  The cathedral was also significantly damaged by Oliver Cromwell in 1650 and it was left roofless and abandoned for 12 years, before eventually being restored. There was also extensive restoration work undertaken during the 1800s and the 1900s. The roof of the nave dates from this time period.  The choir stalls were installed in 1901.

Style: Early Gothic, predominantly.

Length: Approximately 69 m

Width: 37.5 m

Source: St Canice’s information leaflet. For more information

http://www.stcanicescathedral.ie/visitors-information-page50542.html

St Canice's Kilkenny St Canice's Kilkenny inside

16.  Kirkwall Orkney

Saint Magnus Cathedral

Building: St Magnus was founded in c. 1137.  The St Rognvald chapel was added in the 13th century along with the west door. The cathedral was also extended in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was built of local red sandstone and yellow sandstone.

The cathedral was built when Orkney was still part of Norway. Orkney didn’t become part of Scotland until 1468 when the islands were annexed by Scotland as part of a failed dowry payment. While the Orkneys remained part of Norway St Magnus was part of the diocese of Trondheim. In 1486 King James III assigned the cathedral to the people of Kirkwall

St Magnus is the patron saint of the Orkneys. Magnus was the eldest son of one of the Earls of Ornkey, his cousin Haakon was the eldest son of the other Earl. They spent much of their life in disagreement, though it was said that Magnus was the more popular and the more pious. After the death of both their fathers this antagonism continued between the two Earls. A meeting was agreed in 1117 to try to resolve some of the differences. They both agreed to bring only 2 ships and a limited number of men, but Haakon broke the agreement bringing 8 ships full of armed men. Magnus refused to let his men defend him against his cousin instead offering three options to Haakon other than killing him. Haakon was willing to accept the 3rd option, which was to blind and maim Magnus and cast him in a dungeon. But Haakon’s advisors told him Magnus had to die. The task fell to Haakon’s cook Lifolf who took up an axe and killed Magnus. Magnus’ last words are said to have been “Take heart, poor fellow, and don’t be afraid. I’ve prayed to God to grant you his mercy.’ Magnus was initially buried on Birsay but miracles began to be spoken of at his grave. The Bishop of Orkney declared him a saint not that long after.

In 1129 Magnus’ nephew came from Norway and defeated Haakon’s son Paul and became Earl of Orkney. He had made a vow that if he succeeded in becoming Earl of Orkney he would build a stone church at Kirkwall and dedicate it to St Magnus and have his relics places there. Earl Rognvald founded St Magnus in 1137 and St Magnus’ relics remain there today along with Earl Rognvald’s.

Style: Northwest European Romanesque and early Gothic.

Source: St Magnus booklet. ISBN: 9780711744677.

For more information http://www.stmagnus.org/

St Magnus' cathedral

St Magnus' cathedral inside

17. Leicester

Saint Martin’s Cathedral

Building: The cathedral was begun in 1000s. There is still a small amount of the 1086 cathedral visible. The Doomsday Book records that there were three churches in Leicester, the current cathedral was one of them.

The church was rebuilt in the 13th century as Leicester Abbey. The nave and the chancel were extended in the 15th century. The spire was added in 1757. It was much restored in the 1800s as well. In 1927 Leicester was given a bishop again and the Church of St Martin became Leicester Cathedral.

Leicester Cathedral has been best known recently for being the re internment site of Richard III. Richard III died at Bosworth Field in 1485, the last English king to die on the battlefield and the final Plantagenet King. He was buried at Greyfriars and was rediscovered under a car park in 2012. He was re-interred in March 2015.

Source: http://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2012/10/31/leicester-cathedral/ and Leicester Cathedral booklet.

Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral inside

18. Lincoln

Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Building: The cathedral was founded in 1072 and was consecrated in 1092. Its roof was destroyed by fire in 1141 and rebuilt by 1148. In 1185 an earthquake destroyed much of the cathedral and it was rebuilt by St Hugh of Lincoln between 1192 and 1200.  The east transepts were built in c. 1200 and the main transepts in c. 1210. In c. 1230 the chapter house was built. In 1237 the main tower collapsed. The angel choir was built between 1256-80. In 1311 the central tower was raised and the western tower was raised in 1420. In 1549 the spire blew down and the western spires were removed in 1807. The cathedral was much restored in the 1900s.

Style: Gothic and Romanesque.

All the towers had spires until 1549 when the central tower’s spire blew down. For a significant period of time after the 1311, when the tower was raised to its present height, Lincoln Cathedral is thought to have been the tallest buildings in the world.

Lincoln Cathedral is the burial place of the viscera of Eleanor of Castile the wife of Edward I. She was present for the consecration of the Angel Choir in 1280. When she died ten years later her viscera were interred at the cathedral. It is also the site of one of the Eleanor Crosses, the crosses that Edward I had built to remember Eleanor of Castile at the places where her coffin stopped on its return to London.

