October 23 – Lichfield Cathedral

A Geocaching Event

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Today we woke up with only half an hour until breakfast finished so we quickly dressed and went downstairs to get breakfast. We were offered tea or coffee and show to a table. In the buffet, there was various fruits, cereals, juices and jams. Cooked breakfast was made to order and there was a great variety of breakfast foods. Mike had a full English breakfast without the baked beans while I had poached eggs and tomatoes. A very nice breakfast followed by toast. When we returned to our room for a shower, our shower would not come hot and so we had to go to another room for a shower. The maintenance man came and the shower did eventually come hot but it took nearly five minutes. A slight glitch.

When we finally got away from the hotel we walked to the Lichfield Cathedral about 300 metres away. A guided tour had just begun so I joined the tour while Mike went to take a multitude of photographs. An hour and a half later I mentioned to Mike that there was a geocaching event taking place outside the cathedral so we went outside and met The Bradshaws – Wandafree, Jester shoes and his two red setters, stevo185 and strongsRus. We talked geocaching for about half an hour and stevo185 helped Mike to find the cache that was close by as it was really well hidden deep in the stump of a tree. Stevo185 recognised us as we met at the Yorkshire Mega. Then we went to do the virtual cache which was one of 4000 limited release of virtuals created between August 24, 2017, and August 24, 2018.

When we returned to the Cathedral for another walk around a guide came over to talk to us while we were in the Lady Chapel. At the time Mike was photographing a small chapel with a tomb in it. The guide told us that the tomb was that of Bishop George Augustus Selwyn who was the first Bishop of New Zealand. The walls were covered in pictures of New Zealand life around the mid-1800’s including one of Maoris paddling a waka. After leaving New Zealand in 1868 Selwyn became the Bishop of Lichfield.

Lichfield Cathedral is the only cathedral in England to have three spires, the central one reaching 77m and it is dedicated to St Chad and St Mary. It is made from sandstone and the walls of the nave lean outwards slightly due to the weight of the rock. At one point they are 14 inches out of line. The cathedral has a fabulous West entry with many statues all over the front. The line above the door are all the kings up to Richard II. However, King Harold of 1066 fame is missing. We asked several people why this was or maybe we had just missed him. But he is missing and no one had a reason why. Actually, it looks like there are a few kings missing.

On the West frontispiece, St Chad is in the middle of the row and the Norman Kings are on the left-hand side and the Saxon kings are on the right-hand side.

The Saxon Kings include Peada embracing the cross (655-656), Wulfhere – Peterborough (658-675), Ethelred with 4 scrolls (865 – 871), Offa with Archbishop mitre (757-796), Egbert with orb and sceptre (802-839), Ethelwolf with scroll (839-858), Ethelbert with crown and sword (860-865), Ethelred with a book (847-871), Alfred with a harp (871-899), Canute looking out (1016-1035), and Edward the Confessor with a dove (1042-1066).

The Norman Kings include William I with Domesday (1066 – 1087), William Rufus with a bow (1087 – 1100), Henry I with a book (1100-1135), Stephen with orb, dove and sword (1135-1154), Richard I with axe (1189-1199), John and the Magna Carta (1199-1216), Henry III and Westminster Abbey (1216-1272), Edward I with a poison arrow (1272-1307), Edward II (1307-1327), Edward III with a garter (1327-1377) and Richard II (1377-1399).

The first cathedral on the site was built in 700AD when Bishop Hedda built a church to house St Chad’s bones and so it became a place of pilgrimage. In 1085 work started to replace the wooden church with a Norman cathedral made from stone and this was replaced by the present Gothic one in 1195.  The choir dates from 1200 and the transepts from 1220 and the nave in 1260. The Lady Chapel was initially built as a separate building. In the 18th-century the cathedral was extensively renovated by Sir George Gilbert Scott. and the metal screen and the wonderful Minton encaustic tiles date from this time.

The screen has been more recently painted to its original colours whereas the pulpit which matched has not. The pulpit is unusual in that it has two staircases and the only time it is used is when the Bishop changes so the Bishop who is leaving goes up one side and down the other. I presume the incoming Bishop does the opposite. The ironwork both restored and not are wonderful and the open screen allows the cathedral to be seen from front to back which is unusual. The cathedral has many wonderful stained glass windows including some by C.E. Kempe. Most of the stained glass windows are Victorian except six in the Lady Chapel which were purchased from the Cistercian monastery of Herkenrode Abbey in Belgium in 1801 and date from 1530. This is some of the finest medieval Flemish glass in existence. The large South window is by Clayton and Bell.

The Lady Chapel has an unusual octagonal apse and dates from the 14th-century and was incorporated into the main cathedral in the 18th-century. The lovely carved wooden reredos in the Lady Chapel was designed by C.E. Kempe with and was carved in the Zwink workshop in Oberammergau in 1895. The central panel of the reredos shows a Nativity scene, with the Virgin and the shepherds, the Annunciation, the Salutation of Elizabeth, the Adoration of the Magi and the Presentation in the Temple. David, Isaiah, St. John the Baptist and St. Chad are depicted on the back of the two doors, to be seen when closed. On either side of the Nativity scene, itself are four carved figures. These are St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory.  Kempe also designed the female saints who are ranked around the walls. These were carved by Farmer & Brindley and installed in 1895. These are really beautiful and include the young St. Prisca shown with a palm branch denoting her martyrdom, and a lion at her feet, its head just visible to the side of them; St Faith with a sword and rack; St. Catherine with sword, wheel and book, treading on a monster; St Margaret with a book and cross, treading on a dragon; and St Lucy another youthful figure who like St Prisca opposite has a palm branch denoting martyrdom, as well as her lamp. The altar rails are carved from alabaster and depict lilies which are a symbol of St Mary’s purity.

There are two lovely gilded paintings, one each side of the nave and a gilded painting of a cross which hangs above the nave. The painting of the Cross was only installed three weeks ago and all three pieces of iconography were written by the Bethlehem School of Iconography.

There are many chest tombs around the cathedral all dedicated to previous Bishops. St Chad’s shrine is no longer there as the bones were removed for safety during the Reformation. They are now in a shrine in Birmingham

The Lichfield Gospels or the Book of Chad was produced in the Cathedral. Unfortunately, we could not see it as the Library has been recently renovated and will not reopen to the public until January 2019. However, we were able to see a digital description of it and we also saw a modern book of an illuminated manuscript which was beautiful.

The choir has the most amazing Minton encaustic tiles. The four larger circles depict the life and death of St Chad while the smaller circles depict characters important in the life of the cathedral. The choir also has 19th-century misericords by Evans which depicted floral themes and there are 16th-century angels all playing musical instruments. The main reredos was donated by the Duke of Devonshire and is carved in Devonshire red alabaster.

Bishop Haskett was an important person in the life of the cathedral and he was made Bishop of Lichfield in 1660 at the age of 71. He managed a huge renovation of the cathedral which was completed in only 9 years and it was rededicated in 1670. Bishop Haskett is buried in the south aisle and had a coloured chest tomb opposite. When they moved the tomb more recently in 1983 a wonderful wall painting was found behind it. It shows God holding the crucified Jesus’s body. Above it is a wonderful window telling the story of the renovation of the cathedral in 1660.

After spending about three hours in the cathedral we walked into the city and had a look around before returning foot weary to the hotel. Another wonderful day having walked 5.09 km.