Sunday, February 22, 2009

Salisbury Cathedral: The Lady Chapel

The Lady Chapel, originally separated from the choir, thrown into the presbytery by Wyatt for the sake of his much overrated vista, is once again partially hidden by the reredos and the grille work of the screen on either side. As the earliest portion of the building, and the only part Bishop Poore lived to see completed, it would not lack interest, were it commonplace in character; but it is on the contrary a particularly graceful example of its time. The whole chapel is divided into a nave and side aisles by single and clustered shafts of Purbeck marble. These extremely slender shafts look unequal to the heavy groined roof they support; for although nearly thirty feet high, the four largest are not quite ten inches in diameter, while the clustered ones are mere rods. Francis Price, whose interest in the building, as he showed throughout his monograph, was that of a practical builder, was "amazed at the vast boldness of the architect, who certainly piqued himself on leaving to posterity an instance of such small pillars bearing so great a load. One would not suppose them," he says, "to stand so firm of themselves as even to resist the force of an ordinary wind." The modern colouring of this part of the building, including the low eastern aisle immediately behind the reredos, is claimed to be an exact restoration of the original, but it is hardly agreeable. The black of the newly polished marble shafts, the dull green of other parts, with the red, green, and white of the vaulting ribs, is more bizarre than beautiful. In regarding traces of mediæval colouring one often forgets that time has blended harmoniously a scheme otherwise entirely crude, and to modern taste unpleasing. How far in English instances this is emphasized by the absence of rich hangings, carpets, vestments, and pictures, it is not within our subject to inquire; but since such restoration of the primitive colouring offends one less in churches that still preserve the more ornate furniture of the Roman Ritual, it is at least a moot point.

The triple lancet east window at the end of the Lady Chapel was filled formerly with stained glass, representing "The Resurrection," after a design by Sir Joshua Reynolds; it is now replaced by modern glass in memory of the late Dean Lear. An altarpiece, composed of fragments of the destroyed Hungerford and Beauchamp Chapels, was set up here by Wyatt. It has lately been replaced by a triptych designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield, with very beautiful panels painted by Mr. Buckeridge. The seven-branched candlesticks in black-wood, silver mounted, are by the same architect. The altar frontal, designed by Mr. Sidney Gambier Parry, and worked by Mrs. Weigall, is so good that it must not be overlooked. The altar itself is of stone from an old altarpiece. Under the windows runs a series of niches, once in the Beauchamp Chapel. Above these rich and delicate canopies, with foliage and fan-tracery springing from corbelled heads, runs an exquisitely sculptured frieze.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lord Stourton's Monument

The monument known as Lord Stourton's, removed from the east end of the Cathedral, is next in order. Its three apertures on each side are said to be emblematic of the six sources of the river Stour, which rises at Storrhead, the ancient family seat, from whence the name is derived. The whole shape of the tomb is so unusual that in spite of the theory that it represents the six sources of the Stour, the curious arched openings appear as if pierced to exhibit something behind them. Yet this could not have been an effigy, for the interior is divided by a solid partition of stone. The pillars which stood between the arches are gone. Lord Stourton, to whom it is attributed, was hanged with a silken cord on March 6th, 1556, in the Salisbury market-place. The tragedy is too long to give in detail, as it is told in the country histories and elsewhere, here a brief summary must suffice:—When his mother became a widow Lord Stourton attempted to induce her to sign a bond promising that she would never re-marry. The family agents, a father and son named Hartgill, sided with Lady Stourton and seemed to have influenced her in declining to assent to the scheme. The Hartgills after much physical maltreatment at the hands of Lord Stourton's mercenaries, took legal action against him, with the result that he was fined and imprisoned for awhile in the Fleet. When let out on parole he invited the Hartgills to meet him that he might pay them the fine. Upon their appearance at Kilmington Churchyard, the appointed place, they were seized by armed men, carried away and murdered in cold blood in full sight of Lord Stourton himself the same night. For this he was committed to the Tower, tried at Westminster and hanged with four of his men at Salisbury. So late as 1775 a wire twisted into a noose was suspended above his tomb.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Boy Bishop

Hidden for a long time underneath some seats near the pulpit, this monument was brought to light in 1680, and moved to its present position. At first it was covered with a wooden box; for which later on, owing to the great curiosity shown by the public, the strong iron grating which now protects it was substituted.

