In Salisbury Cathedral Pt 2 I described the different parts of the church, and so for this final part I’m going to explain what there is to see inside – or at least some of the highlights.
Throughout the church there’s a good collection of tombs for anyone who’s interested in this sort of thing. The first person to be buried here was William Longespee Earl of Salisbury, illegitimate son of King Henry II, and half-brother of King John. He died in 1226 and next to his wooden tomb is a plaque stating that he was present at the laying of the foundation stones of the Cathedral in 1220.
The tomb of Bishop Giles de Bridport, who was at the consecration of the Cathedral in 1258 is considered to be one of the finest 13th cent tombs in Britain, but probably the most majestic is the Hertford tomb. The Earl of Hertford (1539-1621) was the nephew of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, and lying above him is the effigy of his wife Lady Catherine Grey, the sister of Lady Jane Grey who was Queen of England for 9 days in 1553.
I should also mention that former Prime Minister, Edward Heath, who lived at Arundells in The Close opposite the Cathedral was buried here in 2005 in a much simpler grave.
One thing that is still alive and kicking though is the Medieval Clock, which is reckoned to be the oldest working clock in Europe. It dates back to at least 1386 and strikes every hour even though it doesn’t have a face or hands.
Not everything in here is old and, unusually, the font is one of them. It may not be everybody’s idea of a font, but I think it’s a great addition. Normally the Font is situated near the entrance of a church, but here it stands in the centre of the Nave and is described as a water sculpture. Designed by William Pye, it was installed on September 28th 2008, 750 years after the Cathedral was consecrated.
Obviously, I can’t describe everything there is to see here, but if there’s one thing more than any other that people come to see, it has to be Salisbury’s Magna Carta.
There are just four original surviving charters of 1215 left. Two are in the British Library, one in Lincoln Cathedral, and one here at Salisbury. (There are later versions still in existence elsewhere). I’ve been fortunate to see all four, and I can say without doubt that the one in the best condition is this one. It’s held in a sort of tent under special conditions in the Chapter House, but unfortunately it’s the only thing in the Cathedral that can’t be photographed.
When Bill Bryson described Salisbury Cathedral as the single most beautiful structure in England it was a bold statement because there are some serious contenders, but there’s no doubt in my mind it certainly deserves to be up there near the top.