Friday, 29 March 2013

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester has been a christian centre since the seventh century, when the Old Minster was constructed, becoming the most important royal church in Anglo-Saxon England. By the tenth century it was a large church, base for the Bishop of Winchester, priory church of a community of monks and starting point for the Pilgrim's way to Canterbury. It's status was greatly enhanced by the veneration of St Swithin, an earlier Bishop famed for healing, although his first miracle was more mundane. He restored a batch of eggs that a widow dropped and smashed. Nowadays he's best remembered for his association with wet summers.His weather-rhyme, well known throughout the British Isles since Elizabethan times.
'St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.'
 It certainly applied in 2012, let's hope for a fine St Swithin's day in 2013, that's July 15th.

     After the Norman conquest the new masters of England quickly took control of the church and, under a new French bishop, demolished the Old Minster and rebuilt a vast new cathedral in the Norman Romanesque style, a statement of their superiority over what went before. The transcept is the Norman original while the rest of the cathedral was heavily altered by installing towering gothic arches in the 14th century.

The next great challenge for Winchester came with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. This saw the closure of the 600 year old St Swithin's Priory and the destruction of the saint's shrine, now replaced with a modern interpretation. Many of the medieval treasures of the cathedral, notably most of the stained glass were also destroyed by the puritains. By the sixteenth century the cathedral had arrived at its present form. Since then there have been minor changes and some notable burials. The writer Jane Austen is buried there, not for the modest fame that she attracted in her lifetime, but rather because of the influence of her clergyman father. 
 What was I doing there? I was checking out St Swithin, who makes a cameo appearance in my third novel, A Pilgrimage Too far. I've checked the lyrics of the 1960's hit song, Winchester Cathedral. It sounds as though the writer fell out with his girlfriend on a visit there!
The Glorious Twelfth by Alan Calder published by Museitup - Links

Also by Alan Calder, The Stuart Agenda published by Willowmoon




  1. I agree that Winchester is fascinating and a place of great history, espec for Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman kings and queens. Super article, Alan.

  2. Interesting post, Alan. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thanks Rose-at least it wasn't snowing down there. Alan

  3. I do enjoy vicariously visiting these old sites through your blog posts, Alan. So informative. Nicely done!

  4. I've visited the Winchester Cathedral. It is beautiful, but it always annoys me to no end when I hear of invaders destroying art of any kind.