Notwithstanding that the ceremony of the Boy Bishop was observed at Salisbury for many centuries, there is no reasonable proof that this effigy has any connection therewith. Even John Gregory, whose famous treatise on the Boy Bishop is printed in "Gregorii Posthuma," 1649-1669, admits there that it might well seem impossible to everyone that either a bishop should be so small in person or a child so great in clothes. Thomas Fuller also echoes the same objection when he writes: "But the curiosity of critics is best entertained with the tomb in the north of the nave of the church, where lieth a monument in stone of a little boy, habited all in episcopal robes, a mitre upon his head, a crozier in his hand, and the rest accordingly. At the discovery thereof, formerly covered over with pews, many justly admired that either a bishop could be so small in person or a child so great in clothes; though since all is unriddled; for it was then fashionable in that church (a thing rather deserving to be remembered than fit to be done), in the depth of Popery, that the choristers chose a boy of their society to be a bishop among them from St. Nicholas' till Innocents' day." If the effigy represents a boy it is hard to explain why it is not life-size. Stothard in his "Monumental Effigies," in common with most later authorities, favours the idea that it is a miniature representation of a real bishop. Canon Jones suggests probably Walter Scammel, Henry de Braundeston, or William de la Corner. Mackenzie Walcott inclined to the belief that it represented Bishop Wykehampton, who died 1284. A small figure of Bishop Ethelman, 1260, about the same date, is in Winchester Cathedral; there is also one 14-½ inches long in Abbey Dore Church, Herefordshire, one at Ayot, St. Lawrence, Herts, 2 feet 3 inches, and other small effigies of knights and civilians elsewhere. According to Digby Wyatt the custom of burying different portions of the body in different places was common in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; from which he infers that probably these figures commemorated the place of sepulture of the heart.

Whether the monument in question be connected with the Chorister Bishop or not, there are so many records of the function with which popular credence has associated it, that a short digression is almost unavoidable. The pamphlet by John Gregory is elaborately minute and much too long to be quoted fully, yet some of the facts he brought together may be briefly noted. It seems that on the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, the choir-boy elected one of their number, who from that day to the feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28th, bore the rank and exercised the functions of a bishop, the other choristers being his prebendaries. During his term of office he wore episcopal vestments. On the eve of the Holy Innocents he performed the entire office, excepting the mass, as a real bishop would have done. At Salisbury on that day the boy-bishop and his boy-prebendaries went in procession to the altar of the Holy Trinity, taking precedence of the dean and resident canons. At the first chapter afterwards the boy bishop attended in person and was permitted to receive the entire Oblation made at the altar during the day of his procession. The names of many of the choristers and the amounts of the oblations offered for the boy-bishops are the subject of many entries in the capitular registers of both English and continental churches. Bishop Mortival in his statutes, still preserved among the cathedral muniments, orders that the bishop of the choristers "shall make no visit (some commentators consider this has been misinterpreted, to infer that elsewhere he held visitations), nor keep any feast, but shall remain in the Common Hall, unless he be invited to the table of a Canon for recreation." The order of service in use in this diocese has been preserved (MS. No. 153 of the Cathedral Library); in it we find as a special collect, "O Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings," etc., not, however, quite in the form in which it appears in the Prayer Book of Ed. VI.

The spectacle was so popular, and attracted such great crowds, that by special edict it was prescribed that the penalty of the greater excommunication should be incurred by those who might interrupt or press upon the boys during their procession or in any part of their service.

In spite of the doubts thrown upon the monument at Salisbury, it is distinctly recorded that if a boy-bishop died during his term of power, he was to be buried in his vestments and have his obsequies celebrated with the pomp pertaining to an episcopal funeral.

