SALISBURY CATHEDRAL
Wiltshire, England
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Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, England         OS Map Grid Ref: SU144294
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. . . . . These pages aim to provide a history and description of the cathedral and its precincts - for times of services, events, etc., see the cathedral's own web-site (by clicking on the cathedral in the 'Links' window . . . . .

OLD SARUM

Before the erection of the present Early English church in the 12th century, the Norman cathedral church founded by Bishop Hermann in the middle of the 11th century was located at Old Sarum.

The word cathedral is derived from the Greek cathedra for chair - referring to the bishop's chair or throne and reflecting his role as th chief teacher of the Christian faith in the diocese.

MOVING FROM OLD SARUM

The Dean and Chapter of the cathedral at Old Sarum claimed various reasons for removing the seat the cathedral church to the valley below when they applied to the Pope for permission to do so - not only did the exposed site cause considerable damage to the structure of the church requiring constant repair but the winds which lashed it furiously could make the Holy Services difficult to follow; the scarce supply of water at the hill-top site was espensive and the castellan missed no attempt to assert his authority over Old Sarum to the detriment of the ecclesiasts.

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL

The five foundations stones were laid in 1220 when Salisbury Cathedral was being built; the bishop laid the first stone for the Pope, another for Stephen Langton and a third for himself. The earl and countess of salisbury laid the other two.

The foundations of the present cathedral were laid in 1220 and it was consecrated in 1258 - the building taking but 38 years - although there appears to have been a final dedication in September 1260. The spire was not erected until the middle of the 14th century.

Unlike so many churches which were injured during the Commonwealth, Salisbury escaped unscathed although the right was obtained for several sects to worship in it simultaneouisly. In 1790, however, permission was given for the notorious architect Wyatt to 'restore' the interior; porches, chapels, screens and stained glass were destroyed and the interior was white-washed giving the building the somewhat austere appearance it has today. The campanile which towered 200 feet over the north side of the churchyard and housed the original bells which rang at Old Sarum was also destroyed at this time.

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL
THE EXTERIOR

The North Transept Salisbury Cathedral is generally ranked as the finest example of Early English Gothic architecture in Britain and was built over a period of only 38 years. The best view of the exterior is to be obtained from the north-east corner of the close from where the outline of the church is brocken, not by pinnacles and buttresses, but by the two transepts and the tall spire (which is the tallest in Britain) to which the eye is led by the pyramidal outline. Despite the lightness and graceof the structure, it also possesses a distinctive granduer.

The widely famed Stonehenge stands some eleven or so miles to the north of the cathedral and the city is often a starting point for a journey to the stones. This prompted Dr. Johnson to write of the two;-

Salisbury Cathedral and its neighbour Stonehenge are two eminent monuments of art and rudeness, and may show the first essay and the last perfection in architecture.

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL: THE EXTERIOR
THE SPIRE

The gracefull spire rises 123 metres (200 feet) above the battlements of the tower which are themselves 212 feet above the ground making this the tallest spire in England with an overall height of 404 feet. It is decorated with bands of stone.

It was at one time believed that the spire was built between 1310 and 1330 around the massive oak scaffolding which is found within the structure. Dendochronological examination of the oak timbers in 2004 has revealed that the structure was originally built without the heavy internal scaffolding which is now thought to have been added to reinforce the spire after the great storm of 1362.

The original builders of the cathedral had no plans to crown the edifice which such a grand structure and the four Purbeck marble columns of the spire crossing were intended only to support a small lantern tower. It was with great temerity that the builders of 1330 added hundreds of tons to the piers which supported the tower. Every effort was made to make the addition as light as possible and flying buttresses and stariner arches were added both inside and outside the cathedral to take the additional load. Their efforts have proved to be largely successfull for despite the visible bending and the displacement of the pinnacle by 75 cm to the south-west (shown by the markings on the floor of the spire crossing), no displacement of the structure has taken place since Sir Christopher Wren inspected it in 1668.

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL: THE EXTERIOR
THE WEST FRONT

The West Front is notable for the many niches which are populated by figures which are largely modern.

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL: THE EXTERIOR
THE CLOISTER

Salisbury Cathedral was never a monastic institution but the cloisters which were built in the middle of the 13th century are the largest in any cathedral in England. The two Lebanese cedars were planted in 1837 to commemorate the accesssion of Queen Victoria.

Looking East

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL
THE INTERIOR

Entering the cathedral through the visitors' entrance at the south-western corner one is struck by the vastness of the lofty space the building encloses with a view towards the High Altar and the richly coloured east window in the Trinity Chapel at the furthest extremity. Robbed of any 'suprflous' detail, including its ancient coloured glass by the restoration of Wyatt in 1790, the cathedral is left with the bare grandeur of the elegant Early English Gothic structure iself.

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL: Interior
THE NORTH AISLE

The medieval clock dates from c.1386 and is thought to be the oldest working clock in the world. Originally it was in the campanile which housed the original bells from Old Sarum but was destroyed in 1792 by Wyatt's 'restoration'. Designed only to strike the hours, the clock has no face.

Besides the clock stands the rare 13th century Cope Chest in which the ornate robes of the bishops were stored.

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL: Interior
THE NORTH TRANSEPT

The north window, although 13th century in style, was made in 1895 and the three oak screens were carved by the cathedral craftsmen between 1988 and 1995. The Chapel of St Edmund and St Thomas reflects the links of the Diocese with the Sudan.

On the west wall, the well-worded inscription under the bust of the naturalist Richard Jefferies (1848-87) describes him as one who;-

...observing the works of Almighty God with the poet's eye has enriched the literature of his country and won for himself a place amongst those who have made men happier and wiser.

On the north wall is the monument of Bishop Blythe (1494-99) and the Wiltshire historian Sir Richard Colt Hoare. The transept also contains three monuments by Flaxman and Chantrey's monument to the Earl of Malmesbury.

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL: Interior
THE CHOIR

Most of the choir stalls with their misericords date from the 13th century. The remaining woodwork dates from the 19th century although the canopies are 20th century.

The Revolving Prism

THE PRESENT CATHEDRAL: Interior
THE MORNING CHAPEL

The Morning Chapel occupies the north chior transept. The revolving glass prism engraved by Laurence Whistler in 1985 is flanked by a part of the original stone screen which separated the quire from the nave but was removed as part of Wyatt's restoration of the cathedral in 1790.

SALISBURY DIOCESE

The cathedral is the 'mother church' of the Diocese of Salisbury which serves a population of some 750,000 people covering most of Dorset and Wiltshire.

BISHOPS OF SALISBURY

William, the 2nd earl of Salisbury was one of the nobles who advised King John to sign the Magna Carta and put his own hand to it as a witness. The Earl also had a copy of the Great Charter which he presented to Salisbury Cathedral where it is displayed in the Chapter House.

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1220Foundation stones of Salisbury Cathedral laid
1258Consecration of Salisbury Cathedral
1260.SepFinal dedication of Salisbury Cathedral
1427Sir Walter Hungerford grants revision of the manor of Cricklade, Wilts., to Salisbury Cathedral towards repair of the belfry
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1790Architect Wyatt given permission to restore Salisbury Cathedral

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AGGLESTONE Dorset
According to local legend the strange Agglestone was destined to be dropped on Salisbury Cathedral by the devil.

 

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Old Sarum
Moving from Old Sarum

The Present Church
  Wyatt's 'Restoration'
EXTERIOR
  Spire
  West Front
INTERIOR
  North Aisle
  North Transept
  Choir
  Morning Chapel
  Medieval Clock

SALISBURY DIOCESE

Campanile
Cope Chest 13th century
Dr. Johnson

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