Advent Calendar of Castles: December 14th:Criccieth

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Criccieth Castle perches on top of a headland pushing out to sea.

It is an amalgam between a Welsh Castle and castle of Edward I. The original castle at Criccieth was built by Llywelyn the Great sometime between 1230 and his death in 1240. The remains of this original castle are now the inner ward and inner gate house, and it was probably modelled on the castle built by Hugh de Burgh at Montgomery. They certainly have a very similar design in gatehouses.

Under Llywelyn the Great’s grandson Llywelyn the Last, Criccieth was enlarged with the curtain wall significantly extended and the south west tower and north west tower, which would have had a trebuchet mounted on it, constructed.

When Llywelyn the Last was killed in 1282 the remaining welsh castles rapidly fell to Edward I. Criccieth was in English hands by the 14th of March 1283. Under Edward I there was a significant quantity of work undertaken on the castle. He constructed the south east tower and heavily remodelled the remainder of the castle.

Criccieth was also used as a prison. Llywelyn the Great’s illegitimate son Gruffudd was imprisoned there, for rebellion, by Llywelyn’s legitimate son and heir Dafydd when Dafydd inherited Llywelyn’s lands. Gruffudd was held there with his son Owain from 1239 until 1241 when Dafydd suffered a defeat at the hands of Henry III and had to hand the prisoners over to his cousin the English king. Gruffudd died three years later in an attempt to escape the Tower of London. Criccieth again served as a prison when Maredudd ap Rhys Gryg rebelled against Llywelyn the Last and was imprisoned in Criccieth from 1258-1259.

Edward II also added to the castle, but it was at the hands of Owain Glyndwr’s forces that Criccieth met its final fate. Criccieth at the time was held by the English and it was one of several castles that capitulated to Glyndwr’s forces in c. 1404. The castle and the town were burnt. The castle was never rebuilt although the town did recover slowly. However, without the castle the town ceased to be a garrison town and eventually became wholly Welsh.

References:

Site visit 2012:

Cadw: Criccieth Castle: 9781857602913

http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/criccieth-castle/?lang=en

Advent Calendar of Castles: December 12th: Beaumaris

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Beaumaris stands on the Island of Anglesea looking across the Menai Straits and it was to control these straits that Edward I had Beaumaris built in c. 1295. It was the last of his ring of castles and was built largely in response to the rebellion of Madog ap Llywelyn. It is the largest and the most sophisticated of Edward I’s castles, probably because there was no existing structure on the site to try and build around or on top of. The native population of the area of Llanfaes was forced to move prior to the construction of the castle. It is a concentric castle with walls within walls and, something that is actually quite unusual in medieval castles, a moat that holds water.  The moat was 18 feet wide and actually had a tidal port at one side that would allow for ships to come right up to the castle for trade. The curtain wall around the moat boasts 16 towers and the massive 3 quarters of an acre of the inner ward is guarded by an interior wall boasting a further 6 towers and 2 gatehouses. This castle was virtually impenetrable before the age of cannon.  Ironically the castle is not complete. The towers were intended to be three stories not two.

Beaumaris has actually seen very little battle. Owain Gwndyr’s supporters held the castle for two years, 1403-1405, while the locals in the unwalled town that had developed around the castle suffered immensely in attempts to take the castle. It also did play a small role in the Civil War in the 17th century being held by royalists, then surrendered, then taken, then surrendered again. After that the castle largely stayed out of any historical events.

It is still an almost unbelievable castle to visit, not the least because it does genuinely have a moat. The town of Beaumaris in also home to the tomb of Joan Princess of Wales, illegitimate daughter of King John and wife of Llywelyn the Great. Her tomb was used as horse trough for a time, but thankfully the sarcophagus survived and can be seen in the Beaumaris parish church. For more on Joan click here.

References:

Site visit 2012

Wales Castles and Historic places: 9781850130307

Castles in wales: 9781847710314

http://www.castlewales.com/beaumar.html

The photos are all mine.

Advent Calendar of Castles: December 11th: Conwy Castle

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Conwy is the first I’ll be discussing of a series of castles built by Edward I in his domination of Wales. Conwy was built in 1283 and remains one of the most impressive surviving medieval fortifications in Britain.

The ring of castles Edward built around Wales, especially in the north, were constructed both to impose his authority on the area and to ensure that any expensive future rebellions was squashed. Edward used the towns and castles he built to import Englishness. He brought in English settlers and English laws and made the towns havens of the English. It wasn’t until the 1700s that the Welsh really had towns they could call their own, the Welsh at the time didn’t really live in towns because they tended to be a disparate agricultural community.