This custom was not confined to this cathedral, but practised at many others in England and on the Continent, where we find records of much greater power being exercised by the boy-prelate, extending even to the presentation to prebends. At Winchester it was certainly observed. So far back as 1263 we find it described at St. Paul's Cathedral as an ancient custom. Several sermons preached by the boy-bishops are still preserved; one is reprinted in the Camden Society's "Miscellany," vol. vii. Dean Colet (once a prebendary of Sarum) in his statutes for St. Paul's school directs: "All these children shall every Childermas day come to Paules Church, and here the Childe-bishoppes sermon, and after be at high masse so each of them offer one peny to the childe bishoppe. And with the maisters and surveyors of the scoole in general procession when they be warned they shall go tweyne and tweyne togither soberly, and not singe oute, but saye devoutly tweyne by tweyne seven psalmes with letany." (Add. MS. 6174.) At York the mock prelate held office longer, and wielded far more power than his fellows of Sarum.

In 1299, on December 7th, a boy-bishop at Hoton, near Newcastle-on-Tyne, said vespers before Edward I., then on his way to Scotland.

At Salisbury in 1542 Henry VIII. forbade the ceremony by royal proclamation. It was revived under Queen Mary, and finally abolished on the accession of Queen Elizabeth.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Salisbury Cathedral: East Transept

The East (or Choir) Transept, which on the north side, screened as it is from the aisle, is used and known also as the Morning Chapel, has on its west wall a portion of a very beautiful screen of Early English work. Of this John Carter, from whose pages the accompanying sketch of a portion is reproduced, says that it was moved during Wyatt's restoration, as he naïvely puts it, "during the late dilapidatious innovations, and modern fanciful introductions so fatal to our study of antiquities." Other authorities consider its original position uncertain. Yet since its architecture is obviously coeval with that of the building, and the arches inserted by Bishop Beauchamp show proof of having been planned to rest on something at the base of the tower piers, there can be little doubt that when Wyatt removed the screen to re-erect a medley of his own composing made of fragments of the demolished chantries, he disturbed one more of the original features of the cathedral.

A curious double aumbry in the north wall of this chapel is unusual, not merely in the pitch of its arches, which are triangular gables, but also in the solid stone shelves dividing its space into six compartments; other aumbries in this church show similar features, but this alone retains its original wooden doors. The superb brass of Bishop Wyville is in the pavement of this transept. It is illustrated in almost every work on monumental brasses as a notable example. A canopied lavatory of beautiful design is upon the east wall to the right, the altar being not in the centre, but almost in the corner on the left-hand side.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Bell Tower

The Bell Tower, a striking feature of the close as it was before 1789, is shown above in the facsimile of an engraving originally published in 1761, and re-engraved in the superb County History in 1804(?). This shows the campanile standing at the north-west corner of the inclosure.

In style it was about the same period as the chapter house and cloisters. The plan appears to have been square, although one writer, frequently quoted, calls it multangular; the stone tower was in two massive stories with lancet windows in the lower, and windows with plate tracery above, with a spire apparently of wood crowning the whole. Leland speaks of it as "a notable and strong square tower for great belles, and a pyramis on it, in the cemiterie." It was evidently massive enough to have stood for centuries, and the single pillar of Purbeck marble, "lying in its natural bed," which was the central support that carried the bells, the belfry, and the spire, is specially mentioned by Price as perfectly sound, but he owns that the leaden spire, and a wooden upper story, were decayed, and puts forward a design of a sham classic dome which he hopes might be erected in its place. When the cathedral was visited in 1553 by the Royal Commission there remained a peal of ten bells, and the re-casting in 1680 of the seventh and eighth by the Purdues, local founders, is recorded among the muniments. The sixth is now the clock bell of the cathedral, but the fate of the others is absolutely unknown.

Monuments in the Choir and Transept

The most important monument on the west wall of the north great transept is a brass (21) in memory of John Britton, who did so much to revive a taste for archæology and ecclesiastical art by his splendid series of monographs on the cathedrals, and his topographical works. A fine monument of its class is one by Bacon (22), which represents Moral Philosophy mourning over a medallion of James Harris, author of "Hermes" and father of the first Earl of Malmesbury; to whose memory close by is a full-length portrait figure by Chantrey. A figure (23) of Benevolence lifting the veil from a bas-relief of the good Samaritan, by Flaxman, commemorates William Benson Earle, Esq., of the Close, Salisbury. On the north wall of this transept is a canopied effigy (24) of a bishop said to represent John Blythe, who died in 1499. It was originally in the ambulatory of the Lady Chapel, behind the high altar, until Wyatt removed it to its present site. In this transept is the statue (25) to Sir Richard Colt Hoare, author of the "Histories of Modern and Ancient Wiltshire," and other works. It is a seated figure not without dignity, by R.C. Lucas, a native of Salisbury. A portrait bust to Richard Jefferies, with a long and eulogistic inscription, is upon a bracket on the west wall.

