Today is the final day of our trip and it is a little saddening. It has been a very enjoyable trip and I have made some new friends along the way. It’s not every day that you get to see the vast majority of the day seeing most of the U.K. in less than a month. If I had to pick which of the three countries was my favorite, I would without a doubt choose Scotland. The scenery up there was incredible and absolutely gorgeous. I would go back to both Wales and Scotland, but I’m not so sure about England. I enjoyed my time in England, but I think I may have had too high of expectations for it. If I had to redo this trip, I think I would have spent more time in Wales and Scotland. I felt like we just weren’t there long enough. Out of the three big cities we visited (Edinburgh, Cardiff, and London), I think Edinburgh was my favorite. It was such a cool city. It was old, but it didn’t feel old at all. Edinburgh also had a really cool city life that I really enjoyed. I may be a little sad about this trip being over, but my journey is only beginning. I leave for Paris first thing tomorrow and from there I will be heading to Italy. I cannot wait to see what the mainland has to offer. I would like to thank Wartburg for this incredible opportunity to see the U.K.
We are closing up on our trip now and today is our first full day in London. Although this is not my first day in London on this trip. A few days ago, some of the guys and myself headed to London to explore. We really had no clue what we wanted to go see, but we’re more just looking to find our way around this massive city. Learning how to navigate the subway system was much easier than I thought it would be. The first place we ended up stumbling upon was Buckingham Palace. This palace is absolutely marvelous. It has massive, gold-plated gates and fancy statues all around it. Unfortunately we were unable to get a tour because the Queen was there, but the outside was still plenty for me to see. After that we made our way to Kensington to find all of the museums. We went in to the Science Museum and I definitely geeked out. They had a pretty large medical exhibit and it had a really cool section on prosthetics. I am a biology pre-med major and I have a particular interest in orthopaedics. Seeing this exhibit was pretty cool for me. I liked reading about the origins of some prosthetic legs and also about some early orthopaedic surgeries and the tools that were used. After the Science Museum we didn’t have time to check out another museum so we walked through Kensington Gardens. This was a large, lush park and it was beautiful (even in the rain). There were a lot of really cool statues hidden in the park and of course there was the Kensington Palace. That pretty much sums up our first time in London. I thought it was very beneficial to learn the ropes before we came here for real. We have our second free day tomorrow and we have decided to go to the London Zoo and Aquariums. Everything should go smoothly now that we have been on our own here before.
This morning, we took a train to Salisbury and visited the esteemed Salisbury Cathedral. I had the pleasure of having Sir Victor accompany me today as well. This Anglican cathedral is absolutely gorgeous and serves as an excellent example of early English, Gothic architecture. Probably the most notable structure of this cathedral is its enormous spire. The spire on the central tower reaches up to a height of 404 feet and is the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom. The Salisbury Cathedral, also houses the Magna Carta, an important document with long standing justice and political implications.
The history of this cathedral dates back to 1075. There was a church initially built in Old Sarum, a location near by. This church was built in the line of fir from a neighboring castle and needed to be rebuilt in a new location. This cathedral was built in a place called New Sarum or what is now called Salisbury. The construction of the Salisbury Cathedral that stands today began in 1220 and finished in 1258, a span of only 38 years. This short time frame of construction is why the cathedral has such a consistent form of architecture. The church initially contained the chapter house and the nave, but has since been remodeled four times by several different architects. As mentioned before, the high-rising spire was added on to the central tower between 1310-1330. Today in the cathedral we actually got the opportunity to climb this tower. In order to get to the top observation deck of the tower, it was a whopping 332 steps! The view from this observation deck was outstanding. Also within this tower we were able to see the bell tower and how the bell system worked.
Inside the church there a few notable things. One such is the medieval clock that is found inside the nave. This clock was initially in an old tower that was detached and nearby the church. It is thought to be one of, if not the oldest working clock in existence. Another notable the thing is the Font. Initially there was a white allibaster font, although it was removed in the 19th century during restoration. The new font is directly in the center of the nave and is large enough to allow for total immersion. The final notable feature of the inside of the church is the large blue window at opposite end from the font. This window is named “Prisoners of Consience,” and focuses largely on the Crucifixion scene.
