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Chichester Cathedral is a Christian church built over 900 years ago in the city of Chichester in Sussex. It has had a mixed history and been rebuilt and had other parts added over the years. In 1075 William the Conqueror ordered a cathedral to be built in Chichester and the main part of the present building was dedicated in 1108. Then again after two serious fires it was re - consecrated in 1199. The 277 ft spire is actually Victorian although it was originally added in the late 13th or early 14th century after it collapsed in 1861 it was rebuilt by Sir Gilbert Scott in four years.
During the fifteenth century several important features were added to the cathedral: the cloisters, enclosing the south transept; the detached bell-tower, and the spire these changed the shape of the Cathedral completely. The bell tower is therefore about 600 years old and is the only detached bell-tower of its kind remaining in England and it today houses a peel of eight bells. A team of fifteen Bell ringers have to climb 84 steps every Sunday and Wednesday to ring these bells. In 1902 they had to repair the tower and the cost of this was £2,300.
Opening Times and Prices:
The Cathedral is open from 7am to 7pm (summer) 6pm (winter) ALL are welcome and entry is FREE although there are donation boxes strategically placed around the Cathedral.
It is also possible to have a free guided tour any day except Sunday. These are available at 11.15 and 2.30 unless there is a concert or other event that prevents this.
I think that free entry and free guided tours is a very unusual and has to be appreciated by visitors as upkeep of these old buildings is very expensive.
What to see:
There are a number of interesting pieces of art work both modern and ancient that are worth a look and these are the things that I found most interesting during my visit.
The Font is carved stone but has a lovely copper bowl which is very unusual I thought and it was designed by John Skelton in 1983. There is also a modern painting called The Baptism of Christ by Hans Feibusch which also quite modern as it was placed here in 1951.
The Chapel of St George:
This small chapel has boards which list members of the Royal Sussex Regiment lost in WW I and a book of remembrance for those lost in the Second World War. It is always a bit of a moving experience to read the names and ages of these brave souls where ever they came from. The painting in this chapel is rather suitably of St George and the dragon, very English with heroic symbolisism and of course is the name of the chapel.
This early 15th century stone carved arched screen was supposed to have been erected by Bishop Arundel between 1459 and 1478. It was originally to divide the secular parts from the more sacred areas of the Cathedral. It was apparently removed in 1859 and it was then discovered that the tower was unsafe and several things from the cathedral under the tower were removed and saved. The screen was restored to its original place in 1961 in memory of Bishop Bell.
The South Transept:
The great window in the south transept was inserted by Bishop Langton between 1305 and 1337. The large painting shows St Wilfred receiving a grant of land at Selsey from Caedwalla, King of Wessex, on which to build a church; and the renewal of the charter by Henry VIII to Bishop Sherburne, so it portrays a very important part of the Cathedral's history.
Here you can see the 16th century paintings of the Bishops of Chichester painted by Lambert Barnard. Rather bizarrely they all have exactly the same face which I found a bit strange but it must have saved the artist having to think too hard about faces.
Marc Chagall Window:
The window was designed by the Russian Jewish artist Marc Chagall when he was 91 and unveiled in 1978 it is based on the theme of Psalm 150 "...let everything that hath breath praise the Lord". The colour is predominantly red which represents for praise and joy and it is a very attractive more modern style of stained glass window.
Two interesting Romanesque Sculptures:
These sculptures are from the 12th century, one is the raising of Lazarus and the other is Christ arriving at Bethany. They were apparently coloured originally with jewels or semi-precious stones in the eyes.
The Piper Tapestry:
The tapestry was designed by John Piper and woven in France in 1966. The central part is red predominantly and represents the Trinity. The side panels are blue with symbols of the elements and the Evangelists.
Site of the Shrine of St Richard of Chichester:
St Richard was a Bishop of Chichester from 1245 to 1253 and he was canonised in 1262. In 1276 his body was moved from its original burial place in the chapel of St Thomas and St Edmund, to a shrine in the retro-choir, which became an important centre for pilgrimage right up to the Reformation in 1538 when it was destroyed by Henry VIII.
Gustav Holst Memorial:
I was a bit under whelmed by this memorial as it was simply a plaque in the floor. I was expecting some mention of his claim to fame but it was just his name and date (d.1934), set in the floor.
The Anglo-German Tapestry:
By Ursula Benker-Schirmer, 1985 the tapestry contains symbols which relate to the life of St Richard.
The Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary is newly restored and was re-opened in spring 2008. The gates to this Chapel are the only remaining part of the original medieval Shrine of St Richard and during the restoration process their original silver grey colour was uncovered.
This houses an exhibition of treasures from parishes in the Diocese and the Cathedral but didn't really grab my attention as I find these sorts of things a bit samey -religious glitz.
The Children's trail;
There is a lovely little pamphlet that explains a lot about the Cathedral and things of interest within the building in simple terms for children. It explains that the cathedral is a place of worship but it is not overtly religious or preachy in its tone. It does include St Richard's prayer but when all said and done it is a Christian place of worship that is being visited so you should expect some reference to Christianity and religion.
This was a very busy cafe and as it was raining outside and we were meeting my cousin and had my aged aunt with us we had decided we would have lunch here. It was a very average meal, my jacket potato was okay but my husband had a turkey and vegetable pie which he said was very ordinary.
The usual sort of gift shop with nothing amazingly different, nothing tempted me anyway. There were religious books and expensive crafty type things suitable for a Cathedral gift shop, postcards etc.
Outside the Cathedral:
There was a large statue of St Richard of Chichester just near the main entrance to the Cathedral and I am ashamed to say that prior to this visit I had never heard of St Richard who is apparently very well know according to my rather religious aunt who has a son named Richard!
The gargoyles have been recently cleaned along with the rest of the external stone work and have now got huge drain pipes sticking out of their mouths which made them look like they were smoking giant cigars, very amusing we thought but I doubt that was the intention.
This was not the most inspiring Cathedral I have visited but it has that peaceful and awe inspiring quality that you find in most churches. The Cathedral has had a very interesting history and has recently had quite a bit of major restoration. A lot of the art work in the interior is modern which is quite unusual for English Cathedrals of this age. It has a real artistic mixture of the really old and very modern and this I found refreshing and very interesting.
The stained glass windows were lovely and I did particularly like the Chagall window with its more modern style and distinct colours.
I thought the fact that entry was free and that you could have a free guided tour was amazing. The cathedral was in very good shape as a lot of money has recently been spent on restoration. It was a building that was very welcoming and had a warm atmosphere. It was quite modern at the entrance and there was plenty of information available.
It was quite obvious that this was a place that was used on a daily basis for services and educational visits which I think is excellent as a number of religious buildings have a rather precious attitude and are not that welcoming.
The view of the Cathedral from outside as you approach Chichester is quite lovely as the spire stands up so beautifully. Looking around the Cathedral outside which has recently restored and cleaned the stone work including the cigar smoking gargoyles.
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