The High Altar

The High Altar, the credence table, and sedilia, are excellent examples of modern work. The altar itself is of English oak. Its design comprises an arcade with seven openings, divided into three panels, with much elaborate carving. It was given by those who had received confirmation at the hands of Bishop Hamilton. The altar cloths, worked and given by Mrs. Sidney Lear, are highly finished examples of modern ecclesiastical needlework. The credence table, of somewhat elaborate design, is of carved oak with a marble top. The altar rails are of brass, the grills of wrought iron, at each side of the reredos screen the choir partially from the Lady Chapel.

The Choir

In the second bay from the east, on the north side of the choir, stands the chantry of Bishop Audley, who died in 1524. This excellent example of late Perpendicular work was built by the bishop himself in 1520. Its style is not unlike the chantry of Bishop Fox at Winchester with octagonal shafts, (similar to those of the Salisbury Chapel at Christchurch,) which impart a semi-Oriental touch that is so characteristic of this final development of Gothic art. The images it once enshrined are lost, but the original rich colouring is still distinguishable on the fan tracery of the roof. The arms and initials of its founder are borne on the shields of the cornice. In the corresponding bay on the south side is the chantry founded by Walter Lord Hungerford, in 1429, and removed from the nave in 1778 by his descendant, the Earl of Radnor, who converted it into a family pew. It has been re-decorated, and new emblazonments added. The arms of its founder and his two wives appear on the base. The superstructure is of iron, and a fine example of its class, which includes among the few still extant the chantry of Edward IV. (died 1483) at Windsor, and that of Henry VII. at Westminster Abbey (died 1509). The Audley and Hungerford chantries are the most important left in a cathedral once rich in their kind, as the report of the alienation of their endowments proves.

Of modern fittings, the Brass Lectern was given by members of the late Dean Lear's family. A brass eagle is mentioned by Price, and said to have been given in 1714 at a cost of £160. The pulpit is modern, with carved medallions on its sides.

The bishop's throne, a lofty modern structure, made by Earp of Lambeth, was presented by those clergymen who had been ordained in the cathedral. It replaced one given in 1763.

Choir and Presbytery

The Choir and Presbytery are very similar to the nave in the main features of their design. The piers show a different plan, which provides for eight shafts of Purbeck marble to each. The inner mouldings of the arches exhibit the "dog-tooth" ornamentation of their period. The triforium and clerestory differ slightly from the corresponding parts of the nave. In each of the last two bays of the presbytery the triforium has five small cinquefoil arches. At the east wall of the choir above the reredos is an arcade of five simply-pointed arches, below a triplet window in the gable, which is filled with stained glass, given by the Earl of Radnor in 1781, and representing "The Brazen Serpent," after a design by Mortimer.

The choir still bears traces of Wyatt's destruction. He removed the original reredos behind the high altar and the screen before the Lady Chapel, so that both, with the low eastern aisle, were thrown into the choir. He shifted the high altar from the choir to the extreme east end of the Lady Chapel, sacrificing several chantries and tombs to do so. Views of the cathedral after his reign of terror fail to show any gain to compensate for so much loss; the extreme length is not apparently an advantage, while the bare look of the interior seems decidedly intensified by the increased vista that he was so delighted to obtain, and for which with a light heart he effaced the silent records of dead centuries.

The Choir Screen

The Choir Screen was given as a memorial of the late Mr. Sidney Lear by his wife, to whom the cathedral is indebted for many of its modern enrichments. It is entirely of wrought metal, by Skidmore, of Coventry, and a good example of its class. It replaced the organ screen compiled by Wyatt from fragments of the Hungerford and Beauchamp chantries; to erect which he removed the original screen of exquisite workmanship, as may be seen by portions now placed along the west wall of the north-east transept.

