42 Cathedrals from which to choose
Britain is well blessed with its cathedrals. They stand out in our towns and cities, proud and bold statements of faith, endurance, spiritual refreshment, culture and architecture. Different cathedrals will appeal for a variety of reasons. For example, in my case Chester Cathedral is rather special because I was ordained there (and I have played the organ there – not something many people know!). Lincoln Cathedral, visible from at least 25 miles away (some say 43 miles), is associated in my mind with many happy overnight stays in The White Hart Hotel which commands magnificent views of the building. Lincoln Cathedral also has a carved Lincoln Imp! And talking about oddities, in Ripon Cathedral, which Gail and I visited some weeks ago, there is a huge mechanical wooden hand which the organist can operate to keep time for the choir, and a carving of a rabbit being chased by a griffin and disappearing down a hole which is thought to have been the inspiration of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. (What is a griffin do you ask? Answer: a legendary creature you would not like to meet – see below).
Some of you may recall the song: Winchester Cathedral (The New Vaudeville Band, 1966). The song blames the cathedral for failing to stop a relationship breakup. A bit unfair really, but illustrating the way a cathedral can have a special personal significance.
Salisbury Cathedral must rank high in most people’s estimation. It was the focus for the Radio 4 morning service at 8.10am on Sunday (3rd May). Gail and I visited some years ago, so it was easy to relate to what was being said. The Cathedral – in a suitably muted way – is celebrating the 800th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone. Notable features I recall are that the cathedral houses one of four of the original copies of Magna Carta (from 1215) and the massive font which continuously overflows with water. But here is a feature which you would never guess: peregrine falcons periodically nest on the roof of the cathedral. At the moment there is a webcam installed to watch the nest. Give credit where it is due - the birds have chosen a quality place to rear their young. Not just the building itself but also the huge and beautifully maintained grounds providing in effect a park.
Perhaps we take our Cathedrals a bit for granted. Tourists don’t! From all over the world (in normal times of course) they come to marvel and gasp. At least, that is what they are supposed to do! Why not join them, if only today in your imagination. What you CAN do today is take a virtual tour around the Cathedral of your choice.