St Peter’s Outing to Lincoln Cathedral

Photo of the group of people who went to Lincoln

On Tuesday, May 16th 2006, a group from St Peter’s Wednesday morning ‘drop-in’ went on an outing to Lincoln Cathedral. We usually have our outings in the Braunstone Community Bus, driven by Chris Florance (community worker), but this time it was ‘plan B’, so we went in a private hire mini bus. We all took raincoats but did not need them, as it was a glorious spring day.

Photo of the outside of Lincoln Cathedral

We were privileged to be accompanied by Pip, Chris Florance’s mother, who was an official guide for Lincoln Cathedral twenty years ago. Pip had travelled from Suffolk, and stayed with her son for the night, in order to be our guide. As our group was over twelve, we qualified for a concession rate of £3 each. Pip made the day. Without her, we would have been overwhelmed by the vastness of the cathedral, and missed seeing a lot of interesting things.

The vault of the cathedral was like an upturned boat, with carved arches joining in the central roof. Some of the arches did not meet together. They were a foot or more out of alignment. It made a lot of us feel giddy to look up at the high roof. One of our group told of ‘the miracle of the short beam’. A builder of the cathedral had made a beam too short. Next morning, the beam fitted perfectly.
The nave of the cathedral was vast. The ornate pulpit was reached by a curved staircase. At noon, the presiding chaplain addressed the visitors from the illuminated pulpit. The acoustics were perfect. He welcomed groups of school children, including those from Oakham School, and gave a welcome to St Peter’s church, Braunstone. We all joined in saying the Lord’s Prayer.

There were provisional ramps for wheelchairs throughout the cathedral. We went through a small door into the rest of the cathedral. There was ongoing restoration to the outside masonry of the cathedral, due to acid rain. Everywhere there were ornate carvings, inside and out. Statues of bishops and saints, gargoyles and animals, mythical creatures and angels adorned every surface. There was a carving of the green man. The foliage surrounding the face spread over the arch of a doorway. It would have been theoretically possible for a child to stand behind the green man and reach their arm around his head.

The prominent feature of the carvings on most of the walls, inside and out, was the repetition of a stylised four petal flower, like an open hazel nut case. The design was early English, with Islamic influence. One screen, filled with this pattern, had a different flower, or image, in the centre of each floret. One centre had an upturned face of a bearded man. The centre of another had a bird’s nest. On adjacent sides of the bird nest, one bird was depicted flying away from the nest and another bird flying to the nest.

The original church was made of wood. Bishop Hugh instigated the first stone building of the cathedral. There are interlocking squares of black insulation tape, on the floor. These mark the area of his cathedral. Bishop Hugh was a good man, caring about the people. He was a vegetarian, but on one occasion, he had three hundred deer killed to give a venison feast to all the surrounding villages. There is a painting of Bishop Hugh with his pet swan. Bishop Hugh died in London. At the time of his death, his swan also died in Lincoln.

Over the centuries, there have been many alterations and additions. The stained glass windows are all Victorian. An impressive window has a border of Old Testament pictures. A crucifix of New Testament pictures, set in a different shape of carving, adorns the centre. The four remaining insets picture the sixteen prophets. There are many beautiful ‘rose’ windows through out the cathedral.

Some of the carvings told a story. On a right hand frieze, men with swords were depicted slaying dragons which were eating grapes. On the opposite side was a row of dried dragon skins.
In another part of the cathedral was a trio of monkeys. The first was shown stealing cake. The next monkey was hung. The last monkey was lying in his grave.
High up in a corner was the famous Lincoln Imp. The imp had been so mischievous that the builders turned him into stone.

On the high altar were the effigies of three soldiers asleep. Bread and wine are placed on this altar on Maundy Thursday, and left until Easter Sunday.
The Bishop’s tomb is a tiered carving. The upper tier shows a bishop in his regalia. This represents the soul. The lower tier shows a skeleton, a reminder that all bodies return to dust.

A prominent feature in the cathedral is Katherine Swinford’s Tomb. She was the mistress, and later the wife, of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. She had four children. One of her sons became Henry IV. The royal family can be traced back to Katherine.
There is a ‘cathedra’, or bishop’s chair, like a throne. This is where the word ‘cathedral’ comes from.

In the Chapter House, there was an exhibition of the filming of Da Vinci Code. Lincoln Cathedral was used as Westminster Cathedral in the film.

Part of our group became separated from the rest. We thought we were locked in the cathedral. We tried to get out of the door we came through, but it appeared to be locked. We kept going up and down the cloisters, which lead to the toilets and a dead end. Eventually, a man directed us to the same door. It had to be pushed, not pulled.

We came back into the nave, and saw a tactile exhibition on display. There were examples of portable stained glass windows, so that the craft of lead binding could be examined.
There was an eighteen inch resin copy of a knight fighting with a dragon. This knight was unusual, as it showed the back of the armour as well as the front. His twisted body had been pierced by an arrow through his back. Visitors were encouraged to touch the figure. There was Braille writing near by. Attached above the knight was a block of smooth wood. It was a Misericord, or mercy seat. When the monks were compelled to stand for a long time, they could rest their weight on the block, while remaining standing.

Lincoln Cathedral was awesome, but it had a welcoming atmosphere. There were chapels for private prayer. It was well worth visiting. It was an experience to remember.

Lincoln is a heritage area with black and white buildings and functioning red phone boxes. It is very clean and is kept litter free. The streets are cobbled and very steep. As we came out of the cathedral, we were touted by the owner of Roman Place, a restaurant at the back of the car park. As it was nearby, we gave it a try. We had excellent food at reasonable prices. Lincoln castle could be seen from the car park.

We sat on benches, under the trees, in the square outside the cathedral. There were antique shops and a post office nearby. We saw a man, dressed as a shepherd, teaching a group of children. Lincoln ended with the obligatory photo shoot of our outings. Many thanks to Chris and Pip. It was a great day out.

Sandra Zastawny

This entry is dated Tuesday, May 16th, 2006 at 10.00am and is filed under News.

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