Our Last Days and History: An Eternal Memorial

Every time, recently, we would finish an activity for the day, I would sit-back in my mind and be in shock that the trip is coming to an end. This greatly saddens me every time! I still can’t believe I have been abroad for a month with this awesome group of people I call friends. Even while I write this, it baffles my mind that an entire month ago we flew into York, and I hardly knew anyone; now I’m a lot closer with everyone in the group and I feel so honored.

Depending on the individual, a month may sound like a short amount of time, or a good chunk of time experiencing countries abroad. For me, the latter holds true. Since this month has been so long but full of fun and learning, there are numerous things I’ve taken away from this trip. A lot of such information is about the Romans and Medieval society.
There have been many locations we visited that have quite a large history dating back to the Romans. The influences by such a population from their establishments in York, to the Amphitheatre and city walls in Chester, to the Roman Baths in….Bath. When we would go to a location where the Romans left their mark, I would get even more excited! The Romans established an incredible empire expanding through continents, and one of them included modern-day Great Britain.

Unfortunately, since we learned about the Romans in York quite a while ago, I will give a quick summary about the remains we viewed in Chester and Bath. In Chester, there was an Amphitheatre which basically looked like a coliseum. Imagine thousands of people watching different bits of entertainment in the area. It could be hard to imagine this when you see the site in person, because the remains appear as though the structure couldn’t hold more than one or two hundred people in total. This is an interesting aspect to me, because it forces you to broaden your mind and imagination.

Part from the Amphitheatre, Chester and Bath both include remains (some more preserved and held together than others) of baths or bathing houses! People (mainly of higher class) would go to the bath houses to commute with others of their rank. Bath houses were also places for healing purposes. The presence of the Romans is very strong in so many areas including most of the places we have visited. 

Quite a while after the Romans, the Middle Ages commenced and royals or nobles took over much land to increase their image and/or military advantage. Many of the castles built were constructed under royalty to fulfill the purpose of a military fortress, as a living quarter, or to exemplify their rule over a certain territory. Cathedrals, however, were usually condemned or at least greatly damaged by royalty to present their power- particularly Henry VIII when he fought against the Church of England. So the Romans created a stronger stage of construction up until halfway through the Middle Ages when destruction grew and became more popular.

Jumping to today, different societies have been established to keep the ruins of such historic landmarks in good shape; however, some have done better jobs than others. Certain sites have been well-preserved and are presented in a very decent fashion with a couple exhibitions here and there so people can learn more about the building while exploring. Other sites, unfortunately, have been turned into more of just tourist attractions or seem to have not been treated with as much care. An example would be Cardiff Castle, where there are hardly any additions to make the place safer for visitors or even safer for itself. The day we came, it was pouring rain; there were not any types of objects to help keep the castle a bit dry. When it is quite torn down and there is basically one more tower, I would have liked to see the group try to possibly use something to keep it a bit more well-treated. Plus some of us girls looked around the manor house and got kicked out because no one had signs up saying we couldn’t walk in the rooms we wandered into.

This is more of a cultural experience, I believe. We have needed to reflect in our journals about the differences or similarities in cultures between the three countries. Unfortunately I am not fully able to find a lot of differences, I can see that certain areas treat their historic monuments in their own fashion. With this said, I will conclude with a type of–what I at least consider–philosophical message.

Today we went to Wells Cathedral and then visited the Bishop’s Palace. Our tour guide was quite inspirational. Now this next bit might be a bit odd but just bear with me! Near the end of his tour, he looked at Caleb and said “If you didn’t have either of your arms, would you still be you? What if you lost both of your arms and both your legs?” He then goes on to say that we are all unique, which is true. No one is the same! He makes the good point that most think of ordinary people in history as just bodies of flesh and blood. We don’t always focus on the spirit inside them nor the environment they thus create together.

This is an idea that I have slowly been developing, especially after taking the history capstone class last semester. Our tour guide today is one out of the few I heard say that we need to remember everyone as a community in history, to get a good view of the past. If we only focused on King Henry VIII during the Reformation of all the cathedrals (when he wrecked a lot of the structures and kept them from maintaining the catholic religion), we then would miss out on the individuals who helped transform and preserve the cathedrals to what they are today. History is not just about the past but also about the present.

When we enter a cathedral, there will be grave markers on the floors in memorial of different figures who played of significance to the building or community. This reminds me also that we need to remember people who weren’t even in the center of the stage, but also in the background. That is something I really have gotten away from this: we must remember everyone.

  
  

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