Bell's Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Winchester Part 3

Possibly this platform or gallery was not originally so bare as it appears at the present day, but there is no doubt that it was built in order that processions might pass round on the triforium level.

It has been mentioned that when the tower was rebuilt the columns nearest it in the transepts were strengthened. They now, indeed, present a singularly massive outline to the eye, and contrast strongly even with the remaining Norman pillars in the transepts. The arches also are changed. All were once semi-circular, but the rebuilding necessitated a change of the first and second from the actual tower-pier into the stilted or "horse-shoe" form. They are doubly recessed (except those supporting the end platform, which have but one soffit), and present quite plain and unadorned square edges.

[Illustration: VIEW IN NORTH TRANSEPT. _Photochrom Co. Ltd., Photo._]

In each transept there is at the eastern angle a spiral staircase leading up to the roof.

If we take first the #North Transept#, there will be found at the southern end, against the side wall of the choir, and between the two great tower-piers, the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, a small compartment which contains some interesting and still distinct mural paintings on the roof and walls, representing scenes of the Passion, etc. The most striking is a large head and bust of Christ on the easternmost division of the vaulting. One hand holds the Gospels, with the inscription _Salus Populi Ego Sum_. On the wall beneath are the Descent from the Cross and the Entombment. The Nativity and Annunciation also appear on the roof, while on the walls are the Entry into Jerusalem, the Raising of Lazarus, the Descent into Hell, and the Appearance to Mary Magdalene in the Garden.

Two of the Norman piers on the eastern side of this transept have received very elaborate canopies of the Decorated period, under which it is probable that there were at one time altars. Some Early English work may be seen in the heads carved on some of the larger shafts and the caps of the subsidiary pillars, a noticeable figure being "a monk crouched in a caryatidal attitude and holding a chess-board."

The modern entry to the crypts is in the south-east interior wall of this transept, the old means of entrance, through the "Holy Hole,"

having been blocked up.

The large tomb in the north transept is that of Prebendary Iremonger. On the western wall, at the end of the transept, are very faint traces of mural paintings, representing S. Christopher carrying Christ, etc., and it is probable the transepts were once thus decorated throughout.

The #South Transept# has received far more additions to its interior decorations than has the north. In the back of the choir-wall is recessed Sir Isaac Townsend's memorial, not a very noteworthy object.

Just under it there now stands the old oak settle which was once used by the Norman monks. In the central space of the transept itself is a large monument to Bishop Wilberforce, showing beneath a canopy a life-sized figure, with mitre, cope, and staff, on a slab borne by six kneeling angels. A Latin inscription records his birth on 1st September 1805, and his death on 19th July 1873. The monument is the work of Sir Gilbert Scott, and has met with some severe attacks. It certainly is out of place in its Norman surroundings. The aisles of the south transept are divided up into six chambers, of which the larger of the two westernmost is used as a chapter-room, and does not betray its age by its present appearance; the one next the body of the church, Milner's "ancient sacristy," but now known as Henry of Blois' treasury, serves as a boys'

vestry. The Norman work over the door must not be overlooked. The chamber to the extreme south is the entrance lobby to the south door, which leads into the "slype" or passage running between the church and the old chapter-house. Leading out of it is the ancient "calefactory,"

where the fire for the censers and thuribles was preserved. Panelled oak screens enclose this room on both sides. Next it comes Silkstede's chapel, the central of the three easterly divisions of the transept aisles. The prior's rebus, in the form of a skein of silk, is evident among the carvings, and his Christian name Thomas may be seen on the cornice with the MA, the monogram of the Virgin, standing out distinctly. The screen in this chapel is worthy of remark, and is divided into four compartments, the upper part of each being open-work and arched with pierced quatrefoils in the spandrels. In this chapel traces of painting were discovered in 1848, beneath the whitewash on the eastern wall, the subject apparently being Christ upon the water, calling to him S. Peter, who, in an attitude of hesitation, holds the prow of the boat. Fine canopy-work surmounts the whole. Originally there were eight canopies enclosing figures, but little except the canopies remain, the distemper-painting having almost vanished. On the floor of the chapel may be found a black marble slab, the tomb of Isaak Walton, with Bishop Ken's often-quoted inscription, which, however, it is perhaps pardonable to quote again:--

"Alas! Hee's gone before, Gone, to returne noe more; Our panting hearts aspire After their aged Sire, Whose well-spent life did last Full ninety years, and past.

