Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Monday, March 31, 2015 - Once more to Winchester

Winchester had been an important political and church capital for centuries. Iron Age, Roman, Saxon settlements were here long before William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in Winchester in 1066. As such, there is much more here than just Winchester Cathedral and the Great Hall housing King Arthur's Round Table.

Today we returned to The Hospital at St. Cross to visit its Chapel. It is a hugely impressive Norman Gothic church, an indication of how important this Hospital was to Henri de Blois, Bishop of Winchester and grandson of William the Conqueror.

A hand lettered sign in the church gives a better description than I can write.
Visitor's Welcome at St. Cross
"This Hospital of St. Cross is said to be the oldest Almshouse in England and this great church is its Chapel. Some twenty-five Brethren live in the houses with tall chimneys, across the green. They say Matins here every day, in addition to the Sunday services, which are attended by the parishioners of St. Faith's parish who, since 1507 have used the Chapel as their Parish Church. 

The building of this Chapel was begun in 1130, and it is considered one of the finest examples of Transition Norman architecture. Especially rich carving is to be seen in the surround of one of the windows in the East wall of the North Transept called the "Bird Window""
Bird Window

Bird carvings around the window. Use your imagination.

The chapel was built to support the Almshouse rather than the other way around (The Almshouse being an outreach of the church). 

About the Brothers:
The twenty-five elderly men who live here are called the Brothers. They must be single, widowed or divorced, over 60, with preference given to those in most need. They belong to either the Hospital of Saint Cross charitable organization (founded in 1132) in which case they wear black robes. Or they belong to the charitable Order of Noble Poverty (founded in 1445) in which case they wear red robes. In former times, before the Almshouse was torn down in 1760, another 100 poor men were housed and fed a meal each day. 

Meals were prepared and eaten in the Brethrens Hall where a kitchen and great room were located.
Brethren's Hall

"New" 19th century kitchen in Brethren's Hall

Back to the Church:
Erected in the 12th century, the church soars with 2 levels of windows above the nave (called a triforium and clerestory) which let in lots of light.

At the transept crossing, the church soars to a beautiful coffered ceiling, recently restored.

Looking toward the altar

The church has many beautiful stained glass windows, come going back to the 1300s. The one below in the west end of the church is particularly vibrant with beautifully bright blues and reds. The center panel shows Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Center panel of west window showing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

There were beautiful carved choir stalls recently studied and restored. These stalls are early 16th century Renaissance carved by French craftsmen and among the earliest examples of Renaissance carvings in England. Long forgotten and under-appreciated, they sustained much damage, but those left are beautiful. We were especially drawn to the varied carvings of  people that formed the upper separations of the choir stalls. They look like medieval friends and neighbors.
Choir stall carving
Choir stall carving

Pattern in a floor tile
This is the baptismal font where Emma's children, Millie and Finley were baptized. This font originally was in the parish church of St. Faith and was moved here in 1507 when the original parish church moved to St. Cross. 

View from gardens: St Cross Church

After walking back into town, we stopped for a pub lunch at the Wykeham Arms.  (Sorry, I ate the pork rillettes before remembering I should take a picture.)

Then home to Ron and Chris to do laundry and pack for tomorrow. Oh and talk a lot and laugh a lot. Good friends!

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