Salisbury Cathedral is much more than a historical monument.
Nice and sunny, just after a shower, London to Salisbury was quick. Didn’t seem like 90 minutes. That’s because the talkative guide engaged us in conversation. Wanted to know if we had seen the Taj Mahal, and all the standard questions about India.
There it stood, the grand Salisbury Cathedral, one of the finest medieval churches in England. This grand structure with its elegant and imposing spire (Britain’s tallest) has inspired many an artist, John Constable being the foremost among them. Its impressive architectural style in Early English Gothic was possible because it was built in just 38 years (1220-1258). The tower and spire were added after more than 50 years.
The Cloister and Chapter House were included subsequently. British history is closely woven into the story of this creation. Starting as part of the Catholic Church, it later became an inspiration to the Church of England when Henry VIII split from the Church of Rome in 1534.
Salisbury Cathedral is much more than a historical monument. Earlier known as The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it attracts a large number of visitors every year. As the Cathedral Church of the Salisbury diocese, it is the Mother Church of several hundred parishes in Wiltshire and Dorset. In 2008, the cathedral celebrated the 750th anniversary of its consecration in 1258.
The faceless clock
To me, the medieval clock looked like half a dozen wheels assembled together with some pulleys and weights. The clock has no face because all clocks of that date rang out the hours on a bell. It was originally located in a bell tower and when it was demolished, the clock was shifted to the Cathedral Tower. The clock was then placed in storage and forgotten until it was discovered in 1929, in an attic of the cathedral. It was repaired and restored to working order in 1956. Again in 2007, remedial work and repairs were carried out. Its unappealing look certainly eclipsed its impressive background.
I saw the tombs of bishops, saints, wealthy and influential people.
The cloister, supposed to be the largest in England, looked splendid with arcades all around. Added in the late 13th century, it was a rectangular open space surrounded by covered walks. With open arcades on the inner side running along the walls of buildings, it formed a courtyard. This place looked ideal for the cloistered lives of the monks.
The Magna Carta, with a heavy history behind its awe-inspiring presence, was enclosed in a glass case in the Chapter House. This parchment had altered the rule of law in England, protecting the rights of the individual, and its fundamental principles were adopted later by many other countries in their constitutions.
The West Front was striking with its tall turrets, niched buttresses, spirelets and gables. It was highly ornamental with motifs, columns and bands. The five levels of niches had statues of angels, archangels, old testament patriarchs, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, doctors and philosophers. On the lower level stood the royalty, priests and worthy people connected with the cathedral. The wide and tall façade was almost 100 ft high.
The Choral Evensong began, encompassing the whole place with a soft music, lifting the soul. It was like being carried on the wings of an angel. The huge cathedral, filled with peace, looked heavenly.