Friday, May 19, 2017

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral, you're bringing me it or hate it, anyone who grew up in the 60's remembers that song.  Can you believe it was this song that led me to visit?  Yes, alterI am daft like that.  I have been wanting to visit Winchester for years now even though I didn't know much about it aside from the song and the fact it was the starting point for the South Downs Way which I intend to do some day. (just watch me!)
Rail fares in the UK are not cheap which is why I subscribe to the mailing list of every train line. When a deal came up for Great Western Railway I jumped on it.  It wasn't the ten pound return deal I got to York but it was still quite a bit cheaper than the regular fare which I certainly wasn't about to pay for a day trip.

Due to getting on the wrong train at my local station (cringe - that'll teach me not to double check where the incoming train is going) I ended up at Waterloo station with three minutes to spare.  I didn't know I could still move that fast but I did it.  No time for a quick coffee but thank goodness they have trolley service so I got my caffeine fix just as the train was leaving the outskirts of London.

Just over an hour later the train pulled into Winchester rail station to steady rain.  I have never let that stop me!  My first stop was the Great Hall which blew my mind and I will be talking about in another post.  From there I wandered along a pedestrian shopping area that sadly I never got back to.  But I will!

It was easy to find the cathedral as it was sign posted well which was a good thing as we know how easily I get lost.

And there it the mist and rain....and the rain and the mist....

First a bit of background..there is 15 centuries of history behind the cathedral as Winchester was once the seat of power in Anglo Saxon and Norman royal power.  The current site of the cathedral began in the 7th century when royalty transitioned from pagan to christian.  I won't bore with details but it has gone from a Little Minster to a Cathedral and was the burial place of King Alfred the Great of Wessex amongst many others.  In 1066 when William the Conquerer arrived a Norman church was built.  The church was Roman Catholic until the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII when it became a cathedral.  The church today was mainly completed in the early 16th century.

One of the most notable things about the cathedral is that the author Jane Austin is buried here.

So enough talking, let's start exploring!

The first thing I headed for was the burial place of Jane Austen in the cathedral.  Confession time: despite being a vicarious reader I've never read one of Jane Austen's novels right through. (I've seen the movies though..does that count?)  I think it's time to do so!!!  This year is the 200th anniversary of her death (in a nearby home) so there are many celebrations planned.  So a good year as any to start reading her books right?

Above is a plaque dedicated to her memory.

One of the beautiful stained glass windows in the cathedral.

Magnificent!!!  The Nave.

Looking toward the altar.

The two pictures above are Medieval wall paintings from the 12th century.  They were uncovered in the 1960's.

The choir stalls

I saw dead people...lots of dead people!  (well their tombs anyway...) 

Bet I couldn't take a picture like this in July - something to be said for visiting on a rainy day in January.

This statue in the interior of the church is a bust of William Walker who literally saved the cathedral in the early 1900's.  Huge cracks started appearing in the walls and ceiling of the cathedral and it was in danger of collapse.  The cathedral lays on top of peaty soil with a high water table. A professional diver, Mr. Walker worked in complete darkness under water for six years six hours a day in depths of up to 20 feet  to excavate the flooded trenches placing bags of concrete in them.  When he took his lunch break he would just remove his helmet as the diving suit was too bulky and heavy to remove. Once his job was completed the ground water could be pumped out and the walls braced by bricklayers.   Below is a statue of him in the garden.

Yes, he even has a pub named after him!  I didn't make it to the pub this time but next time I am in Winchester I will definitely visit it and raise a glass of him.  What a hero!!!

I missed visiting the Crypt which has a beautiful sculpture by Antony Gormley.  The reason for this is the stairs looked too intimidating for my sore knee.  I do regret that but hope to visit again someday with my new super duper bionic knee.

Hope you enjoyed the quick visit to the cathedral.  Definitely worth a visit.  It is open every day and charges an admission fee but well worth it.  There is a lovely restaurant in the grounds (I can't vouch for the food as I was headed for the pub) and lots of eateries and pubs nearby.

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