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To stand by the tomb of a great man, it has been said, is the next thing to seeing him. There is no English Cathedral that will not afford in this way such a series of historical lessons as we should seek for elsewhere in vain; and not one a careful study of which would not give a far clearer insight into the various changes and events of our history than is to be obtained from books alone. Instead, however, of examining each Cathedral singly and throughout, we propose at present to take the entire series, and, regarding them in chronological order, to see how admirably they exhibit and illustrate the history of architecture in England. The smallest parish church may, of course, contribute its share to this history ; but as a whole, it is best read in the Cathedrals, including, as they now do, some of the greater and more important monastic churches. It is a fact, also, as we shall by-and-bye see, that at least two of the changes of stylethe so-called Early English and the Perpendicular-seem to have begun in churches which belong to our series : the first at Lincoln; the second at Gloucester, afterwards one of Henry VIII.'s Cathedrals.
Of the period before the Conquest, there are few actual remains. In many instances, of course, the site of the existing cathedral is the same that was occupied by the Saxon structure ; and it is possible that some fragments of walls or of piers, though we suspect not many, may date from the early part of the eleventh century. The most important relics exist in the North. For although Canterbury impresses the imagination strongly, as the first great resting-place of the faith in England-embracing within her walls the actual ground covered by the lowly church first given by Ethelbert to Augustine—she can point to no such tangible witness of antiquity as the rude wall in the crypt of York Minster, which, if it is not, as it very well may be, a portion of the church erected by Edwin of Northumbria at the place of his baptism by Paulinus (A.D. 627), is at least not later than the time of Archbishop Albert, who came to the see in the year 767, and who is recorded by Alcuin as the builder of a 'most magnificent basilica' in his metropolitan city. On this relic, therefore, we gaze with veneration; but if we desire to be fairly carried back to those remote centuries, we must pass from York to the sister cathedral of Ripon, erected, not on the site of the famous monastery built by St. Wilfrid, but on that of a second church which there can be no doubt was also founded by him. Under the central tower of Ripon Minster, the construction of which it must have greatly influenced, is the remarkable crypt known as “St. Wilfrid's Needle,' a small subterranean chamber, the strong Roman character of which at once impresses the
antiquary. It is, in truth, a surviving example (and not a solitary one, since there is another crypt closely resembling this below the church of St. Andrew, at Hexham, also a recorded foundation of Wilfrid's) of that mode of building which Wilfrid is expressly stated to have brought from Rome; and as we pass through the dark, narrow passages that lead to it, and find ourselves at last within its rude walls, pierced by small niches, bearing the marks of more than a thousand years, we feel—so completely are we removed from all modern associations—almost brought face to face with that most memorable and energetic apostle' of the English church, by whose care the crypt was constructed in the latter half of the seventh century. Its original purpose seems little understood; but, more than any of the later and lighter crypts, it recalls the martyr's “confessio,' the type of which is to be sought in the Roman catacombs. It may have been used as a place of prayer and of penance; as the sepulchre, from which the host, the risen Lord, was brought up to the choir on Easter Day; or it may have served for the occasional exhibition of relics. But, in truth, it belongs to a period so remote, and suggests a condition so different from that even of the later middle age, that we can do little more than guess at its uses and meaning. *
The change which advancing years brought with them is at once evident in passing from this mysterious chamber to the crypt below the ancient choir of Worcester Cathedral, a work begun after the Conquest, in 1084, and completed in ten years, but which is associated with an earlier period, as having been constructed by Bishop Wulfstan, one of the few prelates of English race who retained their sees, to any effectual purpose, after the "alien King' had fairly grasped his new dominion. St. Wulfstan pulled down the Saxon Cathedral, and began to rebuild it on a much larger scale ; but to whatever extent the building may have advanced at his death, in 1095, the only portion of it which now exists is the crypt, in which a synod, gathering all the wisest men’ of the diocese, was held in 1092. Unlike the dark chamber of St. Wilfrid, Wulfstan's crypt, which is apsidal, occupying originally the whole space under the ancient choir, is in effect a subterranean church-a complex and beautiful temple, the aisles of which are marked off by rows of slender pillars, carrying semicircular arches. The intricacy and variety produced by these numerous pillars, with their plain, cushioned capitals, and by the intersecting arches, have reminded
* Two papers on this remarkable crypt, by Mr. J. R. Walbran, of Ripon, who was the first to point out its certain date, will be found in the Journal of the Archæological Institute.
more than one visitor of the great Moorish mosque at Cordovaa comparison which (although the mosque is now the cathedral) would, we suspect, have been little to the taste of good Bishop Wulfstan, or of the wise' abbots and priests who once assembled here in solemn synod.
Such a crypt as this at Worcester is characteristic of the increased stateliness of architecture which had passed across the channel before the Conquest, and had been patronised by the Confessor for his new church at Westminster. Besides Worcester, Norman crypts exist at Canterbury, Winchester, Gloucester, and Rochester; all, as Professor Willis has pointed out, founded before 1085, although in their present state they show marks of later work and additions. After the Norman period they were discontinued, the solitary exception being at Hereford Cathedral, where there is an Early English crypt under the beautiful Lady Chapel of the same date. The crypts had their separate chapels and altars like the churches above them; and in that of Canterbury was the famous shrine of Our Lady Undercroft,' described by Erasmus as so laden with treasure that it was a sight more than regal.' In the crypts also were places of concealment, where the great treasures of the church might be hidden in troubled times. Few large churches were without such hiding-places; often necessary when the building stood near the shore, within sight and reach of pirates, or in such of the Northern counties as were exposed to a foray of Scottish Borderers.
