Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Second Candle

The highlight of today's spiritual journey was the visit to Salisbury Cathedral.  We traveled by BritRail across the countryside and checked into our rooms at Sarum College, an ecumenical theological college housed inside "The Close" ...the area around the Cathedral enclosed by a great stone wall.  The more prominent part of the college was built in 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren. However, the site at 19 The Close as place of theological education dates back to the 1220's when the Cathedral itself was built.  And we think we have historic building renovation challenges! 

The theme of renovation challenges reemerged throughout the day.  We toured the tower, at 404 feet, the largest spire in England, a miraculous construction added a century later that bowed out the large four pillars in the central cross section above the quire.  From the Inside the tower, we were led up 332 very narrow steep stairs to inspect the way the builders used the native english oak, chilmark stone and purbeck marble, to accomplish the architectural feat of successfully mounting a tower weighing 6,500 tons on the immense columns below.  Our guide pointed out centuries of renovation that have helped to maintain this tower that continues to sway up to 8 inches back and forth in the wind and despite settling into a 27 inch westerly lean has survived fire and storm for 8 centuries. 

At the top of the spire there is an ancient clock mechanism that controls the bells that toll out the quarter hours and hour.  Above the clock, we were led outside the spire to a balcony that is home to some nesting falcons and enjoyed a stunning view of the city of Salisbury and the countryside around.  I will be sending video of this part of the tour later. 

Later inside the Cathedral we visited the tombs where Edward Seymour and Lady Catherine Grey, sister to Lady Jane Grey, are buried as well as numerous Bishops and local notables.  To the left of the main altar is a medieval Madonna made of the same oak as the Cathedral that dates back to the time of the original construction.  Here I lit the second candle for you.  My prayer here was for the Bold Awakening construction and the challenges we face in renovating our own historic buildings ...  which now seem far less daunting in comparison.  I asked the Blessed Mother's protection of all architects, engineers, builders and craftsmen as well as those who help maintain historic structures built in honor of and service of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Concluding our tour we visited the Chapter House, so called because here each day a Chapter of the Bible was read aloud in prayer prior to the meeting of the governors who convened as equals in the site of God to decide on matters for the common good.  The governing body of the Cathedral came to be called the Chapter as a result.  Our own Dominican governance descends from this concept.   The Chapter House at the Salisbury Cathedral holds the finest of four surviving leafs of the Magna Carta, the great English document that lay out the rights and freedoms of ordinary people, upon which our own democratic principles were founded.   Photographs of this fragile ancient document were not allowed. 

We are a little off our itinerary due to rail delays and subsequent rerouting of our train...an adventure itself!  Tomorrow we will visit Windsor Castle.  We've been advised by the locals to take in Bath which they claim is not to be missed if we've come so close.    For now, after carrying our luggage across the countryside and climbing the 332 steps, a bath is indeed what we most desire!