Edward I  took the Conwy valley in 1283 and very quickly began to erect a garrison town and the castle. By 1287 the castle was largely finished. This castle sits on a rock base which provided enough security that it was not necessary for Edward I to have the walls with in walls that are a feature of many of his other Welsh castles.

Edward lavished more money on Conwy than any of this other welsh castles, spending 15 000 pounds, an extraordinary sum for the time. He built the castle and the wall on the site of Aberconwy Abbey, one of the most important Welsh abbeys and the burial place of probably the most important Welsh Prince, Llywelyn the Great. Llywelyn’s body was moved by the monks and his sarcophagus can now be found at Llanwrst parish church.

Edward I was actually held at Conwy under siege by Madog ap Llywelyn in 1295, but the castle didn’t fall. Conwy was also taken by the forces of Owain Glyndwr in the 1400s.  Glyndwr came very close to taking Wales out of the hands of Henry IV, but in this particular case it was two of his kinsmen who took the castle. Rhys and Gwilym Tudor, yes those Tudors, took the castle through trickery. They waited till the garrison was at prayer and then, some stories say by pretending to be carpenters, snuck in and took the castle in 1401. They held it for months before it was traded back for funds for the rebellion.

References:

Site visit 2012

Wales Castles and Historic places: 9781850130307

Castles in wales: 9781847710314

http://www.walesdirectory.co.uk/his/cas/conwy.htm

http://www.castlewales.com/edwrdcas.html

http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/conwycastle/?lang=en

http://www.castlewales.com/glyndwr.html

http://www.castlewales.com/conwy.html

The photos are all mine.

Llywelyn The Great

Today, the 11th of April, is the anniversary of the death of one of the most important Welsh Princes. I am not going to be writing about him in detail. I have written about his wife before and that can be found here.

Llywelyn succeeded in almost uniting much of Wales and in holding off the English. Sadly his dream of a united and independent Wales was not to last. Wales was largely conquered by the English under the reign of Edward I, little more than 40 years after Llywelyn’s death.

He died on the 11th of April in 1240 and was buried beneath the high altar of Aberconwy Abbey, but about forty years later Edward I wanted the land the abbey stood on to build Conwy Castle. So the monks moved the coffin containing Llywelyn’s body by river to the newly built abbey at Maenan. During the dissolution of the monasteries the coffin was moved for safe keeping to St Grwst’s church where it was forgotten about and was found covered with rubbish some 200 years later. It was then moved to the chapel in Llanrwst parish church. No one knows what happened to Llywelyn’s body.

You can see Llywelyn’s coffin below. When I saw it in 2012 it was located in a chapel out the back of the church and was quite difficult to find. There were no directions to it at all and nothing except a small sign propped up inside to distinguish it from the other random monuments in the room.

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Many castles you see today in Wales were in fact built by the English. Castles such as Pembroke, Manorbier, Cilgerran and Carew.  There are, however, Welsh built castles and Llywelyn was responsible for part of several of them. Such as:

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Dolbardarn 2DolbardarnDolbadarn Castle

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Llywelyn  truly made a mark on Welsh soil and was a great Prince who deserves to be remembered.

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Statue of Llywelyn in Conwy, which is much smaller than it appears and much smaller than it should be.

References

http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/llywelyn_the_great.htm

The photos are all my own.

Incidentally I discovered Llywelyn many years ago in Sharon Kay Penman’s fabulous book Here Be Dragons.  As this blog is largely non fiction I don’t usually recommend historical fiction. I am making an exception in this case. Here Be Dragons is a truly wonderful book and everyone should read it.

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 22nd of December

A bit different today. Some medieval poetry. These are from Hywel ap Owain, a fascinating figure in his own right. He was a Welsh prince and an accomplished poet. You can find out more about him here http://michaelfaletra.weebly.com/hywel-ap-owain-gwynedd.html

I’ve included two poems. The first is a recounting  of a battle with the English

Ode VII

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The second is a love poem

Ode V

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For interests sake I’m including the original welsh of the first 6 lines of Ode V. Poems really need to be read in their original language to get a true sense of the work. I’m not 100% certain of its veracity as I don’t read welsh and it is from wikiquote, I generally try to find other sources but in this case I can’t find another welsh version anywhere. Nevertheless it is still interesting.

Karafy gaer wennglaer o du gwennylan;
myn yd gar gwyldec gweled gwylan
yd garwny uyned, kenym cared yn rwy.
Ry eitun ouwy y ar veingann
y edrtch uy chwaer chwerthin egwan,
y adrawt caru, can doeth yn rann.

