Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 3 - Part 1 – Norwich lanes and Cathedral

Thursday 29 March 2012 - part 1

We were up and down a little overnight as our bodies adjust to the different time zone. None the less we both got a good amount of rest overall and are feeling revived and fresh  by the time we need to rise and shower etc for breakfast.  38 St Giles has a lovely cosy dining room downstairs. Our table is set with crisp white linen and a decorative black cut out placemat.  The crockery is an eclectic mix among which hubby has the most enormous coffee bowl.  There are two of the delectable morsels waiting and a small but ample jug of freshly squeezed orange juice. Before long our host welcomes us with an extensive menu to select from and takes an order for coffee for hubby. For Hubby the breakfast choice is not difficult. He goes for the full English and this duly arrives with a collection of bacon (beautifully smokey and tender), a couple of dainty pork sausages (delicately flavoured and not overspiced as so many are at home these days) a fried egg that has been cooked to perfection (you get to choose how the eggs are prepared) a generous portion of mushrooms and finally an artistic spray of baby tomatoes that appear to have been roasted.  Delicious.
I find the choice very difficult, but the lure of local bacon wins in the end and I go for the pancakes with bacon which was very nice.  We finish off with a small slice of what feels like home made bread.  This choice has been made with a purpose. We have noticed the array of condiments on one of the wide window sills. Among these is a very very pale coloured honey. Star flower. I have to try that surely.  The flavour of the star flower honey is very mild and subtle. It gives a effect of sweetness without the strong flavour of Australian honey. Interesting. I also sample some thick strawberry jam which is strongly flavoured and full of large pieces of fruit.  A very satisfying breakfast.
We pack up, settle our account and leave our bags while we head into Norwich to run some errands.  We head off past the songbird park and wander into the lanes. Though our walk is purposeful we enjoy some early morning buskers and the hustle and bustle of the town as businesses open and the ice cream stall sets up.  In no time we come to an ancient and impressive gateway. 
A spire is visible and it is clear we have managed to find our way to Norwich Cathedral.  This is enormously distracting and we cannot help but temporarily abandon our errand and wander through the gateway. This brings us into a pretty open area with a swathe of grass, spring flowers and statues of Wellington and Nelson softened by the soft architecture of weeping branches. 
A couple of pied wagtails are hopping about looking lovely.  We decide we just have to come back later on for a tour and bid the cathedral a temporary farewell.

Not ones to willingly backtrack we decide to go via a second, matching gateway and at least be exploring some new lanes as we try again to find Castle Mall and the phone retailers.  Hubby is distracted enjoying the ambience and slips behind. Looking at the photos now I’m not sure what exactly he was trying to capture. Here’s a comparison of which elements of the scene captured my attention compared to what hubby found entrancing.
Hubby's shot

My shot

As we wander around the lanes one of the striking features is pots of miniature daffodils in window boxes and small garden displays.  However the over all ambience and charm of the Lanes is impossible to capture in a photograph. We are enjoying ourselves immensely.

We wander deeper into the lanes past the lovely medieval flint church of St Peter Hungate.

