Winchester

Winchester Travel Blog

 › entry 10 of 55 › view all entries
Gormley's Sound II, possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of art I've ever seen, in the crypt
I had been meaning to go to Winchester for a while, and I made it today.  Winchester is a small city near Southampton, and well worth a visit for being pretty and historic and all that good stuff.  But I was there for a very, very Sarahelaine reason; there is an Anthony Gormley statue in the crypt of the Cathedral.  Yes, folks; that is entirely worth driving for an hour and a half.  Honest.

I arrived in Winchester, for reasons that are simultaneously a long story and a dull one, in my work stilletos.  I would strongly, strongly recommend that if you ever go to Winchester you do not go in high heels.  The men are rolling their eyes as they read this, aren't they?  Boys, I had my reasons, and they were bad ones.  But such is life.
Carved altar screen
And as it was an unfamiliar city, I parked quite a long way from the centre.  The outskirts of the city are quite ugly, and I was on tje verge of disappointment when I finally reached the city centre. 

Winchester is obviously a wealthy neck of the woods, and the shops here are top end of high street.  The city seems exclusively inhabited by the sort of teenager who somehow manages to look stylishly messy, whilst making it abundently clear without saying a word that their coat is worth more than your car.  The high street is also very pretty and has some original-looking, interesting signs and a big coach inn clock.  I followed the signs to the Cathedral.

The Cathedral charges admission, which means that it passes my own personal  not- really- a- religious- building- so- I- can- take- photos- without- guilt test, so there are quite a few photos here.
12th Century wall paintings
  Admission is £5 for adults and £4 for concessions.  Cunningly, a single adult admission is the exact same price as an annual pass, whihc you can only give if you are a UK tax payer and sign for gift aid.  I was very pleased with this, because the library with the 12th century bible was shut so I really want to go back, and now I can, for pretty much free.  Also, the guy taking the money was absolutely the friendliest man I had met in ages and so it was a pleasure to go in. 

Winchester Cathedral is very old, and built near water.  In fact, early in the twentieth century, its foundations were so flooded there was a risk it sank, and a very brave diver had to dive down to concrete up the foundations.  This is actually true, and quite, quite amazing.
Really lovely window
  The crypt is still usually a couple of inches deep in water. 

From the outside, Winchester Cathedral is not all that impressive, but once you are inside it is stunning.  The cathedral nave is almost empty, allowing a full appreciation of the space, and the vaulting on the ceiling is really nice.  Most of the windows are plain glass; I wondered if perhaps it had been bombed in the war.  But the great window at the back of the church was made of fragments of other windows and utterly lovely.  It took me a while to notice it, of course, as I was so busy reading all the memorials.

The most famous memorial is Jane Austen's Grave.  Interestingly, the inscription makes no reference at all to her books; it simple says that Jane Austin, youngest daughter of the Reverend Austen, had died after a long illness and everyone adored her.
12th Century black marble St Nicholas font
  Except in rather more old fashioned English.  I walked over it twice before I noticed it, but there are worse ways to be remembered than as being lovely and possessing inner strength, so perhaps she wouldn't be too cross.

I spent a lot of time wandering about the side chapels, which are lovely.  There is a really interesting amount of very modern religious art, like the altercloth and the candle stick pictured here, and of course the Anthony Gormley that I actually travelled for.  But there is also a 12th century painted chapel - I have no idea how it survived the reformation, but it's wonderful - and the original Norman ceilings in places.  The Alter and the rood screen are genuinely spectacular as well. 

But I would have paid a fiver just to see the statue in the crypt, my official favourite piece of art in the UK today.
High Street with cool signs
  Anthony Gormley is the same artist that designed Another Place in Crosby (http://www.travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/21857/another-place-Liverpool-32) and The Angel of the North.  Sound II is a life size statue of a man reading a book, head dipped, and ankle deep in the waters of the crypt.  It is cool, and pieceful, and utterly lovely there.  I was lucky in that no-one else was in the crypt with me, and it was a stunning experience. I loved it.  You should go, but not at the same time as me.

I also found out that there is a very old bible and a tour where you climb through the roof, but they weren't on today.  I shall definately be going back though.

And I can, for free.  Hooray!


sarahelaine says:
I'll definately go back. I've got friends in Southampton, too, so it would be right on the way back. :)
Posted on: Feb 22, 2009
padski says:
Went to the Cathedral late last year as part of a university thing (im a student at Winchester University doing history so its kinda required we see places like this. have to say i wasnt expecting much but its a really interesting place, especially love the statues of deceased bishops which had retained their ancient symbols which we would now know as a swastika. Great place Winchester, poor night out but theres a lot to do in such a small city
Posted on: Feb 22, 2009
bernard69 says:
congrats on your feature:)
Posted on: Feb 22, 2009
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Gormleys Sound II, possibly one o…
Gormley's Sound II, possibly one …
Carved altar screen
Carved altar screen
12th Century wall paintings
12th Century wall paintings
Really lovely window
Really lovely window
12th Century black marble St Nicho…
12th Century black marble St Nich…
High Street with cool signs
High Street with cool signs
Sculpture in cathedral close - the…
Sculpture in cathedral close - th…
Altar cross in the epiphany chapel
Altar cross in the epiphany chapel
Side Aisle
Side Aisle
carving in a pillar
carving in a pillar
Agnus Dei
Agnus Dei
Rood Screen
Rood Screen
Candlestand
Candlestand
Gargoyles
Gargoyles
Childrens chapel
Children's chapel
Gormleys Sound II
Gormley's Sound II
House near the Cathedral
House near the Cathedral
Water gardens
Water gardens
High Street
High Street
Market Cross
Market Cross
Winchester Sights & Attractions review
Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral is a Norman Cathedral in the South of England. It is close to the M3 at Southampton, and well worth a short trip. The cathedr… read entire review
Winchester
photo by: Vikram