Sunday, 15 July 2012

Beauty Things in Winchester

It was off to Winchester yesterday with Pameli Benham, who was going to see a friend perform in a play at the Chesil Theatre.  Meanwhile, I had designs on the Cathedral, having spent so long in the pub and Christmas Market during my only other visit to Winchester that by the time I got round to a bit of culture, it was too dark to see anything.  I also wanted to see the City Mill and take a wander along the river in the footsteps of Keats, who sojourned there in 1819 following his brother Thomas's death, and was inspired to write Ode to Autumn.     So after a toothsome lunch in The Corner House, Pameli and I went our separate ways and I made a beeline for The Close.

The usual stunning soaring stuff inside, but like every other Cathedral or Church, Winchester has its own particular points of interest, almost all of which I'd missed the last time, the
first being Jane Austen's grave,
memorial and commemorative window. 

A skitter past the lavishly decorated font of c1150, and I encountered the Ephiphany Chapel, which was always going to be right up my alley, boasting four Morris and Co windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and a beautiful Agnus Dei by Eric Gill.



 




The next absolute glory was the medieval wall paintings in the Holy Sepulchre Chapel.  Dating from the 12th century, they were covered over during one of our several Cultural Revolutions and only rediscovered in the 1960s ...  



... closely followed by the huge expanse of 13th century floor tiles, over which pilgrims would cross on their knees ...


... to visit the shrine of St Swithun.  (It was tempting to offer up a prayer or two for fine weather, it being St Swithun's Day the following day - and it has been fine, but as I forbore to slither across the tiles on my knees, I'm not holding my breath for forty days of non rain.)


There were ancient tombs and memento mori aplenty and exuberant misericords in the choir, although the huge stone screen was partly covered in scaffolding and it was difficult to appreciate it fully.  Oh and the enormous Norman pillars were smothered in graffiti with serifs, one of my joys in life.  Below is a set of initials from 1582.  

The Cathedral was closing to the public earlier than usual because there was a special service taking place, but I made sure I had time to pop down to the crypt and I was so glad I did.  Despite the prodigious quantities of rain we have had lately, I wasn't sure it would be flooded, but it was and I was pleased because it meant that Antony Gormley's sculpture, Sound II, was in its element - literally - and a heart-stoppingly beautiful and tranquil sight.   




  

The Riven Itchen was fairly high and, being a chalk stream, running fast through the ancient city and under the City Mill.  It felt strange to stand in the room above the mill race and feel the floor trembling.


There was no time to wander in the company of Keats down to the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty, but that's fine because it means I shall have to return some time. Maybe in autumn, perhaps ...  







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