Friday, 28th August:
A trip to Salisbury was one of the few things we planned to look at in advance, so we got on the bus and off to that medieval town. After having arrived at the bus station next to the market place, we started looking for a post office to post the first bunch of postcards, and the tourist information for some kind of map. As this was the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the town was full of ‚barons‘, plastic figures symbolising the barons who forced King John to sign (the first version of) that historical document which gave the barons and the church more freedom from the crown, and of which one copy is kept in Salisbury. Those baron figures were painted by artists, school classes, etc. so that every one was unique and it was fun to find the next one and read its explaing text.
The cathedral is a gorgeous piece of Early Gothic architecture, and it also is dedicated to the Magna Carta anniversary: everywhere you can find items hinting on human rights: from flags to artists‘ installations to lots of other baron’s figures standing at the outer walls like a guard of honour. Other than in most other cathedrals, you never have the impression that you are in a church that celebrates masses, but in some kind of exhibition hall. I don’t know if that’s only due to the additional items for the anniversary, or if it’s always like this, but I personally found it a bit irritating. I think that topic deserves some extra thought in a seperate article.
What I liked most in this cathedral were the colourful glass windows, but there is always too little time to explore all the details of such windows. A funny thing about the cathedral is that every bit and piece seems to have been sponsored by someone, according to the many plaques on the furniture and other objects.
The Magna Carta is shown in an adjacent building, the Chapter House, in a small tent where people are queueing to get a peek on it. For someone who is fond of medieval writings (like me) it is amazing to see how tiny the letters are, and how evenly written. There’s no change in the hue, not the slightest stain or droplet of ink, no change in size: a real master’s work. Of course you needn’t try to read it, even if you are good at Latin, because when you try, someone will call „Would you move on please?“, so you better look for a facsimile in the museum’s shop (unfortunately, I couldn’t find one on the internet). The (redesigned, interactive) exhibition is very professionaly made, with lots of information about the time and circumstances that led to the issue of the charter.
After all this, we were quite hungry, so we returned to the market place where there are lots of possibilities to find something to eat. Afterwards, we visited a small vintage market, and then took the bus to Bournemouth again.