Saturday, 7 April 2018

Winchester Cathedral

The Winchester Cathedral is a grand place and a must see part of Winchester.  Built by the Normans it has tons of history and one can spend a whole day within marveling the architecture, the ambiance, studying the tombs of clergymen and nobles, the writings and paintings dating back to the 12th century, listening to the various anecdotes associated with the Cathedral and of course, praying!  Unlike the Churches in London city which are usually noisy, this Cathedral, in spite of the number of people inside and outside, was very silent and the prayerful atmosphere not disturbed in any way by the visitors.  On stating that we were seminarians, we were granted free entrance - thanks to the lady at the reception!  But even if we had to pay the £ 8 entry fee, it would have been worth every bit of it. 

Under the arches built outside the Cathedral for additional support in the later centuries.
I'm not sure if the church gets full for liturgical services but am sure in the past centuries it would have certainly been full and overflowing.  So vast is the length of it. 
 The large stained glass window at the rear end has an interesting story:  During the 17th century when the parliamentary troops besieged the town, they took shelter in the cathedral and noticing the exquisite stained glass depicting the Risen Lord and all the various scenes from the old and new testament were appalled at the 'idolatry'.  They broke every possible bit of it!!  Later the townsfolk with great sadness picked up the broken glass and handed it over to the clergy to 'fix' it back!!  By then none knew which piece went where and how.  So they merely stuck it as best as they could. Today it is a large mosaic, but not definite picture! 
The stained glass window at the rear end (westside)

The exquisitely carved sanctuary, which also houses the choir
Behind it is the early resting place of St Swithun
The statue of Bp William of Wickhyme, one of the founding builders of the cathedral and the founder of Winchester college.
The three monks sitting at the foot of the statue have long intrigued historians! 
The tomb of Jane Austen.
Only now did I come to know that her father was an Anglican priest, a well known pastor.
Beside the tombstone, there is also a plaque on the wall, put in place by her cousin and later a large stained glass with the pictures of St Augustine (her patron), St Paul (man of Biblical literature) and sons of Paul. 

The original painting, done in the 12 and 13 century, adoring the facing wall of the chapel of the Holy sepulchre

 Gratefully, the cathedral is not only about bishops and clergymen.  At the east end of the cathedral there is a diver's statue, the bronze divers' helmet and a plaque commemorating the 'Diver who saved the Cathedral'.  It is dedicated to William Walker, a diver who was employed during the renovation of the Cathedral.  Due to the loose soil beneath, the east end of the Cathedral began sinking in the early 1900s.  The engineers decided to remove the loose soil and fill it with concrete.  The only problem they did not foresee was that as they removed the soil, water started to seep in and that when William stepped in.  He dived in the ice cold water with only his hands to guide him (since it was dark and no light underwater), carrying concrete from the surface to the bottom, till he reached hard ground, building up the foundation... he did this every day for six years!!  And all of it wearing the early heavy diver kit. He'd arrive after breakfast do this work for three hours, have his lunch which consisted of a sandwich and tobacco (to which he attributed his strength) and then worked another round till evening... for six long years!!  Nice to him being remembered and his work duly awarded, with special mention of him inside and outside the cathedral. 
William Walker, the diver. 
I joined a group of visitors being led by a tour guide and my only regret was that I should have stayed longer!  Since we agreed to meet back at the entrance after an hour, I had to rush back to join the others.  I could have spent another hour listening to him and followed by another hour walking around by myself!
The excellent tour guide!

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