Sources: Lincoln Cathedral information leaflets and http://lincolncathedral.com/building/history/

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral inside

19. London

Southwark Cathedral

It is ambiguous when there was first a church at Southwark, but an Augustinian priory was re-founded in c. 1106 by two Norman knights. Like most of the area surrounding it the priory was under the control of the Bishops of Winchester. The Bishops control included the Southwark prostitutes. After the dissolution of the monasteries the church became the property of Henry VIII . It was renamed St Saviours and rented to the congregation. A group of merchants bought the church from James II in 1611 for 800 pounds.

By the 1820s the physical state of the building had become a real cause for concern. There was a lot of argument about what to do, at least partly because there were concerns with the new London Bridge and it coming closer to the church Eventually restoration was agreed upon. A new diocese was created for the area in the mid 1800s and as part of this a new nave was built in 1895. In 1905 St Saviours became Southwark Cathedral.

Source: http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/

Southwark Cathedral

20. London

Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Building: The first cathedral was built in c. 604.  It was rebuilt in stone in 962. After more destruction it was rebuilt again by the Normans beginning in 1087. The quire was the first part of the Norman cathedral finished in 1148, which meant that it could be used for worship as soon as possible. Parts of the cathedral were destroyed during the reformation and under Henry VIII, namely some of the shrines. In 1561 lightning struck the spire and destroyed the steeple and much of the roof. Plans were made for reconstruction, but were never fully carried out as they were interrupted by the English Civil War. The parliamentary forces took the cathedral and its Dean and Chapter were dissolved. The lady chapel became a preaching auditorium and the nave was used as a cavalry barracks with sometimes up to 800 horses stabled inside.

By the 1650s the building was in extensive disrepair, but when Charles II was restored as King plans were made for restoring the cathedral. A plan was actually agreed on in August 1666, which was unfortunately only one week before the Great Fire of London. The scaffolding around the cathedral helped to fuel the fire and as the high vaults fell the books stored there added to the fuel. There were even reports of the stone being so hot that some of it exploded. The structure was beyond hope of rescue.

The building you see now is the masterpiece of Christopher Wren. It took nine years to plan and approximately 35 to build. The final stone was laid in 1708.

The Cathedral is also justly famous for surviving the Blitz of the WWII.

At 111 m St Paul’s was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962.

Source: https://www.stpauls.co.uk/history-collections/history/cathedral-history-timeline

St Paul's Cathedral London modle

 Model of how it would have looked before the Great Fire of London

St Paul's Cathedral London

St Paul’s as it is now

21.  Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building: Tradition has it that Notre Dame’s first stone was laid in 1163, it was built in Gothic style. The choir and the double deambulatory were built first and finished by 1182, the last three bays of the nave were finished by 1190, the facade, the first two bays of the nave and the gallery of kings were complete by 1225 and by 1250 the upper gallery, the towers of the facade, the side chapels and some of the flying buttressing was complete. The first spire was added in c. 1250 to the transept tower, a bell tower that at one stage held five bells. It was taken down between 1786 and 1792. In the mid 1800s during the restoration of the cathedral a new spire was added, it is a stand alone tower and is modelled on the spire built in Orleans in 1852.  The transept arms, the north and south counter braces, were extended in the late 13th early 14th century along with the construction of the choir chapels and the asps between the buttresses. There was also fairly extensive restoration work done in the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the addition of a new sacristy, the restoration of many of the statues and the installation of new windows.

During the French revolution the cathedral also suffered. The 13th century spire was demolished, 28 statues from the gallery of kings were destroyed, all the major portal statues apart from the statue of the virgin from the cloister portal were also destroyed.

Notre Dame is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. It is an excellent example of the Gothic style which was just starting to develop in detail at the time of its construction. It has survived with a remarkably small number of disasters considering its long history.

Source: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/spip.php?article393

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris inside

22. Paris

Saint Denis Cathedral

Building: The cathedral stands on the site of the tomb of St Denis, who is thought to have been the first Bishop of Paris. He was martyred in c. 25o CE.   While there has been a church on this site since the 6th century in was Abbot Suger in the 12th century who began the Gothic cathedral. It was not a cathedral at this stage, it was the church for the Abbey of St Denis. The church was extended in the 13th century during the reign of Louis IX who later became St Louis. The church suffered at the hands of war and revolution, but was restored in the 19th century. It became a cathedral in 1966.

St Denis has been the burial place of the Kings of France and their families since the 6th century. The cathedral now holds more than 70 effigies. These include: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, though they have no contemporary effigies and their remains were transferred from the Madeline Cemetery in Paris by Louis XVIII, Henri II and Catherine de Medici, King Dagobert, one of the earliest kings of France, and Louis VII, the first husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Many tombs have been moved here over the years. For a full list see http://www.monuments-nationaux.fr/fichier/m_media/20/media_fichier_fr_Plan.Basilique.Gisants.PDF.1.pdf

It also contains the royal ossuary, which is where the bones exhumed from the royal tombs during the Revolution were gathered by Louis XVIII.

