Winchester Travel Blog› entry 10 of 55 › view all entries
February 21st, 2009 – by: sarahelaine
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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