Today we went and saw York Minster. It is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. In fact, it is so large that five fully grown blue whales can be lain head-to-tail and still fit inside it. The Minster is largely recognized for it’s extremely large stain glass windows. They are some of the oldest surviving stained glass windows in the country. The building is about 800 years old and was built in various stages over many years. In 1220, construction on it began as the vision of Archbishop Walter de Gray. The first building only consisted of what is now the south transept. The first addition occurred in the mid-1200s and consisted of what is now the north transept and a large central tower connected to the south transept. The next addition consisted of the nave and a chapter house that was connected to the north transept and this occurred in the late 1200s. The choir was the final addition to the cathedral and was added in the early 1400s. In 1407, the massive central tower burned down and was rebuilt, being finished in 1420. The cathedral was deemed completely finished and consecrated in 1472 upon the finishing of the smaller western towers. Upon walking into the tower, I was completely taken aback. The inside view of this enormous building is absolutely breathtaking. Dr. L gave us a nice little tour of the cathedral starting in the nave. The nave is stunning to look at, and is undoubtedly Gothic as proven by its pointed arches. This is the widest Gothic nave in England and the roof is actually wooden, but it is painted to make it look like stone. There are countless coats of arms or wealthy families that have contributed to the church lining the walls. Perhaps more noticeable in the nave are the numerous stained glass windows, particularly the Great West Window. This window is known as the ‘Heart of Yorkshire’ due to its shape. Next we headed over to the south transept. There are various shrines found here, but the Rose Window is what steals the show here. On a bright day this window projects a kaleidoscope of colors. The central tower is also located in the south transept. We were lucky to get the opportunity to climb to the top of this tower. The trek up consisted of 275 steps, but the magnificent view at the top made it all worth it (Wartburg Worth it).
Next we headed over to the north transept where again there were various shrines. This area was dominated by the Five Sisters Window. This window is huge and is the only British memorial to be dedicated to women that lost their lives in the First World War. After the north transept, we walked into the connected chapter house. This room is absolutely gorgeous! It is an incredible piece of art all by itself. It contains an elaborate, high-rising vaulted ceiling that surprisingly does not contain a central support pillar.
After the chapter house we headed to the choir and the east end of the cathedral. The most notable structure here is the the Great East Window. This is he largest stained medieval glass in England is so big that it is roughly the size of a tennis court. It depicts the start of the world as told in the book of Genesis and the Apocalypse as told in the book of Revelation. We finished off our tour in the undercroft and the crypt. This is essentially the “basement” of the cathedral and shows the underlying support structures as well as a couple of archeological dig sites that show periods prior to the Minster. York Minster was the coolest place I had visited yet by far.
One week from today we will officially be in Europe…Scotland to be exact. Between studying for finals and the MCAT I take this Saturday, I feel like I have hardly had anytime to think about this trip at all. This trip will be a much needed break from reality and a chance to really just get out there and enjoy what this world has to offer as opposed to sitting down and studying all day. I am most excited to get out and explore the countryside because I really enjoy the outdoors. After looking at so many pictures of the types of things we will be doing, I am excited to actually get a chance to experience and see it for myself as I can’t imagine that pictures do most of that stuff justice. This past spring break I went on Bourbon Trail in Kentucky with my dad and started to expand my palate a bit, so I’m really looking forward to trying some Scotch and seeing how they make whiskey there as compared to the U.S. I also have always had an affinity for trying new food, and while Britain might not have too terribly exotic food, I am confident that I’ll be able to find plenty of new things to try. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to stay after the trip with Jake and travel to France and Italy. I think this will be an awesome experience because we will be all on our own in Europe, just finding our own way. My older brother has done something like that a couple of times now and loved it and I am looking forward to kind of “winging it.”