Sources: St Denis leaflet, http://saint-denis.monuments-nationaux.fr/

St Denis Cathedral St Denis inside

23. Peterborough

Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Building: The first church on this site was 655 CE as part of a Celtic abbey. It was destroyed by a Danish attack in 870 and the site was abandoned until the 10th century when a Benedictine community was founded on the site. But in 1070 Hereward the Wake arrived and this led to great damage to the building following resistance to the Norman Conquest. A accidental fire in 1116 caused more damage so it was decided to build an entirely new church which took 120 years and 11 Abbots to complete. The west front, which you can see in the photo, is probably Peterborough’s most recognisable feature, it was completed in the 13th century. The arches are 26m high. The nave’s ceiling was probably completed around 1250 and is the only surviving wooden ceiling of this age and design in the UK.

Peterborough Cathedral is the burial place of Katherine of Aragon and was the original burial place of Mary Queen of Scot after her execution in 1587. Her son James I had her body moved to Westminster Abbey.

Source: Peterborough Cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9780851014593

For more information http://www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk/

Peterbourgh Cathedral Peterbourgh Cathedral inside

24. Rouen

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building: The Romanesque parts of this cathedral began to be built in c. 1000, it was blessed in 1063.  In 1144 it was decided to add a tower to the cathedral and the whole cathedral began to be reconstructed as a Gothic edifice. The Saint Romain tower on the left is a remaining part of some of the very early rebuilding and you can begin to see the transitional style from Romanesque to Primitive Gothic. The reconstruction of the entire cathedral as Gothic began in c. 1185. In 1200 a fire destroyed much of what remained of the Romanesque cathedral and most traces of the original Romanesque cathedral were removed in remodelling after the fire. The three bays chapel was built in c. 1302 and the windows were opened up in c. 1370. The cathedral was much embellished in the 15th century in the Flamboyant Gothic style, including the top of the Saint Romain tower. In 1514 the wooden spire was destroyed by fire. The central tower was rebuilt and made taller following the fire and it became a lantern tower, with a spire that reached 132 m. This spire was destroyed by another fire in 1822, and the spire that stands there now is the result of a competition for designs.

The cathedral was badly damaged during WWII.  It took a direct hit which barely missed supporting pillars but did extensive interior damage. Soon after the St Romain tower caught fire during another bombing and the bells in the tower melted. The cathedral was only just saved from falling down completely and was rebuilt in the following years.

Rouen Cathedral is the burial place of Henry the Young King, the heart of Richard I, Rollo the first Duke of Normandy and the re burial place of Empress Matilda.

Source: Rouen Cathedral Booklet. For more information http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/rouen-cathedral

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral inside

25. Salisbury

Salisbury Cathedral

Building: Foundation stones were laid in 1220 and the three eastern chapels were the first parts to be completed. The main body of the cathedral was finished for consecration in 1258, but the whole project wasn’t complete until c. 1266. The tower and spire were added between 1300 and 1320, it stands at 123m, and since the 16th century has been the tallest spire in England. The original builders had not intended to include the tower and the spire and they began to bear down on the remainder of the building by the mid 14th century pushing columns out of alignment. So a process of reinforcement including buttresses, iron ties and strainer arches was begun. The eastern end of the cathedral including several chapels was reconstructed in the 15th century. The cathedral suffered during the English Civil war with damage to the bell tower, significant damage to the cloisters, which were used to house dutch prisoners, and lead stolen from the roof. It suffered less than some of the other cathedrals though and was refurbished during the Restoration. The cathedral was heavily remodelled during the 1700s including the destruction of what remained of the bell tower and the removal of two porches. The interior was significantly remodelled as well with the levelling of much of the floor for a new altar, the removal of medieval glass and the white washing or removal of medieval wall paintings. It was remodelled again in the 1800s and 1900s.

Salisbury Cathedral holds one of only 4 remaining copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. It is currently housed in the chapter house and can be viewed there.

It is also the burial place of William Longsword. Illegitimate son of King John and Earl of Salisbury. Some of  his original tomb remains in wood.

Source: http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/history/new-start-building-cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral Salisbury cathedral inside

26. St David’s

Saint David’s Cathedral

Building: St David’s was founded as a monastery in c. 601 after St David died, but the present cathedral was begun in 1181. In 1220 the central tower collapsed. The building was then damaged by an earthquake in c.1247. The Holy Trinity Chapel was built in the 16th century, the nave roof and the ceiling and were reconstructed in the same time period. Much of the building was damaged during the English Civil War. The west front was rebuilt in c. 1793. The cathedral was restored in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The nave is the oldest surviving part of the cathedral. It’s built in Transitional Norman style. The wooden ceiling was built in the mid 16th century.

