Wednesday, June 1, 2016


I had such a wonderful time in Winchester (and it's only one train stop away!) that I hope to return later in the summer so Husband can see it too!

As usual, my first stop was the library. Or in this case, not really a library at all. I needed to view a book from the Winchester Cathedral Library, but unfortunately, the library (indeed, the whole south transept) is under reconstruction. Learning this, I feared I wouldn't get to see the book at all, but the archivist very kindly allowed me to see it at the local Record Office. The Record Office was a nice, friendly space, if not nearly as picturesque as a cathedral library. I did my work and had the rest of the day to spend as I pleased!

My church here in Old Basing is a part of the Diocese of Winchester, which means Winchester Cathedral is our cathedral. In an initiative to encourage more of its membership to visit, the cathedral gives reusable passes out to each of its parishes. This meant that I didn't have to pay the (admittedly minimal) fee to enter the cathedral, but more importantly, it meant that I felt like a parishioner rather than a tourist.

Winchester Cathedral made me so happy. I couldn't stop smiling during the entire time I was in the building. It was a different experience than my visit to Norwich Cathedral (site of so much personal academic history) or Worcester Cathedral (which had no fewer interesting things to see). I can only attribute it to the fact that I felt a different sort of connection to this place.

Lunch at the cathedral refectory - butternut squash, carrot, and rosemary soup with a crusty roll

A side chapel - the Chapel of Saint Alphege called Venerable

A stunning triptych in Bishop Langton's Chapel

The chantry chapel for Bishop Gardiner - another one of those lesser-known English Reformation figures I get so excited about.

This space was possibly the most beautiful choir (quire) I've ever seen. Later in the day, I sat here for Evensong.

I've sung his music!

12th-century font, decorated with carvings showing the miracles of St Nicholas, patron saint of children

Also, I didn't even realize until I'd walked into the cathedral that it was the resting place for Jane Austen. I spent a moment thanking her for her books, and utterly delighted that the cathedral was a tasteful memorial to her and not an overly-commercialized tourist trap.

The Norman crypt, with an astonishingly meditative modern sculpture

Not pictured: the Winchester Bible! The largest surviving 12th-century Bible, the stunning illuminated manuscript was copied out by hand. It's in four volumes, one of which was on display. You can read more about it here, and see images.

After wandering through the cathedral happy as a clam (are clams happy?), I still had a few hours. I could have returned home to Basingstoke right then, but I wanted to stay for 5 pm Evensong. Luckily, there was no shortage of wonderful things to do. On my way to the cathedral, I'd walked down a street full of shops and stalls, the kind of local market I always love. I bought a rhubarb tart and sat on a bench, enjoying it and the street violinist playing folk tunes and classical works. I couldn't resist going into a chocolate shop, and bought some as a gift for Husband when he arrives. Then I retraced my steps back towards the train station in order to visit the Great Hall, the only surviving portion of the medieval Winchester Castle. There, I got to see the legendary Round Table of King Arther (or rather, "Round Table," since it is now known to date from the 13th century).

The Great Hall

Just in front of it, a few surviving castle passageways, which originally led from a tower in the castle wall to the moat

Here it is, the "Round Table"

Photographs from the restored medieval-style garden. It was such a sanctuary of peace and quiet, and smiles, as I watched a few children play in the water.

I couldn't resist buying myself something silly from the Great Hall gift shop! This necklace is a Tudor rose, an image I know well as a scholar of the English Reformation.

To my surprise and joy, I still had about forty-five minutes before Evensong. So I could indulge myself and drop by the other chocolate shop I'd spotted, this time for hot chocolate and a bit of dissertation writing. It feels disloyal to say it, but it was the best hot chocolate I've ever had, even over Durham's awesome Cocoa Cinnamon. It even came with one of their chocolate truffles (in this case, lemon curd). Other than the cathedral, obviously, it is this shop that I most want to share with Husband.

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