Caerphilly Castle was built in Southern Wales between 1268 and 1271. Including the artificial lakes surrounding it, it occupies about 30 acres making it the second largest castle in Britain. The castle has a very unique design is just breathtaking to look at in pictures (I cannot wait to see it in person). The castle has been used in pop culture frequently including episodes of Dr. Who and Merlin. It was one of the first castles in Britain to exhibit concentric walls in its design. This basically refers to a castle within in a castle, so multiple walls surrounding the main part of the castle. The castle was built by Gilbert “Red Gilbert” de Clare. He was an English nobleman that had been appointed the Earl of Glamorgan by the Crown. At the time, the Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd believed that he had rights to most of Glamorgan. This created constant conflict between Llywelyn and Gilbert, eventually leading to Gilbert beginning the construction of Caerphilly Castle to defend his land. Feeling threatened by the construction of this castle, Llywelyn attacked and burned down a large part of the castle before it was finished. This led to the Crown stepping in and sending two Bishops to seize control of the castle and attempt to resolve conflict between the two men, eventually leading to a treaty being made. Gilbert was not a fan of losing his castle that he was building and devised to plan to take it back. He sent a few men to do an allowed “routine checkup” on the inside of the castle. As soon as the men were let in, they opened the gate for the rest of Gilbert’s men and then evicted the two Bishops and their men. After being called to court, Gilbert was proven innocent as he claimed he had no knowledge of the actions of his men, leaving the king no choice but to let him keep the castle. Llywelyn felt betrayed by this and led a full blown revolt against the crown as a result. Gilbert finished the construction of his castle in record time and then Caerphilly Castle was used as the frontline defense against Llwelyn’s army. The English easily drove Llywelyn back, moving him all the way to Northern Wales. As a result, Caerphilly Castle became useless as a defense because there was no more threat for the time being. For a short while after that revolt, the castle served as a center of administration for the Crown. After about a decade of this, there was a second Welsh revolt led by Madog ap Llywelyn and Morgan ap Maredudd, forcing Gilbert to refortify his castle. When the Welsh lay siege to Caerphilly and the castle, the town burned but the castle stood tall. The Crown responded promptly by defeating the Welsh quickly, once again leaving Caerphilly Castle useless for defense purposes. During the 15th century, the castle entered a state of decline as a result of the male De Clare lineage had been broken. The castle decayed at a high rate because it wasn’t being used or maintained anymore. After a few decades of decay, the wealthy Bute family married into the Pembroke family, who currently held rights to the castle, and acquired the castle. The Bute men took particular interest in the castle and over four generations (1776-1939) they worked to restore it. In 1950, the castle came under state care and the final restorations took place.
In Medieval England, the social class system played a huge part in the people’s daily lives. The social class that you were a part of dictated just about everything you did on a daily basis. It affected things like the level of education you received or the type of job that you could hold. These sort of limitations made it difficult for poorer people to increase their social standing and resulted in a sort of stagnancy that affected nearly all aspects of their lives. For instance, a peasant was only educated enough for the job that they held, a job that was likely poorly paying. This kept the peasant in poverty and led the peasant to living in a small shack and owning few, inexpensive possessions. In many cases, the extent of this social class even meant that the social class that someone was a part of was distinguishable by the clothing that they wore and the types of meals they consumed.
Many people might be surprised to find out that people in Medieval England paid much attention to fashion trends, even if they were too poor to take part in them. That being said, it is unsurprising that people of royalty were the primary trendsetters of that era. I always assumed that most people wore stereotypical costumes like you might see at a renaissance fair, but this is not the case. So no, most people did not walk around wearing bulky, heavy armor, not just because it was uncomfortable but also because it was rather expensive. People were expected to wear certain articles of clothing based on their social class. Even if poorer people attempted to follow fashion trends, the clothing that they possessed was much less valuable and made of inferior material. In fact, there were laws that laid out clear guidelines for what people of different social classes could wear. In addition to the clothing that people were permitted to wear there was also certain accessories worn or particular styles that were customary of different social classes. For example, kings and other noblemen wore beards because it was considered to be honorable and lesser men did not. Wealthy people also seemed to be materialistic as many of them owned fine jewelry.
When it came to food in Medieval England, the vast majority of people were heavily dependent on crops. Whenever there was a famine or failure of a particular crop then it was the lesser social classes that suffered first. They were the lowest on the pecking order, even if they were responsible for growing the food. If one was to eat a meal at a peasant’s household, then they would find that the things served for the meal was highly limited to what the peasant was able to grow or hunt recently. On the opposite side of the spectrum, noblemen were able to offer the nicest of options of food for their esteemed guests. This might include fancy breads, mutton, goose, duck, and other sought after meats. Most wealthy felt little suffering once a famine had struck.