But now he hath begun That which will nere be done: Crown'd with eternal Blisse, We wish our souls with his."


From a Drawing by H.P. Clifford.]


_Photochrom Co. Ltd., Photo._]

[Illustration: SOUTH AISLE, FROM TRANSEPT. _S.B. Bolas & Co., Photo._]

Next to Prior Silkstede's chapel comes the "Venerable" chapel, which serves as a vestry for the minor canons of the cathedral. The screen of this fills the whole archway, the six canopies extending beyond the sweep of the arch. Down each side are untenanted niches, and the openings of the tracery show some beautiful and elaborate iron-work, dating from the Renaissance. A similar screen, though without canopies, divides the Venerable Chapel from Silkstede's.

#The Library# is approached from an old wooden staircase in the south aisle of this transept. It is a "long, low room, with oaken presses curiously carved and ornamented with gilded knobs, after the fashion of the latter half of the seventeenth century." It contains three or four thousand books, most of which are the gift of Bishop Morley, and there are many fine MSS.; but its chief treasure is a Vulgate of the twelfth century, in three folio volumes on vellum. The gorgeously illuminated manuscript is the best work extant of the Winchester school, and the fact that it was never finished renders it only the more interesting, since thereby the whole process from the first outline to the final touch of colour is evident. A legend concerning Hugh of Avalon, afterwards Bishop of Lincoln (associated with this book), is worthy of mention. Henry II., who founded the Carthusian Monastery of Witham, in Somerset, had appointed Hugh prior in 1175 or 1176, and finding that his monks needed MSS. to copy, and in particular a complete copy of the Bible, promised to give them one. To avoid expense, he borrowed this superb Vulgate from Winchester and sent it to Witham. A chance visit long afterwards of a Winchester monk revealed what had happened, and on the matter becoming known to Hugh, he returned the volume without the king's knowledge.[4] Among other important MSS. in the Library are an eleventh century copy of Bede's "Ecclesiastical History"; a twelfth century "Life of Edward the Confessor," by S. Aelred, Cistercian Abbot of Rievaulx about 1160, containing a portrait of the king within one of its initial letters; a copy of the "_Promptorium Parvulorum_"; a charter of aethelwulf, King of Wessex, dated 854 and bearing the signatures of the king, his young son Alfred, and S. Swithun. There are also the chapter-books for 1553-1600; the cathedral statutes, with the signatures of Charles I. and Bishop Laud; the original charter of Henry VIII. to the cathedral, on the dissolution of the priory; and many interesting documents and printed books, some with the original chains which were fastened to their covers. Here also are kept the great seal of Henry V., the pastoral staff from Bishop Fox's tomb, his ring, those of Bishops Gardiner and Woodlock, and the one, set with a sapphire, which comes from the tomb of "William Rufus"--probably, as we have said, belonging to Henry of Blois. The library was built in 1668 A.D.

[4] It is now, however, on record that the book was bequeathed by Bishop Nicholas of Ely in 1282.

We may now return to the body of the cathedral and pass to the surroundings of the choir.

