On Thursday 1st June, fifteen members and guests of the White Lion Society met at Chichester Cathedral for a much anticipated visit, which allowed them to explore the rich heraldic and architectural treasures of this historic building.
Chichester Cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Chichester, which serves East and West Sussex. In 1075 the See of Chichester was established and the bishopric was moved from nearby Selsey to Chichester.
The building of the Cathedral on the earlier site of the Saxon church of St Peter began in 1076 under the supervision of Stigand, the first Norman Bishop. The Cathedral was completed by Bishop Ralph Luffa, who consecrated it in 1108. In 1187 a fire destroyed much of the town of Chichester and the Cathedral and substantial rebuilding needed to take place. In the 13th century the central tower was built and by 1402 a wooden spire was added, being replaced by a masonry spire in the 14th century. Unfortunately, the Cathedral and most significantly the central, east and west towers have suffered as a result of subsidence and to avoid collapses of the central tower, a separate free-standing bell tower was constructed in the 15th century. However despite constant repair the spire finally collapsed in 1861 to be replaced by a new spire, 1.8 metres higher than its predecessor and that is the spire that we see today. Interestingly the stone used in building the Cathedral, that gives it its unique character came from Quarr on the Isle of Wight.
From 1276 until its destruction in 1538 the shrine of Saint Richard (Wych) of Chichester (bishop 1245-53) attracted pilgrims from all over England and beyond and there much needed patronage enabled the Cathedral’s early development. Saint Richard was originally born at Burford near Droitwich in Worcestershire, where he is also celebrated.
Throughout the cathedral we see the arms of the See of Chichester (here illustrated): azure, our Blessed Lord in judgement seated on his throne crowned, and a glory about his head, his right arm raised in benediction and his left hand holding an open book all or, and out of his mouth a two-edged sword, point to the sinister gules. Another version of these arms are those of the Dean of Chichester which have in addition the Greek letters Α and Ω.
During the morning session, Alan Bradford, one of the Cathedral’s official guides, led us highlighting some of the many historic and 20th century artistic treasures located inside the Cathedral. Here he is pictured in animated mode describing the dramatic collapse of the spire in 1861.
We were blessed with a glorious summer’s day which helped to make this a particularly memorable visit. Our group gathered outside the Cathedral entrance, where they were greeted by the White Lion Society Visits Coordinator Jean Peter s.
In the South nave aisle, we saw the early medieval sculptured reliefs which survived the destruction and looting of the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII and a century later the attention of Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War of the 1640s. They were lost for many centuries and were only discovered again in 1829. The carvings probably date from the first half of the 12th century and are acknowledged to be among the finest masterpieces of Romanesque sculpture in Britain. The sculptured panels illustrated here The Raising of Lazarus. The artist is unknown.
The famous Tudor Charter paintings by Lambert Barnard, depicting Bishop Robert Sherburne’s loyalty to Henry VIII are displayed in South transept and are from a period when the King was planning to make great changes in the church. Illustrated here is part of the Charter Paintings in which Henry VIII is shown facing Bishop Sherburne, who is holding his own heraldic banner.
Alongside the early sculptured items is the tomb of Bishop Robert Sherburne who served as Bishop of Chichester from 1508-1536, as well as being Secretary, Councillor and Ambassador to King Henry VIII.
Unfortunately, none of the medieval stained glass of the Cathedral has survived the turmoil and unrest of the 16th and 17th centuries and there were further serious losses of later stained glass caused by bomb damage during the 2nd World War. However, the Cathedral still has major displays of stained glass which include several with an heraldic interest. Illustrated here is a later addition: The window depicts the Arms of the principal towns within the Chichester Diocese and was commissioned to celebrate the 1953 Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen.
In the North Aisle Nave, there is a fine Jacobean style memorial to the Cawley family. This was moved into the Cathedral from the Church of St Andrew, Oxmarket after that church was made redundant in 1945. Originally a memorial to John Cawley, a wealthy Chichester brewer and three times Mayor of Chichester who died in 1621. The inscription was later amended to include his son William Cawley, who led the local Puritan and Parliamentary cause during the English Civil War. He was a member of the High Court which tried the King, and William actually signed the death warrant. Later, after the Restoration, he fled the country and died in 1666
We completed our morning tour at the Arundel tomb in the North Aisle. The figures represented are Richard Fitzalan, 3rd Earl of Arundel (ca 1307-1376) and his second wife Eleanor. The couple are shown with joined hands and this feature is considered one of the earliest examples showing such affection, where the husband was a knight. This tomb has also gained fame through the poem, The Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin published in 1964.
After Lunch in the Dresden Room, in the former Archdeaconry, we split into three small groups for guided tours of four areas not normally open to visitors.
The Bishop’s Chapel located within the Close, near the West Door of the Cathedral is still in use as the private chapel of the Bishop. The East Window includes a collection of heraldic panels.
Above is a fine example showing a quartering of nine.
The Painted Ceiling in the Sherburne Room is a superb example of a Tudor period painted ceiling. It depicts the many arms used by Bishop Robert Sherburne and some of his colleagues. This ceiling was painted by Lambert Barnard, and was created to impress in the 16th century. It still does.
This room also includes the painted panels entitled the Nine Worthy Women. These items were painted by Lambert Barnard and came from the Bishop Sherburne’s manor at Amberley Castle.
The Cathedral Song School is located high above the South Aisle and is accessed via a winding stone staircase. Historically the room was used by the Cathedral Consistory Court, today it is used by the Cathedral Choir. It also has a ‘hidden’ strong room now used to store the Cathedral’s Music collection. The original names of the parishes which made up the Court are still displayed on panels above seating used by the choristers today. The walls are decorated with portraits donated by the Richmond family. Some of the portraits include heraldic panels.
The Cathedral Library is accessed via a winding stone staircase from the Cathedral Treasury Collection, just off the North Aisle. This historic collection includes many early works of religious interest. Sadly, the Cathedral no longer has a full time professional librarian.
(c) The White Lion Society 2017