Monday, 2 February 2015

Norwich Cathedral, Norfolk

My first visit to Norwich and I have to say that the city is a delight. Having parked on the top floor of the Andrew Street car park I was confronted by no less than 10 churches but had only enough time to visit the cathedral (for the record, & linked to Simon Knott's Norfolk Churches site, looking west from l to r were St Gregory, St Giles on the Hill, St John the Baptist RC Cathedral, St Lawrence and St Margaret; to the east l to r were the CoE Cathedral, St George & St Michael at Plea + St Andrew & Blackfriars Hall; to the south were St Andrew and Norwich Castle; I failed to look north having been overcome by this cornucopia of churches.

Norwich, although being well out of a reasonable distance from home, appears to merit some revisits.

Having been seriously impressed by the view of Norwich from the top of a municipal multi storey car park and the walk to the cathedral, yes I did get lost as I thought the far more prominent RC cathedral was my destination, I found the Most Holy Trinity a huge disappointment.

The west front makes St Albans' look like a masterpiece in restoration and when you enter from the visitor entrance, despite the friendliest, helpful and most welcoming volunteers I've ever encountered, the first impression is one of austerity and paucity of interest.

How wrong first impressions can be. Norwich may not be overly endowed with monuments and brasses but is architecturally stunning and enriched with great glass, several fine reredoses (especially the Despenser retable), good misericords and, above all, an intimacy I've not felt since Bury St Edmunds.

I was decidedly inclined to dislike Norwich on sight but two and half hours of perambulation has pushed it up to my No1 favourite English cathedral.

Having been absorbed in the body of the church I ran out of time to give the cloisters the attention they deserve and so missed the Priors door - good, a reason to go back.

Not having Pevsner's Norfolk this will have to substitute (it's good):

The year 630 marked the final conversion to Christianity of East Anglia, when the Burgundian monk Felix, its first bishop, established his see at the Suffolk port of Dunwich, now utterly vanished as a result of coast erosion. In 660 the great diocese was subdivided by Archbishop Theodore, and both Dunwich and Elmham in Suffolk were the seats of bishops until about 950, when it was once again united at the latter. In 1075 the bishopric was removed to Thetford, but in 1094 it was finally established at Norwich in compliance with the decree of Lanfranc's Synod that all sees should be fixed in the principal town of their diocese. Herbert de Losinga was the first Bishop of Norwich, a Norman-Benedictine careerist owing his early advancement to simony that was flagrant even for his period. But on the assumption of his bishop’s office he seems genuinely, if somewhat belatedly, to have repented of his disreputable association with Rufus; “I entered on mine office disgracefully,” he wrote in a letter that has been preserved, “but by the help of God's grace I shall pass out of it with credit.” The founding of a cathedral and great religious house at Norwich, on a scale commensurate with the dignity of his famous Order, was considered to have been undertaken as a partial expiation of former irregularities.

The foundation stone of Norwich Cathedral was laid in 1096, and the building of the Norman fabric seems to have occupied some forty years. In about 1170, however, a fire broke out in the monastic quarters, which spread to the church, and probably partially destroyed the Lady Chapel, which formed the central feature of the apsidal chevet. This event, combined with the growing cult of Our Lady during the thirteenth century, determined Bishop Suffield to demolish what remained of the chapel and rebuild it about 1250 on a more lavish scale in the current Gothic manner. His work, however, falling into disrepair after the Reformation,  was destroyed under Dean Gardiner towards the close of the sixteenth century. In 1271 rioting broke out in the city against the monks, whose unpopularity had reached a climax under the fierce and truculent despotism of Prior William de Brunham. Something like a pitched battle took place in Tombland, lasting for several days, in which many lives were lost and the cathedral gutted by fire to its stone walls. Sentence of excommunication was passed on the city, Henry III himself travelled to Norwich to preside at the trial of the leaders, and vast sums were extorted from the townsmen to repair the damage. The final misfortune occurred in 1361, when the wooden spire and part of the central tower collapsed in a gale, severely injuring the eastern limb. This resulted in the building of the fourteenth-century clerestory to the quire; and the main body of the church was finally fireproofed by the construction of a stone lierne vault under Bishop Lyhart about 1446.

Despite these additions, Norwich today, more than any other English cathedral with the exception of Durham, retains the  appearance and characteristics of a great Anglo-Norman abbey church. The west front, never very striking in design, was reduced to insignificance by Blore in 1875, but the long north and south elevations of the nave rise like cliffs, scarred by intricate stratabands of arches, arcades and windows. The transepts were rebuilt with plain Norman fronts, and the southern is another example of how literal refacing can rob a facade of its charm and character. The eastern limb is easily the most beautiful part of the building , the tall lantern-like clerestory of the Perpendicular reconstruction, with its delicate precision of window tracery and lofty ring of flying buttresses, rising high above the close-knit Romanesque texture of the original presbytery, with its chevet of apsidal chapels, rare in England. The recent addition that takes the place of the Lady Chapel is a memorial to the fallen of the last war. The Norman tower at the crossing is very rich and magnificent, with its horizontal bands of Romanesque patterning, flanked by buttresses of vertical shafting that rise to crocketed pinnacles at the four corners. It is surmounted by a tall spire that forms a dignified landmark over the flatter surrounding country, and is perhaps best seen from Old Crome’s Mousehold Heath, or from over the Wensum by the water-gate to the precincts at Pull’s Ferry.

