My friends, there are cathedrals and cathedrals, and then there is Winchester.
We went this afternoon for a field trip with Auntie Sarah, who is down for the weekend. We’ve done Winchester before but not this. Today, under a clear and cold autumn sky, felt like a cathedral day. Shafts of autumn sunshine look best through stained glass windows.
The windows are incredible. So is the ceiling – a vast, vaulted nave that was built in the 1300s. We attached ourselves to a tour guide, an anoraked cathedral buff I took a shine to immediately. He knew absolutely everything about the cathedral, and wanted us to know about it too. Henry has no love for Bishop Stephen Gardiner and took off after about five minutes, hoofing all disrespectfully over Jane Austen’s grave. We took it in turns to go after him, and I tried to make sure he didn’t set fire to any prayer books while I thought about eight-hundred-year-old monks, shuffling through the corridors to their devotions. I like to fill my historical settings with the people who lived there. It gives me a shiver. But then the choir started singing Allegri’s Miserere Mei, Deus, and I stopped thinking about anything else at all.
There were two quartets and a larger group of singers stood at strategic points in the choir. Counterpoint reflected off counterpoint and the soprano’s high note flew up like a lark, high and higher still, up past the columns and the vaulted spaces slanted with sunbeams, out through the stained glass windows and up into the forgiving sky.
We will come back.