Tuesday, 21 December 2010

ABC Wednesday - Winchester

As can be seen looking at the narrow main street there is a reason why Winchester has a park and ride system. Calling in here on the way back from the summer holidays we judged that three hours would be enough time to have a look round, wrong.  This city was the capital Wessex which became the dominant kingdom under King Alfred and was later the capital of England until the 12th century. So even if you ignore the shopping, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants history has left a lot to see. Go up this street and through an
arch of what used to be part of  the Norman castle entrance, now just a passing place to arrive at
the Great Hall which houses one of the treasures of Winchester, hanging high on a wall is the
Round Table. That of the Arthurian legend of knights, magic and the quest for the holy grail. It measures 18 feet across and would originally have had 12 legs and seats for 25 people (24 knights and 1 king).  It is not THE table and has been dated by dendrochronology as being made  some time between 1250-1280. The Round Table festivals of the Middle Ages were a celebration of the Arthurian legend and consisted of jousting, feasting and dancing, a good time was had by all. This table was probably produced for such an event.  They were lavish spectaculars, RenĂ© of Anjou even erected an Arthurian Castle for his Round Table celebrations in 1446.  

In 1522 Henry VIII had the Winchester Table painted for the visit of Charles V with the names of the Arthurian knights and his own portrait with the Tudor Rose (his house) in the middle. Henry was rather paranoid about the plots against him (with some reason, they were not all in his imagination), and also the legitimacy of the  house of Tudor so this would be his statement of power.

As you may observe the table could resemble a dart board and was used as that as target practice by Cromwellian Troops in the English Civil War in 1645. The holes were filled and the table was repainted again in 1789.

Moving across the town to the other centre of power in the middle ages, the cathedral which was built from 1079 onwards, it is rather an understated perpendicular style on      
the outside.  But once inside
the detail is stunning.  It also is the burial place of many famous people, such as the writers Jane Austin and Isaac Walton (who has his own chapel), and

St Swithan, probably most famous for the 'fact' that the weather on his feast day of 15 July will continue for 40 days.
St Swithun's day if thou dost rain,
Forty days it will remain.
St Swithun's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair

He was bishop of Winchester from 852-862 and wished to be buried outside but when his body was dug up and taken to an indoor shrine it started to rain, it was very wet, and a legend was born. The remains originally were enshrined behind the high altar, later removed to a marble shrine on this site, destroyed in 1538.
To head deep under the cathedral to the crypt

which often floods, stands a statue by Antony Gormley called Sound II installed 1986, also down here is a bust to the diver William Walker who worked underwater from 1906-11 underpinning the the nave and shoring up the walls of the building. Winchester Cathedral is a treasure of objects and architecture, a long time
could be spent here, but the time for our park and ride was nearly expired so a run for the bus was our next move. Always leave something for a reason to return, perhaps at a more leisurely pace.

Wander over to ABC Wednesday where there will be more words starting with the letter W.


Sylvia K said...

Fantastic post for the day! Love the history you've included as well as the marvelous photos! Would love to visit there! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy!


Amanda said...

A great W to choose :)

Leslie: said...

Someone else did Winchester today, too. But you have more pictures and they took me back to the time I visited and saw the Round Table. Winchester is such a beautiful city with a great history and even now reflects that amidst its modernity. Have a wonderful Christmas! :D

Cildemer said...

A lovely visit through Winchester and a great entry for Wday! Loved your shots!
Thanks for sharing;o)

Have a nice week and a wonderful Christmas****

Carver said...

Great tour of Winchester. I enjoyed the information and photographs. I visited there briefly in 1974 when I was a teenager and this brought back memories.

Roger Owen Green said...

that is one serious building. i like the ban on cars in town; quite civilized (or civilised, I suppose)
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots of the place. The Cathedral is truly stunning.

Rinkly Rimes said...

Winchester! One of my favourite places. Not because of the history though. I had a little dalliance there fifty years ago. I'll look at the history next time!

Tumblewords: said...

Spectacular from start to finish!

Paula Scott Molokai Girl Studio said...

Oh my gosh. This is fabulous! I would've stayed there all day. What a fascinating cathedral. Thank you for the tour! Even if the round table is not THE table, it sure is an OLD table!

Nanka said...

Loved this Historical post and curious for more!!

jabblog said...

This is most interesting and makes me realise I must visit Winchester again. The cathedral is magnificent.
Happy Christmas to you and yours and a peaceful 2011.

mrsnesbitt said...

Do you know I feel I have been there today thanks to this - always enjoy such sojourns on a Wednesday.
Thanks so much
ABC Team

Cheryl said...

Gorgeous shots. I'd love to go inside. I imagine a person would look and feel quite small. Thanks for sharing these beautiful images with ABC.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

One major town in the UK I haven't yet visited. Need to rectify this oversight.