Probably the first impression on entering the cathedral is of the exceptional length of the Norman nave, extending through fourteen bays, and of its great height. The yellowish stone appears warm and mellow in the full even lighting of the interior, and the general effect is one of homogeneous texture and solid dignity. A remarkable feature of the design, probably dictated by requirements of lighting, is the height of the single-arch triforium, which equals that of the main arcade; and despite its general uniformity, the nave can show occasional vagaries, such as the massive cylindrical diapered piers of the ninth bay from the east, marking the original western termination of the cathedral, and the two bays of elegant sixteenth-century reconstruction introduced by Bishop Nix for his personal chantry. The aisles are roofed with a simple Norman groined vault, in contrast with the elaboration of the lierne work of the nave roof, which ranks among the finest achievements of English medieval masoncraft. As has been seen, it was built during the later fifteenth century in the episcopate of Walter Lyhart, whose rebus of a stag lying in water appears on every other vaulting shaft; and a striking feature is its profusion of sculptured bosses, which extend in three ranges from east to west, comprising in the nave alone some 328 subjects, illustrating in graphic and homely idiom the course of Bible history from the Creation to the Apocalypse. These bosses have recently been cleaned and touched with bright colour to give an approximation of their original effect. At the crossing, the tower repeats on the interior something of he rich patterning of its exterior faces, though the swagged Renaissance ceiling that appears in Britton’s engravings did not survive the nineteenth century. The organ screen is a modern adaptation, but between the transepts and the quire aisles, the Romanesque arches have been filled with beautiful screens of open Perpendicular tracery, erected under Prior Catton about 1509. The eastern limb is short in comparison with the nave, but architecturally is without question the finest part of the cathedral. The Norman design extends through arcade and triforium, and above it rises the lofty lightly poised canopy of Bishop Percy's clerestory, with its great areas of glazing admitting a flood of light into the quire. It is remarkable how this fifteenth-century transformation blends with the massive Romanesque of three centuries earlier, and the whole with the delicate lierne vaulting that spreads its web over the roof above. The view culminates eastward in the semicircular sweep of the apse, which, with its radiant lighting effects and soaring complexity of arch and vault, forms perhaps the most effective background in any English cathedral for the high altar.

The ambulatory around the apse forms a continuation of the groined-vaulted presbytery aisles. From this open a number of small chapels and chantries, among the most interesting being the two remaining chapels of the apsidal chevet, which are so conspicuous a feature of the exterior design. Each is formed of two separate segments of a circle, and in the little Jesus Chapel, traces of the original painting have been used as a basis for the reconstruction of the medieval polychromatic scheme. The cloister garth is on the south side, between nave and transept, and the fourteenth century Prior's Door that gives access from it to the cathedral is very elaborate and magnificent, with canopied figures of saints and Bishops ranged in stellar radiations around the arch. The cloister itself is broad and spacious, and its tracery of several periods covers a wide range of curvilinear and Perpendicular pattern. It contains much of interest, such as the remains of the monks’ lavatorium and bookshelves, and, as at Gloucester, the holes in the flagstones for the novices’ games; but perhaps its finest feature is the series of sculptured bosses in the vaulting, which, though uncleaned and unrepaired, are almost the equal for variety and interest of those of the nave. The thirteenth century chapter-house was pulled down by Dean Gardiner at the same time as the Lady Chapel, but the Choir School of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with its ribbed stone vault, remains and is worth a visit. The close contains some beautiful and interesting old houses, and is entered from Tombland by two splendid gateways in the local flint flushwork - the Ethelbert Gate, erected as part of the penance of the townsfolk after the riot of 1271, and the Erpingham Gate, built as a memorial to Sir Thomas Erpingham, Shakespeare's “white-headed knight" of Agincourt, designed by the famous Norfolk mason, William Hindley, later master of the work for the York quire, who modelled it on the great centre arch of the Peterborough west front.


Poppyhead (15)




Herbert de Losinga 1119 (3)

Jesus Chapel altar (1)

WE come now to the gem of this galaxy of old buildings telling romantic story of Norwich, the cathedral, set in a loop of the river. Though it stands in a hollow where the sea once ebbed and flowed, its lovely spire soars so high that it crowns all views in the city. Only Salisbury has a higher spire, the spire made familiar to the world by the most famous artist of East Anglia, and in all England there is not a loftier or richer Norman tower than this from which it springs. The tower itself is 140 feet high, and though the stone of its tiers of arches and windows has been much renewed outside, the interior is perfect. Poised on the top of the spire, 315 feet from the ground, is a golden chanticleer, which flashes on a sunny day against the blue. The spire is like a finger beckoning us to come to see this exquisite structure rising so graciously into the sky. Whether we look at it from the east or from the west the beauty of its lines thrills us; from the east it rises higher and higher until the eye is drawn as by a magnet to the crowning glory of one of the noblest ancient buildings in the land.

