Last week I was really lucky to get early access into Gloucester Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in Gloucester, England, stands in the north of the city near the river. It originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter (dissolved by King Henry VIII).
The cathedral cloisters have been used from 2000 as a location for filming the first, second and sixth Harry Potter films, which has generated revenue and publicity, but caused some controversy amongst those who suggest that the theme of the films was unsuitable for a church.
In 2008 the Cathedral was used by BBC Wales as a location for the Doctor WhoChristmas Special.
So there I am just before 07:30 on Monday morning walking through the West Gate on my way to the Cathedral.
Once in the Cathedral I head straight for the cloisters. I’ve only got an hour of unrestricted access before I must stop photographing. But there’s a slight problem. It’s been raining all weekend and as you can see from the photograph above it still is. It’s too dark! Even with a tripod I would struggle to get a decent photograph….and this is where a very nice man comes to my aid. The Verger allows me to put on the lights. It’s not natural light, but I’m not complaining, at least I can get started.
A cloister (from Latin claustrum, “enclosure”) is a rectangular open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries, with open arcades on the inner side, running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle or garth.
The cloisters at Gloucester are the earliest surviving fan vaults, having been designed between 1351 and 1377 by Thomas de Cambridge.
The attachment of a cloister to a cathedral or church, commonly against a warm southern flank, usually indicates that it is (or once was) part of a monastic foundation, “forming a continuous and solid architectural barrier… that effectively separates the world of the monks from that of the serfs and workmen, whose lives and works went on outside and around the cloister.”
Historically, the early medieval cloister had several antecedents, the peristyle court of the Greco-Roman domus, the atrium and its expanded version that served as forecourt to early Christian basilicas, and certain semi-galleried courts attached to the flanks of early Syrian churches.
All to soon my hour was up and it was time to leave the cloisters. The cathedral is used during school term-time as the venue for regular school assemblies, known as morning chapel, by The King’s School, Gloucester and their way to the cathedral is through the cloisters.
If you are ever in Gloucester I highly recommend a visit to the cathedral, it’s not all about the cloisters though. The cathedral itself is impressive.
Built as an abbey church, it consists of a Norman nucleus (Walter de Lacy is buried there), with additions in every style of Gothic architecture. It is 420 feet (130 m) long, and 144 feet (44 m) wide, with a fine central tower of the 15th century rising to the height of 225 ft (69 m) and topped by four delicate pinnacles, a famous landmark. The nave is massive Norman with an Early English roof.
The choir has Perpendicular tracery over Norman work, with an apsidal chapel on each side: the choir vaulting is particularly rich. The late decorated east window is partly filled with surviving medieval stained glass.
I hope you enjoyed this short trip round the cathedral with me and I’d like to thank the Verger who helped me by putting on the lights. In my eagerness to get into the cloisters I never caught his name, most remiss of me. Special thanks must also go to Claire Stefanyszyn in the Cathedral Office who arranged for me to get into the cathedral early. Should you wish to visit and photograph in the cathedral don’t forget to buy a Photography Permit (£3).
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