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The public edifices of this city are not numerous ;
first demands our attention. This building is erected in the usual form of a double cross, consisting of a nave, with its aisles; a choir, two transepts, with a tower, arising from the junction of the nave and western cross aisle. Its dimensions are as follow: length of the whole building, from west to east, 306 feet; of the nave, from the western entrance to the steps of the choir, 150; of the choir, 156 ; of the western cross aisle, 122 ; of the eastern, 90 ; breadth of the nave, without its side aisles, 33; including them, 75; of the choir, 33. The extent of the west front is 94; and the height of the central tower, 156 feet.
This edifice, like the greater number of our Cathedrals, exhibits various styles of architecture. The nave, and a part of the west front, were erected in the eleventh century by Bishop Gundulph, together with the tower on the north side, which is called by his name. The west transept was built partly in the twelfth, and partly in the thirteenth century; while the choir and eastern transept were reared in the reigns of John and Henry III. Beside the original variations in style occasioned by this diversity of architects, modern repairs have done much to change the appearance of the building, so that it now exhibits very little of the grandeur and beauty which, judging from what remains of the West Front, we may suppose the original edifice of Gundulph to have possessed. This front appears to have had four small towers, rising above the roof, and terminating in a kind of pyramid; of these one only remains in a perfect state ; another has been rebuilt in a different form, and without the pyramid ; and the two at the extremities were removed about the middle of the last century, and their place supplied by two others, which correspond neither with the originals nor with each other.
The principal entrance is in the centre, under a beautifully arched doorway; two of the pillars which support it are formed into whole-length statues, supposed to represent Henry I. and his Queen Matilda, but much defaced; the capitals are wrought into a variety of elegant forms, of foliage, heads of men, birds, &c. In the space above the doors is a piece of sculpture representing the Saviour, seated, with one hand raised, as in the act of benediction, and in the other an open book; on each side is an angel inclining towards him, with many other figures and symbols. The whole remainder of this front is ornamented with an infinite number of small arches, disposed in four ranges, and decorated with a richness and variety which must have rendered it, when in good order, an object of admiration to the spectator.
A large central window has been made over the gateway, divided into sixteen principal compartments, with a number of smaller ones; but this is of a style very different from the other parts of the front; and therefore, whatever merit it may in itself possess, the impression it produces is unpleasing, from the want of harmony with the adjoining buildings.
With_the exception of the west front, and the Great Tower, which has been lately rebuilt and adorned with four pinnacles, instead of the low spire which formerly crowned it, the exterior of this Cathedral is destitute of ornament; its plain, massive walls present a remarkable contrast to the highly decorated and varied appearance of its great rival at Canterbury:
On entering by the west door we descend severa
steps, and enter the Nave, which still preserves, in a great measure, its original Norman character. Mas sive columns support semicircular arches, decorated with zigzag mouldings; and each of these pillars corresponds with the one opposite to it, although not with any in the same range. Above these arches.is a second series, similarly ornamented, and the space between the two is occupied by smaller arches, adorned with a variety of curious carvings. Two tiers of windows, each divided into three compartments, give ample light to the whole. The roof is of timber, having the figures of angels, sustaining shields, on which are painted a number of armorial bearings.
The Great Tower, arising from the intersection of the nave and cross aisles, is sustained by four immense arches, resting on solid piles of masonry, encircled by slender marble columns.
The Western Transept is in the pointed style, but not uniform in its appearance. At the upper part of the north end is a gallery, behind which are lancet windows, with screens in front, each divided into three unequal arches; this part is vaulted with stone and groined, ornamented with well-executed heads of monks, &c. The south end of this transept has also a gallery in the upper story, with lancet windows and screens; the roof is of timber, in imitation of vaulting, On the west side is the chapel of St. Mary, probably erected in the reign of Henry VII. It is about 309 feet wide, and 45 long, having five large windows; in this Chapel is held the Consistory Court. The nave is paved partly with stone, and partly with red tiles ; and cannot be said to possess any strong claims to praise on the score of elegance.
An ascent of ten steps leads to the choir, through a small door, in a plain screen, above which is placed the organ; this instrument is handsomely carved in mahogany, and is both ornamental and appropriate in its appearance.
