Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Salisbury Cathedral

Places that inspire or intrigue me usually end up in one of my novels. I’ve just set a scene in Book 4 at Salisbury Cathedral and its Close during WW2. Fortuitously, one of the historic houses in the Close is for sale, so I was able to tour the rooms online, and envision my characters there.

Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds - by John Constable, c. 1925
My first glimpse of the cathedral was across the water-meadows from our inn, the view instantly reminiscent of John Constable’s famous painting, above. My husband and I were on our honeymoon, guided by a book entitled “England on $5 and $10 a Day” – yes, many decades ago! Our hotel straddled a shallow stream and had once been a mill, with parts dating back to ecclesiastical beginnings in the 13th century. It was all delightfully quaint and ridiculously romantic.

As we followed a footpath across the meadows and rivers, the magnificent cathedral rose out of the deceptively pastoral landscape. From the narrow, medieval streets of the inner city, we passed through a battlemented stone gate into the Cathedral Close – the largest in Britain at 80 acres. Other superlatives describing the Gothic cathedral, primarily constructed during the 13th century, include having the largest cloisters, the tallest spire, the finest of the four remaining 800-year-old Magna Cartas, and Europe’s oldest working clock.

That lofty spire may well have saved the cathedral from bombing during WW2. From the map of a downed German plane, it appeared that the steeple was used as a navigational aid.

In any case, the Magna Carta and other priceless documents were stored in a secret government repository during the war, along with other national treasures. My thanks to Cathedral Archivist, Emily Naish, for her helpful information.

Visiting the cathedral again two decades later with our daughter, we took a fascinating "Tower Tour" into the rafters and up to the base of the spire, where there's a terrific view over the city and countryside. You can see a bit of it in this short video.

Of course this is all grist for the literary mill!

For more info about Salisbury Cathedral, visit the official website.