Episode 267 – Winchester

May 6, 2022 66°F/19°C

#myvikingstory

We’re docked today in the harbour city from which Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed into the Battle of Trafalgar. An image of his ship, the HMS Victory (launched in 1765) was annually on the cover of my high school yearbook (I went to Nelson High), and a much repaired and restored Victory remains on display here as a museum ship in Portsmouth No. 2 dry dock.

From our berth we could see the white chalk hills that typify this region. Chalk is a porous rock formed by sea shells compressed over millennia. Water that filters through this rock is exceptionally pure. We learned from our guide later in the day that chalk hills almost always also contain flint, and we saw evidence of that in many of the stone walls we passed.

Portsmouth Naval Base is home to 70% of the Royal Navy’s modern surface fleet, but it’s not Nelson’s ship or the naval base we visited today.

I thought the small boats in front of the Royal Navy sign at low tide were hilarious. the real naval ships are much more impressive.

Instead, we took an excursion to Winchester, home of the cathedral which, in the popular song of the 1960’s, neglected to ring its bell to prevent the singer’s girlfriend from leaving town.

Winchester Cathedral
You're bringing me down
You stood and you watched as
My baby left town

You could have done something
But you didn't try
You didn't do nothing
You let her walk by

Now everyone knows just how much I needed that gal
She wouldn't have gone far away
If only you'd started ringing your bell

Winchester Cathedral
You're bringing me down
You stood and you watched as
My baby left town

Songwriter: Geoff Stephens

It was only a short drive from Portsmouth to Winchester, the historic city famous for its 11th century Romanesque/Norman cathedral. The cathedral’s full name is “the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Swithun”. Quite a mouthful. The current church was built between 1079 and 1532, but there was already a church on this site in the late 600’s. it’s impossible to get a photo pf the entire cathedral due to its huge size, so Ted took photos from several angles to help us remember what it looked like.

Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the Norman façade was replaced by a Gothic one, and the nave was remodelled in Gothic style into the longest Gothic nave in the world.

Major restorations were done in the early 19th and 20th centuries, and work continues to preserve the cathedral. The early restorers discovered that the Normans had built the church on a wooden foundation, which over the centuries had begun to rot and sink and could no longer support the massive weight of the building. The final solution to the problem involved pumping huge amounts of water out from under the church and installing flying buttresses to support the walls.

Those are flying buttresses, looking like they’re somehow related to the line of parked white cars.

That work was completed in 1902 at an equivalent cost in today’s currency of over 9 million Pounds ($11 million USD). Despite all of that work, the cathedral’s crypt still regularly floods in the winter due to its location’s high water table.

In 1988, a statue by Antony Gormley of a man contemplating his hands, entitledSound II”, was placed in the crypt. During rainy months, the man’s cupped hands fill with water, and during flooding he appears to be standing in a pool.

The cathedral had so much more to discover than I expected. I don’t think we’ve ever visited a cathedral before that has Chantry Chapels. These are ornate chapels containing the tombs of various Bishops of Westminster.

Each chapel was different, but all were ornate.

Westminster Cathedral was the site of several royal weddings, at least one coronation, and many royal funerals between the 11th and 15th centuries. The tomb of Saint Swithun is located in the cathedral, as well as the tombs of many other notable persons, and multiple bishops.

Jane Austen’s burial place was pointed out to us, as well as the fact that nothing in her original tomb inscription makes any mention of her work as an author. A brass plaque was later placed on the wall correcting her family’s “oversight”.

The stunning stone vault, 78 feet (24 metres) tall, has hundreds of “bosses”, the decorative keystones used to connect the ribs of the vault. There are wooden bosses in other parts of the cathedral.

The enormous Great West Window not only looks like it is made of broken glass, but it actually was. The original beautiful window with its many biblical scenes was smashed by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads , and the current window created from the broken shards supplemented by clear glass. That same Cromwell period saw the bones of generations of royalty taken from their tombs; they are now comingled in mortuary chests.

There are many more recent windows, all of them lovely, but these two were my favourite.

Mary and the angel who brings her the news that she will bear the son of God.
The blue rectangle contains the words “The gift of the worshipful company of glaziers 1939 to commemorate the coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth”. The stained glass portraits of the King and Queen are perfect.

Winchester Cathedral contains the longest Mediaeval tile “road” still in existence, with tiles of many different patterns covering the floor.

The reredos (ornamental screen) behind the main altar is nothing short of spectacular. The original screen dates to 1450 to 1476, but many of the statues were – again – destroyed during the Cromwellian times, and much of the current statuary dates to Victorian times. If fact, the screen includes a small statue of Queen Victoria, who personally funded a portion of the restoration.

Adjacent to the cathedral are the Pilgrim School, where choristers are trained, and the prestigious Winchester Boys’ School, as well as the Bishop’s residence and cloisters. The area is lovely, especially in spring with trees snd wisteria in blossom and the sun shining.

Winchester College, founded in 1382. The campus includes its own chapel.

It’s not only the cathedral that makes this city notable. Our tour description told us that this was the heart of Aelfred the Great’s famed kingdom of Wessex, and the original home of William the Conqueror’s great Domesday Book.

AELFRED carved into the rock upon which the statue stands in the centre of Winchester, and the dedication to him, showing the date of his death in October 901 AD, and the date the statue was erected in September 1901.

Our official London “Blue Badge” guide took us for a walk past the house where Jane Austen died, then along the crystal clear Itchen River and back onto Winchester’s High Street, with its shops and outdoor market.

Everywhere we turned there was another quintessentially English pub, shop, church, municipal office, or garden. I really hope we’ll find Greenwich equally charming when we live there in September.

After returning to the Star, we very much enjoyed a tasty fish and chip lunch, enjoyed somewhat less doing laundry (which is now reminding me of how few cruise days we have left), and got together with passengers and crew on the ship’s bow for a World Cruise 2021-22 group photo.

Our evening was spent having a lovely dinner and conversation with a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We felt really lucky to be included in their evening.

Tomorrow is our last sea day before London, when most passengers will disembark. We’re looking forward, with mixed feelings, to the end-of-cruise celebrations.

(By the way, Winchester Cathedral didn’t ring its bells for us either.)

9 comments

  1. You will love Greenwich. We spent a whole day there many years ago. The London trains and Tube makes it very easy to get around. Look into the Oyster Card which is a tap card for the Tube and Trains. We love London. So much history, museums, culture and great food.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Rose. Let me know when you are back in Ontario so we can connect again. We leave for Dublin on May 27 and we are back on June 16. I know you are going to Europe as well soon so let me know if any of those times work for you.

    I’m so glad you have had a fantastic world wide cruise. I thank you for all your blogs because we could enjoy what you were seeing and it did help with our desire to travel again.

    Like

  3. Rose,

    I have followed your World Tour adventure from the beginning. Your descriptions of every stop along the way have been so informative and Ted’s photos have been amazing. It felt as though I was experiencing them myself. What a wonderful trip you have had and I’m sure you are sad to have it come to an end. On to the next adventure and I will be following along!! Safe travels!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. WoW! Each step was more and more impressive! And every day is new and exciting! Your blog is so addictive!! I wait for it every morning or afternoon! Love you

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just LOVE LOVE LOVING YOUR blog/trip report.
    So glad we have a UK cruise this fall & Med next summer–I could star at all that gorgeous architecture & natural scenery for hours.
    But your visit to King Tut’s tomb surprised me how much the photos moved me. I MUST go!
    THANK YOU!!

    Liked by 1 person

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