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The Glory of Gloucester and Hereford Cathedrals

The Glory of Gloucester and Hereford Cathedrals

Gloucester Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in Gloucester, England, stands in the north of the city near the River Severn. It originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter (dissolved by King Henry VIII).

Wardle records that in 1058 Ealdred, Bishop of Worcester at the time, rebuilt the church of St Peter. The foundations of the present church were laid by Abbot Serlo (1072–1104). Walter Frocester (d. 1412) the abbey's historian, became its first mitred abbot in 1381. Until 1541, Gloucester lay in the see of Worcester, but the separate see was then constituted, with John Wakeman, last abbot of Tewkesbury, as its first bishop. The diocese covers the greater part of Gloucestershire, with small parts of Herefordshire and Wiltshire. The cathedral has a stained glass window containing the earliest images of golf. This dates from 1350, over 300 years earlier than the earliest image of golf from Scotland. There is also a carved image of people playing a ball game, believed by some to be one of the earliest images of medieval football.

The cathedral, built as the abbey church, consists of a Norman nucleus (Walter de Lacy is buried there), with additions in every style of Gothic architecture. It is 420 feet (130 m) long, and 144 feet (44 m) wide, with a fine central tower of the 15th century rising to the height of 225 ft (69 m) and topped by four delicate pinnacles, a famous landmark. The nave is massive Norman with an Early English roof; the crypt, under the choir, aisles and chapels, is Norman, as is the chapter house. The crypt is one of the four apsidal cathedral crypts in England, the others being at Worcester, Winchester and Canterbury.

The south porch is in the Perpendicular style, with a fan-vaulted roof, as also is the north transept, the south being transitional Decorated Gothic. The choir has Perpendicular tracery over Norman work, with an apsidal chapel on each side: the choir vaulting is particularly rich. The late Decorated east window is partly filled with surviving medieval stained glass. Between the apsidal chapels is a cross Lady chapel, and north of the nave are the cloisters, the carrels or stalls for the monks' study and writing lying to the south. The cloisters at Gloucester are the earliest surviving fan vaults, having been designed between 1351 and 1377 by Thomas de Canterbury.

The most notable monument is the canopied shrine of King Edward II of England who was murdered at nearby Berkeley Castle (illustration below). The building and sanctuary were enriched by the visits of pilgrims to this shrine. In a side-chapel is a monument in coloured bog oak of Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror and a great benefactor of the abbey, who was interred there. Monuments of Bishop Warburton and Dr Edward Jenner are also worthy of note.

Between 1873 and 1890, and in 1897, the cathedral was extensively restored by George Gilbert Scott. In September 2016 Gloucester Cathedral joined the Church of England’s ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ campaign. The aim of this campaign is to reduce The Church of England’s carbon emissions collectively, by 80%. In order to help reach this target Gloucester Cathedral commissioned local solar company Mypower to install an array on the nave of Gloucester Cathedral. Purportedly the solar array will reduce Gloucester Cathedral’s energy costs by 25%. The installation was completed by November 2016. The 1000 year old Cathedral is now the oldest building in the world to have undergone a solar installation.

For further information please visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloucester_Cathedral and www.gloucestercathedral.org.uk/

The current Hereford Cathedral, located at Hereford in England, dates from 1079. Its most famous treasure is Mappa Mundi, a mediaeval map of the world dating from the 13th century. The cathedral is a Grade I listed building.

The cathedral is dedicated to two patron saints, namely Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Ethelbert the King. The latter was beheaded by Offa, King of Mercia in the year 792. Offa had consented to give his daughter to Ethelbert in marriage: why he changed his mind and deprived him of his head historians do not know, although tradition is at no loss to supply him with an adequate motive. The execution, or murder, is said to have taken place at Sutton, four miles (6 km) from Hereford, with Ethelbert's body brought to the site of the modern cathedral by 'a pious monk'. At Ethelbert's tomb miracles were said to have occurred, and in the next century (about 830) Milfrid, a Mercian nobleman, was so moved by the tales of these marvels as to rebuild in stone the little church which stood there, and to dedicate it to the sainted king.

Before this, Hereford had become the seat of a bishopric. It is said to have been the centre of a diocese as early as the 670s when Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus divided the Mercian diocese of Lichfield, founding Hereford for the Magonsæte and Worcester for the Hwicce. In the 7th century the cathedral was refounded by Putta, who settled here when driven from Rochester by Æthelred of Mercia. The cathedral of stone, which Milfrid raised, stood for some 200 years, and then, in the reign of Edward the Confessor, it was altered. The new church had only a short life, for it was plundered and burnt in 1056 by a combined force of Welsh and Irish under Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, the Welsh prince; it was not, however, destroyed until its custodians had offered vigorous resistance, in which seven of the canons were killed.

