Monday, February 2, 2009

The Tower

The Tower, with its famous spire, needs no apologist to justify its claim to be considered the most beautiful, not merely in England, but in Europe. From the time Leland naïvely wrote, "the tower of stone and the high pyramis of stone on it is a noble and memorable 'peace' of work," every critic of the cathedral praises the tower unreservedly, although Defoe was anxious to improve it, for he said: "The beauty of it is hurt by a thing easily to be remedied, which is this. The glass in the several windows being very old, has contracted such a rust, that it is scarcely to be distinguished from the stone walls; consequently, it appears as if there were no lights at all in the tower, but only recesses in the stone, whereas could the windows be glazed with squares and kept clean, which might be done, they would be plainly visible at a distance, and not only so, but from the adjacent hills you would see the light quite through the tower, which would have a very fine effect." It is curious to remember that perfectly as it accords with the rest of the pile, so that it seems the very central motive of the whole scheme, yet it is really an addition. Like the touch of genius which by one word changes [21]a good poem to a flawless lyric, so the creator of this crown to an already beautiful building by his final touch seems to have imparted additional beauty to that which already existed. The first idea was doubtless to add a lantern after the style of Ely, or at most a wooden spire. That the lower part of the tower is part of the original design, and intended to be open to the church, is proved by the presence of a series of detached Purbeck marble columns in the style of the rest of the internal masonry, which, hidden by the groining, or half-concealed by later masonry, were obviously meant to be part of the decoration of the interior, but again, the original plan of the tower made no provision for the huge weight of a stone spire. Indeed, it is quite doubtful if in its first state it was able to support itself, for curiously designed abutments are built in the triforium and clerestory of the nave, choir, or transepts on each of its four sides. The stonework of these is Early English, which if slightly later than the first story of the tower, is yet considerably earlier than its two upper stories. Notwithstanding the faulty construction that needed additional work so soon after it was erected, about fifty years later a daring architect super-imposed two stories, and added the lofty spire, which still stands, despite an early settlement which deflected it 23 inches out of the perpendicular. But its stability can hardly be reckoned a tribute to the judgment of the architect, for many times since complex arrangements of iron bands and ties have been added to ward off such a disaster as that which lost Chichester its spire in 1861, and has caused many others to be rebuilt from the very foundations. By a report of Sir Christopher Wren made in the time of Bishop Seth Ward, two hundred years ago, it is evident that in his time the deflection was not increasing, nor do quite recent observations show any reason for serious anxiety. This haunting fear, however, has led to curiously precise experiments for ascertaining the state of the spire. Francis Price, at the end of the last century, describes many of these, especially one carried out in the presence of the bishop, on July 18th, 1717; he also illustrates an elaborate system of additional bands and ties in his time. During the restorations that were begun in 1863, a further arrangement of iron bands, planned by Mr. Shields, the engineer, was introduced into the lantern story of the tower.

Parker, in his "Glossary," believes the date of the spire to [22]be about 1300; other authorities fix it thirty years later. Certain deeds in the "Book of Evidences" preserved among the Cathedral muniments show that in 1326 Edward III. granted a license for surrounding the close with a wall, and in 1331 authorized the bishop and canons to use the stones of the church of Old Sarum for that purpose. But against the theory that the material thus obtained was used in the tower also, there is the patent fact that while on many stones in the wall there are traces of Norman mouldings and other evidence of former use, neither in the tower nor spire do the stones betray any such origin. Modern antiquaries are well-nigh agreed upon the earlier dates; for in the Capitular Register, begun in 1329, there is no mention of the spire, which could hardly have escaped record had so important a work been then in progress. In support of this theory it is urged that from 1258 to 1297 the deans were men who took great interest in the fabric and are entered in its calendar of benefactors. Three of these became successively Bishops of Salisbury. But the deans who were appointed after 1297 were chiefly foreigners, several being cardinals and relatives of the Pope, whose duties elsewhere would have left them little but a purely temporal interest in the building. One of them, Peter of Savoy, was in conflict with his bishop, and evaded an episcopal admonition ordering him to residence.

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