Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Salisbury Cathedral, formally known as the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Salisbury Cathedral is the most exquisite example of Gothic architecture I've seen in my life. Its symmetry, its relative simplicity, with little fussiness, its perfect proportions, its awe-inspiring upward thrust, all that and more served to make my visit to the great edifice a visual and spiritual joy.

The gorgeous vaulted and painted ceiling

The view down the nave toward the altar

The magnificent baptismal font, designed by William Pye and installed in 2008, has the following inscription:


Read more about the font at the Salisbury Cathedral website.

All photos are from Wikipedia, with the exception of the font, which is mine.

And then, and then, as if the beauty of the cathedral were not enough, Cathy and I attended Evensong, sung by the choir of St Mark's Episcopal Church Choir from Berkeley, California, of which our long-time online friend, susan s, is a member. susan is third from left on the front row in the picture below. Imagine! I had to go to England to meet my fellow-citizen.

The choir from St Mark's sang beautifully. What a lovely finale to our visit to Salisbury Cathedral.

What a day! Earlier Cathy and I lunched with susan s., Erika, Laura (of Lay Anglicana) and her husband Robert, which lunch I will write about in due time. Chronological order is decidedly not my way of writing about my travels. Sorry about that.


  1. How glorious! Thank you, Mimi. I see some familiar faces in the choir (and a familiar rose window and organ) since I was once a member of St Mark's, Berkeley.

  2. If you walk around all the sides of the font the whole inscription reads: ‘Do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called your name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”

    I remember it because it's my Baptism verse and the one I chose for my younger daughter. I love that it is in Salisbury.

  3. Nice post, Mimi, but of course I had a vested interest. Oh, I made a pun. . . without actually realizing it until I read it! It was fun meeting up and I can hardly wait to read about that lunch from your perspective. And thanks for the choir compliment.

  4. Paul, thanks. The visit to the cathedral, along with the lovely service of Evensong, was one of the high spots of my trip to England.

    Erika, thanks. I corrected the post to include the entire inscription. I took a close-up of only one side of the font.

    susan s., about that vested interest.... :-) Seriously, the choir was marvelous.

  5. Ahhhh... a fave place! What a great time you had!

  6. Fond memories of visit, 31 years ago. [Haven't seen my photos in years---that album's in my storage somewhere!---but I remember I was particularly pleased w/ my Salisbury pics. I recall a silouette one esp.]

  7. How fine it was that we were able to arrange our visit to Salisbury Cathedral when susan's choir was singing there. If the choir had not been at the cathedral, we may not have made it for the visit, which would have been a great loss to me.

  8. The choir did sing beautifully and susan s looked most regal in her robes. It's a shame we didn't have a little more time to saunter round Salisbury and see what else there is to see but apart from that it was a good day. Alas, you can't do everything.

  9. The basic structure of Salisbury is a magnificent structure. Unfortunately, from the 1780's onwards, it has suffered a sequence of unfortunate and radical "restorations" that have stripped it of much of the overlay of relics of earlier eras and religious practices which characterize the more interesting English medieval churches and cathedrals. The new font looks beautiful, but the church as a whole, base architecture aside, is one of the most sterile of English cathedrals.

  10. Lapin, then you and I have a difference of opinion. I know the building has structural problems partly due to overreaching in its original construction, but even with the braces and supports, and the less is more approach in the present, its appearance is pleasing to me. I think the cathedral is beautiful.

    Of course, you, no doubt, know much more than I about what is architecturally and decoratively correct, but I have a right to my opinion, even with my small store of knowledge.

  11. It is indeed beautiful, but like Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, it is almost completely stripped bare of the incidentals of worship that completed it and made it aesthetically and historically interesting, rather than simply an impressive exercise in geometry and situation.

  12. Lapin, at Salisbury, you can see the 'bones' of the building, and I like that.

  13. I'm with you Grandmere, I love the bones of a building. I love your picture and the connection to the Cathedral website - glorious! I'm glad the choir was wonderful too. Did you know susan s was going to be there when you were there?

  14. Ciss, thanks.

    We knew susan would be there. Erika, susan, and Cathy worked hard to arrange for the lunch earlier in the day and for our attendance at Evensong. Unfortunately, Erika could not stay for Evensong, as she had previous plans.

  15. Cathy, I'm also sorry we missed seeing the Magna Carta and the Chapter House. Unfortunately, the building was closed.

  16. The ceiling is beautiful, but it looks like someone forgot to turn off the water in that bathtub. That's gonna ruin the carpeting!

