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  • ENGLAND 2003

    Day 1 , April 5, 2003 - Saturday



    This was my first trans -Atlantic flight.  It sure was long and rather tiring even though I did get a little sleep on the plane.   We arrived at Heathrow at 2:00 am (our time).  We took the Heathrow Express train to Paddington station.   From there we took a taxi to our hotel.   We had reservations at the Thistle Hotel located next to the Tower Bridge.  We decided to keep going rather than take a nap.  We had a 2:00 pm appointment for a private tour at St. Paulís Cathedral.    It wasnít that far away so we decided to walk plus we needed to find a place to have something to eat Ė we didnít know whether it was breakfast or lunch, but we were hungry.  We were in an area which is part of ďThe CityĒ Ė the original square mile and is now a financial district so there were few restaurants open on Saturday morning. The first place that we found was a McDonaldís.   So we travel across the ocean and our first meal on foreign soil is McDonalds.

    We then walked to St. Paulís Cathedral (see model).   The architecture of St. Paulís is quite different from the English Gothic architecture of the Washington National Cathedral.  One of first things that a visitor notes is that rather than a central tower, this cathedral has a dome, no flying buttress nor a faÁade filled with statuary unlike many of the cathedrals and churches in England.  It has the look of some of Palladian churches that we experienced in Venice on our Italian CATHEDRAL QUESTS. The architectural syle is Baroque.

    The main reason why St. Paulís is not a traditional Romanesque or Gothic church, even though it has been in the same location since 604, is that it  has a long history of building, fire and rebuilding.  Many of the medieval European churches that we will visit have been restored or added to and thus retain either their Romanesque or Gothic qualities. Many suffered fire or war damage but were able to be restored.  All of St. Paulís building was completely destroyed by fire.

    The first church, a wooden structure, was built in 604 shortly after Augustine landed at Kent in 597.   This church burned to the ground.  Between 675 and 685 a new church of stone was built on the site.   This was destroyed by the Vikings in 962 and rebuilt almost immediately.  That church burned down in 1087.

    Rebuilding was started at once in the Norman style. The Norman style is the name given to the Romanesque style of architecture in the Normandy region in northern France. This style of architecture was brought to England at the time of the Norman Conquest by William the Conquer in 1066.

    Old St. Paulís was not completed until 1240.  Almost immediate work was begun on construction of a new choir in the Gothic style.   Gothic architecture had its beginning at St. Denis in Paris in 1140.  This addition made St. Paulís the largest church in England and the third largest in Europe Ė 596 feet in length.   In 1315 a spire was placed on the crossing tower.  It became the tallest steeple ever built.   In 1444 this spire was destroyed by lightening.  It was rebuilt but struck again a hundred years later.   The church was showing signs of deterioration and plans were made to destroy it and rebuild it.  Then in 1666 the cathedral was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. 

    In 1668 Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to build a new church.   Wren drew three sets of plans before they were accepted in 1673.  The new plan was based on the traditional Latin Cross of the traditional Romanesque and Gothic churches, two short transepts (the side arms), and a dome and spire at the crossing.  Domes had not been used in most Romanesque and Gothic style churches except in Italy.  Domes go back to Eastern/Byzantine architecture of Constantinopleís Hagia Sophia's in 537.  One of the first uses of a dome was the Pantheon in Rome built between 118 and 126.  The famous domes of St. Peterís, Rome; the Duomo in Florence with Brunelleschiís Dome, and St. Markís -Venice were all built before St. Paulís.  The last stone at St. Paulís Cathedral was put in place in 1708. 

    World War II bombings damaged the choir roof and destroyed the high altar and damaged the Reredos.  The restoration was completed in 1967.

    Upon arriving at St. Paulís, we stopped at the information desk and introduced ourselves. St. Paulís was one of the churches that I had written about a private tour.  Our guide, Mike, was waiting for us.  Before leaving home we bought a Washington Cathedral book to give each cathedral.  We presented Mike with a copy of the book.  There were several other people waiting for a tour, so we invited them to join us.   The inside walls were being cleaned.   I think it was the same process as used at the Washington Cathedral, which involved a mixture of clay and toilet paper and something else.   The walls are plastered with this mixture and allowed to dry and then scraped off and the stain and moisture comes off with the mixture.  There was one wall that had been completed but the rest of the cathedral had scaffolding and the plaster mixture so we couldnít appreciate the real beauty of St. Paulís. 

    This being the first European cathedral that we had visited, we noticed as many differences on the interior as we did on the exterior as compared to the Washington Cathedral.   There was a feeling of openness in spite of the amount of scaffolding.   The columns were large squares rather than a series of round columns, with rounded arches rather than pointed arches and farther apart than the Washington Cathedral.   The openness of the dome provided a lot of sunlight.  Unlike the Washington Cathedral, the ceilings were barrel vaults with gold Baroque decorations. The inside of the dome was decorated with the monochrome paintings of Sir James Thornhill depicting the incidents in the life of St. Paul.  We were given the opportunity to climb up in the dome, but declined.  It looked too high and had too many steps. 

