April 26 – Portsmouth Cathedral

Happy Birthday Rachael

Hello from 1066

At about lunchtime, we decided to go down to Portsmouth Cathedral and the waterfront to visit the cathedral and to do some geocaching of course. We found a free one hour park right outside the cathedral. Mike went around the cathedral to take some photographs while I went around in the opposite direction to gather the information for the church micro. I like church micros that require to collect information inside the church as often you see things that you might not have seen otherwise and the first item on the list was a case in point.

As you enter you are in the nave which is a modern addition to the church. It did not have pews or seats but held an exhibition of 8 large art pieces in charcoal and pencil named “Soup of Souls”. The ‘Time’ themed drawings were suspended between the pillars in the nave by the artist in residence Pete Codling. They were very detailed and quite fascinating. Each panel is dedicated to a particular story from the Solent such as The Mary Rose, The SS Mendi, Navy Sea Burials, Fishing accidents, people drowned swimming, the ancient trading boats of the Norman Saxon founders of our city and aeroplanes that have crashed into the sea with pilots.

The formal entrance into the cathedral is through the bronze west doors, designed by Bryan Kneale. The design is based on the tree of life, an ancient symbol representing the renewal of life. The entranceway has sea-related glass etchings of ships, fish and shells on the doors and the windows and the first thing you see is the Golden Barque which was the original golden weather vane from 1710 hanging in the air.

As you progress around the church you are taken to a holy water font or stoup which is a vessel containing holy water. In the Roman Catholic Church, it is also called a bénetier. After crossing to the north aisle I found a circular font with fish designs on the inside of the font surrounding a chi-rho monogram which was an early Christian symbol.

The Lady Chapel had the most amazing “Tree of Life” altar frontal which was quilted in cream, greens, browns and overstitched with gold thread. It had six shields with ships, anchors, nets and other sea motifs. It was worked by the Royal School of Needlework in 1907. This for us was the highlight of the visit and I am inspired to make something using these techniques.

Above the altar was a wonderful gilded icon of Our Lady of the Sign painted in 2001 and to the side was a 13th-century wall painting of The Last Judgement. The Lady Chapel is one of the oldest sections of the church and was consecrated in 1196. St Thomas Chapel is the oldest part of the medieval church. It was built in 1185 and is of exceptional architectural interest. The tester or wooden canopy over the altar is unusual and beautiful as are the four driftwood saints in niches which we immediately recognised as Peter Eugene Ball‘s work. He made them in 1994.

There was some lovely stained glass including one in the Chapel of Healing and Reconciliation commemorating D-day and the Normandy Landings. In the south aisle is the gravestone of a member of the crew of the Mary Rose which foundered in the Solent on 11 October 1545 and was recovered on 11 October 1982. The central part of the old church was damaged during the Civil War of 1642 and rebuilt in 1693 in the classic style of Christopher Wren.

Above the organ case is the carved figure of King David playing his harp. He overlooks the pews, pulpit, cathedra, altar and the lectern given by Edward VII. After walking around the church separately we made another circuit together showing each other the highlights. One of which was the modern 1991 font in the centre. It is in the shape of a cross and made of Purbeck stone which is a sedimentary rock. The stone is honey coloured and contains heaps of fossils.

When we left the cathedral we walked around a nearby park to find the cache right where the hint suggested. I later returned to the church to complete an earthcache which required me to look at five items around the church where there were examples of sedimentary limestone rocks with four different types of fossil remains. The four different kinds of fossils were bivalves, gastropods, scaphopods and cephalopods. I found this very interesting as I often see fossil remains but now I will be able to put names to them and know the differences.

On our way back we passed the Royal Garrison Church in Penny St. The Domus Dei (God’s House) was founded in Portsmouth by Peter de Rupibus, the Crusader Bishop of Winchester in 1212 as a hospital to shelter and help pilgrims from overseas bound for the holy shrines at Canterbury, Chichester and Winchester.

Originally it was a long vaulted hall divided on either side into bays to house patients with a chapel at one end. In the hall, the aged, sick and homeless were tended by six brethren and six sisters. On 10 January 1941, the buildings of Domus Dei were partially destroyed in an attack by German bombers by an incendiary bomb which destroyed the roof and the internal parts of the nave as well as taking out all the stained glass windows. The chapel survived the fire and is still intact but it has new stained glass windows.

The East window was designed by Carl Edwards in 1959 and is in nine panels, three in each light. The Sovereign’s window designed by Martin Farrer-Bell in 1970 depicts James II (1685 – 1688) riding through Portsmouth with 3000 troops lining the route, Queen Anne (1702 – 1714) and her presentation of the Communion Pate to the Garrison church and George III (1760 – 1820) attending Divine service at the church in 1778 when he presented the church with a prayer book.. Two other windows were designed by Farrer-Bell in 1967 and two others, the Army window and the Gunners window were designed by Harold Thompson in 1984 and 1987. The church also had a lovely marble reredos, great tile work on the floor and mosaic work halfway up the walls.

Mike went back to move the car to another free park while I went to the telephone box and the letterbox to collect the numbers for “A Fine Pair” multi which we found later in the afternoon while walking around the harbour. As we walked along the sea wall we came to the Round Tower which is a fortification at the entrance to Portsmouth harbour and a Grade I listed building. The site was originally occupied by a wooden tower built between 1418 and 1426 before being replaced by a stone one in the 1490s. In the 1680s a line of ramparts was added that connected the tower to the square tower. The upper section was later rebuilt during the Napoleonic wars and between 1847 and 1850 the roof of the tower was modified to serve as a gun platform.

Portsmouth had an amazing series of over 30 earthcaches by gjacko and during the afternoon we did five of them. Earthcaches require more effort than most geocaches both during the observation stage and the research and the write-up stage but I enjoy doing them and it makes you look much more carefully at statues and buildings that you might otherwise ignore.
The first earthcache was looking at slabs on the floor of the sea wall walkway. These were quite uneven which seems like a strange choice for a pavement stone but it was interesting to see the eel-like creatures frozen forever in the rock. Another was a black igneous boulder with a wonderful thick seam of pink quartz running through it. The black showed no visible crystals which means that the magma cooled quickly but the pink quartz seam had large crystal which means that the magma cooled much more slowly giving the crystal time to grow. Another earthcache was overlooking the sea wall and the Emirates Spinnaker building and was about construction using concrete and the aggregates used. The fourth earthcache was back at the cathedral and about the fossils, as already mentioned and another was about the entrance gates to the Kingston Cemetery Gates where flint has been used for the construction and a slate roof. Both of these are very popular building materials and the flint which is sedimentary and occurs in nodules with colours ranging from black, dark grey, green, white and brown and has a glassy or waxy appearance.

As we had not had any lunch and it was now after 4 pm we drove back to Southsea Pier and had a late lunch/early tea of fish and chips at the Deep Blue Restaurant which was lovely. We arrived home early and spent the evening with me logging geocaches and Mike doing his number theory. Suzan spent the evening in his red box which is an improvement and he ate all of his tea. He is still extremely wary of us but with treats and lots of soft talking, I am determined to win him over.

After two days we have found 22 of the 100 we need for the geocaching challenge we are attempting.