Welsh from https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hywel_ab_Owain_Gwynedd

English translations from

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=GzYawdzshXAC&pg=PP2&lpg=PP2&dq=Welsh+Poems,+6th+Century+to+1600&source=bl&ots=dWaYor3CIg&sig=jIChcVFixaiOpC36vboz3SbOAjs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-qvz3oenJAhVC7GMKHcJnCIEQ6AEIITAB#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

 

Pembroke Castle

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Pembroke Castle in South West Wales is one of the most impressive castles on Welsh soil. I hesitate to say Welsh castle, because it wasn’t built by the Welsh. The building of Pembroke Castle was begun by Arnulph de Montgomery in c. 1093 as a key part of the Norman subjugation of this portion of Wales.

This first castle was nothing like the imposing fortress we see today jutting out into the Cleddau Estuary.

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Gerald of Wales, albeit writing in the late 1100s, described Pembroke as originally being “a slender fortress of stakes and turf.” But it was in an immensely strategic position and as such soon became an important fortress.

Pembroke was besieged by the Welsh is 1094 and in 1096, but both times it was held by the Normans led by Gerald de Windsor who was the custodian of the castle for Arnulph de Montgomery.  However by 1102 Arnulph had been implicated in a revolt against Henry I and was forced to flee and Pembroke castle and the lands around it were escheated to the crown. By 1105 Gerald de Windsor was custodian again, this time in the name of the crown, and he married the Welsh princess Nest. Nest is one of the most fascinating women of the period and much has been written about her. But in brief she was the daughter of the Welsh Prince Rhys ap Tewdwr, thus an important marriage prize as Rhys’ former kingdom made up much of what was now the lands of Pembroke. Nest was most likely the mistress of Henry I before she married Gerald and probably bore him illegitimate offspring. She was said to have been a great beauty and would have been very young, in her teens, when she was the king’s mistress. She was then married off to Gerald at least partly to lend credence to Gerald’s position as a royal officer and person in charge of Pembroke. She was then abducted, there is debate over whether it was willing or not, from  either Cilgerran Castle or Carew Castle both of which Gerald had begun to build

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Cilgerran Castle

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Carew Castle

She was abducted by Owen son of Cadwgan, another Welsh Prince. Owen came into Nest and Gerald’s chamber and Gerald hid or escaped, depending on which version you read, down the privy shoot and Owen abducted Nest, two of Nest’s children and possibly some castle treasure.  After much unrest Nest was eventually returned to Gerald and Owen ultimately died in rebellion against Gerald. Nest married again after Gerald died in the 1120s and had children from that marriage as well. Nest ended up with some important descendants including Gerald of Wales, who was descended from her and Gerald de Windsor. Gerald of Wales is one of the more prolific writers of the late 1100s and is responsible for works on both the people of Ireland and the people of Wales. He was born at the nearby Manorbier Castle.

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Manorbier Castle

Leaving Nest aside. After Gerald de Windsor died the castle remained in crown hands until the reign of King Stephen. The Earldom of Pembroke was officially created in 1138 and the de Clare family were the beneficiaries of its creation with Gilbert de Clare appointed as the ruler of the territory. There was also a small town growing up around the castle and we know that it had liberties and freedoms from fairly early on because there is a surviving charter from Henry II which discusses them. It reads, in one translation.

“Henry by the Grace of God, King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and Count of Anjou to the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Earls of Justices, Barons and Sheriffs, and to all his faithful people of all England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Poitou, Gascony, and to all his men, whether dwelling on this side or beyond the seas greetings. Know that I have given and granted, and by this my present Charter, have confirmed in my burgesses of Pembroke all their liberties, immunities and free customs as freely and fully as they had them in the time of King Henry, my grandfather.”

Gilbert de Clare died in 1148 and was succeeded by his son Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow. I’ve written more about Strongbow and especially the role he played in the Norman conquest of Ireland earlier and it can be found here.  Strongbow died in 1176 and King Henry II retained all his lands and the wardship of his daughter Isabel de Clare. Isabel became the heir to all of Strongbow’s lands including Pembroke when her brother Gilbert died as a minor in 1185. Isabel married William Marshal at the behest of Richard I in 1189 thus making Marshal one of the most powerful men in the country as Isabel held other lands in England, Ireland and France as well as those in Wales. Marshal wasn’t actually invested with the title of Earl of Pembroke until 1199 when King John came to the throne.  Marshal had the iconic Great Keep at Pembroke Castle built.
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Great Keep Pembroke Castle

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Inside the Great Keep of Pembroke Castle.

