Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Super Epic Cathedral Trip Day 2 part 1

Day 2 start from 'in the middle of nowhere near Haxham at 730-800; expected to visit - Hexham, Corbridge, Newcastle, Durham, Fountains, Harrogate, York. Night in York or Grimsby. ( I know we were deluded when planning)

Day 2 started with a lovely countryside view.

We were lucky that it was relatively dry as the great Hadrian wall stood in a middle of the field and to get to it we had to climb over one fence and then make our way through a herd of sleepy sheep.

The wall itself was different from what I expected. Considering it was built to keep the Scots out of the Roman Empire I was hopping more of it would be left. Now it is fit only to divide the two fields and sometimes becomes home to bunnies like the one we found napping between the stones.

Later the same day I came across a model of how the wall looked and the current one.

I have to admit it was fun climbing it.

From the wall it was a short drive back to Hexham – a lovely picturesque village.

To tell the truth I came across Hexham by accident when planning the trip and its abbey was a very pleasant surprised. The first building was built at the end of the 7th century as a Benedictine monastery by Wilfred but two centuries latter it was destroyed in Viking raids. The abbey we see today was founded in the 12th century for Augustinian canons. And like many other monasteries, abbeys and cathedrals it suffered greatly when the break with Roman Catholicism came during the reign of Henry the VIII.

The furnishing of the church is fairly simple yet has a couple interesting details some of which date back to Wilfred’s church (7thcentury) like the crypt underneath the church which was unfortunately closed when we were there .
To my greatest joy the choir stalls were open to the public this meant that I could have a close look at the misericords. In my experience the quirkiest decorations and details are slightly hidden and are small in detail. The misericords or ‘mercy seats‘ are a great example of this. A misericord is a small shelf on the underside of a folding seat. In medieval churches services happened standing up and could take hours the mercy seats were to ease the discomfort of the long standing as one could lean against them. In a way they are very similar to the seating now found on British subway and bus stops were you lean-sit against a small shelf. Thought hidden away the misericords are usually home to weird decorations in Hexham I came across two green men

A siren

And a monstrous Jew similar to the one in Rutland Psalter.

The bench ends showed a pelican feeding her young. A pelican is a common Christian symbol and is usually mistaken for an eagle on lecterns ( considering lecterns there is one easy way to check if the bird has a drop of blood somewhere on its body it’s a pelican). IN medieval times it was believed that a pelican is very attentive to her young to the point that if there is no food she would wound herself and feed her young with her blood and flesh. This self-sacrificial aspect connected the bird with the Passion narrative and the Eucharist.
From Hexham Newcastle was a hop and a skip. In eth original plan we were supposed to visit Corbridge before heading there however time was short and the main attraction in Corbridge were the Roman remains and Hadrians wall which was already seen.
The New Castle Cathedral and Castle Keep were different from what I expected as on pictures they look far better than in real life. The Newcastle castle Keep looked like any other from the outside– thick walls and almost no windows. Considering that it was built for Robert William the Conqueror’s son its tiny size came as a disappointment. Despite the minute appearance inside was a maze filled with halls and chambers. Whoever planned it did an amazing job; then again it was built for Robert William the Conqueror’s son.

The view on the city from the rooftop was also stunning.

The cathedral is right next to the keep and is significantly smaller in comparison to other English Gothic Cathedrals. The reason for this is simple – it was not a cathedral until fairly recently. The first mentions of the church on the site go back to 1080. From then till 25 July 1882 it was a humble parish church within the diocese of Durham.

The parish church turned in to a cathedral in 1882 explains why a vast majority of the church furnishing like the choir stalls date back to 1880’s. The scene on the misericords here thought entertaining are too politically correct compared to those at Hexham and less quirky.

Coronation of the virgin

St Margaret of Antioch does battle with an evil serpent- dragon.

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