Soon we come to Elm Hill and the Elm Hill Brasserie.  What the? No not heading in remotely the right direction. I guess at this point I should note that I seem to suffer from some sort of disorientation syndrome when I’m in the northern hemisphere.  I really struggle to get my bearings.  The symptoms are clear to see. However I can’t say its an affliction that I’m resenting today.  If it weren’t for my disability we wouldn’t have got to see so much of Norwich.  OK so clearly I’ve been heading in exactly the opposite direction to what I had intended.  That’s easier to fix. We do an about face and set off once more.  After a while I see an encouraging sign. O2.  So we keep on. Gentleman’s walk – yes still travelling well. We resist the temptation to wander off down towards the Castle Museum.. and we resist the lure of the colourful markets that peek at us down another enticing lane and finally BINGO. Castle Mall. But wait, there’s more! We have paused right outside a bag shop with lots of manbags hanging out on display.  Excellent. That’s our other errand for today.  We look them over. I’m checking to see which ones have multiple layers of zips to help foil pickpockets.  We head in to pay and hubby asks the young woman serving whether this really is a manbag.  He’s new to the whole manbag thing and not altogether comfortable with the concept.  Hubby accepts the answer that in truth they get both men and women buying this style of bag.  Hubby decides that this is my bag, he’s just carrying it for me. I don’t care who he thinks owns it. So long as he carries the thing I’m a happy little vegemite.
On to errand no 2. We wander in to the sterile modernity that is the modern shopping mall.  It’s not hard to find the phone outlets and I am impressed to see that they are located very close to one another However I’ve got less than zero interest in agonizing over which company has the best deal. I opt to go with T mobile.  As we enter the shop we are given a friendly greeting by the young men in attendance.  In response to question I reply that “we need a local phone. Just for phone calls. Nothing fancy.  Something cheap and nasty will do just fine”. This amuses one of the guys quite a lot it seems and the ice is broken. We exchange some friendly chat and both the guys are very helpful.  In no time at all we’re on our way with a phone service for a price consistent with discussion on Tripadvisor.  What a relief.
First things first. We call the car hire people and let them know a revised collection time.  This buys us time and it’s about 10 to 11.  The first cathedral tour is 11am. Better get our skates on.  We’re starting to know our way around, so it’s an easy walk back down to the cathedral visitor centre.  An elderly lady greets us as we enter and explains how things work noting that we’re right on time for the tour.  We give a donation. I decided to make it more than the recommended amount as I do appreciate the fact that the charge is optional.  It’s nice to think that those who cannot afford to pay can still participate. I’m happy to pay a little extra.  We wander in and have no trouble identifying our guide. Perhaps it’s the dashing green sash he’s wearing. :o). Hubby and I really love tours like this, that are run by local volunteers generously sharing their passion for the heritage of their community.  Although there are a lot of school groups in the cathedral today we are a small group of 5.  We start with the beginning. The Cathedral was constructed within a 50 year period.  Everyone seems to know that Salisbury Cathedral has the highest spire … a fact that our group happily demonstrates. Well, Norwich Cathedral has the second highest spire!
The stone (limestone) was brought from France.  You know, that’s what impresses me with so much in history. Our forebears were not afraid of an ambitious and costly project.  You want to build a cathedral. You really fancy that nice stone from your home country.  Getting to the construction site is a bit of an issue you need to deal with though. What could be more natural than digging a navigable canal so the material can be brought up to the mason’s yard on the water?
We learned so much on the tour that we would not have noticed on our own. Elements were pointed out that tied the history of the cathedral in with the history of England.  The cathedral was built by the Normans over 900 years ago. Over such a timespan you expect some dramatic events and indeed there have been. This has included fires and the pinkish blush of the limestone which is noticeable in places is an effect that occurs when the limestone is heated to extreme temperature.  
The predominant architectural style is Romanesque though it is colloquially referred to as Norman architecture.  The style is fairly plain but it has a number of subtle features that might go un-noticed were they not pointed out.

Each of the arched “bays” shows a decoration on the interior of the arch. This alternates between a single broad curved column and three columns. 

Similarly on the front of the arch decoration alternates between a single column that ends below the clerestory and twin columns that run all the way to the roof.  There is additional embellishment around the curve of the arch but this also varies on the different levels. The upper curve features a chevron pattern, quite different the carving on above the ground floor arches.
The roof is made of stone. It is not original but was added 400 years after the original construction, along with some buttressing to stop the weight of the roof pushing the walls out. The original roof was made of timber.  Looking at the ceiling today you would never guess because the design is so beautifully compatible with the pre-existing decoration.

Through the ceiling there are a large number of “bosses” featuring carved images that collectively tell the stories representing the whole of the bible.  This is apparently one of the unique features of this cathedral.  Immediately above us we admire the boss of the crucifixion of Jesus which is surrounded by related images such as the soldiers gambling to win Jesus’s clothes.

Around the cathedral there are memorials erected to various individuals.  Nearby to where we are sitting we consider the extraordinary achievement of Osbert Parsley was a (paid) singing man at the Cathedral for over 50 years.  As extraordinary as that achievement may be, what is even more so is that he did those over an extraordinarily tumultuous period.  He began in the reign of Henry VIII continued on through the conversation from roman Catholicism to Church of England. Through the reign of Mary who reverted to the roman church and Elizabeth I back to Protestantism. Clearly Osbert Parsley was a spiritual pragmatist who valued his life!

