Saturday, August 7, 2010

Salisbury Cathedral

It was two years ago today, on August 7, 2008, that Andrew and I, Andrew’s parents, Andrew’s brother, Alex, and my sister visited Salisbury Cathedral.

For Andrew and Alex, it was their third visit to Salisbury Cathedral since 2002. For Andrew’s parents, it was their first visit to Salisbury Cathedral in many, many years.

For my sister and me, however, Salisbury Cathedral was entirely uncharted ground. We were eager to see and to visit this landmark Early English Gothic cathedral portrayed in so many beloved John Constable paintings.

We were not disappointed.

I found Salisbury Cathedral to be the highlight of our 2008 trip.

We devoted an entire day to visiting everything within the Salisbury Cathedral Close. We slowly walked around the entire close, admiring the great structure from all vantage points. We went inside and took a guided tour of the cathedral’s vast interior. After the tour, we remained inside the cathedral for another couple of hours, exploring monuments and chapels on our own. We ate lunch in the cathedral refectory, an excellent restaurant. We visited the Salisbury Cathedral Cloisters, the largest and most elaborate cloisters in Britain. We visited the Salisbury Cathedral Chapter House (and examined one of four surviving copies of the original Magna Carta). We took a second guided tour, which escorted us through inner passageways leading up to the cathedral’s roof, from which we enjoyed marvelous views from the cathedral’s ramparts. At the end of the afternoon, we slowly walked around the close a second time, admiring the structure under different light conditions.

It was a glorious, even inspiring, day.

The singular feature of Salisbury Cathedral is that it is a unified work of art, very unusual for English cathedrals. Because the cathedral was built in a comparatively brief period of time (construction required less than a century), the cathedral is a very pure and a very noble example of Early English Gothic, unobstructed by changing architectural fashion and unaltered by later—and inconsistent—architectural overlays. With the highest spire in England (and the only pre-1400 spire still standing anywhere in the world), Salisbury Cathedral is a remarkable structure, one of the greatest and most beautiful buildings on the planet.

I can understand why Andrew and Alex like to return again and again to Salisbury Cathedral.

I would like to go back again soon.

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