May 11, 2018
Categorised in: History
To celebrate our upcoming Stone Festival, we have been investigating some of the mysteries and people behind the stones of the cathedral and the stories they tell, to find out more about this incredible building.
The fifth part of the series takes a journey in the footsteps of the Normans and what they saw of the cathedral stones.
Life at the cathedral was changed forever when the Normans invaded England in 1066. William the Conqueror replaced the last Anglo Saxon bishop with a new French bishop, Bishop Walkelin. Bishop Walkelin decided to create a new building in the Norman Romanesque style, and founded the cathedral building we see today.
Bishop Walkelin built what is now the oldest part of the cathedral, the crypt and transepts. All the other parts of Walkelin’s original building have since been remodelled or rebuilt. Much of the stone that makes up these iconic structures was repurposed from Old Minster, the Anglo Saxon cathedral that stood on the site before the Normans arrived.
The crypt has a low-vaulted ceiling and solid pillars throughout, and is sparsely decorated. Interestingly, the site where Bishop Walkelin decided to build the cathedral was soft and peaty ground with a high underlying water table, which contributes to the flooding that occurs in the crypt every winter. The crypt is home to Antony Gormley’s famous sculpture Sound II.
The transepts show what the whole cathedral would have looked like in Walkelin’s day. The arches and stonework are much less flamboyant than the decoration that appeared throughout the cathedral in later centuries. There are no ribs or bosses on the vaulting and the stonework is unpainted and has little decoration.
To really walk where the Norman Bishops of old would have walked, join us on one of our Crypt Tours or Cathedral Tours, to discover more about the history behind these structures.