Monday, December 21, 2009

A Quick Trip Back to England

One of the things I think might interest you in this Season of Light (tomorrow is the winter solstice) is the quality of light in English cathedrals. You would expect the interiors to be dark, given the massive stone walls and flying buttresses. But the genius of the English Perpendicular style of architecture is that it allowed the cathedrals to be so high, without sacrificing strength and stability, that levels of clerestory windows flood the interiors with light. These photos were all taken with natural light, no flash.

This is Winchester Cathedral looking up into the transept tower from beside the quire:

Norwich Cathedral looking from inside the quire west toward the nave:

Norwich Cathedral looking east from inside the quire:

Canterbury Cathedral from just outside the quire looking west into the nave:

Canterbury Cathedral looking from the transept crossing up toward the east:

Interestingly, we were told that the interiors of the medieval cathedrals were painted with murals illustrating stories from scripture and mythology. Here and there in the most protected spots we saw remaining vestiges of some of these paintings. Imagine what these places looked like when the entire interior was painted! It must have been like being inside a stained glass window.

Which brings up the subject of the stained glass windows: Many of the original stained glass windows which dated from the 11th, 12th and 13th Centuries, were destroyed in the bombings of World War II. Almost all the existing stained glass windows are post WWII.

The most prominent side chapel in St. Paul's Cathedral in London has 50 stained glass windows, each is the seal of one of the states in the United States. I easily picked out Wisconsin's, with the badger and miner. The windows are in honor and thanksgiving to the United States for helping Britain in that war. There's also a large, heavy book in a glass case which lists the name of every U.S. serviceman who died in the war; each day a page is turned by a verger wearing white gloves. Nearby is a copy of the book, kept under a velvet cover, which visitors may look at. We were told that every day people from the states come to look for the name of a relative in the book.

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