The #Feretory#, where the _feretra_ or shrines of the saints were placed, lies behind the high altar and reredos, and the two doors in the latter give access to it. At one time, before the erection of the reredos, the feretory must have been visible from the choir. Behind the doors is a raised platform, seven feet in breadth, extending right across. The upper surface of this is now only three feet above the ground level, but originally it must have been far higher. Four steps give access to it. Before it is a hollow space with stumps of piers, demonstrating the ancient presence of an arcade in front of the platform. The feretory is without internal decoration, but the exterior of the east wall is adorned with nine rich Decorated tabernacles, with the yet legible names of saints and king who once occupied the eighteen pedestals within them. This inscription is to be found here:--

_Corpora sanctorum sunt hic in pace sepulta, Ex meritis quorum fulgent miracula multa_.

The floor beneath the platform is supported by a small vault, "the entrance to which (to quote Willis) is by a low arch in the eastern face of the wall under the range of tabernacles." This vault is that which was designated as the _Sanctum Sanctorum_ or #Holy Hole#. The feretory is used as a receptacle for the carved work found at various dates about the cathedral, including portions of statuary once belonging to the great screen. Here lies a really marvellous lid of a reliquary chest, presented in 1309 by Sir William de Lilburn, with events in the life of our Lord and various saints vividly portrayed in colours, and decorated with the donor's armorial bearings. The "Holy Hole" has been used as a receptacle for fragments of various kinds since the end of the fifteenth century, before which it was visible from the choir, for no reredos intercepted the view. Milner states that in 1789 the whole passage and vault was so choked with rubbish that the attempt to enter it had to be abandoned. A more recent observer records that there appears to be no space for a crypt or receptacle for relics within the "Holy Hole," the chest of bones, etc., being placed on the platform over the arcade. The fragments now in the feretory are often very fine, but are most of them sadly mutilated.


The north and south sides of the feretory are flanked by the chantries of Bishops Gardiner and Fox, into which it opens. #Gardiner's Chantry#, in the Renaissance style, was much damaged by the Reformers, the head being knocked off the figure lying in a long niche on the outside of the chantry, and other indignities committed. Of the tomb nothing now remains, but there is an altar with figures at the back, after Italian models, representing, according to one tradition, Justice and Mercy, while others say the Law and the Gospel. At the east end is a small vestry used as a repository for fragments. The details and the mouldings of Gardiner's chantry are of the Renaissance style, and Britton has described the chapel as "bad Italian and bad English." This is true of the eastern end of the compartment, but there are redeeming features amid the curious mixture of styles. Below the floor-level of this chantry may be seen the base of one of the Norman apse piers, the sole remaining feature of the Norman east end except the crypt.

#Bishop Fox's Chantry# is a far finer piece of work and is certainly the most elaborate chantry in the cathedral. It displays no fewer than fifty-five richly-groined niches, all different in pattern; only two of them are tenanted, and these by very recent figures, on either side of the door. There is a great amount of wonderful undercutting to be seen in the spandrels to the arches, and the upper part of the erection shows open tracery with niches and canopies, under a cornice of running foliage and Tudor flowers, surmounted by panelled pinnacles. Fox's "pelican in her piety" alternates on the pinnacles with small octagonal turrets. At one time, moreover, all the arches, etc., contained stained glass, but this has now vanished. Within there is no tomb, but, as in Gardiner's chantry, there is, in an arched recess at the side, the ghastly carved figure of a corpse so frequently introduced in monuments of the period. The altar is surmounted by a small reredos in a sunk panel, now unoccupied, crowned by a band of angels bearing emblems of the Passion. Over the altar is this inscription in Latin:--

_O sacrum convivium in quo Christus sumitur._

There is here, as was the case with Gardiner's chantry, a small room at the eastern end. In this are chests in which relics were kept.

[Illustration: BISHOP FOX'S CHANTRY.]

The interior part of the choir aisles have received "Wykeham" windows, four on each side, though from the exterior only three can be seen. The westernmost on the north side has two lights partly looking into the open, while two are unglazed and the top of one looks into the northern transept. On the south side all are glazed, but only three get any light from outside. These can be seen from the close at the junction of transept and retro-choir. All these windows have blank panelling or arcading below. It looks as if Wykeham or his successors meant to reduce the width of the Norman transepts, so as to bring them into better proportion with the eastern arm of the church.