The story begins in 1091 with Herbert de Losinga. Even bereft of all the legends and traditions that have grown up round one who achieved such a monument as this cathedral, the story of this bishop is a fascinating revelation of clerical life eight centuries ago. He was born before the Conqueror set foot on our soil, but where he was born is a matter of dispute. Educated in the monastery at F├ęcamp, he served so well as Prior that William Rufus made him Abbot of Ramsey and gave him a place in the royal household. It is said that he received a bishopric for paying £1900 into the treasury of Red Rufus, and that the king made him a bishop without consulting the Pope. Most men acted corruptly then, but only the conscience of one seems to have greatly troubled him. Losinga himself realised that he had been sinful, and he determined to go to Rome to resign in person. Rufus discovered the purpose of his journey and degraded him; but Herbert went on, the Pope accepted his resignation, granted him absolution, and made him Bishop of Thetford again; but as penance imposed on him the duty of removing the see to Norwich and building a new cathedral.

Such was the beginning of Norwich Cathedral. He returned to his diocese with renewed vigour and made his peace with Rufus, who helped him with the building. The foundation stone was laid in 1096, and before Losinga’s death in 1119 the eastern portion of the great pile was standing much as it is today — the presbytery with its apse and rare ambulatory, the lower part of the central tower, the great transepts with the eastern chapels, and perhaps four bays of the nave, which served as a choir for 60 monks.

His cathedral is unique in many ways, and has many treasures, but it has nothing of more interest than the painted medallions which have come to light in our time and been restored by Professor Tristram; one shows Losinga passing money across a table, in another he is robed as a bishop in an attitude of prayer, while the third has a picture of a church perhaps meant for the cathedral. Besides the painting of the medallion we see him here in crumbling stone, bareheaded and with uplifted face, his crozier in one hand and the other raised in blessing; so he stands in a niche over a cathedral doorway, facing the garden of the bishop’s palace.

Though the palace has seen many changes, and is now largely modern, it still has portions of the stout walling and vaulted basement of Losinga’s foundation. The picturesque ruin in the garden is supposed to be part of the entrance to a medieval hall 120 feet long. The private chapel comes from the time of Charles the Second. The approach to the palace from St Martin’s Plain is by a two-storeyed gatehouse of about 1430, imposing with a big archway and a smaller archway at its side, a traceried frieze with shields and crowns, and a seated figure in a niche between the windows. It has battlements and vaulting, and its beautiful carved doors were added later in Stuart days.

Green lawns and many old houses cluster about the cathedral. At the south-east corner of the Upper Close is the Audit Room, with 15th-century windows in flint walls, and facing it is a fine old house with Dutch gables. A little road close by leads to Pull’s Ferry, where the river laps the picturesque old Watergate of the precincts. It was once at the mouth of a canal, which was cut to bring the stone for the cathedral almost to its doors. From the Ferry the cathedral is a charming picture, rising behind the clustering houses with roofs of rich pantiles peeping from among trees. From what is curiously called Tombland (not from any association with tombs but from Toomland, or waste land), lovely in spring with the limes in new leaf, two beautiful gateways lead into the Upper Close. St Ethelbert’s Gate was built by the city as payment of a fine for their riot with the monks in 1272, when they set fire to the cathedral. Over its vaulted archway is a chapel; over the chapel is a gabled compartment of rich flush-work in flint and stone.

The lofty arch of the Erpingham Gate, set in flint walls, has old panelled doors, and through them is the lovely view of the cathedral’s west front. The gate was built about 1420 by Sir Thomas Erpingham, whose kneeling figure, with his sword slanting at his side, is in the gable. In the rich mouldings of the arch are bands of foliage canopies sheltering 24 saints, and at the top are two angels by a shield with the Five Wounds. The spandrels are delicately carved. The turrets at each side are panelled with shields of Sir Thomas and his two wives; and at the top of each turret sits an ecclesiastic. The word Yenk, for Think, is repeated on the gateway, which some say Sir Thomas built as a penance for his sympathy with the Lollards. It is more likely that he erected it as a thankoffering for coming safely through the Battle of Agincourt, where he led the English archers.

At one end of the Close is a bronze statue of Wellington with his sword; at the other Nelson stands with his telescope, sculptured in marble, looking to his old grammar school just within the Erpingham Gate. Founded as a chapel in 1316, and converted to a school by Edward the Sixth, the fine little building is now the school chapel, keeping its old trussed roof, the gallery with balusters, and the big windows adorned with an array of men and women with golden hair, some hooded, some wimpled, some in netted headdress. The old vaulted crypt (once a charnel house) is now the school’s library, and in it are several old chairs and a quaint list of school regulations. Quaint, too, is the porch added in the 15th century; at the top of its steps we can touch the bosses of its vaulted roof, and from it another flight of steps leads to the splendid old door of the chapel, charming with its old hinges of scrolls and leaves and its rich boss with an iron ring. George Borrow came to this school, and that Lord Justice Coke who hounded Raleigh to his doom.

