Girl, you’ve been forgetting
Just how special you really are
And I try to remind you
Sometimes I can’t find you
But the truth is in your heart
‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Our last stop of the trip was in Wells. Mostly a place to stay overnight on the journey between Glastonbury and Heathrow, the lovely little town of Wells delivered with an amazing Cathedral, a very old hotel and a weirdly out-of-place cotton-candy type fair with rides.
It was quite the juxtaposition between the old and new. Our 15th century coaching inn was so old that the uneven floor resulted in a gap under my hotel room door which ranged from 2 centimetres at one end to at least 6 centimetres at the other end! Outside the window, the blasting pop music from the fair was quite up-to-date and I enjoyed dancing around a bit (very gently) as I repacked for the trip home the next day.
Wells was a Roman settlement and became an important centre when the minster church was founded in 704 BCE. It has had city status since 1205 and is often referred to as the England’s smallest city.
The current Cathedral dates back to the 10th century and the west front is said to be the finest collection of statuary in Europe, retaining almost 300 of its original medieval statues. Wells Cathedral clock is famous for its 24-hour astronomical dial and set of jousting knights that perform every quarter hour.
The Cathedral had a lovely ceiling which looked freshly painted. We arrived in time for Evensong, and enjoyed sitting in the choir area listening to the Men and Boys Choir sing the evening liturgy. Wells Cathedral School was founded in 909 BCE and has a musical emphasis.
Outside the Cathedral is a street called Vicars’ Close, the oldest residential street in Europe, dating back to the mid 14th century. The Close is tapered by 10 feet (3.0 m) to make it look longer when viewed from the bottom. When viewed from the top, however, it looks shorter. I was just happy we viewed it on a sunny day!
It would have been great to be trapped there, forced to take singing lessons.
Those of you who read the Da Vinci Code or saw the movie will know Rosslyn Chapel. But whether you enjoyed the Da Vinci Code or not, one result was a flood of paying visitors to Rosslyn Chapel who have now funded some pretty amazing restoration work. In the year following the release of the book, visitors increased by 56%. Reminds me of my last post on Glastonbury Abbey where the graves of King Arthur and Queen Guineviere were discovered just when the Abbey needed a big influx of tourism dollars.
All that being said, it also results in the outside of Rosslyn Chapel being mostly covered with scaffolding. So, I’ve swiped the first picture from the front of the brochure just so you can get an idea of what the place looks like. Because Dan Brown or not, it’s a great place to see.
The Chapel was built in the 15th Century by the Sinclair or St. Clair Family. After the Scottish Reformation (1560) Roman Catholic worship in the chapel was brought to an end, although the St. Clair family continued to be Roman Catholics until the early 18th century. The chapel was closed to public worship until 1861 when it was opened again and follows the rites of the Scottish Episcopal Church. There are crypts under the Chapel where the St. Clair family were buried. These crypts, and the fact that the St. Clair family were “exposed as templars”, are the source of much of speculation around Rosslyn Chapel.
Rosslyn is well-known for it’s elaborate carvings. I thought the ceiling especially was amazing. Different carved sections of stars, lilies, daises, roses, a dove with an olive branch. Even a crescent moon. The flowers represent a connection with nature but lilies and roses are also connected with the Virgin Mary.
There are over 110 carved green men throughout the Chapel with various amounts of foliage from lush and fertile to one single branch. While also a connection with nature, the symbol of the green man pre-dates Christianity and is associated with fertility.
This angel it thought to be holding a heart meant to represent that of Robert the Bruce. Sir Henry St Clair (1275-1336) and his brother William fought with the Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, and when Bruce died in 1329, Henry’s sons, William and John were two of those chosen to escort his heart to Jerusalem. Although the brothers were killed while on the crusade, their bodies along with Robert the Bruce’s heart were brought back to Scotland.