[Illustration: DOOR OF FOX'S CHANTRY.]

Between the presbytery and the side aisles, extending from pier to pier, are screens of pierced stonework, erected by Bishop Fox, whose motto frequently occurs on them, together with his initials and Cardinal Beaufort's. On the top of the screens are six painted chests (see p.

95), in which are collected the bones of saints and kings of the Saxon period; the original collection being made by Henry of Blois. These #Mortuary Chests# were desecrated by the Cromwellian ruffians when they broke into the cathedral, and the bones were hurled through the stained glass of the west and other windows. Afterwards they were collected once more and replaced in the chests where they now lie. Among the relics are the bones of Edred, Edmund, Canute, William Rufus, Emma, Bishops Wina, Alwyn, Egbert, Cenwulf or Kenulf, Cynegils, and Ethelwulf, and there are the old inscriptions to indicate whose remains were originally enclosed within the boxes, though there is now no warrant that the bones within correspond at all to the names without.

[Illustration: DETAIL OF PULPIT.]

Among those who have been buried in the presbytery aisles is Bishop de Pontissara, of whom Rudborne says that he was buried _ex aquilonari plaga majoris altaris_. Accordingly we find his monument on the north side. Close by him, and still nearer the altar, was laid Hardicanute, the last Danish king, who was brought hither from Lambeth for interment.

His death was attributed to "excessive drinking." In the southern aisle are Richard, the Conqueror's younger son; Edward, eldest born of Alfred the Great; and Bishop Nicholas de Ely's heart.


Eastward of the feretory the building is known by the name of the #Retro-choir#, and presents a very old and pure example of Early English work from the hands of Bishop de Lucy. The aisles are said to have been used as a model in the building of Salisbury Cathedral. Similar processional aisles may be seen also at Hereford on a minor scale. This part of the cathedral is lower and consequently appears broader than the more westerly portion. There is a considerable amount of wall-space, only interrupted by the numerous imposing chantries erected on the floor. The lower part of the walls is remarkable for some fine, though simple, blank arcading, dating also from De Lucy's time; while light is given by pairs of lancet windows, the rear arches being borne on groups of detached shafts. Many of the original chased tiles of the pavement remain to this day, and, in fact, there has been little interference with De Lucy's work. Unfortunately, however, as has been remarked, much of it has settled considerably, throwing the south-eastern angle altogether out of the perpendicular, one vaulting-shaft having in this manner been bent back and cracked in half. The effects of the subsidence can easily be seen in the photograph of the south aisle of the retro-choir looking toward the east.

As one passes beyond the feretory through the retro-choir, the #Chantry of William Waynflete# stands to the north of the central alley. The canopy is very elaborate and beautiful, and plentiful traces of the original colour still can be seen, especially on the groining. On each side are three flat-headed arches, those at the east end being closed, while on each side of the piers adjoining the west end there are narrow open arches. Corniced and battlemented screens fill these arches to mid-height. The figure on the tomb is a modern restoration, very elaborately clad in full pontificals, while the hands are clasped about a heart, representing the _sursum corda_, or lifting up of the heart.

The chantry is kept in repair by Magdalen College, Oxford, which Waynflete founded. Its situation, like that of the companion tomb of Cardinal Beaufort, makes it very impressive. There is no altar now. At the east end is a blank wall surmounted by three empty canopied niches, while at the other are two open gratings.

