As I mentioned previously the cloisters in this cathedral are quite small. The interesting and unusual feature is the wooden vault.
And the wooden bosses. Of the original one hundred roof bosses, one in each of its bays, there are now just sixty remaining. These bosses fall into five categories: religious and secular figures, heads, animals and foliage.
An arcaded passageway leads to the chapter house. This has darker columns with carved capitals of foliage set under pointed arches (as in the first image and below).
On the other passage there are some odd stone grotesques hidden next to the foliage – possibly stonemasons’ identification? I haven’t been able to find out much about these, but tongue-pullers are thought to a sign of a journeyman mason as St Blaise, who is the saint associated with diseases of the throat and mouth, is also the patron saint of masons. Hair-pullers like the bearded man, serpents and monsters are most likely there to frighten worshippers and remind them that the world is a sinful place. These over-imaginative human and animal forms often distort the natural into ugliness or a caricature.
The cloisters also provide a quiet space for a rest (and get a phone signal perhaps!)
And the stone carvings are magnificent in their detail. As always you have to look up and pause to admire the beauty of this historic craftsmanship.
“I have always held and proposed against all comers to maintain that the Cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles” – John Ruskin.
After circumnavigating the cathedral at least twice by day and night, it was time to venture inside. Unlike Norwich it is not free to enter, but you can buy a combination ticket with the castle and the admission includes a floor tour. Originally built by the Normans after the defeat in 1066, Lincoln cathedral was consecrated in 1092. The diocese stretched from the Humber in the north to the Thames in the south, and after an earthquake in 1185 only the west front remains from the Norman period.
Inside, it is filled with light from the many stained-glass windows. (You guessed it, a separate post will follow)
Depressingly filled with light-sucking dark plastic chairs. Originally the space would have been empty and the spaces used for markets. When people gathered for services they would have stood.
A pilgrimage is a special kind of a journey
The font is made of a black carboniferous limestone from France, waxed and polished to resemble marble. Its sides are carved with mythical beasts of good and evil fighting.
To your left is the art work of William Fairbank, “The Forest Stations” which show Jesus’s journey to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, carved from many different types of wood.
At the crossing you can see that the church was built in the shape of a cross. Huge rose windows face each other from the north and south transepts.
The Dean’s Eye
The Bishop’s Eye
I’ll go into more detail about the windows in a separate post. In the north transept you find the Service Chapels – for remembering soldiers, sailors and airmen. Lincoln cathedral is especially connected with those who served in the Bomber Command during WWII.
The Soldier’s Chapel dedicated to St George
The Airmen’s Chapel dedicated to St Michael
The Seamen’s Chapel dedicated to St Andrew
As usual in English cathedrals, the full vista of the nave is blocked, and the choir – in this case St Hugh’s Choir which is almost a church within a church – is hidden from view. However, in this case the screen is exquisitely beautiful. Carved in stone and originally painted in bright colours, some of which can be still seen in faded glory, it was built in 1330 to separate the clergy, their assistants and the choir from the congregation.
I was so taken by the carvings on this screen that I will make a separate post showing the details.
At the far end of the nave is the Angel Choir where you will find several tombs and the infamous Lincoln Imp, if you look closely enough. Legend has it that he caused so much chaos one of the angels turned him to stone.
St Hugh’s Shrine
Eleanor of Castille
Eleanor of Castille
Eleanor of Castile (1241 – 1290) was the Queen Consort of Edward I. Her entrails were buried in a visceral tomb to avoid the unpleasant smells of moving her body to Westminster Abbey. When she died, near Lincoln, her husband famously ordered a stone cross to be erected at each stopping-place on the journey to London, ending at Charing Cross. (The Eleanor Crosses)
As usual I was particularly interested in the choir area. Lincoln has some delightful misericords, unfortunately all the seats were down ready for Evensong when we entered, and on gently raising one to see what lay beneath I was verbally assaulted by one of the clergymen. Despite the fact that the seats are raised daily and sat upon he proceeded to lecture me loudly and publicly about the damage I could cause to the medieval hinges (?) – I politely pointed out that there is no notice or ropes to indicate that one should not look at the seats, but he was not in any mood to listen. A nearby fellow photographer hastily withdrew from the choir, and my OH was almost shaking with anger. The altercation did somewhat sour our visit and I was saddened not to have at least seen the carvings in person.
However, do not let my mishap deter you from visiting the Choir as it is very beautiful and is where the Bishop’s throne – cathedra – is located.
Lincoln cathedral does have a cloister, but much smaller than that of Norwich, built around 1296 and unusually on the north side.
The cloisters are reached down the north east transept (Slype corridor) and through a heavy wooden door.
Three sides are †13c. They have a wooden ceiling with carved bosses and Gothic arches.
We’ll have a look at the carvings in the next post.
Following on from our stroll in uphill Lincoln we entered through the †14C Exchequer Gate into Minster Yard which is contained within the remains of its medieval gates and walls. Most of the houses are medieval and were built for the clergymen and associated workers who maintain the life of the cathedral.
Facing the cathedral are four Georgian houses, 20 – 23, referred to as the ‘Number Houses‘ as they are believed to be the first houses in England to be given numbers. (So why start at #20?) Built in 1740 by Precentor Trimnell on the site of a blacksmith’s shop and other buildings. Number 19 was the birth place of the painter William Logsdail (1859-1944), a prolific English landscape, portrait, and genre painter. His father was a verger at the cathedral.
Moving in a clockwise direction we encircled the cathedral, looking back across its Norman west frontage, the only part remaining after an earthquake in 1185.
The houses facing are for Cathedral dignitaries – formerly the Deanery and the ‘Old Subdeanery’. This corner of the cathedral is notorious for the wind whipping around it and has the name ‘Kill Canon Corner’.
From the northern side, along Eastgate, you get a view of the towers.
Minster Yard / Eastgate
A short walk down James Street also provides views of the cathedral. As well as lovely golden stone walls. An area where the Burghersh family served the Chantry House founded in the mid †14c.
Burgersh Chantry House
We returned to Eastgate and carried on walking around the cathedral grounds.
Passing the Bishop’s House, Deanery and Minster School which are all part of a medieval house built around a courtyard, you come back onto Minster Yard through the Priory Gate, or, like us, over the lawn.
To get a decent photo of the medieval Potter Gate meant standing in the centre of the road as it is now straggling a traffic island. Fortunately in the evening this was fairly quiet. Lovely Georgian and medieval houses line this road.
The Chancery is probably the prettiest with its red-brick facade and oriel window in the centre.
Library and Coffee House
The Chapter House
“To see it [Lincoln cathedral] in full perfection, it should be in the red sunshine of an autumnal evening, when the red roofs and red brick houses would harmonise with the sky and with the fading foliage” ~ Robert Southey, poet (1774 – 1843)
Through the Palace Gate the road leads down to the Medieval Bishop’s Palace which was unfortunately closing as we approached (an English Heritage site) and the Bishop’s Palace and Alnwick Tower. This was the home of the Bishop of Lincoln from 1886 until 1942 and was converted into a 16 room bed and breakfast establishment in 2009, with prices for a double room from £85 and views of the cathedral, this is a perfect place to stay.
A pathway led back up to the cathedral and there are some good views of the south side of the cathedral including the great rose window which contains fragments of medieval glass.
The Bishop’s Eye – rose window
Next time we’ll have a look inside the cathedral.
IF YOU ENJOY A WALK, LONG OR SHORT, THEN HAVE A LOOK AT JO’S SITE WHERE YOU ARE WELCOME TO JOIN IN WITH HER MONDAY WALKS.