No other great English church has its Norman ground plan so little changed as Norwich Cathedral. Not only does the original plan remain, but most of the Norman work stands. The great nave and transepts remain, with the Norman lantern of the central tower, and the choir and the presbytery preserve the Norman plan with the projecting eastern chapels which are so attractive outside and in. The central chapel of these three, pulled down in Elizabethan days, has now been rebuilt in memory of the men who fell in the Great War, so that the exterior of the cathedral is as it was, a captivating spectacle with the roofs of these low chapels round the apse, the choir behind them rising twice as high, and the beautiful tower soaring like an eagle into the heavens. The tower is a mass of carving, giving it a striking air of grace which is emphasised by the lightness of the spire. The shafted buttresses at the corners, like fluted pillars, end in spire-like pinnacles above the medieval battlements, and the four faces of the tower have rows of slender arches and windows (probably 100 in all), delicate tracery of ring and diamond pattern, and two tiers of great circles. All this work is Norman, but the elegant spire, pierced with dainty windows, decorated with buds or leaves running from top to bottom at its six angles, and crowned with a cross, is 15th century.

The west front, plain compared with many of our cathedrals, has a dignified simplicity with a great window filling the space above the western doorway; it is Norman and medieval. The central doorway, which has been refashioned since Norman days, has still the old traceried door swinging on its hinges, and inside the original Norman arch remains. The aisle fronts are as the Normans left them, each with doorways of three orders, arcading and windows above them, and twin towers with turrets like pepper-pots to match the great gable. The cathedral has a length of 461 feet, made into a simple cross by the great transept, which is 178 feet from end to end.

But, majestic as is the cathedral without, we are spellbound, as we enter the nave from the west end, by the stately grandeur into which this gleaming stone is wrought. The walls rise in three tiers of Norman arcading; the massive strength of the great piers is relieved by their slender shafts, from some of which grows Bishop Lyhart’s exquisite vault, enriched with 329 wonderful bosses shining with colour and gold. The arches of the triforium are framed with zigzag, and those below with other ornament. Norwich is unique in having a triforium almost as lofty as its main arcading. Breaking into the uniformity of the main arches are two enormous round pillars with spiral carving, and two four-centred arches on the south side which Bishop Nykke set up for his chapel. It is an unforgettable scene. When the sun is shining through the windows the triple-arched clerestory is a golden passage, reflecting its light on the vaulting and showing up the sculpture of the bosses, which are only part of over 1200 in the cathedral and the cloister, an amazing collection unrivalled in the land, containing thousands of sculptured figures. These in the nave are arranged in groups, telling the chief stories of the Bible from Creation to the Last Judgement. Look up, they seem to say, and see written above you the history of the revelation of God to Man.

Seventy feet above the floor, this roof is teeming with life; it has hundreds of figures in animated groups, people and animals carved with directness and vigour. The whole work shows a fine sense of decoration, and remarkable inventiveness. We will run through the 14 bays of the nave and pick out from the bosses on the roof those that have most significance or beauty, going east to west.

In the first bay a human face encircled by golden rays signifies the Creation of Life like a fancy of William Blake, and the Almighty is raising a hand in benediction. Then comes the Creation of Adam, Eve with an apple in each hand, the coming of fishes and birds (the eagle with beak and claws of gold), and the death of Cain. The second bay has the story of Noah and the Ark with Noah’s wife looking out from the windows. The Tower of Babel opens the story of the third bay which continues with the tale of Abraham, Isaac, Esau, and Jacob. We see Rebekah at the well, a most graceful figure, Jacob deceiving his father, and Esau calling for the blessing his brother has stolen. In the fourth bay the story of Jacob continues and we see him wrestling with the angel, and meeting Rachel; a very curious boss is Jacob’s ladder with angels ascending, but the work is not so fine as that of the flocks of sheep and goats. The fifth bay shows us Joseph and his brethren; we see Jacob, with a turban of gold on his head, sending out his son, his brothers stripping him of his coat of many colours (though here it is gold), the merchantmen carrying him to Egypt, and the strange adventures which brought him to power. The sixth bay continues Joseph’s story, showing him standing amid sheaves of corn with his brethren, and in this bay we see the Birth of Moses, his rise to manhood, the burning bush, the overthrow of Pharaoh’s host in the Red Sea; and we come to the life of Samson who is rending a lion. In the seventh bay Samson is carrying off the Gates of Gaza, and is seen again losing his power by surrendering to Delilah, who shears his locks and binds him. David succeeds him, and we see him aiming his sling at Goliath and trying on Saul’s armour; it is a very graphic boss which shows us David’s stone buried in the giant’s forehead. We see David crowned in the biggest boss of this bay, and Solomon following him in all his glory, bearing the Temple in one hand.

