Friday, 9 August 2013


Today Jan Kevin and I went to Salisbury for the day, our first stop was the Old Sarum. This is a massive site (56 acres), nearly a mile in circumference and surrounded by a defensive ditch which was originally an Iron Age hillfort. The settlement became increasingly important until by the 12th century it had become a thriving medieval city called Vetus Saresberie. During the Roman occupation many Roman roads met at the fortress, the Saxons added a royal mint, and a royal castle was built by the Normans. The first cathedral was built here between 1075 and 1092, but it was struck by lightning and badly damaged a few days after completion. A second cathedral was built by about 1130. However, the bleak, windswept location and the frequent squabbles between the clergy and the garrison prompted Bishop Poore to ask the Pope for permission to move the Cathedral. The Pope agreed and work began on the new Cathedral in 1220. Old Sarum was completely abandoned by 1540. Today the ruins of the Norman castle, cathedral and Bishop's Palace are all evident.

Old Sarum 

The Lower Chapel


Site of the Cathedral

The Privvy

We then went to the town of Salisbury for lunch. New Salisbury was a bustling, medieval trading centre, and the 15th century Poultry Cross, originally one of four market crosses, stands in the centre of the city's historic market place, where many of the nearby street names reveal the activities of the past. Stalls selling local produce are still laid out around the Poultry Cross at the local market held on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Town Gate leading to The Close
The Close is the precinct of Salisbury's ecclesiastical community, and it is the largest close in England. Many medieval buildings, including the Old Deanery and the Bishop's Palace, grew up around the new Cathedral to provide accommodation for members of the clergy, their servants, and craftsmen working on the Cathedral. Gradually the inhabitants of Old Sarum left to set up home in New Sarum, where the land was fertile and water was plentiful. During the 14th century tension between clergy and the city folk increased and in 1331 stone from the abandoned Cathedral at Old Sarum was used to build a wall around the Close. There are three gateways in the wall: High Street Gate, St. Ann's Gate, and Harnham Gate. The High Street Gate once had a portcullis that was lowered when the citizens became rebellious. The Gates are still locked every night at 11pm. (Harvest rituals use to be conducted here) Malmesbury House, is in the Close of Salisbury Cathedral, in Wiltshire. Once called Cole Abbey, or Copt Hall, it was built on the site of some small medieval houses to the North of St. Ann’s Gate, and was a canonry in the 13th century. The south front has one dormer and two sash windows to the left of which is a large painted sundial dated 1749, with the inscription “Life is but a walking shadow ” a quotation from Shakespeare`s Macbeth.

We then made our way to the cathedral. Salisbury cathedral is unique amongst medieval English cathedrals having been built in just 38 years (1220 - 1258) in a single architectural style, early English Gothic. The tower and spire (Britain’s tallest) were added about 50 years later. The building itself is remarkable, a testimony to the faith and practical skills of those who erected it. With over 750 years of history, the world's best preserved original Magna Carta and Europe's oldest working clock.

Medieval Clock

The colours flown in battles

Reverse of the Town Gate
Brides Mound is a large mound which can be seen as the emerging head of Her Child being born from between the spread legs of the Goddess when looking at the landscape from above. To stand or sit on Bride's Mound is to feel embraced by the landscape of the Birth-Giving Goddess. This was the women's sacred space with its own now lost Bride's Well. The name Beckery (the old name of the mound) meaning 'beekeepers' island'. King Arthur had a mystical experience at Chapel Perilous Beckery (not there now).

View of the Tor from the mound

We then walked to see Gog & Magog. Two oak trees near the Tor are named Gog & Magog. In the immediate environs of Glastonbury there are places which are held to be sacred sites; this include the two ancient oaks of Gog and Magog, believed to be the last remains of a Druidical avenue leading up to the Tor. The Glastonbury Conservation Society has recently replanted a line of oak trees to commemorate this ancient tradition.


Pillars of the Earth

Salisbury Cathedral
Since its initial publication in 1989 The Pillars of the Earth has been a hugely popular book at Salisbury Cathedral. It is full of drama and intriguing characters but it is also packed with carefully researched historical detail and lovingly tells the story of the building of a beautiful medieval cathedral not unlike Salisbury. The fictitious Kingsbridge created by Ken Follett is in the West Country, not far from the real city of Salisbury, and early in the book Tom Builder even seeks work at the original cathedral at Old Sarum. 

In 2008, as Salisbury was in the midst of celebrating its 750th anniversary year, Tandem Communications made contact with exciting news about a film of the book. A visit to Salisbury led to closer links, special effects shooting at the Cathedral and eventually a partnership.

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