One of the most important historic sites we visited while in the UK was Salisbury (sawlz’-bree) Cathedral. The original Salisbury Cathedral was built on a different site in 1092. In 1220, a new site was chosen for the existing cathedral because military disputes and lack of a water supply made the original site unusable.
Three chapels of the new cathedral were built first. Constructing the entire main part of the cathedral took almost 40 years, with that part of the structure completed in 1258. But it took approximately eight years beyond that to finish the entire project. With the cathedral in place, Salisbury also became an educational center of England. Over the next two hundred years or so, it became one of the largest towns in the country.
The Cathedral has undergone a few attempts at renovation and restoration. One, begun in the mid-1700s and continued by others through the end of that century, removed some of the older features such as stained-glass windows, medieval wall paintings, and the bell tower. Nearly a hundred years later, another restoration effort put back some of the things that were removed during the 1700s in an attempt to return some of the medieval aspects to the Cathedral.
In the first half of the 20th century, there were no funds available to continue restoring and maintaining the Cathedral, but since then additional work has been done. The Cathedral still operates as a church, holding services during each week.
But the religious aspects of the Cathedral are only part of its importance. Salisbury Cathedral is the home of the best-preserved copy of the Magna Carta, the charter issued in 1215 to ensure certain rights to the people of England. It’s somewhat similar to the US Constitution, but much, much older, and it might have influenced the creators of the Constitution to some extent.
The Magna Carta housed at Salisbury Cathedral is one of four existing original copies, and it’s the best-preserved of the four, so many people visit each year to see the document.
It was fascinating to see a building so much older than anything in the US, which is still used on an almost daily basis for its original purpose, as a church, in addition to being a place where visitors can learn more about the history of England. The Magna Carta has a particularly important role in UK history, since it established certain rules and rights for all people, not only royalty or nobility, and led to a number of laws that are still in effect in the UK today, as well as influencing other similar documents in other parts of the world.
|Salisbury had some modern art on display. These little clay creatures filled an entire hall.|