St David’s is the site of the shrine of St David. It has been a place of pilgrimage since the 600s and remains so today.

St David’s is also the burial place of Gerald of Wales, the famous chronicler of both Wales and Ireland, he campaigned to be Bishop of St David’s, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Source: http://www.stdavidscathedral.org.uk/index.php?id=679

St David's Cathedral

St David's Cathedral inside

27 . Waterford

Christchurch Cathedral

Building: It is quite plain that the building standing on this site now is not a medieval cathedral. The current cathedral was built in 1773 after the old cathedral was deemed to need replacement. The city corporation felt that the Norman cathedral was old fashioned and wanted a new modern cathedral so they petitioned the bishop, telling him that the old cathedral was too run down. Tradition has it that rubble was dropped strategically near the bishop when he visited to convince him that the cathedral needed replacing. He agreed in 1773. However in a testament to the Norman masons and a fairly clear sign that the cathedral was not falling down, the cathedral was so strong that it had to be blown up with gunpowder rather than just pulled down. The current building is a reasonably unusual, for a cathedral,  neo-classical Georgian style which was immensely in fashion when this cathedral was built.

The medieval cathedral which stood on this site before it was, quite possibly unnecessarily, blown up dates originally to 1096 when it was built by the recently converted Vikings.

For me the main point of interest is that it was in this early cathedral that Richard Strongbow and Princess Aoife were married in 1170. Strongbow was one of the Normans whom King Diarmait Mac Murchada invited over to Ireland to reclaim his kingdom of Leinster. He promised Strongbow his daughter in marriage if he came, as well as the chance to inherit the kingdom. Strongbow was one of the first of the Normans in Ireland and they never left. Thus Mac Murchada’s legacy is somewhat mixed. Strongbow and Aoife were also the parents of Isabel de Clare and thus the parents in law of William Marshal. Strongbow died in c. 1176, ultimately leaving Isabel as one of the greatest heiresses of her time.

The Normans also significantly rebuilt the cathedral in 1210 and continued to add to it until it was blown up in the pursuit of fashion in 1773.

Source: http://christchurchwaterford.com/heritage/

Christ church cathedral waterford

Christ church cathedral waterford inside

28. Winchester

Winchester Cathedral

Building: A Saxon cathedral was begun on this site in c. 648 but was slowly replaced by the Norman Cathedral and finally demolished in 1093 when the old and new building converged. It is possible that there was the intention to later rebuild and extend the western structure in a more ‘modern style’ but the black death in 1348, which halved the population of Winchester and the population of monks, put a stop to any ambitious rebuilding plans. In the late 14th century the three west porches and the great west window were created to close off a cathedral that had been truncated by necessity. The nave was also dramatically refurbished in the Gothic style in the early 1400s, though some romanesque elements remain.

The Holy Sepulchre chapel by chance retains some of the original 12th century wall paintings depicting the entombment of Christ. The crypt is also an interesting feature of the cathedral as it is flooded for much of the year and has been so since the beginnings of the cathedral. The water comes up through a well behind the high altar as well as through the actual floor of the crypt.

Winchester Cathedral has seen a number of important events. William Rufus was brought there after he was ‘accidentally’ shot dead in the New Forest. His remains lie in mortuary chests in the cathedral along with, probably, those of King Canute. Henry IV and Joan of Navarre were married in the cathedral as were Mary Tudor and Phillip of Spain. Henry III may have been baptised there, he was born in the castle, and the ill fated Prince Arthur, the older brother of Henry VIII, certainly was.

The Puritans did extensive damage to the cathedral when they came through, they stole all the treasures and used the bones of kings and prelates to break the main windows.

Winchester Cathedral is also the site of the Winchester Bible, a fantastically decorated illuminated manuscript commissioned by Bishop Henry of Blois, the younger brother of King Stephen, and dating to the early 12th century. It is four volumes and was worked on for twenty years by scribes and illustrators.

The cathedral is also the burial place of Jane Austen

Source: Winchester cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9781857593990

For more information: http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/

Winchester cathedral

Winchester cathedral inside

29. York

York Minster

Building: The building of the Norman cathedral began in 1080. The cathedral was then extended in 1160 with a new eastern arm. The main massive rebuilding project began in 1120 with the rebuilding of the south transept in Early English Gothic style. This rebuilding project continued over a number of years. The north transept was completed in 1253, the chapter house in 1290, the nave in 1338, the lady chapel in 1373, the east end in 1420 and the central tower in 1465. The building was consecrated as the minster in 1472. The nave roof and the bell towers were badly damaged by fire in the 1840s and in 1984 the south transept roof was destroyed by fire.

