Winchester Cathedral

Evening all! Welcome to part two of my Winchester trip. This was the Sunday when we went to the cathedral. (And a great little bookshop where I got four books for a fiver)

Here you can see the lines laid out in the grass which show where the original Anglo-Saxon cathedral stood. The signs you can just about see (I was standing on my tiptoes but I’m very short so a few snuck in) said that the original building, now referred to as the Old Minister, was the most important royal church in Anglo-Saxon England. Many kings were buried in it. It was demolished in 1093.

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This, I was informed, is the oldest part of the current cathedral. Can I remember the date? No, I cannot, and Google is most unhelpful. Help?

This excellent webpage gives you much more information than I even understand about the architecture. I think I have finally grasped what a nave is, mind you.

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This at first just looks like a huge stained glass window. Many colours, beautiful. However, I discovered there was more to it than that! The window was smashed by Oliver Cromwell’s forces, and the pieces were reassembled in a pretty hazard manner. There are areas where it looks like they’ve gone “I found some pieces that go together!”, but on the whole the placement appears random. Still doesn’t stop it from being beautiful.

Text reads: The font is used in Baptism, by which sacrament a person becomes a member of the Church. This mid-century font of black Tournai marble is decorated with carvings showing the miracles of St Nicholas, patron saint of children.

I’m a great sucker for anything earlier than 13th century, you might know that by now. I’m also a sucker for historical international trade, and a few seconds googling explains that this font is made from a type of black limestone found in the Belgian town of Tournai. There are a large number of these fonts in mainland Europe, and seven of them in England. According to Wikipedia, the fonts were brought by escorted caravan either across the land to the Channel, or on the exceedingly long river Scheldt, which passes through France, Belgium and a corner of the Netherlands.

So this font is actually Belgian! I just find that interesting, don’t mind me.

Ooooh these were my FAVOURITE things in the whole cathedral. THE GRAFFITI.

DATED GRAFFITI.

These were all over every single pillar we walked past. These were some of the earliest, but also some of the more interesting. Mainly because they seemed to demonstrate a distinct decline in the ability to carve over the years. I’m not even just talking about the frankly stunning bit of writing in the top right, but just the difference in depth and clarity between Thomas in 1629 and H. M. in 1931. Most of the graffiti was from the 17th century, and I wondered why that was. Thomas’ graffiti was in the year that Charles dissolved Parliament and told them to bugger off for eleven years. Still, could the large amount of 17th century carving here be at all related to Cromwell’s soldiers’ presence there? Just curious. Too many questions.

I did laugh, though. The latest we were finding graffiti was from roughly 1930 – one or two in 1960s. We hypothesised that perhaps people had stopped carrying pen knives around, or other potential carving implements. Then we saw one from 2013.

For some unknown reason, some lapse into irrationality,  I did not take a picture of it.

All of these previous bits of graffiti had solidity. Even the ones which were rubbed illegible you could tell had been deeply cut originally.

This one? Well, imagine any of the thousands of times in your life you will probably have seen words scratched into a table, desk, or bench. Chicken scratch. I  giggled at the inadequacy, I really did. Hint, if you want to make a lasting mark, you’ve got to put effort into it.

Seriously, though. I could have spent all day just looking at all the graffiti. From a names perspective as well. Maybe I’ll go back and do that some day.

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Apparently I didn’t take a photo of the plaque describing this. I remember that it is a rare type of painting (fresco?), and that it is really really old (12th century?). Excuse me while I fill this alarming gap.

Google is slightly failing me on the method. Anyway, so these are in what looks to the uneducated like me to be a little side room but is called the Holy Sepulchre Chapel. It was decorated with 13th century paintings, but in 1963 it was discovered that underneath these paintings were even older paintings. You can see Jesus up the top, and the picture on the wall underneath apparently depicts him being taken off the cross and put in his tomb. According to this walking tour of Jews in Winchester, there are several Jews visible in these paintings, identifiable by the hats and badges they were forced to wear.

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This was the crypt! It seemed like you could only get in on a Crypt Tour, but, it was open … so we just … went downstairs. This is one of the oldest parts of the building (apart from that sculpture), dating from Norman times, and it gets flooded. Seems an issue to have built a cathedral on a floodplain but hey, no-one ever said humanity makes good decisions.

These were creepy! Really, really cool, but somehow creepy in a way that gravestones and plaques in the floors aren’t. In the same kind of way that I find cremation urns creepy. It’s an object full of a dead person. Eeurgh.

