The cathedral stands in the center of Winchester and is surrounded by lawns. It was built on the site of previous constructions in the Romanesque-Norman style at the end of the 11th century, and was rendered Gothic from the end of the 12th century until the end of the 14th century. After the Romanesque west front was torn down it was replaced by a facade with dainty flanking towers and a nine-columned tracery window (end 14th century), which reflects the triple-aisled basilica. The foundations of the preceding seventh and 10th century buildings can be seen north of the facade.
The interior of Winchester Cathedral makes a striking impact with the balance of its proportions and the successful combination of Romanesque sections of wall (1093) and late-Gothic fan vaulting (begun 1394), mainly in the 12-bayed nave and in the transepts. The bronze statues (1635) of James I and Charles I near the entrance are the work of the sculptor Hubert Le Sueur (1610-1643). A notable feature of the cathedral are the numerous chantries, funded by donations from allied chapel foundations, where masses were to be chanted. Those of Bishops William of Wykeham and William of Edington in the southern side aisle display Gothic ornamentation. In Prior Silkstede's chapel in the southern transept is the tomb of Isaac Walton (1593-1683), whose book "The Compleat Angler" continues to inspire anglers. The neo-Gothic rood-screen (1875) was created by George G Scott.The gallery is reached via steps and through the magnificent wrought-iron grille, Pilgrim's Gate (11th century). Beforehand it is worth looking at the choir with its wooden fan vaulting (1645) and the tomb of the unpopular William II or William Rufus (d. 1000), son of William the Conqueror. Along the sides of the choir can be seen the tombs of several Saxon and Danish kings, including those of Alfred the Great and his son Edward, as well as those of Canute the Great and his wife Emma. The choir stalls with baldachins and 60 misericords were fashioned in 1310, the choir pulpit in 1520. The sculptured reredos communicates the air of a typical English medieval sacristy, even if most of the figures were renewed in the 19th century. The richly-decorated chantry of Cardinal Beaufort (d. 1447), opponent of Joan of Arc, is situated in the south gallery. In the actual retrochoir rest the remains of St Swithin (d. 862), whose tomb was greatly revered in the Middle Ages. Bishop Langton (d. 1500) is interred in the southeast chantry. Murals dating from the 16th century can be seen in the early 13th century Lady Chapel. The paintings (about 1240, restored later) on the vaulting of the Chapel of the Guardian Angels provide examples of the original decoration; the tomb of the first Earl of Portland (d. 1636) is the work of Le Sueur. In the north ambulatory is the chapel in which Bishop Waynflete (d. 1486) is buried, a little further on is that of Bishop Gardiner with Renaissance decoration and a wooden chair, on which Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) sat during her wedding with Phillip II of Spain in 1554. Steps lead to the northern transept, where on the left can be seen the Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher, with Romanesque wall-paintings (late 12th century).The font of black Tournai marble (1180), decorated with scenes from the life of St Nicholas, stands in the middle of the north aisle.
Jane Austen's Tomb
A brass tablet in the Winchester Cathedral marks the tomb of the priest's daughter Jane Austen (1775-1817), whose humorous novels, with their lively descriptions of the landed upper middle class, were not only highly treasured by her contemporaries but also by later writers.
The famous 12th century Winchester Bible is kept in the cathedral library in the south transept. Its artistically pictured initials are some of the greatest achievements of book illumination created by the Winchester writing school.
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