The Great Keep was built in c. 1200 in a time when square keeps were much more common. It stands at 75 feet high with walls approximately 20 feet thick at its base.  When William Marshal died the castle was inherited by his son William Marshal II. Marshal had five sons each of whom died childless. So when the last Marshal son, Anselm, died in 1145 all of Marshal’s extensive lands were divided up amongst the descendants of his five daughters. Pembroke Castle went to his daughter Joan’s descendants, she was married to Warine de Munchery. It was their son in law William de Valance who retook some of the surrounding lands that had been lost to the Welsh over the years. De Valance died in 1296 and the Earldom of Pembroke and thus the castle entered into a fairly quiet period. Until the death of Earl John Hastings in 1389 when the castle returned to the hands of the King in this case Richard II. Henry IV declared his son John to be Earl of Pembroke in c.1399 and later the castle bounced back and forth between sides in the War of the Roses. Its greatest claim to fame in this period is that Henry Tudor, later Henry VII was born there in 1456. 

IMG_5427You can see the tower he was most likely born in on the far right of the photo.

The physical buildings that can now be seen in Pembroke are products of various stages of its history. I’m not going discuss all of them, but I will mention a few.

The oldest part is the Norman Hall which was built probably under the rule of Richard Strongbow c. 1150-1170 when the defences would still have been made of timber.

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Norman Hall.

For me the most fascinating part of Pembroke Castle, apart from the Great Keep, was actually not built by any of the castle’s inhabitants. Wogan’s Cavern beneath the Norman Hall is a naturally occurring cavern. There have been tools dating back to the middle stone age found in it along with Roman coins. This suggests that the Cavern has been used for shelter for thousands of years. When the castle was built the cavern was used for storage and the entrance was protected as part of the defensive plan. It is one of the most surprising things I’ve ever seen in a castle. Largely because of its sheer immensity.

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Wogan’s Cavern

Pembroke Castle is very much a stronghold. It has played a part in most important eras of British History and is in and of itself a dramatic and imposing castle. I went there originally because of its connection to William Marshal. But I went back because it is a spectacular castle, a testament to the strength of its builders. It commands the Cleddau Estuary and you can see why it has been so formidable for so many years.

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References.

Pembroke for King and Country: Phil Carradice. ISBN: 09521092

and

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/dec/21/britishidentity.uk

and

Two visits to Pembroke Castle.

All the photos are my own.

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

Marriage Alliances 1180-1250: Part 4 Isabel de Clare.

One of the most interesting heiresses of the period, not in the least because she was married to William Marshal, was Isabel de Clare. Isabel’s marriage to Marshal typified the incredibly important political role that the marriage of these heiresses played. These marriages were not only used as rewards, they were used to elevate men to real positions of power. In some occasions these men could help to change the face of a country, I would argue that Marshal was one of these and his marriage to Isabel was what gave him the status to have a real political affect.

Isabel herself is a little hard to pin down. In essentials she was the perfect medieval wife possessing of great fortune and very fecund, they had ten children, but she makes her own mark in a variety of interesting ways. While the History of William Marshal can not be taken entirely at face value the sentiment that is expressed throughout the work is that Isabel was actively involved in the rule of domains that were essentially hers.

marriage of aoife and storngbow

The marriage of Marshal and Isabel de Clare as depicted in the modern  Ros tapestry in New Ross in Ireland.

Marshal’s marriage to Isabel de Clare was the most significant elevation in his life. The lands that he gained, the children that he had from the marriage and the qualities of Isabel herself were the building blocks on which Marshal’s status was established. Marriage to Isabel gave Marshal substantial and geographically diverse lands as well as titles and wealth. In comparison, materially, Marshal brought little to the marriage because he was a virtually landless knight who only had one small estate in England and probably the rents of some lands in France. He had amassed considerable wealth however from his prowess on tourney field and he was known and respected by King Richard. Isabel gave Marshal lands in England, Ireland, Wales and what is now France and these lands gave Marshal both wealth and authority.[1]  Marshal’s marriage to Isabel mean that he made an indelible mark on her lands, not the least in Ireland. The affect Marshal had on these Irish lands illustrates just how much political change the marriage of an heiress could generate.

medieval irelandjpeg

 

Ireland under the Normans. You can see Leinster, Marshal’s lands, on the right.

David Carpenter, The Struggle for Mastery: Britain 1066-1284, London: Penguin Books, 2004, p. xx.

 Isabel’s Irish lands came to her from her father Earl Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, who had gained them by force, and through her mother Aoife, the daughter and heiress of King Dermot MacMurchada of Leinster who was deposed as king in 1166.[1] Strongbow was a leader in a force spearheaded by English lords who won Leinster back for King Dermot. They were given permission to do so by their king Henry II in a letter recorded by Giraldus Cambrensis c. 1166. This was the beginning of the English occupation in Ireland.[2] The rewards Dermot gave Strongbow in return for his services were recorded in the relatively contemporary poem The Song of Dermot and the Earl: his daughter Aoife in marriage and his kingdom after his death. Dermot died in 1171.[3]

 

Diarmut grave

 

Dermot’s grave in Ferns, Ireland.

