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Winchester Cathedral
Hampshire, England

[Tuesday - 05/11/99] Christians have worshipped on this site since the seventh century AD and in this Winchester Cathedral for over 900 years. Begun in 1079, in the Romanesque style, this Cathedral is at the heart of Alfred's Wessex and a diocese which once stretched from London's Thames to the Channel Islands. Its bishops were men of enormous wealth and power, none more so than William of Wykeham, twice Chancellor of England, Founder of Winchester College and New College Oxford. The chantry chapels and memorials of these great prelates are a feature of the Cathedral. These influencial bishops also developed, re-fashioned and adorned this great Cathedral. There pilgrims sought the shrine of local saints, notably a former bishop, Saint Swithun, whose festival (15 July) was said to set the pattern for the weather for the next forty days.

The Cathedral was also the church of the community of Benedictine monks from its earliest days. Elements of the monastic buildings may still be traced through the Cathedral Close. Central to the life of the monks was the opus dei, the regular offering of prayer which they sang in the quire. The discipline of praying regularly for the world is continued today, most notably in the said morning office and the daily singing of Evensong by the Cathedral choir. Evensong still takes place in the choir of the Cathedral, the choir stalls with their magnificent gabled canopies, elaborately carved with flowers and plants, owls and monkeys, dragons, knights and green men.

The monastery and pilgrimage to its shrine was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1539 and it was then that a Dean and Chapter of Canons took over responsibility for the Cathedral.

Outstanding treasures are fragments of sculpture that survived the desecration of the Reformers and the Winchester Bible, lavishly illuminated, written in the scriptorium here between 1160 and 1180 AD. The seventeenth century library contains ancient manuscripts and early printed books. Along with the chantry chapels created for the great bishops of the past, you will find burial caskets containing the bones of Canute and other early kings. Izaak Walton is buried here and, among many who must have provided characters for her novels, Jane Austen.

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