One of the better known elements of York Minster is the quire screen with its fifteen kings. It was built in c. 1450 and contains sculptures of the fifteen Kings of England from William the Conquerer until Henry VI. On a side note a duplication of the screen as part of a side board can be seen in St Paul’s cathedral in Melbourne Australia.

Underneath the cathedral are the remains of the Roman Principia where it is possible Constantine was proclaimed emperor in CE 306.

Source: York Minster Information Booklet. ISBN: 9781907750274

For more information: https://www.yorkminster.org/learning/school-visits/activities-amp-resources/york-minster-fact-sheets.html

York Minster

York Minster inside

St Patrick’s Day: The Rock of Cashel.

Seeing as it is St Patrick’s Day… The Rock of Cashel, also known as St Patrick’s Rock, is one of Ireland’s most historic and most spectacular sites. Rock of Cashel It is home to a myriad of history: The 12th century Cormac’s Chapel with truly spectacular surviving wall paintings.cormac's wall painting cashel3 cormac's wall painting cashel4 cormac's wall painting cashel2 cormac's wall painting cashel1 The 13th century Cathedral of St Patrick.   cathel cathedral cashel cathedral A very early 12th century round tower. The inhabitants would hide inside if they were raided. They would take all their valuables into the tower and burn the steps. round tower cashelround tower cashel correct The 15th century Hall of Vicar’s Choral.cashel hallcahsel hall 3cashel hall 2And the 12th Century Cross of St Patrick. There have been repeated stories that the stone at the bottom of the cross was the inauguration stone of the Kings of Cashel. This is, however, unlikely as it is clear that the base stone matches the rest of the cross.  St Patrick's cross The Rock of Cashel was the ancient home of the Kings of Eóganacht and it was there that, according to tradition, St Patrick baptised the grandsons of the King. According to legend St Patrick accidentally put the point of his crozier through the foot of Óengus, one of the grandsons, but Óengus thought it was part of the ritual so he stayed silent. The Eóganacht lost Cashel to the Dál Cais in the 10th century and in 1101 Muircheartach Ua Briain, King of Cashel gave the Rock to the Church. This succeeded in both confirming his position as a true son of the Church as well as ensuring that the Eóganacht could never reclaim their ancestral home. The Rock of Cashel is a beautiful place that is inextricably linked with St Patrick. There is an immense concentration of history on the one rock. However when I was there, dodging the bus loads of tourists, it is Cormac’s Chapel in particular that truly stood out. The wall paintings are amongst the finest I have seen anywhere. For more information see. http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/media/NEW%20Rock%20of%20Cashel_3.pdf The photos are all mine.

Marriage Alliances of Noble Women 1180- 1250: Part 2 Eleanor of Aquitaine

Due to the fact that the majority of interest seems to have been in Eleanor of Aquitaine from part one of this series I am going to begin my investigation of individual women with her. There has been so much written about Eleanor of Aquitaine and I am the first to admit that there isn’t that much new to say, but she is one of my favourites from this time period so I’m always happy to write about her. eofa

Eleanor of Aquitaine’s effigy at Fontevraud Abbey.

Royal marriages changed the political face of the country and ensured the transmission of states between families. They also formed alliances that helped to stop wars, start wars and disseminate culture between different countries. The royal bride who had the most profound effect on England during this time period was Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor of Aquitaine was married to Henry II from 1152-1189. [1] Her marriage was made for political reasons, on her side as well as Henry’s, but it did later come to involve affection and it appears there was some form of initial attraction on both sides. Her marriage to Henry II also changed English politics. She brought the Duchy of Aquitaine to the English Crown and thus was instrumental in the creation of the Plantagenet Empire on the continent. The Plantagenets ruled substantially more of what we would now consider France than did the French. Eleanor was also the mother of the three kings: Henry the Young King ,who was crowned during his father’s lifetime but died in 1183, Richard I and John I. Richard and John were both kings who made strong marks, good and bad, on the political landscape. Medieval English queens did have authority, but it was largely ceremonial and dependant on their husbands. They had their own unique status, as they were the only ones beside the king who were officially anointed and appointed by God as part of the royal authority.[2] Medieval queens also had their own land in the shape of their dower lands, which were given to them by the king on their marriage. However, how much say the queen had in the running of these lands was dependant on the queen herself and the amount of authority the king allowed her. [3] The queen was also often at the cultural centre of the court.  Even contemporaries who were not otherwise remarkably complimentary of Eleanor of Aquitaine acknowledged the immense cultural downturn the court took in her absence.[4] Patronage was another area in which queens could have great influence.  An example of such patronage is Eleanor of Aquitaine’s 1185 charter to the abbey of Fontevraud. In this charter she gives the abbey and the “nuns serving God there” the “rent of one hundred pounds, in perpetual alms, from the provosture of Poitiers and the vineyard of Benon, particularly what is received from Marcilly.” [5] Fontevraud

Fontevraud Abbey.

