Friday, 3 January 2014

Winchester, beautiful Winchester

Just before Christmas, Chris and I went over to the mainland to catch up with his son,
and on the way had a lovely day in Winchester. 
Its a city that I know and love well as I was at the Art College for 3 years.
I do remember how the over-seas students were always a bit flummoxed as they knew Winchester was a city, but it was the size of a small town, not realising that it is the fact that
there is a cathedral that makes it a city not the size in Britain.
We were very luck as surround the Cathedral was a large Christmas market, full of lots of lovely ideas for last minute present.

Then entering the Cathedral was a oasis of calm, its an stunning Norman building (started 1079), truly amazing when you consider the limited tools and equipment that the
 workman had at their disposal.

A lot of English Kings and Queens are buried there including King Canute (the one who tried to command the waves to stop!) but the most famous long term resident is Jane Austin, who lived for a time in the city.

But the thing I love best about it is the way modern art has been so
gently integrated with the medieval architecture. 
 My favourite being in the Holy Sepulchre Chapel, its 12th and 13th century wall paintings are beautifully complimented by an alter cloth by the textile artist Alice Kettle, constructed out of machine embroidery and installed in 1994.  The colours are so soft and subtle, it works brilliantly.

Then down below in the crypt is Sound II (1986) by Anthony Gormley,
 its part of the series done by the artist made from a cast of his body, his most famous piece is the huge Angel of the North on the approach to Newcastle. But the thing that makes this piece so magical is that the crypt regularly fills with water (see below, a cathedral postcard) and because it is so still the reflection is like a mirror.  Its a beautiful and tranquil space, if you can get it by yourself!

Then up past the high alter are these beautiful 13th century tiles that are oldest and largest area of tiling to survive in England.

Then right at the far end of the cathedral is a memorial to William Walker, a remarkable man who in the early 20th century single handedly saved the building.  The medieval foundations had been built in boggy ground and the walls had begun to list. They needed replacing.  Basically William doned a deep sea divers suit and was sent down into the mud to replace the foundations with bags of concrete. Its an amazing story that's worth reading in full. full story

Magical place full of history and beauty.

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