Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Great Hall of Winchester and the Round Table

When I visited Winchester last winter the main goal was to see Winchester Cathedral.  I vaguely knew about the Great Hall but didn't really know the history.  As it turned out while I enjoyed the Cathedral, the Great Hall absolutely blew me away. 

First I will tell you a little background.  The Great Hall is one of the finest surviving medieval aisled halls of the 13th century.  It was commissioned by King Henry III and built between 1222 and 1235 at a cost of five hundred pounds.  The Hall used to be part of the Winchester Castle which was started by William the Conqueror in 1067.  The Castle became one of the great fortresses of England and was a witness to public executions and burnings at the stake.   In 1645 the Castle was captured by Cromwell, slighted and eventually demolished.  

The Great Hall itself has quite an interesting history as a court - among trails held here were those of IRA members accused of planting bombs in London and Sir Walter Raleigh and others whowere charged with plots to overthrow James I and were sentenced to death (their sentence was reprieved at the last minute).

However, it's the Round Table that the Great Hall is most famous for.  The myths and legends based on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have existed for over one thousand years.  It is thought that in 1290 King Edward I may have commissioned this particular Round Table to be made for a banquet to celebrate the marriage arrangements of his children.  Edward believed strongly in the myth of King Arthur.  Tournaments, called "round tables" were popular during this time. At these banquets courtiers dressed up as characters from the legend of King Arthur and were entertained by feasting and jousting. From modern technology, it has been established that the table dates from the 13th century, not the 6th century when King Arthur was thought to have lived.  Don't tell Henry VIII, okay?  Back then they thought this table was original and dating from the 6th century when King Arthur was thought to have lived. 

The Round Table is 18 feet in diameter, weighs 1200 kg and was originally made of 121 separate pieces of English Oak.  For approximately the first 60 years it probably stood on the floor of the hall and in 1348 when the roof of the Great Hall was remodelled the table may have been raised to hang on the wall.  Holes on the back of the table show where twelve legs had been broken off when it was hung up. The table was unpainted until King Henry VIII came to Winchester in 1516.  At the time the painting of King Arthur at the top of the table bore a striking resemblance to Henry VIII which reinforced the Tudor claim to be direct descendants of King Arthur.  Time and repainting have aged "King Arthur".  Each of King Arthur's knights were painted on the table and the Tudor Rose placed in the middle. 

Can you see Sir Lancelot's place at the "dinner table"?  

But the Great Hall has much more than the Round Table...

This statue of Queen Victoria was erected in 1887, the year of Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

This is the back of the hall - I loved this place!

Looking down towards the Round Table

This bronze honours Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee - unveiled in 2013.

Here is the fountain in Queen Eleanor's Garden  - named for Queen Eleanor of Provence and Queen Eleanor of Castile - wives of Henry III and his son Edward 1.

If you are ever in the Winchester area I highly recommend a visit to the Great Hall.  

1 comment:

Cristen Roten said...

This post is very interesting and informative.First time I see this place this place is wonderful like a old historical place. Thanks for shearing.

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