Chichester Cathedral via Guildford
It was a chilly Saturday morning for 45 parishioners and friends to travel to the lovely Sussex cathedral town of Chichester for the day. However the temperature did nothing to stem the enthusiasm of the travellers. Our first surprise of the day was when we made an unexpected stop at Guilford Cathedral. Brian our excellent driver had phoned ahead and the very nice restaurant were able to accommodate us for our morning break. This stop was to good an opportunity to miss and most of us make a quick visit to the cathedral. From the outside it looks exactly what it is, a cathedral built in the middle of the 20th century, however the inside is a revelation as the interior looks and feels much like a far older and more classic cathedral. We entered to the sound of the organist practicing Widor’s Tocatta, What a welcome! Our visit was brief, but this cathedral is worth a longer visit.
We arrived in Chichester at mid-day and had time to explore this lovely unspoilt city, before our scheduled cathedral tour. A popular place to visit was the Pallent House Gallery, which is dedicated to 20th century British art, while others took the walk along the old city walls. Some people even found time for some retail therapy! The town itself contains many old buildings, the oldest of which is a tiny Saxon church built around 1050 dedicated to St Olave or Olaf, which is now a Christian bookshop.
Before our tour we met two old friends George and Vivien Repath who popped in to meet us all. For our tour we assembled in the nave from where you can see the length of the cathedral. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the tapestry hanging behind the altar, designed by John Piper and installed in 1966. Our guide preferred to call our tour a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Richard, who was Bishop of Chichester from 1245 until 1253, as we were walking in the steps that many pilgrims took to visit his shrine, up until 1538 when it was destroyed and his bones scattered. Work commenced on the cathedral in 1076 and it now has a reputation for mixing the old and the new in church art. Our well-informed guide explained the symbolism in the altar tapestry and also that of the tapestry hanging in the shrine of St. Richard, immediately behind. It is probably fair to say that they received mixed reviews from our group! The modern art does not stop there. There is work by Graham Sutherland and a striking window designed by Marc Chagall, with its theme being Psalm 150. But it isn’t all modern art. The Chichester reliefs are two panels dating from about 1125 showing Christ raising Lazarus from the dead. The faces of the people on these two reliefs are simple but finely carved and show exactly the range of emotions of all those around the graveside.
Our guide pointed out many things that might not notice yourself. The panel painting of all the bishops of Chichester up to bishop Robert Sherburne is of interest as the artist Lambert Barnard has given all the clergy the same face, that of Robert Sherburne who commissioned the work! There is much to see in the cathedral. My particular favourite is the ‘Arundel tomb’, made famous in a poem by Philip Larkin. The figures on the top of the tomb are believed to represent Richard Fitzalan 13th Earl of Arundel, who died in 1376 and his countess They lie at peace, hand in hand, a positioning which is believed to be unique in this type of memorial. Like many cathedrals, you are reminded on the hour that the building is not just a monument, museum or art gallery but a working church and you are invited to pause for a short time and join in the prayers, the first one being the prayer of St. Richard.
After our tea and cakes we were free to see more of the sights independently. The cathedral is the only English Cathedral still with a detached medieval bell tower, although the signs warning of falling masonry prevented a closer inspection. This brought back memories to Derek Fowles who had actually rung the bells here, some years ago.
Choral evensong was very well attended and was a perfect ending to the day.
If you are unfamiliar with the prayer of St Richard, Bishop of Chichester 1245-1253, here it is.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know thee more clearly, love the more dearly, and follow thee more nearly. Amen.
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