The troubles before and after the Conquest-ravages of Northmen, civil strife, and the plunder and havoc of the Conqueror's troops wherever they penetrated the country-laid more or less in ruin, not only the smaller churches on the manors of thegn and 'eorl,' but the cathedral churches themselves, which, as being the richest, were the most exposed to plunder. When Lanfranc came to his cathedral in the year 1070, he found it a desolate ruin. It had been completely burnt three years before; and the bulls and privileges of many a king and pope had perished with it. York Minster, with the great library collected by the incessant labour of Alcuin and Egbert, was destroyed by fire in 1069, during the attack on the city by the sons of Sweyn; and scarcely one of the English cathedrals was more fortunate. Although some years passed after the Conquest before the country was sufficiently settled to allow of much building, the first great work undertaken by the newly-appointed Norman prelates was the reconstruction, in most instances the entire rebuilding, of their cathedrals. Some of these, as we have before mentioned, were removed to entirely new sites, in obedience to a decree of the synod of London, in 1075. Others were rebuilt either on the old
site, or on ground closely adjoining. Lanfranc had set the example ; and the love of building, which was one of the marked characteristics of the Normans, together with a certain religious zeal which is hardly less conspicuous, led the new lords of England not only to follow in his lead in so far as the rebuilding of the cathedrals was concerned, but to cover the land with small churches. Many of these, rich with elaborate ornamentation, still remain; whilst of others the former existence is only indicated by a font or a fragment of carving: the building of them, however, in spite of trouble and turmoil, must have gone on almost uninterruptedly at least until the middle of the twelfth century. We can but guess at the Norman overlord' who raised the walls of such churches as Barfreston or Iffley. Of the rebuilders of our cathedrals, we can speak with more certainty; and in them we find ourselves confronted by some of the most able and powerful men of that stormy age, many of whom were as skilled in the use of sword and lance as in that of the mass-book.
Lanfranc's choir at Canterbury seems to have been intended as a temporary work, and was perhaps hastily completed. rate it was entirely pulled down by his successor, Anselm, who, with the aid of his Prior, Ernulph, reconstructed it with far greater magnificence. Ernulph was a great builder and a most skilful architect; and on his elevation to the see of Rochester, in 1115, he continued the rebuilding of that cathedral, which had been commenced by the more celebrated Gundulph. All whom we have so far named-Lanfranc, Anselm, Ernulph, and Gundulph-had been monks of Bec in Normandy, then not only one of the most remarkable seats of learning in Europe, but, as it would seem, an excellent school of architecture. Before he became bishop of Rochester, Ernulph had been Abbot of
Peterborough the Proud,' as the great monastery was called, the church of which is the existing cathedral; and there, as elsewhere, he set himself to build up the waste places.' Peterborough and its neighbour, Ely, the stronghold of the fens, had suffered greatly after the Norman Conquest
. Both monasteries had favoured Hereward, the half-mythical English hero; and both had felt the vengeance of the Conqueror when he at last (1071) scattered the company of dispossessed and broken Englishmen, who for many years had held their own at Ely, under the protection of the marshes. At Peterborough, Ernulph's work was followed up by the abbots, John of Seez, who began the choir of the existing church after a fire in 1116; Martin, again a monk of Bec; William ; and Benedict, the last of whom was Caur de Lion's Keeper of the Great Seal. It is their work on which we still look as we pass up the nave and into the choir of
Peterborough Cathedral. At Ely, the resting-place of St. Etheldreda, the first Norman abbot who succeeded to the real wealth of the Saxon convent was Simeon, a near relative of the Conqueror, who was eighty-eight at the time of his appointment, but who retained enough energy to set at once about the rebuilding of his monastic church on a different but not far distant site. How far the work was advanced at his death, in 1093, at the age of a hundred, we are not told. It was continued by his successor, Abbot Richard, a son of the powerful Earl of Clare; and the great nave, which we still admire, was not probably finished until at least the middle of the twelfth century. Long before that time (in 1109) the church had become the cathedral of a new diocese, taken from that of Lincoln.
Simeon, founder of the existing church of Ely, was the brother of Walkelin, Bishop of Winchester (1070-1097), who, during his episcopate, rebuilt his cathedral from the foundations. Of the manner in which he procured timber for his church the following story is told. The Conqueror had granted him as much wood from the forest of Hanepinges (Hempage Wood, on the old Alresford road) as his carpenters could take in four days and nights. But the Bishop,' says the old annalist, 'collected an innumerable troop of carpenters, and within the assigned time cut down the whole wood, and carried it off to Winchester. Presently after, the King, passing by Hanepinges, was truck with amazement, and cried out, “ Am I bewitched, or have I taken leave of my senses? Had I not once a most delectable wood in this spot?” But when he understood the truth, he was violently enraged. Then the Bishop put on a shabby vestment, and made his way to the King's feet, humbly begging to resign the episcopate, and merely requesting that he might retain his royal friendship and chaplaincy. And the King was appeased, only observing, “I was as much too liberal in my grant, as you were too greedy in availing yourself of it.” * The transept roofs of Winchester show to this day what Bishop Walkelin did with Hempage Wood. The transepts themselves and the crypt are of his time, and there are some points of resemblance between the work of Walkelin here and of Simeon at Ely, to which we shall by-and-bye recur.
The Norman cathedral of Old Sarum was the work of Bishops Herman and Osmund; the latter, who died in 1099, having been a powerful secular noble, created Earl of Dorset by the Conqueror, before he took on him the orders of the Church, and arranged that famous • Use of Sarum’ which prevailed through
* • Annales Eccles.' Winton. Ap. Wharton, . Anglia Sacra,' tom. i.