Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Culture: Salisbury Cathedral

Last Thursday, I went to Salisbury Cathedral with two students. I can’t remember if I’ve ever been there before, so I was really looking forward to exploring it, as well as visiting the Magna Carta exhibition (one of the remaining four parts is kept in Salisbury Cathedral).

From the station, it's a 15-minute scenic walk away; along the high street and next to a river. We walked under an ancient bridge, rounded the corner of some trees and there it was – absolutely magnificent. I was immediately struck by how forbidding it looked, towering above us and reaching straight into the sky.

After taking some pictures outside, we went in to collect our exhibition tickets. They were free, but because it can get busy, the website recommends booking a time slot in advance; however, we were able to go in before our time as it was quiet when we arrived.

What struck me as we went to the exhibition entrance was the large cloister with two enormous trees in the middle; I imagined monks wandering around it, studying and praying (it really drew my mind back to Ken Follet’s Pillar’s of the Earth). I love reading gravestones too, and there were plenty of them in the walls and floor; I think the oldest I saw in the cloister was about 300 years old.

The exhibition itself was fascinating – it explained exactly what the Magna Carta was, why it was significant 800 years ago and the effect it’s had on the law today. It also drew attention to the state of the legal system internationally, including the percentage of prisoners currently awaiting trial and the level of corruption in each country’s system.

The document itself is written in minute handwriting; as parchment was so expensive, the barons had to save as much space as possible. Sometimes it's hard to imagine just how signifcant things like the Magna Carta are, but looking at it and reading the translation really highlighted how influential this document was - or should that be is? The translation has emboldened the three clauses that are still in our laws today - most notably, that people cannot be imprisoned without reason and must be tried by their peers.

After lunch, we joined a tour of the Cathedral. Originally built in Sarum in the 12th century, it suffered during the Reformation in the 16th century when a man called James Wyatt took out the stained glass windows, among other things. I won't list everything I learnt, but I loved looking at the tombs and effigies and learning about the people buried in them. I'm fascinated by Lady Jane Grey (the girl who was Queen for 9 days), so was pleased to find her sister has a memorial in the Cathedral, put there by her son. There's also a font near the entrance, which reflects the ceiling and window at the opposite end of the Cathedral, which is stunning; I managed to get a picture of the reflection after multiple attempts to angle myself correctly but getting my sleeve wet instead.

Salisbury Cathedral was wonderful in so many ways - the recommended donation is £4.25 for students, which is definitely worth it, and the exhibition is free! I hope to go back in Summer with Maxx, and relax on the grass outside afterwards.

Pictures will be uploaded when I'm back in England.

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