    Another difference in the design is that the high altar is not against the east wall of the apse as in the Washington Cathedral.  At the Washington Cathedral there is nothing behind the altar or reredos except a room used by the altar guild. Surrounding the main altar at St. Paulís is a structure known as baldacchino with the figure of our Lord in triumph on the dome surrounded by four gold angels.  In our future travels we did not encounter many baldacchinos.  The most famous is over the high altar at St. Peterís in Rome. In most Gothic cathedrals there is at least one chapel and sometimes many chapels behind the main altar in the area known as the apse. At St. Paulís Cathedral there is the American Memorial Chapel behind the main altar against the east wall.  This chapel is the tribute of the people of Britain to the 28,000 Americans stationed in the United Kingdom, who lost their lives in World War II.  It is interesting that the kneeling cushions in the War Memorial chapel in the Washington Cathedral were made and given to the Washington Cathedral by the ladies of England in thanksgiving for our aid during World War II.  The queen is credited with making one of them.

    In the Washington Cathedral there is only one tomb in the main part of the church and that is of Woodrow Wilson.   During our tours in the next few years we will see many large and elaborate tombs and memories in the main part of the churches.  At  St. Paulís we were impressed with the memorial to Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington in the north aisle.  It is as tall as the  nave arch with Wellesley on his horse on the top of it. His tomb is surrounded by a series of columns.  It took twenty years to build. The crypt was also interesting with the large memorial tomb of Lord Nelson. Our docent gave us a wonderful tour.  We are disappointed that we are unable to share photos of the interior of St. Paulís, but taking pictures was not allowed.  Please read what I have said about photographing churches.

    Tower of LondonWe walked along the Thames River back to the hotel.    The Tower of London (see model)was very near our hotel, but we didnít go in. The Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames. It was founded in the winter of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. From as early as 1100, the Tower of London was used as a prison. Although the Tower is popularly known today as a place of imprisonment, that was not its primary purpose. Early in its history, the Tower was a grand palace, serving as a royal residence. From the Tudor period onwards, the Tower was used less as a royal residence. The height of the castle's use as a prison came in the 16th and 17th centuries, when many political or religious figures were held within its walls. This last use has led to the phrase "sent to the Tower". The Tower is also known as a place of torture and execution, although only seven people were executed within the Tower.

    We walked along the Thames River back to the hotel.    The Tower of London was very near our hotel, but we didnít go in. The Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames. It was founded in the winter of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. From as early as 1100, the Tower of London was used as a prison. Although the Tower is popularly known today as a place of imprisonment, that was not its primary purpose. Early in its history, the Tower was a grand palace, serving as a royal residence. From the Tudor period onwards, the Tower was used less as a royal residence. The height of the castle's use as a prison came in the 16th and 17th centuries, when many political or religious figures were held within its walls. This last use has led to the phrase "sent to the Tower". The Tower is also known as a place of torture and execution, although only seven people were executed within the Tower.

    Near the Tower of London and our hotel was the famous Tower Bridge which was begun in 1886 and took eight years to build.

    When we checked into our hotel, our room was hot even though we had turned on the air conditioning.   It was still hot when we returned so the hotel management changed our room to a cooler one with a king size bed.  

    Our room had a good view of St. Katharine Docks and Marina.  St Katharine Docks took their name from the former hospital of St Katharine's by the Tower, built in the 12th century, which stood on the site. An intensely built-up 23 acre site was earmarked for redevelopment by an Act of Parliament in 1825. Some 1250 houses were demolished, together with the medieval hospital of St. Katharine.  The docks were officially opened on 25 October 1828. Although well used, they were not a great commercial success and were unable to accommodate large ships. The St Katharine Docks were badly damaged by German bombing during the Second World War and never fully recovered thereafter. The docks were closed, in 1968, and were sold to the Greater London Council. Most of the original warehouses were demolished and replaced by modern commercial buildings in the early 1970s, with the docks themselves becoming a marina.

    There were shops and restaurants around the water which contained a number of sailboats and yachts.  It was fun watching the boats enter the locks before their journey out to the Thames. We stopped in the Thames bar in the hotel and had a drink.  Then we walked over to the famous Dickenís Inn on the other side of marina but it was crowded with a long wait.  There was an Indian restaurant nearby but it smelled too spicy.  At this point we were really tired and just wanted something simple to eat.  We went back to the hotel and ate in the Carvery restaurant.  My wife had an omelet and I had curried chicken.   We went to bed at 8:00 pm as we were really tired from the trip across the pond and a busy day without much sleep. 

    NEXT DAY 

    DAY 1 - London

    DAY 2 - London

    DAY 3 - Canterbury

    DAY 4 - Leed's Castle

    DAY 5 - Salisbury

    DAY 6 - Salisbury/Stonehenge

    DAY 7 - Bath and Wells

    DAY 8 - Bath

    DAY 9 - Bath and London

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