After a stellar English breakfast, including the best back bacon ever, we set out for a day of rampant tourism with a pilgrim’s twist.
First stop the cathedral where we received our pilgrims credentials passport and its first stamp.
We strolled around inside checking out one of the original Winchester bibles – transcribed between 1160 and 1175 – by one monk. It was commissioned by Henry Blois, Bishop of Winchester and grandson of William I. The monk translated it from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. It is the oldest surviving bible in England……I know a history lesson before 10am! Can’t go a step in this country without delving into history.
We also saw Jane Austin’s tomb. Tread upon the largest collection of medieval floor tiles in the country. Beautifully painted designs on each tile. Noted the location of St Swithun’s shrine, which is the official start point for the Pilgrims Way. Admired the lofty early gothic arches, painted ceilings and stained glass windows. Spoke briefly with a very handsome chaplain, descended into the crypt which was half full of water. The cathedral, which was consecrated in 1093 was built on a swamp…. various walls and floors are bowed and sunken as a result.
The cathedral well visited, we wandered down high street to the sunny formal Abbey Gardens. We admired a fine statue of King Alfred, then strolled along the Itchen river to a small Norman church – The oldest parish church in Winchester. Here we each got a scallop shell – symbol of the pilgrim. Further strolling took along the Itchen River in the opposite direction, on the way we spied an outside terrace to a pub….soon the thought of a cold beer beckoned. We returned and indulged.
Our next stop – after walking the length of High Street from one end of the old part of town to the other – was to visit the Great Hall. This enormous hall was the place where Sir Walter Raleigh was tried, his death penalty was commuted for a few years but he was eventually beheaded in London. Queen Eleanor’s charming garden, tucked against a sunny wall, has been restored. She was the first wife of Edward I. Of greatest interest for me, it this is where the immense top of King Arthur’s Round Table hangs at one end of the hall. Winchester is thought to be on the site of the legendary Camelot. It was the Wessex capital, and capital of England until the 12th century. Somewhere in the mists of time is the truth behind the Arthurian legends. Being here, it is easy to imagine the knights sitting around the table and planning their deeds of valour.
Had dinner sitting outside at a busy riverside pub! Have now walked back to our four storey apartment and will soon be turning in. Jet lag being held at bay by a thread! Before doing so… the configuration of this place. Ground floor: door. Next floor living room and kitchen. Third floor washroom and Marianne and Sally’s bed room. Top floor – the sloped ceiling attic – Pat’s and my tiny sanctuary.
Tomorrow our pilgrimage to Canterbury begins. We will roughly follow the footsteps of Henry II.
He walked from here to Canterbury in repentance for ordering the murder of his friend the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, on 29 Dec 1120. Many pilgrims have trodden this historic route over the past millennium for numerous reasons. We add our names to their number.