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Salisbury Cathedral





Salisbury is one of the very few medieval cathedrals to be built on a de novo site, to one plan and in one architectural style (and in fact before the city which now surrounds it).  It was a replacement for the Norman Cathedral at Old Sarum (which was dismantled) and was designed solely as a cathedral, with no monastic facilities, though it does have a couple of beautiful monastic architectural features - cloisters (largest in England they say) and a large and outstandingly beautiful chapter house. 


The foundation stones were laid in April 1220, and the nave, transepts, quire, chapter house, cloisters and facade were completed within 45 years.  Work on the tower and spire started at the end of the 1200s, and everything was finished by 1320.  Since then, work has been restricted to structural strengthening  (the 6,500 ton tower and spire were bending some columns), and restoration.


The original cathedral had an Italian style free-standing campanile / bell tower as tall as the main cathedral buildings, but this was demolished during extensive renovations in the late 1700s. 


For statisticians, the tower is 224 ft high, and the tip of the spire is 404ft from the ground, making it the highest in England, but it can only be climbed on the outside!  The (1800s) spires of Cologne Cathedral are 516ft.  Venice's San Marco campanile is 325ft (and has fallen down once), the tower of the Siena Palazzo Pubblico is 286ft (and has never fallen down), and Verrocchio's golden orb on top of Brunelleschi's Dome on the Florence Duomo is a staggering 351ft (and you can walk up all three).


The cathedral is built on remarkably shallow foundations - thought to have been a shingle island in the marshy area. 


Link to Salisbury Cathedral Web Site


The Old English Cathedrals



Steeplejacks start the 180ft ascent of the spire, though a closer look (below) shows that they are performing for a film crew!  The top section can only be accessed from the outside.







The famous image of Salisbury Cathedral painted by the English painter John Constable in 1823 and now in London's Victoria and Albert Museum.



A winter postcard view.  Because of its de novo location before the surrounding town was built, the cathedral has a wonderful sense of country space, in complete contrast to most other European cathedrals. 



The nave from the west looking east (above), and from the choir looking west (below).  In 1960 the screen between the nave and the choir, a feature which is often surmounted by ho-hum organ casing and destroys a sense of length and space in many English cathedrals, was removed.


The Cathedral's organ, called "The Father Willis Organ" was built in 1877, and is a top class English romantic organ located in an outstanding acoustic environment.  The CD on the right is also of audiophile quality, though it's still true that the best way to hear an organ is live!  The CD includes a couple of rousing marches to make the laid up regimental colours feel at home.


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The two monastic features of this secular (non-monastic) foundation - the cloisters (above) and the most delicately beautiful light filled fan ceilinged octagonal chapter house (below), which amongst other documentary treasures contains one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta.





Magna Carta




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