  17. On Sunday we sang both the Eucharist and the Evensong services. The procession was from the Vestry down the side aisle to the Font and then down the center aisle. It was the longest one I had ever been in. There were two baptisms at the morning service. Oh, and we sang for a wedding on Saturday afternoon that took place in the Quire. The Bride processed down the center aisle. There were still many tourists being led around on tours, but well away from the 'front of the church.' Many sat in the nave and 'witnessed' the ceremony. Earlier in the week, the father and grandmother of the groom came to check us out to see if we were good enough, I guess, to sing for the wedding. They seemed well pleased.

  18. I've read that when the cathedral chapter decided to add that magnificent spire, they neglected to determine that the structure beneath would support it. The thing seems to float on a miracle. (Lapinbizarre hints that the supporting structure has needed more attention than prayer.) My former wife went to school at nearby Sherborne and I've admired the view of Salisbury from the road. And, of course, Anglicanism is indebted to the Sarum Rite.

  19. Uh-oh. I heard the magic words "Sarum Rite" and now must give the required response. (Incidentally, Old Sarum, the place outside the town where the old fortress and cathedral were, is well worth visiting.)

    There was a young curate of Salisbury
    Whose manners were quite halisbury-scalisbury.
    He ran around Hampshire
    Without any pampshire
    Till his vicar compelled him to walisbury.

    Yes, Hants is the official abbreviation, nickname, whatever, for Hampshire.

    Don't ask me about Chichester.

  20. The font is amazing. There is a constant flow of water down from the corners, yet the surface is absolutely mirror flat and still and you cannot see any movement at all. It's quite rare to be able to get a photo of it on its own as it is usually surrounded by people dipping their fingers into it to try and work out the water flow.

    I also love the cathedral for its annual Sarum lectures series. They always have very high quality people there and many years ago we travelled 90 minutes there and back for 5 evenings to hear Rowan Williams just before he became ABC.

    Susan, when my then 17 year old sister first saw the cathedral she immediately wanted to get married in it because of the long aisle!
    She still wishes it had been possible and this year, we've shown her 17 year old daughter round the cathedral. She too would love to float up that isle in a white dress:-)

  21. The font is gorgeous. I have no idea of the technology involved, but the glass-smooth surface. The photo at the link to the cathedral website shows the undistorted reflection of stained glass windows in the surface of the font.

    susan s., they put y'all to work, didn't they? Well, you went to Salisbury to sing.

    Murdoch, the structural problems continue to require attention at great expense, I'm sure.

    Thanks for the limerick, Porlock.

    Erika, the lectures sound wonderful. Rowan Williams then and and contrast.

  22. That font is GORGEOUS!!!

    And, thumbs up to St. Mark's choir! --a member there as a child --and attended many evening prayer services there while in seminary --always followed by food, which, as a starving seminarian was quite welcome!

    Looking for all the familiar faces in the choir --and see quite a few --including George!!!

  23. opppsss --forgot to say --thank you Grandmere --excellent post --I appreciate non-linear stuff!

  24. margaret, the choir was a joy to hear. So many of you know St Mark's from seminary in Berkeley.

    My comment above on the font is unfinished. I meant to say that the glass-like effect of the water on the surface is like nothing I've ever seen.

  25. Some time after the font was consecrated I read that the oil on Rowan's fingers had etched his prints into the copper. Are they still there, I wonder?

  26. Lapin, how funny. Rowan etches his prints in far too many places to suit me.

  27. What ho, Grandma!
    Forget those boring old gothic cathedrals! Every county's got a least one. What you should have seen while in Salisbury was (possibly) the best "doom" painting in England just around the corner in St Thomas's.
    I've not mastered hyperlinks yet so I'll have to throw myself on your mercy - but forgive me and see
    Here's a discussion of it

    And here's "the Visitation" in the same church

    Tomorrow's market day in Salisbury so I fear I'll be dragged thereby my manager - I'll say "hello" to the painting for you!
    Regards, MikeN.
    PS If you come this way again, let me know!

  28. We missed the painting, which is magnificent, and the Magna Carta. We were in the city for all too brief a time, for a long lunch, a visit to the cathedral, and Evensong with our friend's choir doing the honors.

    Do give the painting my regards.

  29. I a trying to learn with Mike how to do hyperlinks in blogs. Here goes:

  30. Laura, you're not quite there yet. What you have is a live link. Have you tried the instructions on this website?


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