I don’t think there is an architect on the planet that doesn’t like cathedrals. Seriously … I have a list of all the cathedrals I want to see before I move on to that great cathedral in the sky. Even for those who aren’t religious, there is great beauty in churches and the magnitude and role that churches played in every developed country on this planet can not be denied. Evidence of the fact that all architects love exploring churches is a post I wrote almost 3 years ago titled “Top Ten Cathedrals to See before you Die” which out of almost 600 articles I’ve written to date, it is one of the most read posts on this site.
On that list, I included Winchester Cathedral at Winchester in Hampshire, which is one of the largest cathedrals in England with the longest nave and overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. I didn’t want to go with the seemingly obvious choice of St. Paul’s in London so I went with Winchester Cathedral … and boy did I hear about how wrong I was to leave Salisbury Cathedral off my list. I was happy to remedy this by visiting Salisbury Cathedral on my most recent trip to England.
This version of Salisbury Cathedral broke construction on April 28th, 1220 AD and is an example of Early English Gothic which is defined by its pointed arches, vaulted roofs, buttresses, large windows, and spires. On the day we visited, we had terrific weather and minimal crowds – you will see this in my pictures which are (for the most part) gloriously devoid of other people.
I’m not going to turn this into a history lesson on Salisbury Cathedral, I think the images I’ve attached here speak for themselves. Despite the risk of my server crashing, all of the images I’ve included today can be clicked with a new image opening up at a much larger size. I’m not a photographer but I think my pictures are pretty good for a guy snapping holiday pictures.
In the picture above, we are just above the central nave of the cathedral, above the ceiling and below the roof. This was an amazing space to be in and we were treated at an up close and personal look at how the church was constructed. Even if you don’t know anything about construction (which my daughter does not) this is an area that easily commands your attention … you can see that my daughter Kate is glued to the elbow of our tour guide as she explains that the timber beam in front of them is over 800 years old.
That’s cool stuff.
In these next series of images, we are making our way up through the bell tower. This isn’t scaffolding in these pictures … it’s additional structural bracing to keep the spire from collapsing in on itself. Some of the iron work here is among the oldest in Britain if I understood our guide properly. All of the pieces are fitted together using pins and tendon construction – no bolts or screws … they didn’t exist yet.
Several years ago (around 1992 I believe) the cathedral went through a fund-raising event where you were allowed to buy a piece of glass and etch something on it .. and it would be placed into the interior side of the window frame up on the bell tower. How cool would that be to have be able to do something like that?
This is looking up into the one area we weren’t allowed to climb … the actual spire itself (which at 404 feet, it is the tallest spire in all of the United Kingdom.)
I have to confess that during my climb up to the top of the bell tower, I apparently put a smudge on my camera lens … Right. In. The. Middle. of the lens.
The distortion you see is that smudge and not my attempts at being artsy. I can’t convey how much this is driving me crazy, I’m sure most of you can appreciate where I’m coming from on this.
Okay, I’ll admit … the photo above does look a little artsy.
This was the point when I realized I had a smudge and cleaned my lens off. Damage was significant but minimal. Luckily, my wife was also taking pictures so I do have some images from the top of the bell tower that are pretty nice.
I’ve toured a lot of churches in my young life and I have to admit, my experience at Salisbury Cathedral was one of the best. We had access just about everywhere and getting to walk above the nave and get an up close look at the construction techniques of a building this old was really great. I can’t recommend more strongly that if you find yourself in Wiltshire, exploring Salisbury Cathedral is exactly how you should be spending part of your day.
Dominus vobiscum, quia fuistis cathedrali explorare …