“I have always held and proposed against all comers to maintain that the Cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles” – John Ruskin.
After circumnavigating the cathedral at least twice by day and night, it was time to venture inside. Unlike Norwich it is not free to enter, but you can buy a combination ticket with the castle and the admission includes a floor tour. Originally built by the Normans after the defeat in 1066, Lincoln cathedral was consecrated in 1092. The diocese stretched from the Humber in the north to the Thames in the south, and after an earthquake in 1185 only the west front remains from the Norman period.
Inside, it is filled with light from the many stained-glass windows. (You guessed it, a separate post will follow)
Depressingly filled with light-sucking dark plastic chairs. Originally the space would have been empty and the spaces used for markets. When people gathered for services they would have stood.
A pilgrimage is a special kind of a journey
The font is made of a black carboniferous limestone from France, waxed and polished to resemble marble. Its sides are carved with mythical beasts of good and evil fighting.
To your left is the art work of William Fairbank, “The Forest Stations” which show Jesus’s journey to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, carved from many different types of wood.
At the crossing you can see that the church was built in the shape of a cross. Huge rose windows face each other from the north and south transepts.
I’ll go into more detail about the windows in a separate post. In the north transept you find the Service Chapels – for remembering soldiers, sailors and airmen. Lincoln cathedral is especially connected with those who served in the Bomber Command during WWII.
As usual in English cathedrals, the full vista of the nave is blocked, and the choir – in this case St Hugh’s Choir which is almost a church within a church – is hidden from view. However, in this case the screen is exquisitely beautiful. Carved in stone and originally painted in bright colours, some of which can be still seen in faded glory, it was built in 1330 to separate the clergy, their assistants and the choir from the congregation.
I was so taken by the carvings on this screen that I will make a separate post showing the details.
At the far end of the nave is the Angel Choir where you will find several tombs and the infamous Lincoln Imp, if you look closely enough. Legend has it that he caused so much chaos one of the angels turned him to stone.
Eleanor of Castile (1241 – 1290) was the Queen Consort of Edward I. Her entrails were buried in a visceral tomb to avoid the unpleasant smells of moving her body to Westminster Abbey. When she died, near Lincoln, her husband famously ordered a stone cross to be erected at each stopping-place on the journey to London, ending at Charing Cross. (The Eleanor Crosses)
As usual I was particularly interested in the choir area. Lincoln has some delightful misericords, unfortunately all the seats were down ready for Evensong when we entered, and on gently raising one to see what lay beneath I was verbally assaulted by one of the clergymen. Despite the fact that the seats are raised daily and sat upon he proceeded to lecture me loudly and publicly about the damage I could cause to the medieval hinges (?) – I politely pointed out that there is no notice or ropes to indicate that one should not look at the seats, but he was not in any mood to listen. A nearby fellow photographer hastily withdrew from the choir, and my OH was almost shaking with anger. The altercation did somewhat sour our visit and I was saddened not to have at least seen the carvings in person.
However, do not let my mishap deter you from visiting the Choir as it is very beautiful and is where the Bishop’s throne – cathedra – is located.
Lincoln cathedral does have a cloister, but much smaller than that of Norwich, built around 1296 and unusually on the north side.
Three sides are †13c. They have a wooden ceiling with carved bosses and Gothic arches.
We’ll have a look at the carvings in the next post.