It was primarily because of her background that Eleanor of Aquitaine was able to wield a little more real authority than some other queens of England, though she was still subject to the power of her husband. She was born in c 1124 and was a great heiress in her own right. [6] Her father was Duke William X of Aquitaine and when he died on pilgrimage in c 1137 he left Eleanor as the ruler of one of the biggest and most powerful duchies in Christendom. Contemporary writer William of Newburgh described the duchy as “very extensive” and stretching “from the borders of Anjou and Brittany to the Pyrenees.”[7] In dying William X left Eleanor very vulnerable, because she became a desirable marriage prize.[8]  A little over a month after her father’s death, probably to ensure her own protection, she married Prince Louis the heir to the French throne and the future Louis VII. However for the next fifteen years of her marriage, despite her title as Queen of France, she would have little control over Aquitaine, as Louis took it for himself and installed French administrators.[9] Her marriage was annulled in 1152 and she found herself once again a vulnerable heiress. She married Henry the young Duke of Normandy and the future Henry II of England only eight weeks after the annulment of her previous marriage. This marriage would eventually begin her time as Queen of England, and help to establish her as a woman of authority and power as well as a duchess in her own right.[10] St Denis St denis

 St Denis Cathedral where Louis VII is buried with the majority of the Kings of France. Eleanor would have been very familiar with it.

In the first twenty or so years of her reign as Queen of England Eleanor did have power and involvement, but it was not that dissimilar to the traditional power of a queen. She did originally have some say in the running of Aquitaine, but it was more a position of advising Henry II rather than having a free reign to run the Duchy she had inherited.[11] She also acted as a regent both in England and in various parts of the continental domains. Additionally Eleanor and Henry II seem to have acted in some sort of partnership for the first decade or so of their marriage. This is illustrated with Henry II’s campaign to try to enforce Eleanor’s rights in Toulouse in 1170. This was not a campaign that was particularly advantageous to Henry and it was one that Eleanor had also persuaded her previous husband to undertake.[12] Eleanor also had eight children, including five sons, with Henry II and this helped to increase her standing because she was fulfilling the main role of a queen. Eleanor was not a queen who was just left at home to bear children while the king was out fighting wars. She was present with Henry and without Henry all over their disparate empire and seems to have been very involved in the culture as well as the political side. [13]

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 Effigy of Henry II at Fontevruad Abbey.

However it is also important to note that Eleanor was not necessarily well liked in her new kingdom. Gerald of Wales, a contemporary writer, describes her as having a reputation of “sufficient notoriety,” citing her apparent “carnal knowledge” of Henry’s father Geoffrey of Anjou as evidence.  While it is unlikely this particular accusation was true it does show that Eleanor was very much at the mercy of a masculine world where she was subject to ridicule by male chroniclers. This was a world in which independent authority by a woman, however powerful, was very difficult.[14]

Also her role during the reign of Henry II was curtailed by her fifteen years of imprisonment for her part in her sons’ rebellion. Henry forgave his sons due to their relative youth and the fact that he needed them, but he never forgave Eleanor. The imprisonment was relatively comfortable and it began in the 1174. She was not released until Henry II’s death and Richard I’s ascension to the throne in 1189. In this period she had little influence.  She lost her dower lands and most of her revenues, losing even the traditional trappings of power for a queen. What she did receive she could not dispose of as she wished.[15] Despite the appearance of some autonomy, any power Eleanor did have during the reign of Henry II, like other queens, came courtesy of her husband. She was able to work in partnership as long he allowed her to. So most of her authority came from any influence she might have had over Henry II and his actions. Her acting as regent, while it was a position of significant power, was not independent power.[16] This changed abruptly when Henry II died in 1189.  Eleanor’s certainly shaped the political situation in England with her involvement in the reigns of her sons. It can be seen specifically in her actions in the governance of the kingdom while Richard was on crusade. It was her backing that gave legitimacy to Walter de Coutances, Archbishop of Rouen, when he was appointed as the joint authority with Chancellor Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, who had been left nominally in charge. de Coutances was primarily appointed to check Longchamp’s excesses.[17] Eleanor also mediated in any arguments between the justiciars who were sharing authority in Richard’s absence. Eleanor was also one of the few people who had some influence on Prince John who, as Richard’s most likely heir, caused significant trouble when Richard was out of the country. Eleanor was also not in England all the time that Richard was absent because she traveled across the Plantagenet Empire, helping to hold it together and to bring Richard his new wife Berengaria of Navarre.[18]  In 1191, despite the fact that she was in her late 60’s, she traveled to Navarre, in the modern day Spanish and French borderlands, to bring Berengaria back to marry Richard in Limassol in Cyprus.[19]

Richard I

Richard’s effigy in Fontevraud Abbey. The effigy beside him is that of Isabel of Angouleme. She was the wife of his brother John and another heiress who will be discussed in a later post.