The Chapel has fourteen pillars. The three at the front are called the the Master Pillar, the Journeyman Pillar, and most famously, the Apprentice Pillar. The story of the Apprentice Pillar is that the Master carver left his Apprentice to complete the pillar. As you can see, the Apprentice got a little, uh, creative and beautifully decorated the pillar with winding trees/vines, eight dragons around the base and lots of intricate carvings.
The Pillar can be seen as the Christian Tree of Life but given the association of Scotland with the Norse (esp the Orkney Islands), it is more likely the Norse Tree of Life, Yggdrasil, which holds up the heavens from the earth and the dragons of time gnaw at the roots of the Tree. Near the Apprentice Pillar is a Latin inscription that reads, “Wine is strong, a king is stronger, women are stronger still, but truth conquers all.”
When the Master carver saw what the Apprentice had done, he grabbed a mallet and relieved the Apprentice of his head. There is a carving of a head in the Chapel which is said to be the Apprentice’s. Justice was served in this case, however, as the Master carver also lost his head for the crime and his carved head is right across from the Apprentice’s carved head and angled so that it stares at the Apprentice Pillar. Let that be a lesson in keeping cooler heads!!!
They say Rosslyn Chapel is built on the intersection of some powerful ley lines. The key stone at the meeting of the two aisles in the Chapel is said to be especially powerful. So, everyone takes turns standing on that spot. I have to admit, I did feel a lot of energy in that spot and I do believe in ley lines. But, maybe it was just the combined energy of thousands of visitors who have stood on the same spot doing the same thing. Whatever the case, it is a lovely Chapel with fascinating stories in the carvings and a wonderful peaceful energy.
Hey yo, I’ve been high and I’ve been real low
I’ve been beaten and broken but I healed though
So many ups and downs, roughed up & clowned
We all got problems, but we deal though
I’m tryin’ to do better now, find my inner peace
Learn my art form, and find my energy
When my backs on the wall, I don’t freeze up
Nah, I find my inner strength and I re-up
My inner ninja!!!!!!!
Glastonbury is a wonderfully interesting place. A big mixing bowl of spirituality, from the birthplace of Christianity in England, the mystic isle of Avalon and King Arthur’s Court, to neopagans and new agers of all stripes to just general tourists exploring the shops, the Tor, the Chalice Well and the Abbey. Lucky for us, the first stop after our cold stop in Avebury was a lovely coffee shop where we were much fortified by giant breakfast and large cups of hot coffee before we headed out to explore.
Evidence shows that Glastonbury has been in existence as a town since the neolithic times. Many of the older buildings, like the Tribunal House below from the 15th century, are associated with the Abbey.
Glastonbury Abbey was founded in the 7th century and enlarged in the 10th, before a major fire in 1184 destroyed the buildings. It was rebuilt and by the 14th century was one of the richest and most powerful monasteries in England. Henry VIII ordered the confiscation of the Abbey’s wealth and treasures and the last Abbot was hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor on Glastonbury Tor in 1539. Even with just the ruins still standing, you can see how large the Abbey was!
Joseph of Arimathea is said to have arrived in Glastonbury and stuck his staff into the ground, when it flowered miraculously into the Glastonbury Thorn. While that original Thorn Tree has long since died, there is a replacement and another smaller one nearby, ready for succession!
From at least the 12th century the Glastonbury area was frequently associated with the legend of King Arthur, a connection promoted by medieval monks who asserted that Glastonbury was Avalon and that King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s bodies were found buried in 1191 in a grave on the Abbey grounds. Or, some reports say a grave in the hollow trunk of an Oak Tree. Which was kind of convenient since after the Abbey had burned down in 1184, the flow of pilgrims had slowed and the Abbey needed an infusion of money. But, hey, call me cynical.
In any case, the grounds of the Abbey were lovely and it must have been an incredibly beautiful place in it’s glory.
And, just so you don’t think I skipped the new age parts of the pilgrimage, here’s a picture of of the, uh, waste receptacles.