But they were really old so my love of old things won out.

Text says: These mainly 13th century tiles are the largest and oldest area of tiling to survive in England. The tiles are very fragile and visitors are asked to walk on them with care.

WHY ARE WE STILL ALOWED TO WALK ON THEM??? Even with the best will in the world people’s feet will be wearing them down, and you just know some awful people will read that sign and immediately jump as hard as they can. Do not trust the public with old stuff! We break it!

That aside, they looked fantastic and it was a spine-tingling moment to realise that I’m walking on handiwork which is over 700 years old.

And just to finish off, officially my favourite accommodation I’ve ever seen. The text reads:

“Tactile model of Winchester Cathedral is for the use of visitors with impaired vision which enables them to feel the profile of the building. Further information on this or any of facilities for people with disabilities are available from a Guide, a (can’t tell, looks like Vitger?) or at the Entrance Desk.”

I just thought that was an excellent idea. Here’s the shape of the building you’re walking through. Not being visually impaired myself (well, it’s corrected with glasses) I don’t know how effective it is, though. I wonder how I could find out.


Well, thanks for reading about my Winchester trip! Hope you enjoyed yourself – I certainly did! See you soon.

Winchester Cathedral

Those Vikings Got Around

Evening all! For the last 5 days of this daily posting challenge (check out my intro post if you’ve come in late and don’t know why I’m doing this) I’ll be giving you quick summaries of some of the geographic exploits of the Vikings.

Basically, they went way, way further afield than you probably realise.

However, for today we’ll start at home, in Britain. England, to be even more precise. Here’s a map of England in 878, so that if you wish you can stop reading after looking at the picture and still know more than you did before.

England 878

By Hel-hama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

And here’s an excellent explanation of what “the Vikings” actually were.

The first recorded Viking raid was in 789, down in the south-west in Wessex, and the more famous “first” one was in 793 on a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne. That island was near Bamburgh on the north-east coast, so if you take a look at the map for a second you can already see that these invaders were happy travelling all around our  island. They also started raiding Ireland in the 9th century.

(I could just as well have titled this series of posts: Have Boats, Will Raid because the Vikings did pretty much go anywhere with a river. But I digress.)

The Vikings had a good time raiding our rich, unprotected monasteries, but then obviously took home news about the new lands. Worth settling, they decided, rather than just periodic … harvesting. So they came back with armies. If you’ve tuned in to The Last Kingdom on the BBC at all, or read the book it’s based on, you’ll have a vague fuzzy picture of the sort of warfare which ensued for the best part of 30 years, until King Alfred the Great and the Viking leader Guthrum formally arranged a border between their controlled areas of England.

The Vikings settled in. You’ve seen me talk about some of the evidence for that in place-names. They also settled in Orkney and other Scottish islands, though in a beautiful role reversal may have been afraid of the raiding mainland Scots! As previously mentioned they got to Ireland pretty quickly, and set up bases there too. Dublin was quite the slave trade hub and there are many Scandinavian place-names in Ireland. Trade went on between Dublin, Liverpool and Bristol.

I didn’t know this until just now, although really it’s common sense since they went everywhere else, but they even made an impact on Wales, probably settling on Anglesey (which is an entirely Scandinavian name). Look at these cool Welsh names for Vikings!

  • gentiles nigri (the black heathen)
  • y llu du (the black host)
  • kenhedloedd duon (the black nations)
  • y Normanyeit duon (black Normans)
  • dub gint (black heathen, from Irish dubh Gennti)
  • Brithwyr du (black Brithwyr)
  • dieifyl du (black devils)
  • Gentiles “gentiles”
  • Paganaid “pagans”
  • Y Cenhedloedd (the nations)
  • Nordmani (northmen)
  • gwyr Dulyn (men from Dublin)
  • y genedyl (the nation)
  • y pobloedd (the peoples)
  • Gwyddyl (Irish, but referring in actuality to the Hiberno-Norse)
  • Daenysseit (Danes)
  • gwyr Denmarc (men of Denmark)
  • Lochlannaigh or Llychynwyr (men of “Lochlann” meaning Norway)
  • Llychlynwys (Scandinavians).

I am sleepy  and need to go to bed, so have some more maps.

Kingdom of Mann and the Isles-en

© Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

ire800

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlkik/ihm/ire800.htm

 

Those Vikings Got Around

Anglo-Saxons and the continent

As promised, here’s a quick skimming of the surprisingly international world of Anglo-Saxon trade.

