Friday, March 6, 2009

Glastonbury and Wells

This week’s Thursday excursion took us to two very different places, Glastonbury, which traces its roots as a holy place back before the Saxons and before Christ, who in legend visited there, and Wells, England’s smallest city, a modest place with magnificent cathedral.

Glastonbury is a strange place. In legend it was the site of Camelot on the Isle of Avalon the home of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table. In reality it was the seat of a powerful Saxon warlord of the same name. It was also, however, an incredibly powerful medieval archdiocese, made so, in part, by the legend even then associated with it.

Its Abbey, destroyed by Henry VIII and then by the Puritans, stands today as awe-inspiring ruins. These images fail to convey the size and the grandeur of the building whose size rivalled Westminster. We were told by our guide, the education director of the organisation that today oversees the site, that the Abbey would have stood one-third taller than seen today.

Bathed in magical light, we begin our tour of Glastonbury.
This image barely begins to give some sense of the size of the abbey.

The Abbott's Kitchen, the only completely original and itact building on the site.Inside the kitchen, an interpreter garbed as a Benedictine monk, explains the benefits of monastic life in the late middle ages, shelter, medical care (such as it was), and food.
Andy Fleck, Barbara Zimbalist and Rickie Bolin listen to an account of 12th century monastic life.

Our intrepid, personal guide, Rosa, here after conferring with some Glastonbury sheep.
Neither Sharon or I thought our aging knees would appreciate the descent, so we did not go up to the famed Glastonbury Tor, seen here through the miracle of modern photography.

A farewell to Glastonbury, a cross between Santa Cruz and Arcata back home, blending new age with hippiness.
Entrance to the cathedral from the medieval town square.
Penniless Porch, the entry to the cathedral, from the town.
Wells Cathedral. What more can one say? It was a lovely, cold early spring day.

Our intrepid group, ready to troupe into Wells Cathedral for our guided tour. The tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and a fine teacher. I learned a lot. From left to right Max Moorman, Julian Quihuis, Megan Hart, Zac Wagner, Katie Holmes, Sharon Propas, Lauren Minkel, Jenene Castle, paul Howard.
Outside detail from the entrance.
First built in the late 12th century, this early English Gothic cathedral was added to over the next hundred years. By the 13th century, the weight of the new tower began to threaten the structure, so the unique scissors arch at the bottom of the image was added to stabilise.
Architectural details like this delight both eye and lens.
The magnificent 13th century window. Our guide explained that unlike so many this window survived the English reformation simply because it was out of reach of those who would have destroyed it.
The magnificent staircase leading from the cathedral to the Chapter House from where the cathedral was governed.

Looking backward at the entrance of the Cathedral Close.
The Cathedral Close where in early days the officials of the archdiocese would have lived. Today officials of the cathedral and the school share accommodations for living and work space in a stunningly beautiful atmosphere.

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