June 1, 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 eighth part of the series takes a journey in the footsteps of the Winchester Bishops and what they saw of the cathedral stones.
Many bishops from Winchester Cathedral’s history played an important part in creating the cathedral’s unique design. From Bishop Walkelin, who founded the Norman building, to Bishop Tim Dakin, current Bishop of Winchester, their many different visions for the cathedral have come together over the centuries to create the fascinating building you see today.
Many of these bishops contributed to memorable architectural sites in the cathedral. Bishop William of Edington implemented the magnificent triple porch that fronts the building to this day and also initiated the remodelling of the nave. The original nave, built in the 11th century was a lot simpler, but Bishop Edington planned to remodel it in the signature gothic style of the 14th century. The work was continued by Bishop William of Wykeham, whose architect William Wynford transformed the original three-tiered Norman walls into the current perpendicular style. Wynford continued to work under Bishop Wykeham’s successor Bishop Henry Beaufort, who also commissioned the great screen and a new shrine for St Swithun. The work on the nave was finally completed with the spectacular vaulted ceiling with decorative bosses. After over 40 years of remodelling the nave was transformed from the simple Norman style to a stunning Gothic style, with soaring Tudor arches, large windows and foliage and face decorations.
Bishops Edington, Wykeham and Beaufort were all considered so important that they had chantry chapels built for them. There are seven chantry chapels total in the cathedral, more than any other cathedral in England. Built between the 14th and 16th centuries, daily masses were held for the souls of the bishops who rested there. The chapels are richly decorated, in the case of Bishop Wykeham, his chapel is a stunning example of 14th century decoration made of Caen stone. Many of the chapels house effigies of the bishops, the most striking of which is Bishop Richard Fox, whose striking effigy portrays him as a decaying corpse.
It is difficult to imagine what the cathedral would have looked like to the bishops that worked in the cathedral before the 14th century, but we can certainly see the stunning impact that later bishops had on the building you see today. Talk a walk down the nave to admire the stunning design and see if you can find all seven of the chantry chapels.