We move to the rear and spend some time examining the glorious stained glass window.  Each of the panels is explained along with how the relationship of each panel to the others serves as a guide to the interpretation of what is depicted.  The colour is very rich and vibrant having been cleaned not so long ago. 

Almost all of the stained glass in the cathedral dates from the 19th century, however we also see a window that dates from the medieval period.  This is far more subtle in the colouring but equally beautiful.

There are a number of spaces where individuals have at one point or another established smaller chapels.  We admire some beautiful carving in a space where one such chapel was installed (and later removed).  The intent of the chapel was to provide a space where people could pray for the soul of the wealthy individual in question.

Our tour moves on and we learn about the images depicted in the small amount of remaining artwork of the original ceilings. Such images covered all of the ceilings but were removed in the vandalism committed by the puritans who went on a destructive rampage across the country removing what they considered to be idolatory.  Such vandalism also included the destruction of many glorious rood screens.  Way to get yourselves persecuted!  

A short distance away is the vertical burial site of Thomas Gooding which is a curious feature that contains a warning to all that we will all end up in a similar condition.

There are also elements of humour pointed out. Including a beautifully carved white hart sitting in water which is a mildly amusing play on the name of some wealthy personage whose name I can’t remember.

We move through an impressive gateway into the gloriously carved quire.  This is where the Benedictine monks would come to pray and sing (or should that be to sing prayers?) in what I can only describe as a punishing schedule of worship.

A great feature of the quire is the collections of misericords.  Yes. I finally learn what a misericord is! Norwich Cathedral has a complete set.  Most are ancient but they had the final four required to complete the set carved not so long ago.  There are a couple of elements to this completion of the set which are remarkable.  Firstly that the skills required to carve the misericords are still available today and secondly the subject matter selected which reflects the modern context. Misericords have secular subject matter because it wouldn’t be appropriate to have someone sit on something of religious significance.  The most memorable of the modern misericords features soccer.. sorry …football imagery and in particular a particular player/coach who is not only representative of the beloved “canaries” is also highly revered for his years of fundraising for leukemia research.  One of the more ancient misericords features a child bent over the knee of an adult and having it’s bare bottom spanked!

Next item as we move on our tour is an ancient lectern which was saved from the vandalous rampages of the reformation by being buried in the grounds.  It originally had baby pelicans as part of the ornament but these have not been recovered… yet…  The pelican is attacking it’s own breast to draw blood to feed its young and this is representative of the sacrifice of Christ.  The metal with which the pelican lectern is made is, if memory serves, called laten (?)

These glorious windows were part of improvements included in reconstruction works after one of the tower collapses. The work required buttressing as mentioned previously. What a glory such windows are.
Though there is much history in evidence around the cathedral it is clear that it is not and has never been a static work.  The life of the cathedral is reflected in both its structure and its treasures.  The treasured items include items that speak to the history and culture of the city.  We have noted earlier a new copper font which was given to the cathedra after the fairly recent closure of the production of Mackintosh’s rolo’s in Norwich. The font is constructed from one of the vats used in the process.

Here is another modern work located next to the grave of Bishop Losinga. It represents Bishop Losinga and makes reference to the fact that he bought his bishopric.  The Pope did not approve of these goings on and Bishop Losinga was summoned to Rome accused of the sin of Simony and as penance was commanded to return and build this cathedral.  You can see a devil carrying bags of money in the upper left hand side of the panel.
Somewhere along the way in this general area we have a couple of embedded musket balls pointed out.  Hundreds of years after the violence and destruction these physical remains in the casket and in the floor really bring another level of appreciation to the violence that has been inflicted in and on this place.

Here we have another of the treasures of the cathedral that survived the reformation by being disguised as a table with the glorious artworks hidden on the underside. The disguise was sufficient that this treasure remained as a table for a couple of hundred years before someone found it and it was returned to its original location in the Cathedral.

