Posts Tagged ‘Gloucester’

Custard and a Cathedral

Today after class, Regan and I hopped on a bus and returned to the immense Gloucester Cathedral, so that we might get a closer look at this gorgeous building.

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In 679 AD, the bishop Osric founded an abbey at this location. Around the tenth century, the abbey became a monastery, and in 1089, the foundation stone of the new abbey building (a portion of what we currently see) was laid. But times would not always be good for this Gloucester Abbey. In 1540, King Henry VIII (the one with all the wives) decided that, since the Catholic church wouldn’t give him a divorce, he would create a new church (the Church of England) and dissolve almost all of the monasteries in England. Gloucester Abbey was dissolved in 1540, but in 1541, Henry VIII established the Diocese of Gloucester, with this Cathedral as the mother church. (Part of the reason he didn’t completely destroy this monastery is because King Edward II was buried here.) Since this period, the Gloucester Cathedral has been an Anglican church, and has flourished. And indeed, it is a beautiful building.

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This is where we listened to the Evensong service yesterday. We sat in the seats next to the lamps, and the choir sat in the area with the music stands.

This is where we listened to the Evensong service yesterday. We sat in the seats next to the lamps, and the choir sat in the area with the music stands.

Upon arriving, we first took a free tour down into the crypt. Much to my surprise, the crypt did not extend extremely deep into the ground, nor did it contain any graves. (Because of the high water table, the crypt only extended about 15 feet below the Cathedral floor.) The crypt did, however, contain architecture from several different periods, ranging from Romanesque to Norman to Perpendicular. Early in its history, when the cathedral was still an abbey, the monks used this area both as a place of worship as well as a place to lay out their dead before burial.

After the tour, Regan and I explored the abbey for a bit. Regan was very excited, because several scenes in the first two Harry Potter movies were filmed in the cloisters. I’m not really a Harry Potter fan, but it was still a joy to see the amazingly intricate architecture.

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We also had the opportunity to see the tombs of King Edward II, Osric (the first abbot of Gloucester Abbey), and Robert, Duke of Normandy (son of William the Conqueror).

Robert, Duke of Normandy

Robert, Duke of Normandy

King Edward VII

King Edward VII



At 2:30, we were privileged to take the Cathedral’s Bell Tower tour. Our group was small, with two guides and four tourists, but the intimacy made it that much more enjoyable.

First, we entered this small spiral staircase, which was built into the corner of the building near the nave.

Gloucester 170After climbing about 150 steps, we walked through a space between the cathedral ceiling and its roof. It was sort of like taking a behind-the-scenes tour at Disney World, except exponentially cooler and more legitimately historical ;)

After climbing another set of stone spiral stairs, we arrived at another platform – this one containing the tower where the bell ringers go to practice their art. I had no idea that bell ringing (or campanology) was so complex. For instance, a peal is not just one ringing of a bell. Instead, it involves the ringing of at least seven different bells in a specific sequence, which totals at least 5,040 individual rings. To perform a full peal takes several hours, and requires a great amount of skill on the part of the ringers. In addition, English bell ringing is a specific art, and differs from styles found in other countries.

Richard, our tour guide, first learned this art 65 years ago, at the age of 12. He was extremely informative! Here he demonstrates English bell ringing on one of the Cathedral's smaller bells.

Richard, one of our tour guides, first learned this art 65 years ago, at the age of 12. He was extremely informative! Here he demonstrates English bell ringing on one of the Cathedral’s smaller bells.

We also had the privilege of standing next to the Cathedral’s immense medieval bell as it rang the tones of the 3:00 hour.

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Even though I knew what to expect, I jumped at each tone! It was a neat experience. But — it was not the end of our tour!

We climbed yet another set of spiral steps, this one smaller and narrower than the previous sets. This slightly precarious climb merited fabulous results, however, as it safely deposited us at the very top of the Cathedral’s bell tower. This tower, built in 1450 (42 years before Columbus discovered North America!!) offered incredible views of the entire city of Gloucester. We were lucky enough to reach this part of the tour in between spurts of rain, so we didn’t get wet. :)

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On the tour, we climbed a total of 269 steps. Coming down felt more precarious than going up, especially since we didn’t make any stops in between, and we fully realized that the staircase became wider as one proceeded further down. But we eventually returned to the ground, safe and sound, with plenty of pictures and an adrenaline rush as a result. If you are ever in Gloucester Cathedral, take the bell tower tour!

