Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral, England, Photo Tour

Salisbury Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral located in Salisbury, England. The cathedral boasts the tallest church spire in the UK, the largest cloister in England, and one of the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta.

Building commenced when the bishopric was moved to Salisbury from Old Sarum in 1220 during the tenure of Richard Poore. Due to the high water table in the new location, the cathedral was built on only four feet of foundations, and by 1258 the nave, transepts and choir were complete. The west front was ready by 1265. The cloisters and chapter house were completed around 1280. Because the cathedral was built in only 38 years, Salisbury Cathedral has a single consistent architectural style, Early English Gothic.

The only major sections of the cathedral built later were the tower and spire, which at 404 feet (123 metres) dominated the skyline from 1320. While the spire is the cathedral’s most impressive feature, it has also proved to be troublesome. Together with the tower, it added 6,397 tons (6,500 tonnes) to the weight of the building and but for the addition of buttresses, bracing arches and iron ties over the succeeding centuries, it would have suffered the fate of spires on other great ecclesiastical buildings (such as Malmesbury Abbey) and fallen down; instead, Salisbury is the tallest surviving pre-1400 spire in the world. To this day the large supporting pillars at the corners of the spire are seen to bend inwards under the strain. The addition of tie beams above the crossing led to a false ceiling being installed below the lantern stage of the tower.

Significant changes to the cathedral were made by the architect James Wyatt in 1790, including replacement of the original choir screen and demolition of the bell tower which stood about 320 feet (100 metres) north west of the main building. Salisbury is one of only three English cathedrals to lack a ring of bells, the others being Norwich Cathedral and Ely Cathedral. The organ was built in 1877 by Henry Willis & Sons.

The cathedral is the subject of famous paintings by John Constable. The view depicted in the paintings has changed very little in almost two centuries.

The chapter house is notable for its octagonal shape, slender central pillar and decorative medieval frieze. The frieze circles the interior, just above the stalls, and depicts scenes and stories from the books of Genesis and Exodus, including Adam and Eve, Noah, the Tower of Babel, and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The chapter house also displays the best-preserved of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta. This copy came to Salisbury because Elias of Dereham, who was present at Runnymede in 1215, was given the task of distributing some of the original copies. Later, Elias became a Canon of Salisbury and supervised the construction of Salisbury Cathedral.

The clock, dating from 1386, is the oldest surviving mechanical clock in the world still running.

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