Since I am the only blogger for the day, I have the distinct honor of explaining everything that happened today! I am actually glad of this fact because we did a lot of amazing things, and I would hate to have picked just one to tell you all. By the way – by today, I mean May 9, 2017 – just so we are all clear. We are still staying in York, but today was a day trip out to some sites that are not exactly in the town of York. We explored Ripon Cathedral, Fountains Abbey, and Skipton Castle today, and I will explain what we did there in the remaining part of my post.
We got to all these places with the assistance of a small tour bus. Our driver, Dave, was quite knowledgeable and took the time to point out monuments and other things in the landscape that we had no idea were there. I was very glad Dave was our driver, and I purposely sat at the front of the bus to hear what he might have to say. Not only did we get to and from the hostel safely, we learned a few new things along the way. The most interesting bus fact I learned today was that the Tour de France came to Yorkshire this year, and the people of Yorkshire just hosted their own bike race for the local people. I wonder of this local bike race will become an annual thing here in Yorkshire.
The first place we explored was Ripon Cathedral, and the first thing we registered was confusion. This course has been teaching us to recognize different styles of medieval architecture, and we are challenged to apply this knowledge to the sites we visit. I was not alone in being unable to classify Ripon Cathedral’s architecture, but I will admit to being rather bad at recognizing styles of architecture. I always get them mixed up, no matter how many times I study the differences. Anyway, Ripon Cathedral has many different styles of architecture due to the different stages of building. It was originally the site of a Saxon church in the 7th century, and there is a Saxon crypt under the cathedral that survives today. The crypt is empty today and is supposed to represent the tomb of Jesus. I found it interesting that the roofs are made of wood. The library had some interesting models of the site through the ages, showing the different styles and sizes that have been present since the Saxons moving forwards.
Fountains Abbey was my favorite thing today. Our student tour guide, Kourtney, did a really nice job presenting the abbey to the class. I especially appreciated how she talked about the architecture of the surviving ruins as well as giving us the historical facts of the abbey and its monastic order. Fountains Abbey is huge! The size is comparable to that of St. Andrews and Rievalux Abbey, although there is more opulence and carving in Fountains than there is in Rievaulx. I could really get a sense of what the original abbey would have looked like from the ruins that survived the dissolution under Henry VIII. There was even an upper room with some original tiles. I could still see some of the decorations and carvings in the floor. Fountains Abbey has extensive gardens surrounding the ruins, leaving the entire valley area a picturesque scene of purity and peace.
The last place we went today was Skipton Castle, which claims to be the most intact medieval castle in all of England. From what I saw, this could very well be true. The castle was slighted and rebuilt. To slight a castle means to deconstruct the defenses and make sure it cannot withstand an attack. The inhabitants were given permission to rebuild the walls by Cromwell because the lady of the house was well-connected in the government. She argued that this was her home, and she needed to feel safe in her own home – which needed completed walls. I found Skipton Castle interesting because it had been remodeled through the ages. The kitchen was moved at one point and more modern preparation stations were added as the inhabitants saw fit. A new manor house was built adjacent to the castle in which the family still lives, meaning they can see that the castle is maintained for future generations of tourists.