The eighth bay brings us to the end of the old and the beginning of the new, for Gabriel is bringing the good news to the Madonna, whose hair falls over her shoulders. The Holy Child lies in the manger, the ox and ass bow their heads, the Wise Men bring their offerings, the Shepherds come, Herod’s order goes out for the Massacre of the Innocents. In the ninth bay we see Mary escaping with the Child to Egypt, and the sculptures pass on to show us Christ growing up, with the doctors in the Temple, performing miracles, sitting at table with Mary and Joseph, baptised in Jordan, and tempted in the Wilderness. We come to the supper in Bethany after the Raising of Lazarus, and the tenth bay brings us to the Last Supper followed by the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. We can pick out most of the disciples at the table; John is leaning forward with the Master’s arm resting on his shoulder. In the eleventh bay the hour draws near to Calvary and we see Our Lord in Gethsemane, the Betrayal before Pilate (in which Pilate’s wife whispers into his ear). In the twelfth bay the sculptors approach the height of their power and the Crucifixion is in the midst, soldiers crowd the bay, but the lower half is filled with the dawning light of the Redemption. We see the Entombment and the Resurrection, and finally, in the thirteenth bay, the Ascension. The next and last bay shows the Judgment, with angels sounding the summons to the dead, the evil ones being thrown down, the righteous ones rising with the angels; and last of all we see the very modest boss with the portrait of good Bishop Lyhart who built this noble roof 500 years ago.

The bays forming the choir are cut off from the rest of the nave by Bishop Lyhart’s stone screen, of which the lower part is original. In the mouldings of its doorway are delicate canopies, and in the Spandrels are the bishop’s shield and the hart. A blue stone under the screen marks his grave. A piscina at the side of the doorway marks the site of the altar of a vanished chapel dedicated to St William of Norwich, the boy supposed to have been martyred by the Jews. Over the screen is the organ, beyond which we see the arches of the tower on incredibly tall pillars and the windows of the Norman apse shining like a jewelled mosaic.

The bosses of the vaulting in the transepts show the Nativity and the early life of Christ, but the work here is not so versatile as in the nave, and the same subject is often repeated. Two unusual pictures are the death of Herod and angels receiving the Innocents. In the profusion of star-like bosses adorning the lovely vault of the presbytery are the gold wells of Bishop Goldwell who gave it. Even higher than the roof of the nave this roof grows from finials of the smaller arches between the great ones framing the windows of the clerestory. The Norman arches of the triforium continue towards the presbytery, but the main arcade of the north and south sides is believed to have been altered by Bishop Goldwell. Their four-centred arches have traceried roofs; between the bays are canopied niches; and under the triforium is handsome cresting.

In the arches dividing the aisles from the transepts are stone screens. An old one with beautiful tracery, leading to the south aisle of the vaulted ambulatory, has been immortalised by John Sell Cotman, the water-colourist of the Norwich School, and was the gift of Robert Catton, the last prior but one of the monastery. His initials are on the lock of its old door, through which we come to the 14th-century Bauchun chapel, which has a fine original window and a canopied niche, and many bosses in the 15th-century roof telling the story of the life and death of the Madonna. We see her in a long cloak, surrounded by rays of gilded light, and again hearing the message of Gabriel and kneeling to receive her crown.

We next pass into Bishop Losinga’s little Norman chapel of St Luke, curiously rounded in shape, as is its companion Jesus Chapel on the north side of the processional path. Both have arcaded walls and vaulted roofs. St Luke’s Chapel has windows made new in Norman style, but it still has some original painting. It is now the parish church of St Mary-in-the-Marsh, in place of an old church on the south side of the Close which was destroyed 400 years ago, and its sadly battered old font stands near the entrance to the chapel, richly carved on the bowl with the Seven Sacraments, angels under the bowl, canopied figures round the stem, and headless figures and birds round the base.

There is a lovely view from this chapel of the apse end of the presbytery, and of the two 700-year-old arches in the vanished lady chapel. They are exquisite with their clustered shafts, ornament-like chains of flowers, and quatrefoils between the two arches. The ashes of Dean Beeching lie opposite this lovely entrance, and it is fitting that it should be so, for it was his wish that these arches should be opened out again and a new chapel built. Dean Beeching is remembered as a poet of no mean order, and it is to be hoped that every English boy knows his Boy’s Prayer. Through these two arches we come to the cathedral’s biggest chapel, fragrant with the memory of those who gave their lives in the Great War. Here is the Book of Remembrance with over 15,000 names, and with the names of the women is that of Edith Cavell, who sleeps outside the wall on what is called Life’s Green.

Dedicated to the Holy Martyrs of Losinga’s day, the Jesus Chapel has been much restored, and its walls are painted in the old style. Here the body of St William of Norwich is said to have been buried for a time. Here, too, is an old altar stone (marked with five crosses) beneath which relics were kept; and also in this chapel is the only brass left in the cathedral, a Latin inscription to Randolph Pulverton, master of the charnel house in the 15th century. Near Jesus Chapel is another of the cathedral’s rarities, a curious low archway built across the aisle like a bridge, on the top of which, reached by a spiral stairway, the relics of saints were once displayed. In the painted vault above the bridge are 12 saints grouped round Our Lord in Majesty; the faded paintings on the arch west of the bridge are apparently the Disciples. A round chapel east of the transept has been restored in memory of Archdeacon Westcott, and is entered by an oak screen.

Rarest of all the possessions here are the remains of the ancient bishop’s throne, now under the central arch of the apse behind the high altar, at the head of a flight of stairs. It has been restored in our time, and what is left of the old throne is believed to be part of one built by Losinga on his return from Rome. An oak seat has been placed on the original stone ledge. By the simple altar on fluted pillars are four silver candlesticks richly worked, which, with an almsdish, were given to the cathedral in 1665 to replace those stolen during the Civil War. The altar rails are tiny marble pillars, with a top rail of interlacing bronze on enamel. By them is a rare brass lectern 500 years old with its original pelican, and three modern figures round the stem representing the three orders of the ministry.

