Saturday, 5 February 2011

Norwich Cathedral - In High Places





As I go about my business, Rambling Raggedly through the streets and lanes of Norwich, wherever I am the cathedral spire looms. On the one hand, it is so familiar and reassuring; and yet, on the other, I am so often struck by its beauty - as if viewing it, on each occasion, for the very first time.

Standing by the Eighteenth century windlass, located within the
Norman tower. Although no longer in use, it would still be capable
of lifting materials necessary to repair the spire. 

In April 2002 - before Health & Safety was invented -, I had the privilege to be taken, with a group of museum colleagues, behind the scenes to view the higher reaches of the cathedral. As members of the general public are unable to access these areas, we of the Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers will allow you a privileged glimpse of this inner/upper world of the cathedral. Furthermore, you can follow us here without fear of either fatigue or vertigo...


In the scene above, you are looking from East to West along the gangway in the roof void above the nave ceiling. Below this is the stone vaulting with the carved scenes ('bosses') which you might have strained your eyes to see from the floor below...


The photograph on the left hand side offers an unusual perspective. You are looking down, along the length of the nave, towards the west window. The boss closest to you is so close that from here you can reach out and touch its chin (which, indeed, I did - because I could!). On the right, you see one of my colleagues walking on the (precipitous!) edge of the nave roof, eastwards towards the tower.


As you can see, we were able to walk around the Norman tower within the narrow confines the passageways therein. What struck us immediately was that, in contrast to the ground floor levels, here the stone was as crisp and clean as the day - some 900 years ago - that the mason laid down his chisels. I was fortunate enough to visit these spaces on many occasions after this, and another thing which fascinated me was the profusion of dessicated butterflies which had fluttered up here and subsequently perished. Standing in a pristine space created nearly a millennia ago, I myself felt as ethereal and fragile as a butterfly. An awe-infused space like this can feel as permanent as a mountain - though, against the sands of time, neither cathedral nor mountain are permanent...

On a more earthy note, I also located some graffiti etched into the glass by glaziers; judging from the style of lettering, this would have been scratched in sometime during the nineteenth century. Whereas most of it consisted of people's names or initials (folk feel compelled to leave their mark), there was also an slander against a  man (a colleague perhaps?), telling of how he had slept with his wife before they were married (allegedly!).


Whereas, initially, you ascend the spire by means of a stone spiral staircase, once above the tower level you have to make your way up a series of ladders. Although the late fifteenth century (1400s) spire appears to be made of solid stone from the outside, from within it is clear that it is actually constructed primary from bricks, with a thin 'skin' of stone externally. Eventually, with the space narrowing as you ascend, you reach the point near the pinnacle where there is a small window (miniscule when viewed from afar) and you can climb no further.

Whatever the perspective - from inside and up a ladder - or outside with your feet on the ground, Norwich cathedral is a truly remarkable building!



A thought: this building was once a vision, pictured in someone's
mind. Now, that vision touches us....

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~ Esotericus ~ 
* This piece is dedicated to Stephen Bertram - a kindly man....

9 comments:

  1. When I worked in Cathedral Street, I use to love walking through the close. The Cathedral was always stunning especially in the early morning sun.

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  2. Alison,

    I really do know how you felt. Beautiful places get Close to one's heart! Thank you for commenting here, and please do keep visiting us here.

    Antiquarian Salutations,
    Esotericus (RSAR)

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  3. excellent intersting web site / blog G.B

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  4. These pictures really take me back my friend. I remember being in terrified awe. I also spotted a scruffy looking character who looks suspiciously like the Rambler who disgraced himself at Mount Grace and another who I have always thought wore a goatee with some aplomb!

    +Many Coats+

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to comment. Your kind words are very much appreciated by all the members.

    Antiquarian Salutations,
    Esotericus (RSAR)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Many Coats, Mr. (alive... just!),

    I remember well the tripidation with which you trod as we gingerly made our way along the inter-mural triforium passageway. Don't feel shame that, gripped by terrified awe, you made water in a House of God (the puzzled folk below never needed to know the true source of that 'leak'!).

    Antiquarian Salutations,
    Esotericus (RSAR)

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  7. Just imagine the scaffolding bill! IN A WHITE VAN VOICE TO A PASSING MONK... Nice sandles love - shame about the tonsure!

    Dan the Van

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  8. Dear Dan the Van,

    We, of the Ragged Society of Antiquarian Ramblers, do seek to inculcate a spirit of self-improvement amongst the horny handed sons of toil, and therefore this ostensibly crude declaration is - one supposes - a start... 'tonsure' is such an improvement on 'slap-head'

    Esotericus (RSAR)

    ReplyDelete