Nave Transepts

The Nave Transepts are in three stories, with eastern aisles divided into three bays. The screens inclosing chapels in these were demolished by Wyatt. Above the entrances to the great transepts are arches inserted by Bishop Beauchamp (1450-1481) to withstand the side thrust of the great tower. These are of perpendicular work, with their spandrils panelled and their cornices battlemented, as shown in the engraving. Canterbury and Wells, in a far more prominent fashion, have similar features; in this instance the addition appears to have succeeded in its purpose to insure the stability of the tower. In the choir transepts these additional features take the form of an inverted arch, above the main arch. The vaulting of the tower roof is also in the perpendicular style and shows excellent groined work. Both Sir Christopher Wren and Francis Price, call its four main pillars the legs of the tower.

Of the transept Fuller says: "The cross aisle of this church is the most beautiful and lightsome of any I have yet beheld. The spire steeple (not founded on the ground, but for the main supported by four pillars,) is of great height and greater workmanship. I have been credibly informed that some foreign artists beholding this building brake forth into tears, which some imputed to their admiration (though I see not how wondering could cause weeping): others to their envy, grieving that they had not the like in their own land."

West Wall of the Nave

The west wall is panelled in three main arches, with an upper story reaching to the height of the triforium base, and containing an arcade of four arches, subdivided each into two smaller trefoiled ones, with cinquefoil heads. Above these is the triplet lancet of the great west window. The effect of the nave looking west is clearly shown in the photograph here reproduced.

Counting the Pillars, Windows, and Doorways

The number of its pillars, windows, and doorways is said to equal the hours, days, and months of the year; hence the local rhyme, attributed, on the authority of Godwin, to a certain Daniel Rogers:

"As many days as in one year there be,
So many windows in this church we see;
As many marble pillars here appear
As there are hours throughout the fleeting year;
As many gates as moons one year does view—
Strange tale to tell! yet not more strange than true."

Dating the Spire

Parker, in his "Glossary," believes the date of the spire to 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 wellnigh 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.

The First Service

In the year 1225, Richard Poore, Bishop of Sarum, "finding the fabric of the new church was by God's alliance so far advanced that divine service might be conveniently performed therein, he rejoiced exceedingly, since he bestowed great pains and contributed greatly towards it. Thereupon he commanded William the Dean to cite all the canons to be present on the day of S. Michael following, at the joyful solemnity of their mother church, that is to say, at the first celebration of divine service therein. According on the vigil of S. Michael, which happened on a Sunday, the bishop came in the morning and consecrated three altars, the first in the east part, in honour of the holy and undivided Trinity and All Saints, on which henceforth the mass of the Blessed Virgin was appointed to be said every day. And the said bishop offered that day for the service of the said altar and for daily service of the Blessed Virgin, two silver basons and two silver candlesticks which were bequeathed by the will of the noble lady Gundria de Warren to the church of Sarum. Moreover the bishop gave out of his property to the clerks that were to officiate at the said mass thirty marks of silver a year until he settled so much in certain rents, and likewise ten marks every year to maintain lamps round the said altar. Then he dedicated another altar in the north part of the church in honour of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, and the rest of the apostles; he also dedicated another altar in the south part thereof to St. Stephen and the rest of the martyrs. At this dedication were present: Henry, Bishop of Dublin, Stephen, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury."

Main Transepts

The fronts of the main transepts show four stories, the two lower being divided into three bays by buttresses, and flanked by pinnacled buttresses at each side. The doors that had a ritual use have long since been walled up both on the north and south sides. A triplet window is in the lower stage, three-light windows with quatrefoil heads occupying the second, while the third has an arcade of six lancets below a floriated circle flanked by sunk panels and quatrefoils. The windows in the gable consist of two lesser windows, two-light, with quatrefoil heads, beneath a large octofoil, the whole grouped with blank panels at the side, beneath a cinquefoil moulding. The aisle has flying buttresses reaching to the clerestory, and good angle-pinnacles. The choir transept has no dividing buttresses, and a different grouping of windows. In the lower stage is a triple lancet; there is a group of three two-light windows in the story above, and in the upper one an arcade of four lancets grouped under a comprising arch with a quatrefoil in the head. The gable is lighted by a triplet window flanked with blind lancets, and terminates in a cross.