After returning to Cheltenham, our dinner club group had a rather unique meal. We all quite enjoy the British television show Doctor Who. Being in England, we have enjoyed seeing cultural aspects often mentioned on the show that we don’t always understand in America. (For instance, Jammie Dodgers  and Jelly Babies have been  frequent purchases at Tesco by members of our little group.) Tonight, we decided to be a little bit more eccentric with our Whovian enjoyment.

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In the first episode of season 5, Matt Smith’s Doctor doesn’t know what he likes to eat. So, after trying lots of different (normal) foods like apples, bacon, and yoghurt, he searches through the fridge and freezer. Finally, he finds what he has been craving — fish fingers (fish sticks) and custard (pudding). He cooks the fish sticks, dips them in the custard, and is finally satiated. Would you like to guess what our dinner consisted of this evening?

Gloucester 217Yes, I know, it sounds absolutely terrible and disgusting and incredibly gross. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my lifetime, it’s to try something before you judge it. You never know…it might be your new favorite food!

Fish fingers and custard is not my new favorite food, but it was much better than I expected. The custard was evenly (but not overly) sweet, and the fish sticks had a pleasant texture. To my complete astonishment, the flavors actually sort of meshed. It wasn’t a combination I would ever serve at a dinner party (unless it was some sort of weird-food theme night…), but I actually sort of enjoyed it. You see? You never know until you try. :)

Well folks, that’s all for tonight. Tomorrow we Cedarvillians are leaving bright and early for our final field trip! And it looks to be a quite exciting one at that. :)

Have a lovely evening!




Hello, all!

I would apologize for not posting anything yesterday…except, nothing very exciting happened. We had class, I made chili mac & cheese for dinner, and that was really it. But now for news of truly interesting occurrences!

This morning, we had class at a different part of the University of Gloucester campus. This section of the school is much older than the area where we had class last week, and I thought it worthy of a few photos. :)

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This afternoon, several of us rode in the top of a double-decker bus to the nearby city of Gloucester. There, we had the privilege of taking part in the Gloucester Cathedral Evensong service.

A gorgeous view of the Cotswolds from our splendid spot on the bus.

A gorgeous view of the Cotswolds from our splendid spot on the bus. :)

A rough equivalent to the Catholic Vespers, Evensong is an evening prayer service of the Anglican church in which many of the prayers are sung. The Gloucester Cathedral has an excellent boys choir, and we were blessed with the opportunity to hear them sing this evening.

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Gloucester Cathedral

As expected, the service was absolutely breathtaking. It began with a long piece played on the Cathedral’s absolutely stunning pipe organ, followed by a Psalm 147 sung by the boys/men’s choir.

As the choir began its first song, my jaw fell open and a huge smile crept over my face. I have heard quite a lot of beautiful music in my life, but this service ranked near the top. The bell-like voices of the younger choir members were exquisitely balanced by the rich, deep tones of the men. The gorgeous mixes of melody and harmony danced around one another, bouncing off of the cathedral’s ornate, aging walls, falling into my ears like dewdrops of golden sound. We sat in the nave, surrounded by carvings, staring into the eyes of stained glass saints. The atmosphere was gorgeous, the singing absolutely incredible, and the whole experience — almost surreal.

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Today is the Feast Day of St. Barnabas, so the New Testament Scripture reading mentioned him. In addition to the many choral elements, the service also featured communal prayer, two Scripture readings, and a congregational reading of the Apostle’s Creed. This seemed more like a concert than a church service, but it was still wonderful to praise God in such a manner. :)

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(If you’d like to listen to an Evensong service, to get a taste of the amazing sound, I found this example on the BBC’s website. And there’s also this shorter example, in which the Gloucester choir sings the Magnificat.)

You needed to buy a pass in order to take photos inside of the Cathedral, and the office was closed by the time we arrived, so I have no photos within the church. However, it was so beautiful, and there is so much history inside that we didn’t get to see, that Regan and I are going back tomorrow. You can expect lots and lots of pictures in my next post :)

Have a lovely evening!