Monday, April 16, 2012
Canterbury was at the forefront of an architectural revolution - the first Gothic cathedral to be built in Britain. But the building we know today has its origins in the most infamous murder of the medieval age - Thomas Becket in 1170. After his death a devastating fire meant that Canterbury could be rebuilt as a shrine to the martyred archbishop. This is the cathedral as theatre with the story of the murder etched in stone, marble and glass. It takes the pilgrim on a journey from darkness into light - from the horrors of the slaying in the North transept to the new Trinity Chapel where Becket was reburied in a magnificent tomb sparkling with gold and precious stones.
When Lincoln's original cathedral was destroyed by an earthquake in 1185, King Henry II believed it was a message from God, a warning to stop plundering the cathedral's revenues. In a bid to save his soul he appointed a simple French monk, Hugh of Avalon, as Lincoln's Bishop. After spending decades in silent prayer, this pious man emerged from obscurity to create one of the most magnificent cathedrals in England. In doing so he pitched the power of his faith against the tyranny of the King, pushing the boundaries of science to the limit. 800 years later Hugh's visionary building still dominates Lincoln's horizon. This is the story of his battle to give the medieval world a glimpse of heaven on earth.
Home of England's first Kings, Winchester cathedral stood for a thousand years as a proud symbol of national identity. But in the early 1900s it faced total destruction when it was discovered that the building was literally sinking into the swamp on which it had been constructed. This ancient architectural gem owes its survival to the bravery, ingenuity and endurance of one man, working diver William Robert Walker, who put his life on the line to save a piece of England's history. This is the extraordinary story of the cathedral that began to sink and of the incredible underwater adventure that was launched to save it.
This is not the story of a grand cathedral. The High Kirk of St Giles is no vast symphony in stone to God's glory and power. It is made up of a series of more intimate spaces - a number of parish kirks. But it is the symbolic heart of Scottish Christianity. So when Charles I visited St Giles in 1633 and declared that it should be remodelled as one larger space - a cathedral fit for a new King - he was playing with fire. The events that led to Charles's war with the English parliament and to the terrible moment of his execution can be traced back to the battle for the heart and soul of Scotland's High Kirk.
In 1829, non-conformist Jonathan Martin set fire to York Minster to protest against what he saw as the greed and complacency of the clergy. At the same time, antiquarian John Browne embarked on his journey to discover how the cathedral had been designed and built. This is the story of Martin and the trial that would lead to either execution or the asylum, and of Browne and his determination to crack the mason's code that he believed lay embedded in the structure of the Minster.