Strongbow died in 1176 leaving a son and daughter too young to inherit and so Leinster was in the hands of the Crown until Strongbow’s son came of age. The son, Gilbert, died as a minor in 1185 and thus Isabel de Clare inherited everything. Marshal on marrying Isabel gained lordship of her entire estate.[4] Trouble could be expected from the local Irish population who were not likely to welcome a new overlord. These peoples included the English lords who had been settled there for more than a decade and the original Irish lords. Marshal faced an uphill challenge in controlling and developing Leinster and it was one at which he certainly succeeded

On taking possession of Leinster Marshal sent deputies but did not go himself until c. 1201, and then only for a brief visit. The Irish Annals found in The Chartularies of St Mary’s Abbey in Dublin recorded that Marshal was in Ireland c. 1201.

st mary's dublin

All that remains of St Mary’s Abbey in Dublin.

They said that he came in a storm and, in thanks to God for his survival on the unforgiving Irish Sea, he founded the abbey of Tintern Parva.[5]

tintern parva

Tintern Parva on the Hook Head Peninsula in Ireland.

ship on the way to ireland

Depiction of the near disaster on the Irish Sea from the Ros Tapestry.

Marshal returned to Ireland in c. 1207 and faced rebellion, mainly from Meyler Fitz Henry. Fitz Henry was one of the original settlers, a bastard grandson of Henry I and had been appointed Justiciar of Ireland, ruler in the king’s absence, by King John. He was tenant in chief of some small fiefs, most of which he held from Marshal. Fitz Henry and Marshal were in repeated conflict and King John involved himself in Fitz Henry’s favour. Fitz Henry led many battles against Marshal’s lands both when Marshal was in Ireland and when he was not.[6] As can be seen in two charters from King John in 1216 Marshal ultimately managed to prevail and found his way back to John’s favour with Fitz Henry disgraced. The first granted Marshal Fitz Henry’s fees, a form of rent or tax, in Marshal’s own lands. The second said that if Fitz Henry should die or take the habit Marshal was to receive Fitz Henry’s fees in the Justicary’s jurisdiction, which effectively disinherited Fitz Henry’s son.[7]

As well as exercising control Marshal was responsible for developments such as the port town of New Ross. Marshal began New Ross, which still exists today, in c. 1207.[8] Once it was established, Marshal set about making it a viable port town. When he was back in favour with King John, c. 1212, Marshal negotiated to ensure that shipping could continue through Waterford and onto New Ross. Waterford was the main port and the Crown had controlled it since 1171.[9] Marshal needed his own port and New Ross suited well because of its deep harbour, river access to the heart of Leinster and links with nearby lordships.[10]

river new ross

 The Barrow river in New Ross.

New Ross is only one of the building and consolidation projects that Marshal undertook in his Irish lands during his lordship. He established other towns and also built a number of castles. He made settlements on the edges of nearby counties, retook land that had been previously lost and established monastic foundations and built a lighthouse which still stands today.

lighthouse

 Marshal’s lighthouse on the Hook Head Peninsula.

ferns castle irland

Ferns Castle which Marshal also built.

Marshal also took over lands that had lacked any kind of central authority because the Crown had run them for many years from a distance.[11] Marshal managed to establish a strong and stable lordship, despite the fact that he was so caught up in English affairs. This administrative skill ensured that he maintained his position as Lord of Leinster, as well as his other lands, and that he was sufficiently influential and experienced to become first the Earl of Pembroke, a title which he came to through right of Isabel, under King John in 1199 and then Regent in 1216.

IMG_5435

Pembroke Castle in Wales.

When Marshal married Isabel de Clare he became one of the most influential barons of his time because the marriage laws meant he became ruler of everything that was hers. When it came to marriage, a woman’s lineage, her family and connections, were as important as her lands. In Marshal’s case through Isabel he gained the physical lands themselves but also the eminence of her background as the daughter of an earl and the granddaughter of a King of Ireland.

Lineage and land were not all that Marshal gained from his marriage because the couple also had ten children, five sons and five daughters, all of who survived to adulthood.[12] All five daughters married influential and high ranking noblemen and only the youngest, Joan Marshal, was unmarried when her father died.[13] This gave Marshal alliances in a variety of noble families, another use for heiresses, and helped to give him the support he needed to stay in power even when he was out of favour with King John. It is due to his eldest son William that his memory survives today in such detail because it was he who commissioned the History. Marshal achieved what eluded many prominent landholders of his time because he had five sons thus having multiple heirs. When Marshal died his authority and legacy seemed safe and his position solidified, which must have made reaching the top of his society seem worthwhile because he had been able to protect all his family and to pass on what he created secure in the knowledge of its survival. Success in this time was intended to be dynastic rather than just personal. Unfortunately this was not to come to pass because, although Marshal never knew it, his sons all died childless and his lands were dispersed.[14]

 

Chepstow Castle Wales

Chepstow Castle which Marshal gained from marriage to Isabel. He also built significant proportions of it.