The cathedral has a noble array of canopied oak stalls, made by craftsmen who would hear the bells ringing for Agincourt. They are wonderful in the delicacy and infinite variety of their rich carving. The canopies have leafy arches, sometimes carved with eagles, and the tracery of the panels beneath them is tipped with leaves and flowers, dogs curled up asleep, pelicans, faces of men, and a quaint company of girls with expressive faces. The return stalls have exquisite vaulting. On the arm-rests are birds, grotesques, a king, and odd-looking men. The misereres are captivating. Much of the cathedral’s rich store of carving is in the roofs for all to see, but here in woodwork superb craftsmanship lies hidden. There are animals fighting, dragons, monks, a squirrel eating nuts, a knight in armour, a man forcing open a 1ion’s jaws, a monkey riding a dog, a mermaid and dragons, a man on a pig’s back. A monk is distributing bread to boys whose books are open on the table. An old woman with distaff and spindle chases a fox which is rushing off with a chicken, and a pig behind her is drinking out of a three-legged pot. Notable among the rest are the carvings of a woman reading, a domestic scene, and a bird’s-eye view of a shepherd with his flock.

On the Corporation seats under the tower are 22 needlework tapestry cushions presented to the cathedral in 1621 by Thomas Baret, mayor. There were 24, but one is in the Castle Museum, and the other was presented in 1904 to Norwich in Connecticut. These cushions have the arms of Norwich, the castle over the lion with a flowered border worked in red and green, and are still in good condition. At the ends of these seats are the oak pulpit and the bishop’s throne, both modern and well worthy of their place, one a tribute to Bishop Pelham, the other to Dean Goulburn. Round the pulpit are eight saints in niches adorned with angels and foliage, and beautiful arcading under a border of vine and grapes almost hides the fine pedestal, which grows from the roots of a vine and is entwined with its leaves. An angel stands at the foot of the arcaded stairway. Fashioned like a tower and spire, the bishop’s throne is a wonderful mass of carving from floor to finial, with faces peeping everywhere out of the delicate tracery, angels on the arm-rests, and under canopies at each side figures of Bishop Losinga and Bishop Pelham. The old bishop’s throne is now in the Bauchun chapel.

The two bishops’ thrones have a cardinal’s throne to keep them company, for the dean’s seat in the nave, near the handsome stone pulpit, is believed to have been the official seat of the Emperor Maximilian over 400 years ago, and is a quaint chair of wood marvellously inlaid with ivory, the back having star pattern and a coloured medallion of a man in a cardinal’s hat, set in a frame of delicate ivory filigree.

But the cathedral has no greater treasure than the rare painting on wood now in the south aisle of the ambulatory. Originally a reredos in the Jesus Chapel, it escaped destruction by a miracle in the Civil War. It was stolen from the cathedral and turned upside down to serve as a table till Professor Willis discovered its secret in the middle of last century. Its five panels show the Scourging, the Bearing of the Cross, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. The colour is rich and most of the figures are in fine robes. It is believed to be the work of Thomas de Okell, Mayor of Norwich who painted the wonderful Wilton Diptych, one of the most exquisite small possessions of the National Gallery. Both Okell and his son were artists, and it is known that they did painting for Norwich Cathedral. The oak leaves of the background of the Resurrection scene are thought to be a rebus of their name. The arms of Henry Spencer, the fighting bishop, are also on the picture. The Wilton Diptych belonged to a Spencer family related to the bishop, and it is likely that the bishop commissioned Okell, the chief East Anglian painter of those times, to paint the Wilton Diptych in 1377 to commemorate the accession of Richard the Second, and the altarpiece five years later to commemorate the suppression of the peasants. Most realistic is the Resurrection scene, where the soldiers look sound asleep and might well have been painted from living people; the figure of Christ is impressive and dignified. In the Crucifixion St John holds the fainting Madonna, who wears a dress of red and gold and a blue-green cloak. There is much expression in the faces, and the elaborate background is of vine leaves. The face of Christ has evidently been repainted in the panel of the Scourging; the man with the three-thonged whip has a fearful look.

There are many relics for us to see in the ambulatory. Three carved and painted bosses are very striking, one showing three people lamenting over a king who lies in a bed with a golden coverlet. Here is the big Bible, bound in red morocco and embossed with gold ornaments, on which Queen Victoria signed her coronation oath; a 13th century-gold ring, a medieval signet ring cut with the scene of a duck holding a sprig, and the carved oak head of Bishop Lyhart’s pastoral staff. With the parchments of grants and charters with seals are a grant by Losinga and a grant by Hugh Bigod, who succeeded William Bigod as constable of the castle when William was drowned with Prince Henry in the White Ship. The 14th-century Domesday Book of the diocese is a copy of an older one, and the beautiful writing is probably that of Richard Middleton, sacrist, who gave the book to the Norwich monastery.