In the same chapel the more ancient of the cathedral fonts is also found. This is a seven sided affair and reflects a style which is considered to be of Norfolk origin as almost all of this style of font are found in Norfolk.  There are a couple of others, but it seems that they were modeled on the Norfolk fonts.
We pass by the bishops throne and see that a reliquary was situated beneath the throne with a flue so that the influence of the holy relics could float up and provide inspiration and guidance to the bishop in the conduct of his duties.

The tour does not discuss it, but I fall behind as I linger to spend a few brief moments on the Chapel of St Saviour which is the chapel dedicated to the Royal Norfolk Regiment and Royal Anglian Regiment.
I catch up to the group as the church treasury display is pointed out. Most items on display belong to other churches, but have been put here for safe keeping.

We emerge out into the cloisters via the priory door. This is heavily ornamented with carvings of various saints.

In the above image you can see the seats where the monks would sit to do their work.  Illuminations and so forth were all completed in this area.  Each day the monks would assemble in the chapter house and a chapter of the bible would be read (hence the name) then each monk would be assigned his daily tasks and emerge here to sit and work.  Almost the entire cathedral complex was unheated.  The exception was a small warming room where up to about 6 monks could retreat to stave off hypothermia!

At the end of this side modestly sized room is pointed out as the monks infirmary.  Also nearby this corner is a gap through which we see a large grassy area.  This is where the monks were buried and the gap gives access for the body to be moved from the infirmary into the burial plot.

We walk along to the next corner and here our attention is brought to a small trough where the monks would wash.  The trough was designed such that a natural stream runs through it continually.  Here the monks would also shave their tonsures.

Above the trough statues of King George V and Queen Mary have been placed to commemorate a royal visit.  In the alcove next to this are statues of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Next we come to a carved ceiling boss which has a special significance to Norwich Cathedral. Look closely and you can see an open door.  Traditionally there was always provision for pilgrims to be welcomed and accommodated free of charge.  Norwich Cathedral is apparently singular in its determination to be true to this tradition. It is for this reason that there is no mandatory payment for access or tours. I am now especially glad that we donated more than the minimum!

I take the opportunity to capture a photo of the tower and spire.  Some of the many school kids visiting today enjoy the beautiful sunny weather.
Our tour concluded it’s now just after 12 oclock.  Hubby is keen to lunch in the new refectory because he has an expectation that the proceeds will help the Cathedral.  We avail ourselves of the new amenities and having perused the menu conveniently provided on the lower level, climb the stairs and enter the café.  The café is a beautiful open space full of light and with high windows providing glimpses of the tower. There is much beautiful wood and glass.  As we enter we are welcomed by a friendly elderly lady who is working here today. We move ahead and select some drinks. I could not resist the Owlet Cox and Bramley apple juice (from Kent) and encouraged hubby to have a try of the Dandelion and Burdock by Breckland Orchard - a local company.
We receive similarly friendly service as we order our meals from a young man who confirms that it is a lovely space to work in.  He goes on to mention that part of the perks is that a pair of peregrine falcons have decided to nest on the tower.  Last year their eggs didn’t hatch but they are trying again this year and everyone is waiting anxiously to see if they have better success this time.  Live coverage of the nest action is updated to a large screen in the refectory every 7 mins.
We take a seat and sample our drinks while we wait for our meals.  Oh my! The cox and bramley apple juice is a revelation. Sensational!  At that moment I feel like I never knew apple juice could be soooo delicious.  I have outraged images of the vile reconstituted “Popper” juice packs so commonly consumed at home. Sacrilege!  On more rational reflection later I have to acknowledge that we do have some very fine apple juice well suited to appreciation from fine crystal shot glasses (as you do) ..though I have to say I can only imagine what delights preshafruit could turn out if we had cox and bramley apples to work with!
Hubby interrupts my raptures with some encouragement to sample his Dandelion and Burdock.  Mmm. Subtle and we think somewhat reminiscent of sarsaparilla but not so strong or as hubby put it “it’s a bit like sarsaparilla but actually nice”. There’s a hint of aniseed to it.  Very different.
Before long our meals arrive. I have gone for the Smoked fish and horseradish rarebit with watercress salad £6 and Hubby has opted for the Chicken and pea risotto finished with truffle oil and fresh parmesan (gluten free) £7. Our drinks were £2. We both enjoyed our meals very much.

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