Wednesday, 3 April 2013

In Which There is a Cathedral, An Abbey, and a Bogus Monk

I was able to take (last) Monday off work in order to spend a bit more time with Wendy, and we decided to visit Wells and Glastonbury, both of which are within fairly easy reach of here.

It was another bitterly cold day, and kept trying to snow on us.

Vicar's Close, Wells
We started with Wells, which happens to be my old home town, and which is a lovely little city. We started by looking at Vicar's Close, which lays claim to being the oldest planned, residential street in Europe. The houses were originally built in the 14th Century. Originally there were 44 houses, with a chapel and library at the end of the street (and a gate and walkway to the cathedral at the other) After the reformation, once priests were permitted to marry, many of the houses were combined to provide bigger living accommodation, so there are now 27. One of them is now a holiday home, so you can stay in the close if you wish.

It was pretty much deserted (except for a friendly Border Collie)
Wendy at Wells Cathedral

After the Close, we went to look around the cathedral itself. I always enjoy visiting it  regardless of whether you are religious, it is a stunning building, both inside and out. (incidentally, it doubled as the interior of Southwark Catherdral, in the Doctor Who episode 'The Lazarus Experiment')
Astronomical Clock

We went to see the clock perform - It is an astronomical clock, and has 4 horsemen who joust every quarter of an hour, above the clockface.

It was made in around 1392, making it the 2nd oldest clock in England, after the one at Salisbury.  (although the original mechanism is now in the Science Museum, having been replaced in the 17th Century. 

There's a second clock on the outside, but that is less impressive. (It has no jousting knights, for a start)

Lady Chapel ceiling

We then went up to the Chapter House, which is a gorgeous octagonal building. 

Chapter House
It's all white marble and arching roof (it was built in the early 14th Century, so I assume that originally some of this may have been painted or otherwise decorated), although if it was, there's now sign of it now. 

It also has (as we found to our relief!) fairly effective, (presumably Victorian), heating. The Bishop and chapter don't meet there regularly there any longer, although it is still used on special occasions.

After all this uplifting architecture we had a spot of lunch at the City Arms, (which used to be the city gaol) before heading to Glastonbury, where we started by calling in on Liz Williams and Trevor Jones at their shop,  Cat and Cauldron, before visiting the Abbey.
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey was the richest monastery in England when Domesday Book was written. In 1184, they had a fire, and then a few years later, they miraculously found the bones of King Arthur and Queen Guenevere were found there, which made them even more popular as a place of pilgrimage.. Which must have come in handy, for funding all the rebuilding.

Bogus monk at Glastonbury Abbey
There is also a legend that Joseph of Arimathea visited Glastonbury with the boy Jesus, and building the first church on England on the site.  Joseph apparently returned later, and buried the Holy Grail near the Tor.

The Abbey has a number of guides who dress up as different characters (real and otherwise) from the Abbey's history, and we joined a self-proclaimed 'bogus monk' for a walk around the abbey - I don't normally go for guided tours, but I did find this one entertaining, as he was so delightfully cynical, and tongue-in-cheek  about the abbey's history.

view down from the Tor
The Abbey was thoroughly dissolved under Henry VIII - it was at that time hugely wealthy (it owned a great deal of land, quite apart from the income from pilgrims) and the last Abbot was hung, drawn and quartered on Glastonbury Tor in 1539.

Ninja Wendy at Glastonbury Tor
After leaving the Abbey, we decided to go up the Tor. It was bitterly cold, and very windy, but (I think) worth it!

There were not many people on the Tor, (perhaps most had more sense than to expose themselves to the icy winds!) but it meant that we had the tower to ourselves for a little while.

It was a pretty long day, but enjoyable, despite my car misbehaving a little on the way home! And despite the weather's best efforts, it didn't manage to snow properly on us.

Monday was Wendy's last day with me - Tuesday morning saw me back at work, and Wendy on a train to Bath, and then London, but it was lovely to have a chance to hang out together. And maybe one day I shall make it to New Orleans!

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