Edward III was born at Windsor Castle in 1312 and his parents were Edward II and Isabella of France. Edward III’s father was a rather terrible king due to his frequent failures in warfare and he was eventually removed from the throne in favor of his son, Edward III. Edward III became king of England at the young age of 14 in 1327. He ruled for 5o years until his death in 1377, and was attributed with restoring royal authority to England during his rule. Edward III was largely concerned with warfare and during his early reign he earned great respect for the many victories he had over Scotland. France and Scotland had an alliance, however, which posed an issue for Edward because he could not hold Scotland and also fight a war with France on two fronts. Instead of paying homage to the French king like his father, Edward III decided to make various continental alliances to keep France at bay. This proved to be fiscally costly and eventually, Edward III was forced to meet the French in battle. His first major victory came in Normandy at Caen and Crecy, in which Edward defeated much larger French forces due to a favorable terrain for his army. Soon after, another English force defeated a Scottish army and captured the Scottish king, King David II. These victories were huge for England and proved that Edwards military prowess was substantial. Edward III was forced to scale back his campaign over France and Scotland in 1348 because the Black Death hit England, killing at least a third of the population. This led to a temporary crippling of England’s power, although recovery was swift. After the economic recovery of England following the Black Death, Edward III had hopes of picking up his military campaign where it left off, although this time it was largely unsuccessful. This was largely due to political unrest within England, something that Edward was not nearly as experienced with as compared to warfare. Later in his reign, his military success had subsided and he started to delegate his rule over England to his sons. In 1377, Edward III died from a stroke and was succeeded by his grandson Richard II. During his reign, King Edward III was credited with many great legislations. One of these legislations was the Statute of Labourers of 1351, in which he addressed the shortage of workers during the Black Death. The legislation made it so that wages were fixed at their pre-plague value, although it failed in the end due to its nature of violating the law of supply and demand. Edward III also made various reformations within parliament. He is credited with creating the procedure for impeachment as well as the office of the Speaker. In addition to these reformations, Edward III funded his wars by taxing land and the export and import of products, both of which had to be approved by parliament first. Edward III enjoyed large support from his subjects and even higher nobility throughout his reign. This proved to be one of the main reasons that his reign was overall successful. He focused on building alliances with the noblemen as opposed to keeping them at a distance like his father had.
I have found our study of castles to be the most interesting topic that I have learned so far in this course. The term “castle,” applies to much more than just the traditional idea of a large stone-walled fortress. For instance, in Britain things such as hillforts and post-medieval houses can be considered castles. This brings up the point that most owners of castles were not the wealthiest of wealthy, but rather upper-middle class that had been charged with the responsibility of holding power in towns and villages. Some women actually held ownership of castles, which was very uncustomary of medieval Britain. It is also interesting to think that castles were not all used for military purposes like I had previously thought. In fact, many castles were used for administrative purposes or simply as places that the people in towns could hold meetings at. In addition, many castles were built near or as a part of churches, cathedrals, and colleges. Some of these were even built for the sole purpose of entertainment with their elaborate landscapes and gardens. Of course there are many castles that are impressively large in stature and resemble those that we are familiar with in films. Generally, the larger the castles were then the wealthier the owners were. A great number of these large castles now stand alone now, but they were once surrounded by large villages. I think it is pretty cool to think that the castles that we have left today serve as a legacy for the people that built them. Many civilizations, from the Romans to the Normans, ruled or traveled through Medieval Britain and left their mark in the form of castles over the ages.
Many of these large castles were built with the intended purpose of strategic defense. I especially have liked learning about the evolution of these types of castles that coincides with the evolution of warfare. The first castles were built from mostly wood and this changed quickly once fire started to be used in attacks, leading people to use stone in their construction of castles. Defensive castles were not only built on tall hills. They were built in various strategic positions, such as into a hillside or mountainside, on the edge of a bluff, or even on the coast. When building castles, people also considered whether or not there were plenty of resources available. People commonly think of castles of having large moats filled with water surrounding the castle, although, in reality most of these moats did not actually have water in them. Nonetheless, if a castle had a moat, then it likely had a drawbridge. Moats were developed as an additional defense against siege attacks from things like siege towers. If the enemies were able to get passed the moat and reach the castle walls, then often they would be forced to charge to the castle gates. The best defensive castles had elaborate castle entrances that had multiple gates separated by portcullis’. It was between these gates that enemies would be trapped by arrow slits on either side of them and sometimes murder holes above them were used for added defense. Another adaptive change in castle architecture is the addition of gun ports soon after the discovery of gunpowder. All in all, owners of castles had to constantly adapt to changes in warfare by improving their defenses in order to remain owners of their castles.