Two little Jacobean men of painted wood, with striped trousers, are holding up swords to hit a bell; they once belonged to an old clock, and are known as quarter-jacks or jacks of the clock. Now they stand below the modern clock in the south transept. One of four old chests is 16th century and foreign; inside the lid are pictures in a sort of poker-work showing the Last Days in Jerusalem. Two tattered flags hanging in the choir have a thrilling story; they belonged to one of the original battalions of the Norfolk Regiment, which was on its way to India during the Mutiny when the transport caught fire a thousand miles from shore. At the height of the fire two of the men rescued these colours at the peril of their lives.

In the cathedral museum are some Jacobean helmets, an old flint gun about six feet long, and a watchman’s box with folding doors. In the muniments room is what is probably the finest collection in existence of 1500 rolls of the Obedientiars (the twelve assistants of the prior who were at the heads of the various departments), about 2000 manor and account rolls, and many other documents, with old seals. They are in excellent condition; no other cathedral has so many dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. If put together, the rolls of the Obedientiars would make about a mile and a half of parchment. They are from one to ten feet long.

In the old glass we see a beautiful Madonna in golden rays, a smaller Madonna, a saint in a roundel, heraldic shields, and foreign roundels. The painted glass of the great west window shows the Old and New Testament story. Burne-Jones glass in the other transept shows three warrior saints on a heavy background of trees and mountains. A window to Dean Lefroy shows Paul on Mars Hill.

Many of the bishops who sleep in their cathedral have nothing to mark their resting-place; some have simple stones. Bishop Goldwell lies in his elaborate chantry in the presbytery he transformed. His is the only known monument in England that has survived the Reformation with a bishop wearing the processional cope over the vestments. His lifesize figure lies with the feet on a crouching lion. On his broken hands are jewelled gloves. This much-travelled bishop had been secretary of State to Edward the Fourth and ambassador at Rome. His features are defaced, but his robed figure is considered one of the finest of the kind in England.

In the next bay (seen from the ambulatory) are the remains of Bishop Wakering’s tomb, with ten figures on pedestals. He was a persecutor of the Lollards, and many of them were martyred in his time. On a pillar here is a monument with the coloured portrait of Bishop Overall of 1619; he has a black cap on his white hair, his ruff gives him dignity, and he has a keenly intelligent face. He was known as the best ecclesiastical scholar in the English nation, and Sir Thomas Browne tells us that he was highly reverenced. The famous Norwich doctor also tells us that Sir Thomas Erpingham and his two wives, both named Joan, are buried next to Queen Elizabeth’s seat. When Elizabeth visited Norwich a magnificent throne was prepared for her on the north side of the high altar, facing the resting-place of her great-grandfather, Sir William Boleyn, on the other side of the presbytery. Around her the walls were decorated, as they are now, with the arms of her ancestors. As we look at the place where Sir Thomas Erpingham lies we may recall the words of Shakespeare, who makes the king wish Sir Thomas had a good soft pillow for that good white head instead of the churlish turf of France, whereupon Sir Thomas answers him:

Not so, my liege, this lodging likes me better,
Since I may say, Now lie I like a king.


The fighting Bishop Spencer is buried close to the founder in the middle of the presbytery. He died six years after Chaucer. Bishop Corbet, poet and wit, son of a Surrey gardener who became chaplain to James the First, is also buried in the presbytery. There is an 18th-century monument on a pillar to Bishop Horne, whose inscription tells us that he had depth of learning, brightness of imagination, and sweetness of temper. Two other bishops here should be remembered for the courage of their opinions: William de Turbe, who was the only bishop to take the part of Becket against Henry, and William Lloyd, who ruled the see of Norwich 500 years later. If his letter had not been delayed in the post there would have been eight instead of seven bishops at the famous trial for sedition. As they did not hear from him whether he wished to sign the petition or not, the Seven Bishops took action without him.

One of the last works of Chantrey is in the south transept, the monument to Bishop Bathurst, who was in his day the only Liberal bishop in the House of Lords; he wears his robes and a short wig, and sits with folded hands in deep contemplation. Chancellor Spencer’s 16th-century tomb, on which tenants long ago paid their rents, is under one of the arches of the nave, and in the next bays are the tombs of Bishop Parkhurst, a leading spirit of the Reformation, who fled to Zurich from Mary Tudor’s Terror; and Bishop Nykke, who for conspiring with the Pope against Henry the Eighth, was imprisoned and fined a thousand marks. Opposite, under an arch of the north arcade, is the neat tomb of Sir John Hobart, Attorney-General in Tudor days and friend of one of the writers of the Paston Letters. The heraldry on the tomb was broken during the Civil War, when the cathedral was filled with musketeers. Under another arch here is the tomb of Sir Thomas Wyndham and his four wives. Sir Thomas was one of the counsellors of Henry the Seventh. A monument on a pillar near by has a headless figure playing a harp and an inscription to Osbert Parsley, a chorister, who sang on that great day when Elizabeth came in state and a concord of sweet sound was prepared for her. He was a composer too, so that his inscription is right in speaking of him as a man

Whose harmony survives his vital breath
Who here a singing man did spend his days,
Full fifty years in our church melody.

