Yesterday I continued my crusade of going to every British cathedral as I stated here. This time, it was a trip to Chichester and the cathedral there.
Chichester is another one of those UK cities which is about the size of a small town yet has historical significance due to the cathedral. It’s about an hour away from Hampshire and much like Winchester the city is very compact and old. It’s very easy to get to the centre from the train station and the cathedral is impossible to miss.
The cathedral was founded in 1057 and was the second one built for Chichester, the first one being built in 681. It is the only medieval English cathedral which can be seen from the coastline and the entire population of Chichester can fit inside it. It is full of modern art and bizarre artwork, which I found quite interesting. My favourite part of the cathedral was a section which had a giant picture of all the English kings and queens up until Charles I. Some of them such as Richard III and William the Conqueror had vanished. I was told by a guide that no one knows how the pictures vanished- they could have been destroyed when the spire collapsed in 1861 or they could have been shot out by Roundheads during the Civil War. Edward VI’s portrait was used as target practice, which is a bit unfair I say. If any king deserved it, it was King John.
There’s strong imagery in the paintings as well. Lambert Barnard, the Tudor painter, painted the pictures during Henry VIII’s reign as he was taking control of all the cathedrals. Robert Sherborn, Bishop of Chichester, was able to convince the King that Chichester Cathedral was to be kept safe, which the King signed. Barnard painted this as well as an interpretation of the 6th century founding of the original cathedral. These paintings are very good and I was very impressed with how intact they are after hundred of years.
One aspect of the painting I found particularly interesting was the part with a monkey and a ring. Barnard didn’t like Henry VIII’s divorce with Catherine of Aragon, but to protest against it would have been seen as bad. He instead painted a monkey (based on a painting of Catherine of Aragon where she had a monkey) with a wedding ring as a way to silently protest the King’s divorce. It’s very interesting and there’s more details in the painting, such as the ghost of Henry VII standing next to Henry VIII. I love little details like that.
Due to the spire collapsing in 1861, many old aspects of the cathedral had gone, including Barnard’s roof paintings. The only intact part was in the Lady Chapel, which we couldn’t go into due it being reserved for private worship. There was also a section of Roman mosaic. One of my favourite anecdotes about the cathedral was about how the paintings of the bishops were done. Lambert Barnard only had the current bishop as a model, so he painted that bishop again and again and just changed the clothing every time.
I learnt that the cathedral contains breeding pairs of peregrine falcons, however I didn’t see them unfortunately. There were lots of modern art, including a statue called The Refugee and the Ursula Benker-Schirmer tapestry.
Exploring the rest of the city was also very interesting. There’s a very nice cafe where we had lunch and a shop that sold nerd merchandise right next to the cathedral. I particularly liked the card “Donald Trump hates you. You must be doing something right.” One of my favourite things about English cities is how the old and the new are blended together and Chichester is a fantastic example of that. The buildings are all ancient and from centuries ago but the shops are new.
Chichester is well worth a visit if you’re visiting the south of Britain. It’s small but full of history and is a very interesting place to spend a day.