Eleanor’s influence was most apparent when Richard was captured and held for ransom in 1193 on the way back from crusade.[20]   Richard had been taken by Duke Leopold of Austria and the ransom set was the exorbitant 100, 000 silver marks, plus 200 hostages from his vassals’ families.[21] Richard’s lands had already been heavily taxed to help pay for his crusade and now they were squeezed even harder to raise a ransom that was twice England’s annual revenue.[22] One of the ways Eleanor raised the ransom was to approve, with Walter of Coutances,  a levy of one quarter of all moveable goods, a percentage of all knights’ fees and significant contributions of gold and silver from the churches. The only churches that were exempt were the Cistercians and Gilbertines, who were too austere to have gold and silver. From these she demanded a percentage of their wool clip. Her integral involvement in these levies is illustrated by the fact that the treasure was stored with her seal on it as well as Walter of Coutances’.[23] riv2 riveaux

Cistercian abbeys like Riveaux were exempt from providing gold for the ransom.

Richard I also placed great importance on his mother’s role in keeping his kingdom together. This is very well illustrated in the letter that he wrote to her in 1193, requesting her assistance in ensuring that Hubert Bishop of Salisbury would be made Archbishop of Canterbury. Firstly in this letter he describes Eleanor as by the grace of God “Queen of England.” Which clearly shows that he considers her authority paramount. Additionally he thanks her for the “faithful care and diligence [she gave] to [his] lands for peace and defense so devotedly and effectively.” He goes on to say that her “prudence and discretion” is the “greatest cause of [his] land remaining in a peaceful state until [his] arrival.”[24] This independence of action is further illustrated in another letter of Richard’s, regarding the appointment of Hubert.  He appeals to “his dearest mother Eleanor, by that same grace Queen of England, greetings and the inviolable sincerity of filial love”. He appeals to her to ensure that the justiciars the bishops of Canterbury Church, and anyone else she believes needs to be involved, instate Hubert of Salisbury as Archbishop of Canterbury. The fact that Richard I assumes that Eleanor will have the influence and power to achieve his request, indicates the power and independent authority that she wielded during his reign.[25] Henry II married Eleanor as a royal bride mainly for political reasons, they barely knew each other when they were married, but she made an indelible mark on England primarily in holding the country together. The next post in this series will be about Joanna Princess of Wales. She was the wife of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, know as Llywelyn the Great, and the illegitimate daughter of King John.

[1] Marie Hivergneaux, “Queen Eleanor and Aquitaine 1137-1189”, in Bonnie Wheeler & John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Aquitaine Lord and Lady, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, p 55.

[2] Lisa Hamilton, Queens Consort, London, 2008, pp. 1-3.

[3] Anne Crawford, The Letters of the Queens of England, Stroud, 1997, pp. 8-9.

[4] Lisa Hamilton, Queens Consort, London, 2008, pp. 8-9.

[5] Eleanor of Aquitaine Charter to Fontevrault, 1185 at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/885.html.

[6] Desmond Seward, Eleanor of Aquitaine, London, 1978, pp. 13-14.

[7] William of Newburgh, The History of English Affairs, trans. PG, Walsh and M.J Kennedy, (eds), William of Newburgh History of English Affairs, Warminster, 1988 pp.129-131.

[8] Melrich V Rosenberg, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Massachusetts, 1937, pp. 4-5.

[9] Desmond Seward, Eleanor of Aquitaine, London, 1978, pp. 21-23.

[10] Ibid., pp. 63-69.

[12] Ralph V Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Padstow, 2009, p. XVIII.

[12] Ibid., pp. 123-125.

[13] Ibid., pp. 139-141.

[14] Gerald of Wales, The Death of Henry II and Comments on the Angevin Family, at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/geraldwales-dip1.html.

[15] Ralph V Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Padstow, 2009, pp. 233-237.

[16] Richard Barber, Henry Plantagenet, Ipswich, 1964, pp.182-183.

[17] Ralph V Turner, “The Role of Eleanor in the Government of Her Sons,” in Wheeler and Carmi Parsons, (eds) Eleanor of Aquitaine, pp. 79-83.

[18] Crawford, Queens of England, pp. 32-34.

[19]. Anne Crawford, “Berengaria of Navarre,” in Anne Crawford, The Letters of the Queens of England, Stroud, 1997, pp. 43-45.

[20] Ibid., pp. 299-301.

[21] Andrea Hopkins, “Eleanor of Aquitaine,” in Andrea Hopkins, Six Medieval Women, London, 1997, pp. 56-57.

[22] Alison Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine By the Wrath of God, Queen of England, London, 1999, pp. 229-230.

[23] Ralph V Turner, “The Role of Eleanor in the Government of Her Sons,” in Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons (eds) Eleanor of Aquitaine, Lord and Lady, New York, 2003, pp. 83-85.

