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Worcester Cathedral

Monastic foundation on the River Severn





The Old English Cathedrals




Link to Worcester Cathedral Web Site





Worcester Cathedral from the south west.  It took a lot of exploring to find a vantage point for this photo, then the sun needed a lot of patient encouragement to appear! 

So it was very satisfying when the Charlton Kings Choral Society chose to use the image in this 2007 poster.




There has been a cathedral on this site in Worcester, on the River Severn opposite the county cricket ground, since that built by Bosel, who was consecrated as first bishop in 680.  A slightly later bishop, Oswald (c925 - 992) built a second (abbey) church plus monastery alongside Bosel's cathedral.



Bishop Wulfstan (c1009 - 1095 (86)) was prior of the monastery before becoming Bishop of Worcester in 1062.  An early campaigner against the Bristol based slave trade, he was one of the only English bishops to be allowed to retain his office after Archbishop Lanfranc (himself a Northern Italian) sorted the underperforming Anglo Saxons in the 1070s following the Norman conquest.    


The crypt of the present cathedral is all that remains of Saint Wulfstan's new cathedral started in 1084.  In the middle ages the tomb shrines of Saints Oswald and Wulfstan attracted many pilgrims to Worcester.  They were destroyed by good old Henry VIII, but he avoided meting out the same treatment to the tomb shrine of his older brother Arthur, first husband of Catherine of Aragon, which was nearby (though he carted off the loot that was there of course).


On the right is a roof boss in the nave (below).



The tomb and effigy of King John (1167-1199-1216 (49)), son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and brother of absentee French speaking King Richard I.  John arm wrestled the powerful medieval Pope Innocent III and lost, then arm wrestled his barons and ended up being Magna Cartared.  As a by-product of these sagas he also managed to financially ruin many Cistercian Abbeys.  The Purbeck marble sarcophagus lid is original, but the rest of the tomb dates from a 1540 rebuild.






Worcester was a strongly Royalist town, and to emphasize the point the Guildhall facade has sumptuous statues of Kings Charles I and II and Queen Ann (above the portal) - and this fellow of with his ears nailed to the keystone of the main archway.  Local tradition says it is Oliver Cromwell, but the face does not resemble his contemporary portrait (right) at all, though it is specific enough to be a portrait of someone  ... a little Early Modern Europe mystery .....


Despite the above, it was at Worcester on 3 September 1651 that the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell (1599 - 1653 - 1658 (59)) decisively won what proved to be the last battle of the English Civil War, against the largely Scottish Royalist forces assembled by Charles II.


Battle of Worcester - Wikipedia




King John's tomb can be seen to the east of the choir in front of the altar
Misericords dating from 1380 in the choir stalls - owls gaze in awe, and knights joust to music

Eve, an odd looking serpent - part bird part calf's head - and Adam with his bottom hacked off.         More Adam and Eves


Photos of all the Worcester Misericords


The devil at work in the spandrels of the arcading in the south bay of the second transept


The east side of the vaulted cloister with some pensioned off medieval cathedral bells on the right.  These were decommissioned in the second half of the 1800s when, as part of the major Victorian restoration of the cathedral, a new peal of 12 bells replaced the earlier set of 8.   The replacement bells were recast in the 1920s to improve their sound quality, and Worcester now has one of the finest (and heaviest) peals of bells in the world.  Certainly the sound heard by Dom P, when a visiting group of Kentish bellringers were given a four hour go on an October 2005 Sunday morning, was simply magnificent.


Also on the musical front, the composer Edward Elgar lived in Worcester, and the first performance of the Enigma Variations took place in the cathedral in 1899. 


Other monastic buildings to survive include the very undistinguished chapter house, and a huge refectory on the conventional south side of the cloisters - out of bounds to visitors because it is now used as a hall for the Kings School, Worcester.  The monks' dormitory was on the west side of the cloister, but nothing of this survives.



Link to Worcester Cathedral Web Site



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