Old And Sold Antiques Auction & Marketplace
Antiques Digest Browse Auctions Appraisal Home

Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Wonders Of The World:
St. Mark's Church
Tower Of London
Cathedral Of Antwerp
The Taj Mahal
Cathedral Of Notre Dame
Cathedral Of York
Mosque Of Omar
Cathedral Of Burgos
The Pyramids
Saint Peter's Cathedral
Cathedral Of Strasburg
The Shway Dagohn
Cathedral Of Siena
Town Hall Of Louvain
Cathedral Of Seville
Windsor Castle
Cathedral of Cologne
Palce Of Versailles
Cathedral Of Lincoln

The Cathedral Of York

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Let us go immediately to the Cathedral-the deepening tones of whose tenor bell seem to hurry us on to the spot. Gentle reader, on no account visit this stupendous edifice - this mountain of stone - for the first time from the Stonegate (Street) which brings you in front of the south transept. Shun it - as the shock might be distressing; but, for want of a better approach, wend your steps round by Little Blake Street, and, at its termination, swerve gently to the left, and place yourself full in view of the West Front. Its freshness, its grandeur, its boldness and the numerous yet existing proofs of its ancient richness and variety, will peradventure make you breathless for some three seconds. If it should strike you that there is a want of the subdued and mellow tone of antiquity, such as we left behind at Lincoln, you must remember that nearly a11 this front has undergone a recent scraping and repairing in the very best possible taste - under the auspices of the late Dean Markham, who may be said to have loved this Cathedral with a holy love. What has done, under his auspices, is admirable; and a pattern for all future similar doings.

Look at those towers-to the right and left of you. How airy, how elegant, what gossamer-like lightness, and yet of what stability! It is the decorative style of architecture, in the Fourteenth Century, at which you are now gazing with such untiring admiration. Be pleased to pass on (still outside) to the left, and take the whole range of its northern side, including the Chapter-House. Look well that your position be far enough out-between the house of the residing prebendary and the deanery - and then, giving rein to your fancy, gaze, rejoice, and revel in every expression of admiration and delight! - for it has no equal: at least, not in Germany and France, including Normandy. What light and shade! -as I have seen it, both beneath the sun and moon, on my first visit to the house of the prebendal residentiary - and how lofty, massive, and magnificent the Nave! You catch the ChapterHouse and the extreme termination of the choir, connecting one end of the Cathedral with the other, at the same moment -comprising an extent of some 55o feet! You are lost in astonishment, almost as much at the conception, as at the completion of such a building.

Still you are disappointed with the central Tower, or Lantern; the work, in great part, of Walter Skirlaw, the celebrated Bishop of Durham, -a name that reflects honour upon everything connected with it. Perhaps the upper part only of this tower was of his planning - towards the end of the Fourteenth Century. It is sadly disproportionate with such a building, and should be lifted up one hundred feet at the least...

After several experiments, I am of the opinion that you should enter the interior at the spot where it is usually entered; and which, from the thousand pilgrim-feet that annually visit the spot, may account for the comparatively worn state of the pavement; - I mean the South Transept. Let us enter alone, or with the many. Straight before you, at the extremity of the opposite or northern transept, your eyes sparkle with delight on a view of the stainedglass lancet windows. how delicate - how rich - how chaste-how unrivalled! All the colours seem to be intertwined, in delicate fibres, like Mechlin lace. There is no glare: but the tone of the whole is perfectly bewitching. You move on. A light streams from above. It is from the Lantern, or interior summit of the Great Tower, upon which you are gazing. Your soul is lifted up with your eyes: and if the diapason harmonies of the organ are let loose, and the sweet and soft voices of the choristers unite in the Twelfth Mass of Mozart -you instinctively clasp your hands together and exclaim, " This must be Heaven! "

Descend again to earth. Look at those clustered and colossal bases, upon which the stupendous tower is raised. They seem as an Atlas that for some five minutes would sustain the world. Gentle visitor, I see you breathless, and starting back. It is the Nave with its " storied windows richly dight," that transports you; so lofty, so wide, so simple, so truly grand! The secret of this extraor dinary effect appears to be this. The pointed arches that separate the nave from the side aisles, are at once spacious and destitute of all obtruding ornaments; so that you catch very much of the side aisles with the nave; and on the left, or south aisle, you see some of the largest windows in the kingdom, with their original stained glass, a rare and fortunate result - from the fanatical destruction of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries; and for which you must laud the memory of General Lord Fairfax, Cromwell's son-in-law: who showed an especial tenderness towards this Cathedral.

To the great window at the extremity of the nave. To my eye the whole of this window wants simplicity and gran deur of effect. Even its outside is too unsubstantial and playful in the tracery, for my notion of congruity with so immense a Cathedral. The stained glass is decidedly second-rate. The colour of the whole interior is admirable and worthy of imitation.

But where is The Choir, that wonder of the world? -

" Yet more wondrous grown "from its phoenix-like revival from an almost all devouring flame? You must retrace your steps - approach the grand screen - throwing your eye across the continued roof of the nave; and, gently drawing a red curtain aside, immediately under the organ, you cannot fail to be ravished with the most marvellous sight before you. Its vastness, its unspeakable and indescribable breadth, grandeur, minuteness, and variety of detail and finish - the clustering stalls, the stupendous organ, the altar, backed by a stone Gothic screen, with the interstices filled with plate-glass - the huge outspreading eastern window behind, with its bespangled stainedglass, describing two hundred scriptural subjects-all that you gaze upon, and all that you feel is so much out of everyday experience, that you scarcely credit the scene to be of this world. To add to the effect, I once saw the vast area of this choir filled and warmed by the devotion of a Sabbath afternoon. Sitting under the precentor's stall, I looked up its almost interminable pavement where knees were bending, responses articulated, and the organ's tremendous peal echoing from its utmost extremity. Above the sunbeams were streaming through the chequered stained-glass-and it was altogether a scene of which the recollection is almost naturally borne with one to the grave...

This Cathedral boasts of two transepts, but the second is of very diminutive dimensions : indeed, scarcely amounting to the designation of the term. But these windows are most splendidly adorned with ancient stained-glass. They quickly arrest the attention of the antiquary; whose bosom swells, and whose eyes sparkle with delight, as he surveys their enormous height and richness. That on the southern side has a sort of mosaic work or dove-tailed character, which defies adequate description - and is an admirable avant propos to the CHAPTER HOUSE - the Chapter House! - that glory of the Cathedral - that wonder of the world!

Doubtless this Chapter House is a very repertory of all that is curious and grotesque, and yet tasteful, and of most marvellous achievement. You may carouse within it for a month -but it must be in the hottest month of the year; and when you are tired of the " cool tankard," you may feast upon the pages of Britton and Halfpenny... But the " world of wonders " exhibited in the shape of grotesque and capricious ornaments within this " House," is responded to by ornaments to the full as fanciful and extravagant within the Nave and Choir. What an imagination seems to have been let loose in the designer en gaged! Look at what is before you! Those frisky old gentlemen are sculptured at the terminating point, as corbels, of the arches on the roof of the nave: and it is curious that, in the bottom corbel, the figure to the left is a sort of lampoon, or libellous representation of the clergy: the bands and curled hair are decisive upon this point... When I pace and repace the pavement of this stupendous edifice-when I meditate within this almost unearthly HOUSE OF GOD -when I think of much of its departed wealth and splendour, as well as of its present durability and grandeur- a spirit within me seems to say, that su,h an achievement of human skill and human glory should perish only with the crumbling fragments of a perishing world. Altogether it looks as if it were built for the day of doom.

Bookmark and Share