Children, lineage and land aside, Isabel as a person and the role she played in the marriage and thus in Marshal’s ascent is much harder to define but just as vital and fortuitous. Isabel came to the marriage probably in her late teens while Marshal was in his early forties. Despite the age difference by all accounts she was an active participant in the marriage and in the governing of the lands. If she had not been it is unlikely that Marshal would have succeeded so well in holding together his disparate domains. She was not only his entrée into the high aristocracy, but her support was important to the retention of his authority. There may have been no legal repercussions if Isabel had not supported Marshal, but the people he ruled were her vassals and would have been more likely to rebel against their new untried lord without Isabel’s support.

Marshal trusted Isabel and her abilities enough to leave her in an administrative position in Ireland c.1207 during the fragile military and political situation, when King John forced him back to England. Before returning to England in c. 1207 the History reports that he said to his men.

My Lords, here you see the countess whom I have brought here by the hand into your presence. She is your lady by birth, the daughter of the earl who graciously, in his generosity, enfieffed you all, once he had conquered the land. She stays behind here with you as a pregnant woman. Until such time as God brings me back here, I ask you all to give her unreservedly the protection she deserves by birthright, for she is your lady, as we well know; I have no claim to anything here save through her.[15]

While it is very unlikely that he spoke these exact words the sentiment is clear. Isabel was Marshal’s key to ruling.

Isabel was a potent symbol to Leinster. She was the daughter of the Princess of Leinster and the granddaughter of its last king, which would have pleased the Irish lords. She was the daughter of Richard Strongbow who had been responsible for establishing many of current English lords, or at the least their fathers, in their lands in Leinster and because she was pregnant she represented the future of the lordship. By leaving her behind Marshal had a reasonable chance that many of his lords would cleave to her and thus his cause, which would leave him free to deal with King John.

Isabel proved a very able defender of Marshal and their lands in Ireland. Almost as soon as Marshal left, she found herself embroiled in war and by 1208 she was besieged in Kilkenny castle and “she had a man let down over the battlements to go and tell John of Earley that it was the very truth that she was besieged in Kilkenny.”[16] John of Earley came and Isabel’s men were victorious. It was also Isabel with whom Meyler Fitz Henry first made peace and it was recorded in History that “he [Fitz Henry] had made peace first with the countess and then with the earl’s men, and … he had given his son Henry as a hostage for his inheritance.”[17] Isabel was very much in command of the defence of her lands even if she could not physically lead men. Isabel was a unifying figure because of her lineage and without her presence in Ireland and her willing participation Marshal could have easily lost Ireland while he was trapped at John’s court.

kilkenny

 Kilkenny Castle as it is today.

Defending her lands was not Isabel’s only involvement because she was also engaged in their creation and improvement. Marshal took the fact that his only claim to the lands was through Isabel very seriously because he made many developments in Leinster with charters that had Isabel’s ‘counsel and consent’ recorded on them.[18] According to Cóilín Ó Drisceoil there is a tradition that Isabel had been heavily involved with making the decision to locate the foundation of the town of New Ross on the Wexford bank of the Barrow River. This was not necessarily the most practical bank on which to build a town, as it was steep and required the building of one of the longest bridges in medieval Ireland. It was perfect however from a political point of view because Wexford was the centre of the former Kingdom of Leinster.[19] The earliest written mention of the tradition of Isabel’s involvement in New Ross’s foundation was in the 1607 work Britannia by William Camden.[20] Isabel understood the political imperatives in building a new city and made sure that they were carried out correctly. She also helped to ensure that Marshal remained lord of all their other lands as well because unlike other noble wives she commonly travelled with him throughout their domains and was involved in their governance. She was the symbol by which Marshal governed as well as an active participant.

st mary's New ross

 St Mary’s Abbey which Marshal and Isabel built in New Ross.

Marshal and Isabel’s match seems to have become one of love. This was exemplified by the way Isabel behaved during and after Marshal’s prolonged death. Marshal first began to fall ill around the end of January 1219 and it took him until midday on May 14th 1219 to actually die.[21] A very moving picture of Isabel just after his death was painted in History “whilst mass was being sung it was observed that the countess could not walk without danger of coming to grief, for her heart, body, her head and limbs had suffered from her exertions, her weeping and her vigils.”[22] This was a final testament to a woman who had stood strongly by Marshal throughout much of his life and his protracted death and had continued to love him. Isabel died only a year later and was buried at Tintern Abbey in Wales.

temple churchIMG_3419

The Temple Church in London where Marshal was burried and his effergy.

tinturn abbey

Tintern Abbey in Wales where Isabel was burried, no trace of her burial remains.