North Porch

The North Porch is a massive structure of two stories. The upper, now used as the dean's muniment room, has, like a similar example at Christchurch, Hants, no certain indication of its original use. Whether it was a dwelling for sacristans, a school, or a library, was doubtful; but later opinion thinks it was unquestionably used by the sacristans, since it is said that "the sub-treasurer of Sarum, who was usually one of the vicars choral, pledged himself to see that the clerks told off for given duties slept in the church in their accustomed places; and for himself he promised that unless lawfully excused, he would sleep each night in the treasury." Against this theory, however, it might be urged that the muniment room at the angle of the south-east transept is identified as the ancient treasury.

This porch, sometimes called the Galilee, was possibly a place where penitents met, and from which they were expelled from the church on Ash-Wednesday until Maundy Thursday. Externally, although of exquisite proportions, it has no very important details, yet its pinnacles deserve notice; but the interior is very beautiful, the walls have sunk panelling, a base arcade of foliated arches, and in the upper tier large foliated circles with sub-arches, each comprising two trefoiled arches with quatrefoil heads. Mr. G.E. Street, who thoroughly appreciated this particular period of English Gothic as his work at the New Law Courts proves, just before his death restored this part of the cathedral admirably.

Another porch, formerly the entrance to the north transept, removed by Wyatt for the most trivial reason, is now in the grounds of the college which occupies the site of the secular buildings belonging to the church of St. Edmund, founded in 1268.

The West Front

The West Front of the Cathedral was, beyond doubt, the last portion of the original design to be carried out, for among its details the ball-flower, a typical feature of the decorated style, frequently occurs. The governing idea of its façade is indefensible. Not merely because in common with Wells, Lincoln, and other churches, it does not emphasize the construction of the nave and aisles, and hides them by a screen, but because the screen itself poses as an integral part of the building. Even considered solely as an architectural composition, without regard to the building it professes to decorate rather than hide, it is hardly good. The two western towers it unites are, in themselves, not sufficiently important in comparison with the rest of the edifice; in fact, they are little more than finials to the screen. In many similar structures the unity of effect gained at the expense of theoretical consistency justifies the departure; here it is merely a huge surface adapted to display a great number of statues. Rich as it appears now that its long empty niches are again repeopled, it is of no remarkable [26]excellence either in mass or in detail. Its worst fault, however, is that unlike Exeter, it does not content itself by frankly assuming to be nothing more than a screen, but at first sight appears to be the legitimate finish of the nave and aisles. A recent critic, defending the façade in spite of its architectural isolation from the building in its rear, points out that the chief objection to the west front is that it is wanting in that repose and refinement of detail which characterize the rest of the building, and that its design is entirely out of keeping therewith, and also complains that "the ragged outline at the angles produced by the high relief and rather clumsy sections of the decorative detail has a very bad effect." It has been suggested that as from the position of the site there was never a chance of the building being seen from a distance—owing to the level country around it, the projection of the transepts and the group of the whole pile could never tell out as they would had it been on a hill, therefore the form chosen was deliberately adopted to give a factitious importance to the west front on its own merits. The continental builders with much more lofty nave and aisles, and with their habit of making the west door the principal entrance, were able, by enriching its portal and decorating the natural divisions of the building, to attain a stately form that honestly fulfilled its purpose; here the magnificence is secured by masking the low aisles of the nave with a wall that is a mere theatrical adjunct, its simulated windows and its stringcourses marking stories that do not exist. Apart from theoretical criticism, it is not quite admirable in itself; the three doorways are hardly of sufficient importance, the central window is somewhat larger than it should be to accord with the scale of the whole façade, while the apparently built up windows above the genuine windows of the nave aisles, whose roofs have their apex about on a level with the sills of the large central lancets, are as much frauds as any of those sham windows in symmetrical Renaissance work, which so excite the ire of ardent champions of Gothic purity.