To be fair, perhaps you, dear reader, are knowledgeable and are aware that trade and travel between countries, even distant ones, has happened ever since there were people who wanted things. Or perhaps you are logical and think, well, we might have been an island but we had boats. Excellent points.

Still, you might then be surprised to know how many people believe that nobody ever went anywhere “in medieval times” and that the Romans leaving killed off all contact with the continent.

I’m going to be broadening “trade” to mentioning gifts from abroad, and people travelling for non-commercial reasons.

So, let’s start off with something I have a picture of from my previous post. This is a quernstone.

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It’s just a grinding stone. It makes flour.

Another thing that people tend to think is that, ok, fine, goods from far away countries ended up in Britain, but only for the high status people, like the royal woman I talked about earlier. Nope.

These quernstones aren’t high status in and of themselves, and aren’t concentrated at high status settlements or houses, yet they were frequently imported from the Rhineland. Why? I don’t know. Was the stone quality better? I’ve read that they could actually be used as ballast on ships which carried light and expensive cargo, so that’s an interesting explanation for such a prosaic import.

If you look at this photo from my earlier post, you can get an idea of the varied trade routes of higher status items:

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Coins from far away can be found in Anglo-Saxon England. Sometimes these are found as part of a “hoard” or deposited stash, as you can read about in my Silverdale post, and it’s thought that the Arabic coins might have been valued as gifts or art rather than as currency. Gold Arabic coins may have arrived earlier; silver ones were largely brought in by the Vikings. In the 8th century the powerful Mercian king Offa had what looks like an imitation Arabic coin struck. It was gold, and one of the more amusing ways we can tell that it’s not actually Arabic is because a bit of the text is upside-down. There are many theories for why this was necessary – was it trade? Was it a gift? Was is part of a payment? Whyever it was (I’m claiming that as a word now) we can be confident that it demonstrated a good, if not perfect, knowledge of foreign currency on the part of the Mercian Anglo-Saxons.

We know about a lot of expensive imported goods because they were buried as “grave goods”. However we don’t often know how the objects ended up there. Were they obtained just for that purpose? Did their use or owner in life lead to their value in death? Were they tokens from family members? So many questions.

Other known trading areas: Aquitaine, Italy and Sicily – in general there was a good set of trade links to the northern Mediterranean.

Next up to discuss: travel. While the Anglo-Saxons didn’t do the whole invade anywhere with water thing like the Vikings, individuals travelled far afield and for many different reasons.

One of the slightly more unusual was fosterage. It wasn’t uncommon for the royal Anglo-Saxons to foster their counterparts’ children, and even internationally with the Scandinavian nobility. King Athelstan, for example, was foster-father to the future Duke of Brittany, Alan II (that name is hilarious, I don’t know why. Alan the second.). Alan grew up in England and may even have been born here. Aethelstan may possibly have also been foster-father to  a Norwegian prince but there is no contemporary evidence of it. He also used the sponsoring/fostering technique as a diplomatic tool to help cement relationships.

There were two things which drove the Anglo-Saxons furthest afield. Both, ah, quite different from each other.

First: slavery. Yes, the Anglo-Saxons had a thriving slave trade, as had the Romans, as probably had most civilisations with enough wealth. There was domestic slavery as well as farmland slavery.

They probably enslaved the Celts, the people who were in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons and who ended up clustering in modern Cumbria, Wales,  and Brittany, as well as remaining pretty strong in Ireland for a while. The word for Celt, wealh, came to mean “slave” as well, and I really doubt that sort of semantic slide happens by accident.

They enslaved other Anglo-Saxons too. However they were also enslaved themselves, with Anglo-Saxon slaves being found in northern France and Ghent. The city of Bristol was apparently a well-known slaving hub.

Time for mood whiplash: the other major movement factor was pilgrimage. As Christians, Anglo-Saxon pilgrims were known to make the trip to Rome, and even the  astoundingly long trip to Jerusalem. In 884, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, two pilgrims set off for India! It’s not too difficult to believe that the pilgrims would have picked up objects and coinage along the way. Certainly there were merchants along the routes! Offa (he of the golden coin) was sent an angry letter by a continental king telling him to please stop his merchants posing as pilgrims along the route to ambush unwary people.

I like to imagine that more than a few Middle Eastern people ended up in Britain during the Anglo-Saxon period. Maybe the Anglo-Saxons had a few Aramic-speaking traders. It’s all fun speculation. The world is a big place.


Thank you for reading! I hope you found some of this interesting! See you tomorrow!

Anglo-Saxons and the continent