Posted by: marymarthatours | July 18, 2014

Salisbury Cathedral–A Treasure Trove

Our spring 2014 tour provided me with the opportunity to visit three English cathedrals and one large abbey church.  Over the years I had visited three of the four, but each time I see and experience something new and different.  This year there were several things that I especially wanted to see.  Over the next several months I will be posting a series of blogs about the four different locations.


View of the Cathedral from the Grasmere Hotel

-Salisbury choir_stalls, PD

The quire (choir stalls) at Salisbury Cathedral

Our tour stayed two nights in the city of Salisbury at the Grasmere Hotel.  Many of the travelers had rooms with views of the Cathedral across the meadows.  At the end of one touring day, a group of us walked across the large Cathedral Close (the enclosed open space surrounding a cathedral) in the pouring rain to visit this very historic cathedral and sit in the quire (the choir section) to experience the beautiful Evensong service.  With the men and girls singing, it was a bit of heaven on earth, peaceful and restful in an ancient, sacred space.


Salisbury Cathedral (minus a bit of the spire)

Salisbury Cathedral is special for several features.  While it is not the first Gothic Cathedral in England, it is unique in that it was built in just 38 years beginning in 1220.  The spire (at 404 feet, the tallest in England) and cloister (the largest in England) were added 100 years later.  Because the cathedral was built so quickly, it is entirely of one architectural style, the Early English Gothic style.  Most cathedrals took hundreds of years to complete and are therefore constructed in a variety of architectural styles. 

Clock_Salisbury_Cathedral, PD

The medieval clock at Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury is home to the world’s oldest working clock dating from 1386.  It is huge, closet-sized, and reminds me of the difference in size from early computers to those of today.  The best of the only four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta (1215) resides here.  This document is significant in US as well as British governance.

The three features that I was most interested to see on this visit to the Cathedral are a bit newer.  First I wanted to see the Biblical frieze in the Chapter House.  The frieze is carved in stone, not painted, and depicts events from the Old Testament books of Genesis and Exodus.  Oh, how I wish I had been allowed to take pictures to share.  This photo, from another source, shows the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

chap. hs, sodom, harrie gielen, cca3.0

The story of Sodom & Gomorrah in the Salisbury Cathedral Chapter House

Second I wanted to see some of the work of Jane Lemon and The Sarum Group of embroiderers.  I’ll tell you more about her in later postings.  There were a number of gorgeous altar frontals that I and other marveled at.  The pictures hardly show their beauty, just magnificent, so alive with color and texture.

P1000527  P1000531

Embroidered altar frontals by Jane Lemon and the Sarum Group of Embroiderers


The baptismal font at Salisbury Cathedral

And last, the recently created and installed Baptismal Font.  I love it.  I think the artist created a masterpiece and the Cathedral was very right to place something so “modern” in the ancient space.  The water flows from four points to a small grate on the floor and yet the surface is absolutely still and acts like a mirror to reflect the cathedral and your own face.  Still and running water simultaneously; brilliant.  I find metaphors all around me and symbols sing to me.  I thought before I viewed this font, and found it true when there, that you look into the water and see the face of God in your own image.

I brought some of the font water home to be added to the Holy Water at my church.  One drop will bless all the rest.  And one visit to Salisbury Cathedral will last forever.  I was so happy to share the experience with other travelers, on a journey together.

(by Martha)


photos:  Chapter House frieze – copyright Harrie Gielen and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons 3.0 license; Cathedral quire and clock – Public Domain; all other photos copyright Martha Liska and Mary Wallce









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