In the corresponding position to the south is the #Chantry of Cardinal Beaufort#, now kept in repair by the Dukes of Beaufort. In Britton's time, as he tells us, there had fallen a "horse-load of the pinnacles in the canopy of Cardinal Beaufort's chantry." Owing, however, to the extreme elaboration, the effect is hardly impaired by this loss. The plan of the tomb is two groups of four clustered piers at each end, supporting a mass of canopies, niches, and pinnacles, which "bewilder the sight and senses by their number and complexity," as Britton quaintly says. The screen at the west end is closed, that at the east end open. The vault displays some elaborate fan-tracery. The body of the cardinal is presented in his scarlet official robes and the tasselled and corded hat, and the serenity of his face suggests very little the traditional portrait of him, as represented, for example, in Shakespeare's "Henry V." His death-bed moments, it is well known, have been much misrepresented. The inscription originally on his tomb has been destroyed, but Godwin quotes one sentence of it thus:--_Tribularer si nescirem misericordias tuas_.

Against the north wall, not far from Waynflete's chantry, is an unknown tomb with part of an effigy, to the east of which is the grave of one William Symonds, "Gentleman, of Winchester twice Maior and Alderman," as his epitaph of 1616 relates. The last four lines of the inscription run as follows:--

His Merrit doth Enherit Life and Fame, For whilst this City stands Symonds his name In alle men's harts shall never be forgotten, For poores prayers rise when flesh lyes rotten.

Between the same chantry and the wall lies the tomb of Bishop de Rupibus, while in the space between the chantries of Beaufort and Waynflete lies the only ancient military effigy in the cathedral, a genuine relic of the fourteenth century. It is commonly known as William de Foix, and represents, in a slightly mutilated form, a knight in surcoat and complete ringed armour of the thirteenth century. His legs are crossed[5] and the feet rest on a crouching lion, while the head is supported on two cushions which were formerly held up by angels. The right hand grasps the sword hilt, and the pointed shield, one of the earliest examples of a quartered shield, bears "quarterly, in the first and fourth, the arms of Bearn, two cows passant, gorged with collars and bells; in the second and third, three garbs; over all a cross." On the front edge of the slab Mr F.J. Baigent discovered the name Petrus Gavston or Gauston twice encised, but to this "scribbling" Mr Weston S.

Walford, who has a note on this tomb in the fifteenth volume of the _Archeological Journal_, does not attach much importance, for it may merely record the engraver's conjecture as to the person here buried.

The body of Edward II.'s favourite, Piers, was moved from Oxford to King's Langley in Hertfordshire two years after his execution, and buried there on January 2, 1314, in the presence of the king. It is not known to have been moved since. It seems probable that the effigy here is that of the father of the Piers known to us, a Sir Arnold de Gavaston, a record of whose interment at Winchester in May 1302 we possess, with the additional fact that Edward I. sent money and two pieces of cloth of gold to the funeral. Such respect would naturally be paid to the father of Edward II.'s foster-brother. Mr Walford suggests that the garbs on the shield are a canting allusion to the name Gabaston or Gavaston, for the spelling varies very much--Gaveston, Gaverston, and Gaberston being also found. The date of the tomb Mr Walford places between the death of Arnold in 1302 and the murder of his son in 1312.

The tomb itself is adorned with five Decorated arches with the Gavaston arms on the shield, together with those of England, of France, and of Castile and Leon.

[5] "Such figures as lie crosslegged are those who were in the wars of the Holy Land, or vowed to go and were prevented" (Sir William Dugdale).


_S.B. Bolas & Co., Photo._]

West of this are the tombs of Bishop Sumner and Prior Silkstede. The latter's grave, according to Woodward, was found, when opened, to contain the complete remains of a body robed in black serge, with the "funeral boots" yet on the bones of the feet. The body seems to have been removed hither from Silkstede's chapel in the south transept.

Next the western end of Beaufort's chantry is the tomb of William de Basynge, prior of this church (_quondam Prior istius ecclesiae_), as his inscription states, promising 145 days' indulgence to whoever prays for his soul three years. He died in 1295.

On the south wall facing the same chantry is a marble monument of the Royalist, Sir John Clobery; and near this is a large slab in the floor, in memory of Baptist Levinz, Bishop of Sodor and Man, and prebendary of Winchester, who died in 1692.

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