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Sunday, 5 July 2015

One Last Cathedral: Southwell

My excursion today was to Southwell Minster, the Church of Mary the Virgin, seat of the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. 

There has been a church here since Paulinus, the first Bishop of York, established one in 627 AD after he had visited the area and baptised Christians in the River Trent. In 956 AD King  gave land at Southwell to the Bishop of York to build a church. A stone plinth from that church is installed over a lintel in the current 
In 1108 the Bishop of York authorised a bigger church to be built.  The Bishop of York has his residence here and it was used for theological training - which gave it the 'Minster' nomenclature, even though it never hosted monks.

The lovely Western 'Angels' window, by Patrick Reyntiens, was installed in 1996. The original windows were replaced in the 15th century with a perpendicular window. Reyntiens described it as " a great gathering of angels enjoying being with God, just all joy and worship".
That seems to be a tradition carried on in the music of the church. We were there as the choir rehearsed for choral evensong - there was joy in their singing - a superbe sound.
I'd like to have included a recording - the acoustics were fabulous.

There are a number of modern sculptures in the Minster. Christos Rex, a sculpture of oak and elm overlaid with copper and gold leaf was created by Peter Ball in 1986.
He has also contributed a Pieta.
There is a Virgin and Child by Alan Coleman from 1952. 
and The Flight into Egypt by Robert Kiddey. 
I also liked Peter Ball's Christ the Light of the World.

Alongside this contemporary sculpture is a Roman ceiling painting
the 'new' font, installed in 1661 following the disappearance of the old one in the Civil War
and the pulpit, telling the story of Paulinus founding the church.
There are some simple brasses and a cope chest 

 The  Chapter House provides wooden linings to its seats - warmer if still somewhat austere for sitting through meetings! 
The carvings are crumbling - a feature, probably, of the sandstone.
Some are still in good condition and the vaulting is lovely.

It was an uplifting visit. I love seeing the continuity - of pieces of the church in the time of Bede still being developed and strengthened with contemporary interpretation of faith,
as well as the building being filled with skilled and well- trained voices. 
I'm grateful to my friends for their hospitality and effort to take me places - especially Southwell. 

Tomorrow is my last day in the UK. I am heading to London tomorrow morning and meeting up with two second cousins-once-removed in the afternoon. 


  1. A beautiful cathedral with a rich blend of the past and contemporary, of the perpetual and transient. Enjoy your last day and a comfortable trip home.

  2. I assume the second cousins are my generation? Say hello. I am have really enjoyed the cathedral blogs and will miss them much. K

    1. Far from it - one my age, one 15 years older! Glad the posts have worked. See you soon. Xx

  3. I have been googling and this is the cathedral where my 3 great grandfather was Vicar Choral and headmaster of the grammar school. I have even found a portrait! , ! Not a hard name to find and he has many descendants so there's quite a bit on Ancestry. You've inspired me to fill in the gaps. Vivienne.

  4. That's pretty amazing. I'm pleased. I purchased the little visitor's guide, but left it behind with my Nottingham friends after writing the blog! The choral work is still going strong. Their is a choir school (probably the grammar) and they apparently host a lot of concerts - contemporary as well as traditional. I didn't look at the attached ruins of the Bishop's Palace, nor stay for the Choral Evensong which followed the rehearsal. There's more for next time!

  5. I do love that old stone plinth. That's another piece that could look amazing in fibre! The combination of the beasts and the knotwork is really nice.

    You'll have inspiration from this blog to last many years!