Thursday, September 15, 2011


This is a misericord from the choir in Lincoln Cathedral. It's a lion fighting a dragon. It's amazing how much, well, I don't know quite what to call it, personality? character? individual creativity? medieval artists put into little things that would hardly be seen, isn't it? Lincoln Cathedral, for example, is famous for a small carved imp set WAY high, far beyond where I could actually easily see it.

Happily, there are lots of fun carvings here (as there seem to be in the medieval churches I've seen so far). I think that's part of what makes the churches feel so warm and human.

So, Lincoln. The cathedral and castle stand on a hill, and then there are old shopping streets on the side of the hill. I didn't feel like I had nearly enough time, but that was partly because I didn't just split off from some folks I was with.

You know how when you get a certain number of people together, then suddenly things get way slower. One person needs to use the bathroom, so everyone waits. Then you're about to go, and someone else decides s/he needs to go, too. So you wait. Or one person wants to look at this or that, and another wants to look at something else, and so on. I should have just wandered by myself, because I'm sure I'm as slow as anyone looking at the stuff I want to look at, but also more impatient than most looking at some other things.

For example, I hate shopping for clothes/shoes sort of stuff anyway. And when I say "hate," I mean I HATE. It's torture. So I really, really do not understand why anyone would go somewhere special and cool, somewhere with a castle to see, a cathedral, used bookstores, neat buildings, and look at shoes or blouses or whatever.

It's as unfathomable to me as wanting to dye myself purple.

You can look at shoes any time, in pretty much any medium or larger sized community in most countries! Why would you want to look at dresses when you can walk through Roman ruins?

Now, okay, if you live amongst Roman ruins and cool castles, and you need a pair of shoes, that's understandable.

Clearly, I'm not doing my part for fashion.

But, back to Lincoln. The cathedral is beautiful as a space, but a little overwhelming. It's very cool to see the Norman part, and then over and around that, the later medieval part, and then even later stuff. Way cool. We were led around by someone with a quiet, understated humor, so seeing the mistake in rebuilding was funny. (If you look to the lower middle part of the picture, you'll see that there's a place where the center line is off. I was told that the Norman part was built, then there was a fire. And in rebuilding, they started at the far end from the part that survived, and didn't quite line up when they reached the older part.)

There's a sort of trapdoor in the floor about a meter and a half from a huge column thing; when you open it, you can see the foot of the Norman column, in line with where the older building would have been. So the mistake means that we have this amazing bit of Norman remnant there.

And if you look closely, you can see where the Norman mason made a mark to be able to center a compass thingy and where Norman masons worked the stone flat enough to be the base of a column. Yes, in 1072 or so, another human being was working that stone, and here I am, another human being, looking at the mark he made. There's something about it not only being a finished piece, but also being a part of a work in progress, and seeing it as a work in progress that really blows my mind.

In the chapter house, we learned about how earlier kings (pre-Tudor, it seems) moved around a lot, and often held parliaments in chapter houses. So this one still has a throne in it for the monarch. They said it was really old, but it didn't look THAT old. (Of course, what counts for old?)

The castle, too, was beautiful. It felt more open and uncrowded than some castles. I think that's because the old military stuff was torn down and a smaller prison complex was built? (I didn't get to spend as much time wandering around the castle as I might have wished, alas.)

I've gone all backwards, though. I should have started with the Roman ruins. Here's the east (err, I think) gate, a gate that's been in continuous use for almost 2000 years. My mind boggles.

I may have to try to go to Lincoln again for a short visit to walk more around. I could easily spend more time in the castle, the cathedral, or just walking up and down the hill to wander the narrow streets (but not to look for blouses!).

Here's a final image (sorry for the tilt; that's me, not the cathedral):



  1. Nice pictures! When Jennifer and I visited Lincoln, we stayed at a hotel near the castle. We decided to walk from the train station because it wasn't very far. Then we discovered that the street named "Steep Hill" wasn't exaggerating.

    Did you visit the old prison in the castle? It's creepy, because it was set up according to the "separate system." It's a great example of how some well-intentioned efforts at reform can have terrible effects.

  2. We have some Brit musician friends and the guy is a builder/carpenter as well as a stellar musician. He and his father were workers on restoring part of a castle (and it was in Lincoln, if I'm remembering rightly). They added their footprints to various other workers' footprints in a hidden area, on the floor somewhere tucked away in the castle, where only workmen would go. There were apparently numerous sets of footprints there, dating back to the 1100's, with pointy toes. Tim and his dad added prints from their trainers with their typical tennis shoe treads. :)

  3. Ooh, I've never been to Lincoln, and now you're making me want to go! Excellent! (And that throne could be 13th-14th century -- I think there were parliaments in Lincoln at about the turn of those centuries, IIRC.)

    As for why you would want to look at clothes/shoes -- some of us find those things appealing, and actually, no you can't look at them anywhere. Or, at least, there are some brands that aren't available everywhere and/or are cheaper in their country of origin. Since I was a teenager, I've always found pleasure in my "one of kind" European clothes in the Midwest and so shopping in Europe is a distinct privilege to me. Not everyone has set up world-wide distribution.

    One could argue that you can see churches anywhere, too. ;-) (I wouldn't, of course!) Perhaps putting it in that perspective explains it?

    Plus, I have to say, when Bullock and I were in Paris a few years ago, he really enjoyed walking along an "ordinary" street in one of the outer arrondisements, looking at was in the shop windows, because it was all different from home. He even found a mall fascinating and he, like you, hates shopping! And isn't that part of what travel is about -- the difference in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary?

    Of course, if they were shopping at the Gap (or another ubiquitous US chain), god help them. :-)

  4. Looking at work from a millenium ago, a work in progress no less--yes, it boggles the mind! There's something very exciting about that, and, like Dr. Virago, I now want to go to Lincoln.

  5. I love the mis-alignment of the building. There's a church in Toulouse(Wikipedia tells me it's the Cathedral of St. Etienne) where a bishop wanted to build a new building, got the choir built, but the original nave still stands, and they are misaligned by about 20-30 feet...) That isn't subtle at all!

    And yes, you've made me want to go to Lincoln!

  6. What fun -- I'm so enjoying reading about your travels!