History, revisited

Happy International Women’s Day!  Why haven’t I heard of this before?

It is a beautiful day here in the outskirts of London, much different from Saturday when Brad and I ventured off into the Wiltshire countryside to see one of the most famous sites in England.

Stonehenge (literally, hanging stones) was started sometime around 3000 BC, according to archeologists, making it older than the very impressive pyramids I saw just a couple weeks ago.  One of the first things you think as you approach the stone circle is how the %^&* did they do that?  The next question is Why?   I may be wading into controversy here, but my answer to both questions is: who knows??  I think it’s pretty clear that the prehistoric men who labored to create this wonder understood something about the sun and it’s significance; the sun shines through the stones and onto a central “alter stone” at sunrise during the summer solstice, and sunset during the winter solstice.  Whether or not it was a site of worship, or a way of tracking seed time and harvest, or whether some dude just said one day, “hey, you know what would be cool?” we will never know with 100% certainty.  What we do know, is that it took many, many years to construct, underwent several revisions and was finally abandoned.  The other thing we know for sure, is that it is magnificent to look at, to ponder, to contemplate and appreciate.  There is an interesting article here.

After we had wandered around long enough to feel frost-bit, we returned to the car and headed toward Salisbury Cathedral, by way of another historic site.

The year is 1066, and the English have been invaded by the French and William the Conqueror.  William, having acquired new territory, needed to stamp his presence all around the countryside, and one of the spots he started was here, Old Sarum.  Around 1075, atop this windswept hill, William’s forces built a castle, a palace and a cathedral, ruins of which you can explore and wander through.  It wasn’t terribly long before the inhabitants decided they’d had enough of the windy hilltop, and the difficulty in getting water, and decided to move on down to what is now Salisbury, in 1220.

Salisbury Cathedral is remarkable for several reasons, but it’s claim to fame is the tallest spire in England—404 feet. 

The cathedral itself took just 38 years to build (remember, it’s the 13th century), and the spire was added between 1280-1310.  The Chapter House within the cathedral holds one of 4 remaining copies of the Magna Carta, which we took a peek at.  I actually found the Chapter House and it’s reliefs more interesting, but that’s partly because I don’t read Latin, I suppose.  Photography was prohibited.

Inside the Cathedral, though, you can snap photo’s to your hearts content, and I did, until my battery died :(.  I adore old Cathedrals, just the thought that these edifaces were constructed to glorify God gives me chills (okay, I will grant that they were also built to inflate the egos of the bishops and the more corrupt elements in the church of that day, that money’s were collected as a sort of sin tax to pay for construction and that many other unsavory facts exsist, but for now I want to focus on the positive).

Want to know my favorite part??  While we were there, the choir was practicing for Evensong, and all throughout the marvelous church you could hear the soaring voices of men and boys reaching to touch the ears of God.  I admit to being close to weeping, it was so beautiful; the clear, perfect voices of young boys stir me everytime I hear them. 

All in all it was a wonderful day, albeit cold.  By the end of the afternoon the sun was shining (not warmly, mind) and we had a nice drive back.   I wonder where we will venture to next?

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