William Inglott, organist in the time of James the First, has a painted memorial on a pier of the south arcade, showing two figures by his tomb. Thomas Gooding’s stone memorial in the south aisle has a praying skeleton, and the words:

Thomas Gooding here do staye
Waiting for God’s Judgment Day.

One of three fine memorials is the brass portrait of George Pellew in his robes; he was dean for 37 years last century. Bishop Pelham, a lifelong friend of Cardinal Manning, is a white marble figure lying on a tomb adorned with mitre and shields. Charming is Violet Morgan’s marble figure, kneeling at prayer near Jesus Chapel, sculptured by Derwent Wood, RA. She died just out of her teens at the end of the Great War.

We now leave the cathedral and come into the cloisters. There are slight remains of some of the monastic buildings, and the cloister remains complete, the biggest monastic cloister in England, the only one with an upper storey, and second in beauty only to Gloucester’s, while outrivalling that in the wonder of its bosses. It is a lovely quadrangle, with walks 12 feet wide, and a garth 145 feet square.

The Norman cloister was largely destroyed by fire in the riot of 1272. No man who saw the beginning of the cloister we see could have seen its completion, for it was 130 years in building, having been begun in the last years of the 13th century, and finished in 1430. There are half a hundred bays with beautiful windows, and their tracery is glazed, showing the development of style as the work proceeded. The eastern walk was the first to be built. We come to it from the south aisle of the cathedral through a beautiful doorway of 1299, its pointed arch resting on seven slender shafts at each side. Across the mouldings of the arch is a splendid series of seven figures in relief under leafy arches, all in colour and gold.

As we stand on the seven steps leading from this Prior’s Doorway to the floor of the cloister, we gasp with amazement at the inspiring sight of the two walks in our view, the east and the north. They are like avenues of stone trees touched with bronze, russet, and gold, with clustered shafts for trunks, vaulting for overhanging boughs, and glorious coloured bosses hanging as if they might be fruit or flowers. By the Prior’s Doorway, with an arch which is one of the masterpieces of medieval art, are three big recesses which served as book cupboards. Beyond is the rich arch of a 14th-century doorway which led to the slype, and then come the three traceried bays which opened to the vanished chapter house. In the charming south-west corner of the cloister is the doorway which once led to the refectory that adjoined the south walk; and just within the west walk are the two beautiful bays where the monks washed their hands. The two tomb-like tables are richly carved on the front with entwining vines, and are hollowed on top for the water; the arches are carved with figures in roundels of tracery, and all of it shines with colour. In the back of each recess are three battered niches which have lost their old statues, but in two of them are now fine figures of George the Sixth and Queen Elizabeth, both wearing crowns and ermine robes. In niches close to them are small statues of George the Fifth and Queen Mary, finely sculptured by Gilbert Ledward. Very striking are two bosses here, showing Our Lord in Glory with the heavenly host, and a knight at the castle gate, a crowd standing in the battlements, and faces peeping from windows.

The cloistcr bosses, like those of the nave, are an unending delight. Those of the east walk illustrate the story of the Gospel and the Four Evangelists; those of the south and west walks have scenes from Revelation; and legendary subjects are treated in the north walk, on the wall of which is a great modern display of heraldry.

The Monk’s Door leads from the cathedral to the west walk, in which there is a doorway to the choir school. The upper storey of the cloistcr may have been built for the little studies where the monks did their literary work. One of the rooms has been made into the cathedral library, and here is a collection of rare old books and manuscripts. Among them is the Berners Book, printed on the Caxton press by Wynkyn de Worde, Caxton’s clever foreman. The smudgy pictures of heraldry are some of the first examples of colour printing. There is a 15th-century prayer-book, brilliantly illuminated. A few of the 7000 books have original wooden covers.

From the south-west of the cloister is a lovely view of the cathedral, beyond the green garth and the walks; but there is no more attractive near view of it than from Life’s Green, the secluded retreat round the east end, hemmed in by old houses and trees, where the birds are singing and the city is lost to sight. It may have been a graveyard for the monks; now it is the resting-place of Edith Cavell. A simple cross marks her grave, and a few words tell us that she gave her life for her country. She lies close to the chapel raised in memory of those who died for us in the Great War, in the shadow of impressive Norman walls with tiers of arches and windows. In this quiet place, to which her body was brought with the return of peace, the mind runs back to those days in the first year of the war, when she was nursing the wounded, Germans and Belgians, too, and when, driven by the sight of free men turned to slaves, she dared to risk her life by sheltering Belgians from the Army hacking its way through their country. Caught in an act of war, she was arrested and sentenced to death in spite of the protests of the ambassadors of neutral lands, and one autumn night in 1915 she was led into a garden and shot. The shot rang round the world and thrilled men’s hearts with pity, but her last words, which we read in this corner of Norwich, ring round the world still and thrill every Englishman with pride:

Standing as I do, in view of God and Eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough; I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone.

It was the supreme lesson of the war which was only then beginning and was to run for four long years, and it was spoken in that bitter hour by a daughter of Norwich in the hands of her country’s enemies and beyond all help. It is fitting that she should lie here in the serenity of Life’s Green, far from strife and bitterness, with the homage of her own people about her, and in the shadow of this incomparable citadel of our English spirit.

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