Marshal was given Isabel as a reward and as a way of binding a skilled warrior and an admired man to the new King Richard I in 1189. The authority bestowed on him by this land and the wealth he acquired through marriage meant that he had the ability to make an indelible mark on England. When King John died in 1216 he left a country in turmoil with many of the country’s barons in rebellion. The then approximately 70 year old Marshal was made Regent for the nine year old Henry III and under his direction the country was brought back from the brink and Henry III’s kingship saved. The situation was dire enough to prompt Marshal to declare, according to the History, when he assumed the Regency that “if all the world deserted the young boy, except me, do you know what I would do? I would carry him on my shoulders and walk with him thus,” “ and never let him down from island to island, from land to land.” [23] Marshal was the head of the government who defeated the rebellious barons and the French Prince Louis, later Louis VIII, who was the barons’ candidate for the throne of England.[24] Marrying wards to loyal followers as rewards was a long held practice and one that continued. Much of the time it had little overall effect, however on occasion it elevated a man such as Marshal to a prominent position in society which enabled them to have a far-reaching consequences on the political situation, often in multiple countries.

This will for the moment be the end of my series of noble marriages. I may come back to it at a later date.

All the photos, obviously baring the map at the beginning, are mine.

 

[1] Catherine A. Armstrong, William Marshal Earl of Pembroke, Kenneshaw: Seneschal Press, 2006, pp. 60-61.

[2] Giraldus Cambrensis, The Conquest of Ireland, (trans.) Thomas Forster, Cambridge: Parenthesis Publications, 2001, p. 13.

[3] Anonymous, The Song of Dermot and the Earl, (ed.) & (trans.) Goddard Henry Orpen, Oxford: the Clarendon Press, 1892, pp. 19-27.

[4] Armstrong, Earl of Pembroke, p. 77.

[5] John T. Gilbert, (ed.) Chartularies of St Mary’s Abbey Dublin with The Register of its House at Dunbrody and Annals of Ireland, Volume II, London: Longman and Co, 1884, pp. 307-308.

[6] Sidney Painter, William Marshal: Knight Errant, Baron and Regent of England, Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1933 pp. 145-146.

[7] H.S Sweetman, (ed.) Calendar of Documents, Relating to Ireland, 1171-1251, London: Longman and Co, 1875, p. 106.

[8] Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, “Pons Novus, villa Willielmi Marescalli: New Ross, a town of William Marshal” in John Bradley & Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, Dublin: Four Courts Press, pp. 8-9. A note about this particular text. I am unsure what is happening with the publication of this text. I was very kindly sent advanced chapters and given clear permission to use them for reference in my thesis. I feel that as the sections of this post in which I am using this information are almost verbatim from my thesis that this permission should extend to this post. I am endeavouring to discover what has happened to the publication of this book, but it seems as if it may have actually fallen through, I’m not sure. I still think the information is worth including though.

[9] Sweetman, (ed.) Ireland, p. 99.

[10] Ó Drisceoil, “New Ross” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp. 10-11.

[11] Adrian Empy, “The Evolution of the Demesne in the Lordship of Leinster: the Fortunes of War or Forward Planning?” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp. 36-38.

[12] T.L Jarman, William Marshal: First Earl of Pembroke, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1930, p. 99.

[13] Anonymous, History of William Marshal, (ed.) AJ. Holden, (trans.) S. Gregory & (notes.) David Crouch, Volume II, London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 2002. pp. 410-411.

[14] Matthew of Westminster, The Flowers of History: Especially as they Relate to the Affairs of Britain from the Beginning of the World to the year 1307, (ed.) & (trans.) C.A. Yonge, Volume II, London: AMS Press, 1968 , pp. 257-258.

[15] History, Volume II, pp. 177-179.

[16] History, Volume II, p. 193.

[17] History, Volume II, p. 195.

[18] Ó Drisceoil, “New Ross” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp.11-12.

[19] Ó Drisceoil, “New Ross” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp. 9-11.

[20] William Camden, Britannia, (trans.) Phillemon Holland, at http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/cambrit/irelandeng1.html#ireland1, accessed 05/12/14.

[21] David Crouch, William Marshal, Knighthood, War and Chivalry, 2nd ed, London: Pearson Education, 2002, pp. 138-140.

[22] History, Volume II, p. 453.

[23] History, Volume II, p. 287.

[24]D.A Carpenter, The Minority of Henry III, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990, pp. 17-64.

Marriage alliances 1180-1250: Part 3 Joan of Wales.

joanna close

joanna far

Joan’s tomb. It now lies in Beaumaris parish church with this inscription above it.

