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Historic Buildings Section 2020 Digital Update

Salisbury Cathedral: celebrating 800 years

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows Salisbury Cathedral from the south east

John Hare writes: In the last two presidentials in our newsletter, we were reminded that 2020 was to be a great year for anniversaries, and then that the best laid plans of the Field Club and many others had been upset, leading to the current absence of lectures and organised visits and activities. This was not just a Hampshire concern, and over the border, Salisbury cathedral was unable to celebrate the laying of its foundation stone at what became the height of the lockdown.

On the feast of St Vitalis the martyr 1220 (28. April) the foundation stones were laid for what became the new cathedral of Salisbury: the final product of the extreme decision to move the cathedral from hill top location of Old Sarum to the new site in the meadows below. Bishop Richard Poore laid three stones, one for himself, one for the Pope (who would not have been expected to attend) and one for Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury who was away with King Henry III negotiating with the Welsh at Shrewsbury. The Earl of Salisbury laid one and his wife, countess Ela, another, but many of the great and the good who were expected were also away with the King. ‘A great store of provisions’ had been collected for the festivities. It was a reminder that the best laid plans may be thwarted by unexpected events even without Covid-19.

Between 1220 and 1258, the whole cathedral was built, except for the later cloisters, chapter house and the tower and spire. It was, and is, one of the great buildings of the Early English Gothic, and a remarkable achievement to complete it in such a short period of time. It is a wonderful building with which members will, no doubt, be very familiar. But if you have not been there in recent years, perhaps now is the time for a return: an individual anniversary pilgrimage to honour its builders and enjoy its wonders. At the moment it is open again (masks, no tours, and you need to book in advance: see the cathedral website for details and any further changes).

For a thorough, informative and beautifully illustrated account of the cathedral see T. Tatton-Brown and John Crook, Salisbury Cathedral: the making of a medieval masterpiece (Scala Press)

Salisbury Cathedral - North Transept A short YouTube video will give you a general overview of the cathedral:

Salisbury Cathedral - (6 mins)

Any questions about the Historic Buildings Section?
Then email Bill Fergie via (Copy & paste the email address into your email message and then replace the AT with @.)
Chairman, Historic Buildings Section