Before this trip and class, I would have described cathedrals as large and more extravagant churches. Now I have so many complex ways of viewing cathedrals because no two are alike. My favorite educational part of this experience has been comparing and contrasting all the cathedrals we have visited. I believe we will visit 8 cathedrals before the end of the trip, with Wells Cathedral being on the schedule for tomorrow.
I mentioned that my description cathedrals has evolved throughout this course. I now describe these incredible and breathtaking sites as expansive, ornate, unique, symbolic, beautiful religious structures. They range from being open, light, and charming to being dauntingly large, dark, and sometimes eerie. Each cathedral has its own unique story and historical background. Some places, like Edinburgh Cathedral, have beautiful painted ceilings, while others have beautiful ribbing and vaulting.
I encourage everyone to try to visit these amazing sites because they are truly remarkable, and it is very cool to hear their history. I would also highly recommend doing tower tours of cathedrals of you ever get a chance. Tower tours are exhausting and can be quite the climb, but they give a different perspective on the building and really make you appreciate and understand all the restoration and preservation that it takes to keep a cathedral standing. It is also magnificent to look down from above and see the nave or quire from a bird’s-eye view and to see or even hear the bells ring at the top of the hour or quarter of the hour.
At this point I have my top three cathedrals in my head and would like to tell you about each of them and why I think they are so special and unique. Unfortunately all my cathedral pictures are on my camera and will not be able to be posted until we get home, so I will try to add them to this post once we get back and then some of these descriptions will make a little more sense. For now, I will try to put their beauty and complex architecture into words.
1) St. Giles Cathedral (Edinburgh, Scotland)
This cathedral blew me away from the minute we walked in. The bright blue ceiling with white accent vaulting livened up the the entire space and brought out the beautiful colors from the stained glass windows. St. Giles also had misericords in the quote, which or ornate wood carvings on the pews where monks sat for worship. The chapter house was also extremely interesting as it had a very ribbed, white ceiling with coats of arms at the intersections. The last thing that really popped in my eyes was the large red organ. The pipes stretched up to the ceiling and their shiny silver stood out from the deep red color of the rest of the organ.
This cathedral stop was also really cool because we witnessed wedding right outside the cathedral. All the men were even decked out in traditional Scottish dress!
2) Salisbury Cathedral (Salisbury, England)
Salisbury Cathedral was absolutely huge! It has the largest spire (pointed tower) and cloister (internal courtyard) in the United Kingdom. As we walked up to the cathedral, we were welcomed by an expansive lawn with people all over. It was a Sunday when we visited, so people were on the lawn having picnics and just lounging around. The cathedral is very unique because it only took 38 years to build, which is super fast! Since it was built in such a short time period, it was only built in one architectural style, which is also pretty unheard of. It is built entirely in early English gothic style, which means it has really tall pointed arches and windows.
We went on a tower tour at Salisbury Cathedral, which meant climbing 332 winding and steep stairs. We got to stand along one of the large stain glass windows and then we got to see all the beams and iron work done to hold up the huge spire. We were even standing on the bell tower when the quarter or the hour and top of the hour struck, so we got quite the earful of bell ringing. Finally, we stood on thee of the four sides of the spire and looked out over the city. We even sang part of the National Anthem upon the request of our tour guide while out on the tower!
3) Chester Cathedral (Chester, England)
The last of my top three cathedrals was Chester Cathedral. I may be w bit biased on choosing this cathedral for my list since it is the one I gave a tour of. However, this is my list and sleepless genuinely did rave about it, so I’m going to leave it at number three.
One of my favorite things about Chester was the murals along the walls of the nave. It was cool to see these intricate, painted murals as apprised to the plain walls that we have typically seen in the other cathedrals. Chester Cathedral is also interesting because it is built in Romanesque and gothic architectural styles. In some areas of the church you can see a rounded Norman arch right next to a taller, gothic archway. These two styles are intermixed because during the building of the cathedral, the monks decided that the current Norman style was too old fashioned so they simply switched over to gothic style and kept building that way.
Chester Cathedral also has 48 detailed misericords in the quire. These wood carvings at the ends of the monk’s pews are all unique. The one carving I had to find was one of an elephant, except this elephant looks half horse because the person who carved it had never seen an elephant before so they just had to go off descriptions from other people.
We also got a tower tour of Chester Cathedral, and we climbed the 216 steps to the top. From the top of the tour, the guide pointed out 7 different visible counties, which just blew me away.
There you have it, my top three cathedral pics and a bit of information about why each is so unique! I apologize that there are no pictures to accompany my descriptions right now, but I hope so add some when possible.
Until next time,