Monday 29 November 2010

Nave- Southwell

A view of the nave looking westward. The west window, unfortunately bleached out in this photograph, is a large stained glass composition by contemporary stained glass artist Patrick Reyntiens which is itself a worthy modern addition to this splendid building.

Friday 26 November 2010

Southwell Minster

After Lincoln, I visited Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. This impressive and largely Romanesque church was an important regional centre within the archdiocese of York during the middle ages. I had been aware of some striking sculpted foliage in the chapter house but was quite unprepared for the breathtaking elegance of the nave which hit me the moment I entered through the north porch. While Lincoln Cathedral was, in the opinion of John Ruskin, worth two other English Cathedrals, Southwell was apparently much appreciated by John Betjeman. "Elegance" is not a word one often hears associated with Romanesque architecture where the focus of writers tends to be upon strength, massiveness and so forth but at Southwell the clarity of forms and sheer lack of any fussiness make a powerful and immediate impression of grace, of beauty, that is lasting.

Last Judgement- Lincoln

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Thursday 18 November 2010

Queen Eleanor

The effigy of Queen Eleanor from her visceral tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Queen Eleanor, the wife of King Edward I, died at nearby Harby in Nottinghamshire and the famous Eleanor Crosses mark the stopping points on her funeral procession to Westminster.
Although only holding her internal organs, this monument is apparently a full-sized copy of her tomb in Westminster Abbey.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Shrine of St Hugh of Lincoln

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The remains of the shrine of St Hugh in Lincoln Cathedral.

Friday 12 November 2010

Thursday 11 November 2010

Lincoln Cathedral

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(Click to enlarge)

Monday 8 November 2010

A basilica consecrated

Following the day upon which the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona I think it only appropriate to post a picture I took last year of one of Gaudi's fascinating models used in working out his architecture. I have the feeling that he was attempting to re-think gothic architecture in the age of the solitary artist. He devoted something like the last twenty-six years of his life to the basilica, living on site, only going out each day to attend mass. Knocked down in the street by a tram on one such outing and eventually dying as a result of his injuries he was three days in the hospital before he was recognised as the celebrated architect.
I was lucky to catch the ceremonies on a video link just as Pope Benedict, in the pontifical dalmatic, was about to annoint the altar. As he did so I was struck by the fact that this was no mere thumb touch of the holy oil but a real messy pouring out and spreading over. It resonated most powerfully for me with those scriptural instances of consecrations and annointings we come across in the Old Testament as something very materially real- no mere nice attenuated symbolising.
Pope Bendict's visit to Spain seems to me a very powerfully prophetic gesture aimed at reconnecting Europe with the Christian sources of its culture. The ancient (and continuing) tradition of pilgrimage to Compostella once drew a matrix of roads through Europe marked by great churches at nodal points while Gaudi's basilica suggests that cultural tradition still living and vital in the modern era.

Friday 5 November 2010

On the road- Lincoln.

A couple of weeks ago I managed to resume my longstanding project of visiting all the medieval cathedrals and major churches of England and Wales. First on the list was Lincoln Cathedral. Lincolnshire being somewhat flat, the cathedral dominates a large area in part owing to its placement on one of the very few hills in that county. For a couple of centuries the spire on the crossing tower made it the highest built structure on earth. Unfortunately it fell down in 1549 and was not replaced. This was, of course, during the reign of Edward VI when, the English Reformation having entered a particularly virulent Protestant phase, good works were suppressed.

In the Middle Ages the diocese of Lincoln covered much of Eastern England extending from the Thames in the south to the Humber in the north. Notable bishops included St Hugh of Lincoln, a contemporary of St Thomas Becket, and Robert Grosseteste, one of the greatest scholars of medieval England. Later the Cathedral's most illustrious organist was none other than William Byrd.

The view above, taken from the Morrisons car park, conveys something of the way in which the strongly vertical emphasis shared by the twin western towers and central crossing tower still dominates the modern city. Admission to the Cathedral is six pounds- which unfortunately does not guarantee entry to the treasury or library both of which were closed when I was there.