Hereford Cathedral remained in a state of ruin until Robert of Lorraine was consecrated to the see (made Bishop) in 1079 and undertook its reconstruction. His work was carried on, or, more probably, redone, by Bishop Reynelm, who was next but one in the succession, and reorganised the college of secular canons attached to the cathedral. Reynelm died in 1115, and it was only under his third successor, Robert de Betun, who was Bishop from 1131 to 1148, that the church was brought to completion.

Of this Norman church, little has survived but the choir up to the spring of the clerestory, the south transept, the arch between the north transept and the choir aisle, and the nave arcade. Scarcely 50 years after its completion William de Vere, who occupied the see from 1186 to 1199, altered the east end by constructing a retro-choir or processional path and a Lady Chapel; the latter was rebuilt not long afterwards—between the years 1226 and 1246, during the Early English style—with a crypt beneath. Around the middle of the century the clerestory, and probably the vaulting of the choir, were rebuilt, having been damaged by the settling of the central tower. Under Bishop Aquablanca (1240–68), one of Henry III's foreign favourites, the rebuilding of the north transept was begun, being completed later in the same century by Bishop Swinfield, who also built the aisles of the nave and eastern transept.

One of the most notable of the pre-reformation Bishops of Hereford, who left his mark upon the cathedral and the diocese, was Peter of Aigueblanche, also known as Bishop Aquablanca, who rebuilt the north transept. Aquablanca came to England in the train of Eleanor of Provence. He was undoubtedly a man of energy and resource; though he lavished money upon the cathedral and made a handsome bequest to the poor, it cannot be pretended that his qualifications for the office to which Henry III appointed him included piety. He was an unblushing nepotist, nor was he afraid to practise gross fraud when occasion called for it.[citation needed] When Prince Edward came to Hereford to deal with Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd, the Bishop was away in Ireland on a tithe-collecting expedition, and the dean and canons were also absent. Not long after the Bishop's return, which was probably expedited by the stern rebuke which the King administered, he and all his relatives from Savoy were seized within the cathedral by a party of barons, who deprived him of the money which he had extorted from the Irish.

In the first half of the 14th century the rebuilding of the central tower, which is embellished with ball-flower ornaments, was carried out. At about the same time the chapter house and its vestibule were built, then Bishop Trevenant, who presided over the Bishopric from 1389 to 1404, rebuilt the south end and groining of the great transept. Around the middle of the 15th century a tower was added to the western end of the nave, and in the second half of this century Bishops Stanbury and Edmund Audley built three chantries, the former on the north side of the presbytery, the latter on the south side of the Lady Chapel. Bishops Richard Mayew and Booth, who between them ruled the diocese from 1504 to 1535, made the last additions to the cathedral by erecting the north porch, now forming the principal northern entrance. The building of the present edifice therefore extended over a period of 440 years.

Thomas de Cantilupe was the next but one bishop of Hereford after Aquablanca. He had faults not uncommon in men who held high ecclesiastical office in his day, however he was a strenuous administrator of his see, and an unbending champion of its rights. For assaulting some of the episcopal tenants and raiding their cattle, Lord Clifford was condemned to walk barefoot through the cathedral to the high altar, and the bishop himself applied the rod to his back. Bishop Cantilupe also wrung from the Welsh King Llewellyn some manors which he had seized, and Cantilupe, after a successful lawsuit against the Earl of Gloucester to determine the possession of a chase near the Forest of Malvern, dug the dyke which can still be traced on the crest of the Malvern Hills. Excommunicated by Archbishop of Canterbury John Peckham, he went to the papal court in Orvieto to plead his case with the pope. He moved with the court to Montefiascone where, already ill, he died in 1282 before his case was fully resolved. His flesh was buried in the monastery of San Severo outside Orvieto and his heart and bones were brought back to England. His bones were placed in a shrine at Hereford Cathedral where they became a focus of a huge pilgrimage cult. Rome was urged to canonise him, and among the evidences of his saintliness which his admirers appealed to, in addition to the miracles of healing wrought at his shrine, were the facts that he never ceased to wear his hair-shirt, and would never allow even his sister to kiss him. The testimony was regarded as conclusive, and 40 years after his death, in 1320, the bishop's name was added to the roll of saints. His arms were adopted for those of the see.

For further information please visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hereford_Cathedral and www.herefordcathedral.org/carousel-3

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Photo taken @ Gloucester on 13 November 2017 (© antonychammond / Flickr)

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