Monday, September 1, 2008

Salisbury Cathedral, Cheer thy Spirit with this Comfort

The Cathedral of Saint Mary – better known as Salisbury Cathedral in Salisbury, England – is celebrating the 750th anniversary of its consecration.

The medieval cathedral is known for its many records: the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom (404 feet); the largest cloister; and the largest cathedral close in Britain (80 acres). Inside are the world's oldest working clock (from AD 1386) and one of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta.

The foundation stone was laid in 1220 and in 1258 the nave and choir were complete. The Very Reverend Hugh Dickinson says that because they take so many generations to build, “almost all other English Cathedrals are a mixture of different architectural styles. However the main body of Salisbury Cathedral which includes the tower and West Front, was completed in a mere 38 years.” There were other sections built later, most notably the tower and spire in 1320. While an impressive sight, the tower and spire proved somewhat troublesome when you realize they added over 6 thousand tons to the weight of the building – which sits on just four feet of foundation. Knowing that, it’s a wonder the cathedral is still standing....

September is the final month for the cathedral’s major anniversary exhibit. Also as part of the celebration, there will be a 750th Anniversary Commemorative Service on September 28.

Why are we celebrating? So majestic and inspiring is this architectural wonder that John Bellairs went and made an American duplicate, of sorts, for his 1985 adventure, The Revenge of the Wizard’s Ghost. In rural New York State is the property of Zebulon Windrow, the patriarch of the wicked Windrow clan of warlocks and witches. After making it big in the lumber business, Zebulon built his estate – his mansion and the nearby church – atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River, which must be quite a sight in the autumn: a 400-foot medieval spire poking out of New England’s famous fall foliage.

Oh, by the way, here’s a bit of trivia for you: a dead rat with traces of arsenic was found inside the skull of William Longespée when his tomb was opened.

Salisbury Cathedral
The Green Men of Salisbury Cathedral
Photos at Flickr
Photo Friday - Awful!

1 comment:

James Card said...

It would be nigh impossible to exaggerate Salisbury's grand beauty. I was last there on Christmas Day 2007---what a setting it was for choral evensong, with lifelike angels suspended in the air up and down the nave.

On my first visit to Salisbury in 2004, I took a fascinating tour of the cathedral's innards (this is quite special---most cathedrals only offer tours up the steps to the tower). You get to see the forest of ancient wood inside the stone walls, holding the cathedral together. You also get to ascend up underneath the 400-foot tall spire before stepping outside, where you have a glorious view of the patchwork Wiltshire countryside.

I remember going up the endless stairs and passing a large lead-framed window, through which I saw the sloping roof between five and ten feet below the sill. I imagined Fergie and Prof. Childermass madly clambering through it.

Salisbury is in a very lovely part of England. Considering that John lived in nearby Bristol, it should be no surprise that that region (Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Devon) features so heavily in his books.