[24] Richard I Letter to Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1193, at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/148.html.

[25] Richard I Letter to Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1193, at http://epistolae.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/letter/149.html.

Bury St Edmunds

The abbey at Bury St Edmunds is only ruins today, but it was once one of the largest and most powerful abbeys in England. It was home of the Chronicle of Bury St Edmund’s and was one of the places that the Magna Carta was planned. It was a casualty of the dissolution of the monasteries, handed over to the king in 1539.

There isn’t a lot left now, but what remains is majestic and  poignant. It allows a glimpse of how spectacular the abbey would have been in all its glory.

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The tallest pillar you can see to the left of the picture is near where the Magna Carta barons met to swear on the altar of St Edmund that they would obtain ratification of the Magna Carta from King John.  The plaque below is affixed to it.

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St Edmund’s is also the abbey that Eustace, the wildly unpopular son of King Stephen, plundered right before he died unexpectedly, possibly from choking to death. Many felt that his death was divine wrath, similar to the death of Henry the Young King.

The Chronicle of Bury St Edmunds was also written at the abbey. The Chronicle was written by Jocelin de Brakelond who was the chaplain of Abbot Samson. Samson was  one of the Abbots who had the most structural influence on the abbey. Samson completed the great western front of the abbey.  More of the west front survives today than any other part of the abbey, but it is largely houses. You can still see the remains of Samson’s great arches.bury st8

bury st door

Samson also had an almost competition with Geoffrey Ridel who was Bishop of Ely. Geoffrey requested that Samson let him have oaks from Elmsett for his own building operations at Ely and Geoffrey had secretly gone through and marked the trees he wanted. Samson felt he had to agree, but he immediately felled the best oaks in Elmsett for his own works.  This is an excellent illustration of the competition between the large religious institutions. You can see Ely Cathedral below.

ely

Samson’s works on the abbey and general life at the abbey over this period , 1173-1202, are the main subjects of the Chronicle. It also provides an intriguing picture of Samson himself.

“ABBOT SAMSON was below the average height, almost bald; his face was neither round nor oblong ; his nose was prominent and his lips thick; his eyes were clear and his glance penetrating; his hearing was excellent; his eyebrows arched, and frequently shaved; and a little cold soon made him hoarse. On the day of his election he was forty­ seven, and had been a monk for seventeen years. In his ruddy beard there were a few grey hairs, and still fewer in his black and curling hair. But in the course of the first fourteen years after his election all his hair became white as snow.

He was an exceedingly temperate man ; he possessed great energy and a strong constitution, and was fond both of riding and walking, until old age prevailed upon him and moderated his ardour in these respects. When he heard the news of the capture of the cross and the fall of Jerusalem, he began to wear under garments made of horse hair, and a horse­ hair shirt, and gave up the use of flesh and meat. None the less, he willed that flesh should be placed before him as he sat at table, that the alms might be increased. He ate sweet milk, honey, and similar sweet things, far more readily than any other food.

He hated liars, drunkards, and talkative persons; for virtue ever loves itself and spurns that which is contrary to it. He blamed those who grumbled about their meat and drink, and especially monks who so grumbled, and personally kept to the same manners which he had observed when he was a cloistered monk. Moreover, he had this virtue in himself that he never desired to change the dish which was placed before him. When I was a novice, I wished to prove whether this was really true, and as I happened to serve in the refectory, I thought to place before him food which would have offended any other man, in a very dirty and broken dish. But when he saw this, he was as it were blind to it. Then, as there was some delay, I repented of what I had done, and straightway seized the dish, changed the food and dish for better, and carried it to him. He, however, was angry at the change, and disturbed.

He was an eloquent man, speaking both French and Latin, but rather careful of the good sense of that which he had to say than of the style of his words. He could read books written in English very well, and was wont to preach to the people in English, but in the dialect of Norfolk where he was born and bred. It was for this reason that he ordered a pulpit to be placed in the church, for the sake of those who heard him and for purposes of ornament.”

This excerpt offers an intriguing glimpse into the world of Bury St Edmund’s.

To read more go to http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/jocelin.asp

The remains of St Edmund’s Abbey are like the bones of a giant, you can see the greatness that was once there.  The first photo below shows the remains of what would once have been a beautiful window and the second shows that bases of pillars that held up part of the church.

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bury st 3

One of the pieces that has survived the destruction of the abbey is the Norman Tower. It was built 1120-1148 and was designed to be both a gateway to the abbey church and a belfry for the church of St James next door, it still serves as a bell tower. It was funded by Abbot Anselm instead of a pilgrimage to St James De Compostella. The carved stone work that survives is truly beautiful.

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Bury St Edmond’s was once one of England’s most important and majestic abbeys, you can see from the model below just how large it was, there might not be much left now but there are at least still echoes of the past.

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