Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer 2011 #4 Trip to Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral

What can I say? It's hardly as if you don't know about Stonehenge, but here I am anyway. It started about 5,000 years ago with the ditch you can sort of see in the front of the picture. Hollowed out by folk using deer antlers and animal shoulder blades. It was 300+ feet across and used to bury cremated remains and who knows what else.

Maybe a hundred years later they added a circle of wood posts inside the ditch. Then about 400 years after that they brought in the circles of stone. Why they chose this place out in the midddle of the Salisbury Plains, nobody knows, and the guys who did it aren't talking.

Some of these things are 25-30 tons. About a third of each one is in the ground to anchor it. It's pretty impressive to say the least.

They had to shape the stones with balls of other stone that were harder than these big bolders by chipping away at them. Must have been some powerful motive to do all that work.

One thing they could do was sight through this opening and over the stone in the background to determine the Summer Solstice. That and the Winter Solstice were the most important dates of the year for almost all ancient people.

This is the Heel stone, the one they sighted over from the other side of the circle.

We move on to Salisbury, still a place with an ancient look even among the new. Not hard to find a place for lunch.

And some of those places are along the river. Jamie and I ate there back in 2007.

Flowers everywhere, all along the streets in English towns. The guide said that this was a "perfect English Summer day." The next day it poured rain all day.

In the Middle Ages the cathedral was part of a monastery and had walls all around to enclose the church and all the buildings associated with the monastery. This is a gate through the wall, one of the few parts of it that are left.

There is no way to convey in a photograph what it is like as you approach from behind some tall trees and catch the full view of the cathedral and its 400+ foot tower, the tallest in England and the second tallest in Europe. I watched the students behind me and saw some of them putting their hands over their mouths as they saw it. Believe me, I know the feeling.

One common comment I heard a lot was that it just doesn't look real.

Me, happy as can be to be there. I was not there, however, when they laid the cornerstone in 1220

The West Front of the cathedral. That was always the main entrance to a medieval cathedral which was in the shape of a cross and faced east toward the Holy Land. Part of the reason for covering the surface with statues was to instruct the mostly illiterate people of the time.

Close up of some of the statues.

The Cloister where the monks walked, meditated and got a bit of exercise, too. Very peaceful and beautiful.

Looking into the Cloister from the walks that surround it.

One of the walks that surround the cloister.

The interior is more impressive than this picture can show.

The ceilings are always amazing with different kinds of vaulting.

Here's what is said to be the oldest working clock in Europe, from the 1300s. Has no face, just bongs the hour.

They comissioned a modern baptismal font. This one has water running from all four corners. It reflects the ceiling and the windows if you are smart enough to shoot it from a better angle than I did.

The chest in which they kept the Medieval priestly robes locked up. They were very valuable with lots of gold and silver thread among other things.

Wonderful tomb sculptures everywhere. This guy bit the dust in 1459.

Details of his ceremonial belt.

Nice doggy.

Pretty fancy looking pulpit. Wonder if it made the sermons interesting.

More wonderful ceilings.

The elaborately carved choir.

The high altar.

Funeral effigy of one of the bishops of Salisbury.

A modern window. Called the Prisoners of Conscience window, a memorial to all those who have suffered for their beliefs throughout the world.

Some saints statues.

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