It consists of five bays, of which the lateral ones are square turrets, covered with arcades, and terminated by spires. The lower story of the central bay is composed of three pedimented porches deeply recessed, each with a niche in its gable. Above these is a story of canopied trefoiled arches, with quatrefoil lozenges in their centres. Over this arcade is the large west window, a triplet of lancets with slender shafts and chevron ornament. Above this again is a band of quatrefoils at the foot of the gable, which is filled with double couplets of lancets with quatrefoils above their heads; and in the upper spandrils is a quatrefoiled aureole. The buttresses flanking this central bay have similar arcading continued around them. The side bays each have a triple porch, a two-lighted window with a quatrefoil in the head, with a window of the same form above it, and higher still the arcading continued from the towers.

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.


In the year A.D. 1220, on the day of St. Vitalis the Martyr, being the fourth of the calends of May (which was the twenty-eighth of April), the foundations were laid by Bishop Richard Poore. "On the day appointed for the purpose the bishop came with great devotion, few earls or barons of the county, but a great multitude of the common people coming in from all parts; and when divine service had been performed, and the Holy Spirit invoked, the said bishop, putting off his shoes, went in procession with the clergy of the church to the place of foundation singing the litany; then the litany being ended and a sermon first made to the people, the bishop laid the first stone for our Lord the Pope Honorius, and the second for the Lord Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, at that time with our Lord the King in the Marches of Wales; then he added to the new fabric a third stone for himself; William Longespée, Earl of Sarum, who was then present, laid the fourth stone, and Elaide[3] Vitri, Countess of Sarum, the wife of the said earl, a woman truly pious and worthy because she was filled with the fear of the Lord, laid the fifth. After her certain noblemen, each of them added a stone; then the dean, the chantor, the chancellor, the archdeacons and canons of the church of Sarum who were present did the same, amidst the acclamations of multitudes of the people weeping for joy and contributing thereto their alms with a ready mind according to the ability which God had given them. But in process of time the nobility being returned from Wales, several of them came thither, and laid a stone, binding themselves to some special contribution for the whole seven years following."

Another account, differing from the more generally accepted version just quoted, says that: Pendulph, the Pope's legate, in 1216 laid the first five stones; the first for the Pope, the second for the King, the third for the Earl of Salisbury, the fourth for the countess, and the fifth for the bishop. This statement is wrong in date, for Bishop Poore was not translated to the see of Sarum until the year 1217. In the charter of Henry I. the first stone is mentioned as having been laid by the king, i.e., in his name.

"On the 15th of August, 1220, at a general chapter when the bishop was present, it was provided that if any canon of the church failed paying what he had promised to the fabric for seven years, that next after fifteen days from the term elapsed, some one should be sent on the part of the bishop and chapter to raise what was due from the corn found on the prebend, and so long as he should remain there for that purpose he should be maintained with all necessaries by the goods of the said prebend. But if the prebend or any person failing in the payment of what was promised be in any other bishopric than Sarum, such canon should be denounced to that bishop by the letter of the bishop and chapter for his contumacy, either to be suspended from entering the church, or from celebration of [8]divine service, or excommunicated according as the chapter shall judge it."

The Former Cathedral

The former cathedral at Old Sarum was condemned to be abandoned, and a new site chosen for its successor; Bishop Richard Poore, through whose efforts the change of locality was effected, is said to have hesitated long before he could find one suitable. Wilton, then a place of some importance, attracted him first. There is a more or less accurate MS. extant which professes to give an account of his tentative attempts to induce the Abbess of Wilton to permit him to build his church in a meadow of her domain. An old sewing-woman (quaedam [2]vetula filatrix) is said to have attributed his frequent visits to quite another motive; she inferred that the Bishop had a papal dispensation to marry, and was a suitor for the hand of the Abbess. The negotiations failed: "Hath not the Bishop land of his own that he must needs spoil the Abbess? Verily he hath many more sites on which he may build his church than this at Wilton," was the reply of the Abbess to his demand. During his period of indecision the Virgin appeared to him in a vision, and commanded him to build his new church in a place called Myr-field, or, as some accounts have it, Maer-field. He searched vainly for a piece of ground by that name, that he might obey the supernatural edict, until by chance he overheard a labourer (or a soldier, the legends vary,) talking of the Maer-field, and then having, as he thought, identified the place, which appears to have been within his own demesne, he commenced to plan the present building. Another tradition ignores the dream, and says the site of the cathedral was determined by an arrow shot from the ramparts of Old Sarum.