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June 13, 2005
First, we took in the view from the west end of the cathedral, a superb vision of the length of the cathedral, its early Gothic architecture, and bright, colourful east window. I lingered a little longer than others at the oldest working clock. It’s a fantastically simple piece of engineering that was designed to tell the time, on the hour, without a clock face. Built around 1380, it was working from a separate bell tower until 1792, when the tower was destroyed by fire. Now, our guide told us, the choir doesn’t like the ringing, so the bell chime has been locked and the clocks only function seems to be for demonstration purposes. What a shame!
From the old, we were shown the most modern feature of the cathedral – the font. Apparently it’s only "on trial," and if the congregation doesn’t like it, then its life as a font at Salisbury could be limited. It’s different, modern green, interactive, and superb for showing off reflections from the modern glass windows.
The guide took great pleasure in telling us of the gory story of William Longespee’s tomb. The tale goes that William was one of King John’s advisors for the Magna Carta, present when the foundation stones of the cathedral were laid and the first person to be buried in the original building. In later years, the tomb, unusually wooden on a concrete base, was moved and the skeleton disturbed. It was then that the skull was found to contain the corpse of a rat that had died whilst ingesting quantities of arsenic from the brain of the dead William. The first Earl of Salisbury had been murdered or was the victim of local "quackery," but we’ll never really know why or by who!
To the right of the quire, we were shown the infamous bending columns – I tucked myself next to the quire and looked up at these amazingly distorted structures. Small wonder I guess, as when they were first constructed, there were no plans for them to support Salisbury’s soaring spire (at 123m, it’s the tallest spire in England)
I thought the view of the cathedral from the eastern end of the quire was particularly haunting – the light bounced off the find wooden carvings as my eye was led to the cavernous grandeur of the nave. Look eastwards and take in the treat of Gabriel Loire’s "prisoner of conscience" window, but make sure a guide helps you with the interpretation. It is fascinating.
From journal Salisbury - A Weekend Away
by GB from Devizes
Devizes, United Kingdom
February 22, 2005
The Willis Organ dates from 1876 and is the finest example of its kind in the UK. The Bishop’s Throne is by Sir Gilbert Scott, designed in 1870. The High Altar, which was totally rebuilt in 1984, still contains stone from the original cathedral at Old Sarum.
The vault decorations, too, fell into poor repair and were renovated in the 19th century, refabricating the original 13th-century designs. The stained-glass window behind the High Altar is enamelled on clear glass and depicts Moses and the serpent.
From journal The Scintillating Jewel in Salisbury's Crown