The Choir is of uniform architecture, neat and lofty, solid but not heavy. It consists of two stories of pointed arches; the lower springing from slender marble columns with plain capitals, and filleted round the middle. Above these is a gallery, which runs round the whole choir and its cross aisle, opening to them at intervals by small arches. The windows, excepting those which adjoin to the altar, are lancetshaped, and consist of single lights; the others are divided into compartments, and were formerly filled with painted glass.
The Eastern Transept has at its northern extremity the Chapel of St. William *, the entrance to which is by a small dark aisle, passing between the Choir and Gundulph's Tower. The number of visitors at this sacred shrine was immense ; the steps ascending to it are worn almost to an inclined plane; and the oblations offered here enabled the monks to raise the whole of the eastern end of the Church.
The Choir is neatly but not uniformly fitted up, and has more the appearance of a parish church than of a Cathedral. The Bishop's Throne is ornamented with Ionic pillars, and a large gilt mitre placed above it; and the Stalls for the Dean and Chapter are exceedingly plain. The Altar was formerly ornamented with a painting of the Angel's appearance to the Shepherds, by West; but this has been removed in the course of the extensive reparations which have lately taken place in this Cathedral, and it has now a very bare and unadorned aspect.
An extensive Crypt runs beneath the greater part of the edifice, and once contained nine altars, at which service was constantly performed.
In this Church are still remaining many Monuments, deserving of notice either from their execution, their antiquity, or the eminent persons whom they commemorate,
A plain stone chest, in the south-east corner of the choir, is supposed to contain the ashes of Bishop Gundulph, who died in 1108. Adjoining to this tomb is another, surmounted by the figure of a bishop in his pontifical robes, supposed to represent Thomas de Inglethorpe, 1291. On the opposite side of the choir are two other monuments, nearly similar in appearance, believed to contain the bones of Bishops Laurence de St. Martin, 1274 ; and Gilbert de Glanville, 1214. Further westward is an elegant tomb, having a full length effigy of Bishop Walter de Merton, who died in 1277. He is represented in canonicals, with his mitre on his head, lying beneath an arched canopy, with pinnacles, ornamented with vine leaves, &c. The lower part of this tomb having been much defaced at the time of the Reformation, it was renovated at the expense of the Master and Fellows of Merton College, Oxford, in 1598, as a token of their gratitude to the memory of their beneficent founder.
* St. William was a Scottish baker, who on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in 1201, was murdered near Rochester by his servant. His body was brought for interment to this Cathedral, and various miracles were reported by the monks to have been performed at his tomb. This attracted great numbers of pilgrims, whose offerings were so acceptable to the clergy, that they omitted no effort to procure his canonization, which was at length effected in 1254, by the personal intercession of Laurence de St. Martin, Bishop of this city. Thus raised into the dignity of a real saint, the murdered baker's miracles became more miraculous, and more profitable, than while only a titular one; and his shrine continued to produce a considerable revenue until the period of the Reformation.
Many other ancient monuments are to be seen in this Cathedral, principally erected to the memory of Bishops of the see; they are all very much defaced and mutilated, owing less to the operation of time than to the ravages of the ignorant fanatics under the Parliamentary Government, who broke open all the tombs, and demolished every thing ornamental about them.
Among the more modern memorials may be mentioned one erected in 1736, in the western transept, at the expense of the Mayor and Citizens, in honour of Richard Watts, Esq., who died in 1579, and was the founder of the well-known Hospital in this city. It is ornamented by a bust, executed during his lifetime, in which he is represented, nearly bald, and with a long beard.
In the south aisle is a handsome monument to the memory of Lord Henniker, who died in 1803; and another, nearly similar, to his lady, who died in 1792. They are both of large dimensions, and ornamented with a variety of emblematical figures, well executed.
There are several stones bearing inscriptions in various parts of this edifice, principally in memory of the clergy connected with it, the latest of which is a handsome marble tablet, with a Latin epitaph, for Dr. J. Law, who died in 1827. On the pavement of the nave are also five stones, once ornamented with brasses, covering the remains of so many bishops, and having apparently exhibited their effigies in their pontifical dresses, under canopied niches. An immense slab, in the western transept, measuring ten