- Robert Louis Stephenson said “I never weary of great churches. It is my favorite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.” – Robert’s grandfather also named Robert began the tradition of lighthouse building The author’s father and two uncles were also lighthouse keepers. If you’d like to know more then Bella Bathuhurst’s book The Lighthouse Stephensons is for you.
- Charles Dickens wrote this description of Canterbury Cathedral in David Copperfield which drew on his own childhood experiences after his father was imprisoned for debt. “The rooks were sailing about the cathedral towers; and the towers themselves, overlooking many a long unaltered mile of the rich country and its pleasant streams, were cutting the bright morning air as if there were no such thing as change on earth.”
- “Intellectuals are cynical and cynics have never built a cathedral.” Henry Kissinger won a Nobel prize having served in Richard Nixon’s administration.
- Thomas Carlyle, also known as the Sage of Chelsea, said “The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better.”
- “Cathedrals, luxury liners laden with souls, Holding to the east their hulls of stone.” – W.H. Auden wrote this line in On this Island.
- “The most expensive part of building is the mistakes.” – Ken Follett wrote two books which featured the town of Kingsbridge – The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End which is placed two hundred years after the first novel. For those of you looking for something historical to get your teeth into there are the books and a mini-series featuring Ian McShane, Matthew Macfadyen and Eddie Redmayne.
- “The most solid thing was the light. It smashed through the rows of windows in the south aisle, so that they exploded with colour, it slanted before him from right to left in an exact formation, to hit the bottom yard of the pillars on the north side of the nave. Everywhere, fine dust gave these rods and trunks of light the importance of a dimension. He blinked at them again, seeing, near at hand, how the individual grains of dust turned over each other, or bounced all together, like mayfly in a breath of wind. He saw how further away they drifted cloudily, coiled, or hung in a moment of pause, becoming, in the most distant rods and trunks, nothing but colour, honey-colour slashed across the body of the cathedral. Where the south transept lighted the crossways from a hundred and fifty foot of grisaille, the honey thickened in a pillar that lifted straight as Abel’s from the men working with crows at the pavement.” – The author of this rather lengthy quote about the building of Salisbury Cathedral is William Golding better known for his work The Lord of the Flies. The book featuring Salisbury Cathedral is called The Spire.
- “If you seek his monument, look around.” – whose epitaph is this and where can it be found? This particular epitaph can be found in St Paul’s Cathedral on the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren, Seventeenth Century London’s great church builder.
- “Along the sculptures of the western wall I watched the moonlight creeping: It moved as if it hardly moved at all Inch by inch thinly peeping Round on the pious figures of freestone, brought And poised there when the Universe was wrought To serve its centre, Earth, in mankind’s thought.” Thomas Hardy wrote about Salisbury Cathedral after visiting it he is best known for his novels set in Wessex.
- “Somehow, cathedrals have contrived to snap free of the sectarian exclusivity of the parish church. They answer to a longing for congregation and communal space. Their key is a quality unfashionable to social analysis, the offer of solitude with beauty. You need not to be of faith to sit quietly and contemplate the loveliness of a cathedral. As a dean once hinted to me in a whisper, “Here we don’t bang on about God.” Simon Jenkins writes for The Guardian and wrote the book called England’s Cathedrals.
William the Conqueror was committed to a programme of monastery building in his new kingdom. The invasion of England, complete with papal banner, was after all a crusade. However, in comparison to the twelfth century when monastic foundation and building reached an apex the first Normans on English shores were relatively slow off the mark. Chester, Colchester and Shrewsbury were early establishments as were Tewkesbury and Lewes which housed monks from Cluny. All of the above mentioned were funded by Norman barons eager to emulate their monarch and no doubt to give thanks for doing so very nicely out of the English venture.
In addition to these new foundations and, in the North, refoundation of early sites such as Whitby there was another significant change in the Church. Leading Anglo-Saxon abbots and bishops with a few notable exceptions such as Wulfstan of Worcester were shown the door and replaced by William’s men headed up by Lanfranc of Bec who promptly reorganised and reformed the Church.
Lanfranc did use some of the earlier Anglo-Saxon administrative structure including the incorporation of cathedrals into monastic foundations. Given-Wilson lists them: Bath ( & Wells), Canterbury, Carlisle (hence my interest), Coventry, Durham, Ely, Norwich, Rochester, Winchester and Worcester. Both Canterbury (pictured at the beginning of this post) and Worcester had been founded before 1066 and may have acted as the models which Lanfranc chose to emulate. Carlisle was home to an order of Augustinian Canons the other nine were Benedictine. These cathedrals were at the heart of their dioceses with a bishop at their head. The monastery would have been headed up by an abbot or a prior – the two posts need not be held by the same person which could, and in deed did, lead to some lively disagreements.
Not all cathedrals were staffed by monks. Some cathedrals were ‘secular’ – which means that the clergy who ran the cathedrals were not attached to a religious order. Lincoln Cathedral was never associated with a monastery and neither bizarrely, given the number of monasteries in the vicinity, was York.