Old Sarum & Salisbury Cathedral



After departing from Stonehenge, the tour made it's way to Old Sarum Castle. There isn't much left of the castle and nothing of the first Salisbury Cathedral but nonetheless the site itself is impressive as is the history behind it.



Old Sarum
Old Sarum was the site, in 1070, where William I disbanded his conquering army after having finally subdued the country four years after the invasion of 1066. The construction of the royal castle, whose ruins are what you see in the pictures, had already begun under the direction of Osmund, the Conqueror's Chancellor. Around the castle and residence of King William I, a town was in the process of growing. Under Lanfranc, the first Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, rural diocesan headquarters were ordered to relocate to major population centers. Therefore, the See of Sherbourne was moved to Old Sarum in 1075.


It was left to his successor, the versatile Osmund, to build the new cathedral, which was consecrated in 1092. Just five days later, a great storm came and the building was largely destroyed by lightning. Reconstruction began in 1100, a year after Osmund's death.

In 1139, the city of Old Sarum went into a decline and tension developed between the civil and religious authorities, escalating over the next 50 years. The solution to the tension, proposed by Bishop Herbert Poore to Richard I in 1194, was to move the cathedral away from Old Sarum to a virgin site on the banks of the nearby River Avon. Richard approved the move and the plans were drawn up. The townspeople actually began to move to the new site before any official announcement was made.

What you see in this picture is the remains of the Old Cathedral.

Old Sarum Cathedral


Old Sarum Potty
The tour guide asked if anyone knew what the purpose of these pits were. I sort of guessed. There were the toilets of Sarum Castle. It's difficult to see from this shot but they are quite deep. When they got full, a designated person would empty it out (they were called gong-farmers!). And you thought you had a lousy job! I enjoyed walking around the grounds as everything was really well kept. When everyone moved to the new Cathedral site, Old Sarum fell into neglect and began to be reclaimed by nature. By about 1500, it was used only as pasture land. What we see now is the excavated Fortification. That's why it kind of looks like it has sunk into the ground.


A short bus ride, took us through the city walls of Salisbury to Salisbury Cathedral. The picture doesn't do it justice. It's much more impressive seen in person. Salisbury wasn't built over centuries with additions and renovations. It was nearly completed within a single generation. The Cathedral was begun in 1220, and finished, with the exception of the tower and spire, in 1258. The spire is special. Constable painted it, and generations of artists with paintbrush or camera have attempted to capture its beauty. Just as I did with my camera!
Salisbury Cathedral


Salisbury Cathedral's Famous Spire
It is 404 feet tall! It is the tallest spire in England. What is even more remarkable about the spire is the builders only made their foundation 5 to 6 feet deep in the wet ground to take the strain of 6400 tonnes. Because of that wet ground, the cathedral has been subject to structural stress over the centuries. In 1668 Sir Christopher Wren was called on to survey the spire. Wren found that it was leaning nearly 30 inches and had iron tie-rods inserted to brace it. When Wren's braces were replaced some two hundred years later, it showed that no further leaning had occurred. Sir Christopher knew his stuff.


There is more to the Cathedral than a Spire. An old saying records that there are as many pillars as there are hours in the year, and as many windows as there are days. Many of those pillars are made from beautiful, dark Purbeck Marble, which isn't actually marble but crystalline limestone, and isn't from Purbeck, but from Corfe Castle, Dorset. Go figure... The cathedral library houses an original copy of the Magna Carta, brought here by the William Longpre, Earl of Salisbury and half-brother to King John. Longpre is buried in the cathedral, the first person so honored. I saw the Magna Carta! It is housed behind some glass and even though I didn't understand the writing, it was still cool to see.
Salibury Cathedral Cloister


Salisbury Cathedral Nave
In the nave you can see what is probably the oldest working mechanical clock in the world, dating to 1386. The strange thing about it is that there are no hands and no clock face, instead, it rings a chime of bells every hour. It's purpose was to call the bishops to services. We were allowed to take pictures and there were friendly guides that were available to give us a tour of the Cathedral.


The stained glass of the Cathedral was amazing. The windows were huge and colourful. Whether you're religiously inclined or not, there is something about walking around a church, abbey or cathedral that gives one a sense of peace.
Salisbury Cathedral's Beautiful Stained Glass


Salisbury's Wall
A wide green space, The Close, surrounds the Cathedral. In effect, the Close is a walled city within the city. It is surrounded by wonderful period houses. Outside the Close, there are many beautiful half-timbered buildings.

The Market Place has seen regular markets since 1227, and it used to be sprinkled with crosses which were centres for selling particular kinds of produce. Nowadays only the Poultry Cross can be seen.

The Market Square was the scene of the execution of the Duke of Buckingham in 1483. The Duke, in hiding from Richard III, was betrayed when a laborer noticed extra food being delivered to his hiding place.

I took a stroll through the Close and the town of Salisbury. There were many little shops that begged to be perused. And of course, I obliged.






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