Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another Cathedral

For someone who is not at all religious I seem to end up in a lot of churches and cathedrals on my travels. If there is some hidden significance in that I am not sure what it is.
Yup that makes me want to attend church

Here in Chester the Cathedral is a significant landmark, and it stands above the town center, visible from almost anywhere. After walking the City Walls, and visiting the Chester Rows (the downtown two storied shopping areas) the Cathedral was next on the list of things to see.

It is not hard to find or get to. Walk downtown and you arrive at the cathedral, like most cathedrals, it is pretty much in the center of the city. On first sight, this one looks like most other cathedrals, made of stone and partially covered with scaffolding for restoration. Entry to the cathedral is free, but once inside you are heavily encouraged to book the “Chester Cathedral Height” tour which takes you up the main tower of the cathedral.
Beautiful tiled floors

I started out by simply wandering through the vast open spaces inside the cathedral. Unlike some of the fancier cathedrals I saw in Europe, which are finished with plaster, paint and brightwork inside, this one is mostly unadorned stone, This makes it dark and the beautiful stained glass windows only allow so much light inside. Fortunately my camera does a great job in low light, and my pictures actually show more detail than you see in person. I love finding interesting details such as the Magistrates room, or the old doors and locks everywhere.

Amazing Wood Carvings
In the center of the cathedral is a beautiful separate area done in wood that was amazing. I am sure that this room has some special name and purpose, but I just enjoyed the amazing carved woodwork. The wooden seating surrounding the pulpit were all carved with dragons, birds, snakes and very odd people. Looking closely, some of these were a bit creepy and disturbing. A dragon eating a man’s head, birds fighting snakes, grotesque looking people. The religious significance escaped me, but the work involved drew me in. What was most appreciated about this area, was that although I was asked not to “touch”, the area was not roped off, and I was free to explore and examine the individual woodwork.

After exploring he main cathedral, we decided to pay for and take the Tower Tour. It is advertised as Climb 216 steps, 125 feet, through 1000 years of history to look out over two countries, and five counties. Although that is a good description, you also get a tour of the
Horsehair in the walls
bells and get the see the Pipe Organ from above. The Bell Tower was especially interesting. The bells have been moved to a modern building next door (the guide described it as “The Rocket Ship”), because the constant ringing of the massive bells was actually vibrating the masonry of the tower apart. To reinforce the stone, and solidify the masonry, horse hair was once added to the mortar, and as you climb the narrow circling stairs your hands brush this hair protruding from the walls. That could be a bit unsettling if you did not have the explanation. The now unused bell ringing area is now set up as a demonstration are to explain all about the bells.

I think that is Beeston Castle on the hill
Our tour guide was a friendly young girl who seemed to take pride in her job and her city. She was a wealth of information, and knew the answer to most questions from all three of her visiting tourists on the tour. Did you know that the Curfew bell was rung every evening warning any visitors (Meaning he Welsh) to leave the city or be shot. Apparently anyone conversing in Welsh was considered to be plotting revolt so was open to being shot on sight. My heritage is English and Irish . . . . wonder what they did to the Irish? 

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