This plain sarcophagus, (once dignified as having contained the remains of Joan, daughter of King John, and consort of Llewelyn ap Iowerth, Prince of North Wales, who died in the year 1237), having been conveyed from the Friary of Llanfaes, and alas, used for many years as a horsewatering trough, was rescued from such an indignity and placed here for preservation as well as to excite serious meditation on the transitory nature of all sublunary distinctions.

Joan of Wales was the illegitimate daughter of King John.  She was born in c. 1190 and died in 1237. All we know about her mother was that her name was Clemence.  In 1206 her father King John gave her in marriage to Llywelyn ap Iorweth Prince of North Wales. She was roughly sixteen and he was in his early thirties.

llew coffin 2

Llywelyn’s sarcophagus.

The sarcophagus is now found in Llanrwst parish church. Llewlyn was buried beneath the high altar of Aberconwy Abbey, but about forty years later Edward I wanted the land the abbey stood on to build Conwy Castle. So the monks moved the coffin containing Llywelyn’s body by river to the newly built abbey at Maenan. During the dissolution of the monasteries the coffin was moved for safe keeping to St Grwst’s church where it was forgotten about and was found covered with rubbish some 200 years later. it was then moved to this chapel in Llanrwst parish church. No one knows what happened to Llywelyn’s body.

llew

Statue of Llywelyn in Conwy. Obviously not contemporary. Also much smaller than it looks in this photo.

Llywelyn was later known as Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the great). He was the most powerful Welsh Prince of his time and in many ways a serious threat to the English Crown. At this point Wales was still independent of England, although their princes swore featly to the English kings. Joan was sent to a country she didn’t know, whose language she didn’t speak, with a man she had never met before as a bargaining chip from John to try and quell the Welsh. Joan continued to be an important part of English and Welsh negotiations throughout her entire marriage. Joan occasionally acted as a mediator between the two and on one occasion was forced, through circumstance, to beg King John for leniency towards her husband.[1]  Interestingly Joan’s illegitimate birth was not the stigma to the Welsh that it had been to the Norman French. Illegitimate children were even allowed to inherit in Wales as long as their father acknowledged them. However Joan managed to obtain a papal decree in 1226 from Honorius III which declared her legitimate as neither of her parents had been married at the time of her conception, but it clearly gave her no right to the English throne.

One of the most controversial aspects of Joan’s marriage to Llywelyn was that she committed adultery with William de Barose in 1230. De Barose was found in her bedroom.  De Barose was hanged and Joan was placed under house arrest for twelve months, after which, according to the Chronicle of Chester, Llywelyn took her back and restored her to all her former positions and titles. [2] Their marriage seems to have been one of affection, not many men of the period would have ever forgiven a wife who committed adultery.  Llewlyn was certainly distraught when she died. A Welsh chronicle the Brut y Tywysogion described Llywelyn’s actions at Joan’s death in February 1237. It said “in honour of her [Joan] Llywelyn son of Iorworth had built there [where she was buried] a monastery for barefooted monks which is called Llanvaes in Mona”.[3] So this was one marriage that did seem to have worked emotionally as well as politically. Additionally tradition has it that when they stayed at their hunting lodge at Trefriw Joan found the steep climb to the church at Llanrhychwyn too arduous so in c. 1200 Llywelyn had a church built for her much closer to their hunting lodge. The Church of St Mary’s now stands roughly on the same spot and stain glass windows, not contemporary,  depicting Llywelyn and Joan can be seen in the church in Trefriw. st mary's st mary's stained glass

St Mary’s Church in Trefriw and the stain glass windows. Unfortunately I couldn’t get inside the church as it was locked when I was there.

Joan’s is one of the nicer stories of noble marriages of this time period. Even though she was traded like coin for an alliance and spent much of her marriage trapped between her husband and her father, her marriage itself seems to have been one of at least some affection. Joan also had the advantage of being a little older than some of the other daughters who were used to cement alliances, many were only young girls when they were sent off. Some were even raised in foreign courts. As harrowing as being sent to an alien land where you didn’t speak the language would have been Joan was dealt a better hand than than many of her contemporaries and that says something about the way these women were used during this period.

The next post will look at another noble woman whose marriage turned out for the better. Isabel de Clare was a great heiress and her marriage to William Marshal brought to prominence a man who would have an indelible affect on England.

[1] W.L Warren, King John, London: Eyre and Spottiswode, 1961, pp. 197-198. [2] The Chronicle of the Abbey of St Werberg at Chester. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=67180 [3] Anonymous, Brut y Tywysogion, (ed.) & (trans.) The Rev. John Williams, London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1860, pp. 325-327.