I woke on my second day in Salisbury to discover the weather had returned to grey skies and misty rain. Today was the day for my visit to Salisbury Cathedral.
I headed down St. Ann’s Street to St. Ann’s Gate, one of the four medieval gateways into the Cathedral Close.
Wandering along North Walk, I was stopped in my tracks by a sign attached to a stone wall.
William Golding wrote the brilliant and horrifying Lord of the Flies.
In Susan Howatch‘s series of books, mentioned in my last post, calling the cathedral Starbridge she writes: “We all came at last to Starbridge, radiant, ravishing Starbridge … beyond the roof of the nave, above the massive block of the tower, the spire itself was rising and rising and rising, yard after yard, foot after foot, inch after inch, upwards and upwards and upwards until at last it had tapered to the point which supported the cross.”
It rose in front of me as I continued along North Walk and it certainly is beautiful, even with the scaffolding that seems attached to every old building in the country. At 123.1 metres, the spire is the tallest in Britain.
I wandered around its perimeter for awhile, my raincoat protecting me from the drizzle.
Eventually, I had to make the move inside. I’m always a little anxious when I’ve looked forward to something for ages that it’s going to let me down. I entered “radiant, ravishing, Starbridge” to discover an enormous cavern, dark and cold-looking.
Travel experiences are, of course, subjective; they depend on so many things, including the mood you’re in, the weather at the time, whether you’re tired as you often are during a trip, and so this is only my experience. Others may have had an entirely different one. It’s a spectacular building, needless to say, but not exactly nurturing as are others such as Ely or sparkling Bath Abbey.
One area where colour won the day was the chapel of Archangel Michael. Michael is seen as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of Satan, or evil, as we call it today. It was a lovely spot to sit quietly for a few quiet minutes, even allowing for its warring connotations.
I really fancied the blue rug. I wondered, just for the moment, if I took off with it, anyone would notice. At the last minute I thought better of it.
I changed my mind about the cathedral when I got to the Chapter House, a beautiful octagonal space, with a slender central pillar and a decorative medieval frieze above the stalls.
The Chapter House contained the best-preserved of the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta. You often get these bonuses as you travel around, things you didn’t expect or plan for. I was over the moon.
They kept the queue moving so I only had a minute or so to examine the tiny, unbelievably perfect script. Of course, we weren’t allowed to take photos, so I’ve borrowed this one from BBC News.
I spent the rest of the day exploring the Close, including Arundells, the house owned by Sir Edward Heath, one-time Prime Minister of England and a very interesting and accomplished man. Along with his political career, he was a yachtsman, winning the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in 1969 and the Admiral’s Cup in 1971. He was also a pianist, organist and conducted orchestras, including the London Symphony.
I rambled through a gateway in the Close wall into a residential area and onto a bridge. This is what I discovered.
The Chapter House is a pub and restaurant opposite St. Ann’s Gate. On my last night I stopped in for a bowl of spaghetti and a glass of red, before heading through the gate to try and get creative with my camera, as the lights gradually rose on the cathedral.
I promise from now on we’ll have a break from cathedrals.