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May2011
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Wiltshire is a region just below Bath that has several ancient sights to see. The two we wanted to see were Salisbury Cathedral and, of course, Stonehenge.

But the cathedral first. Built in the 13th century, it’s the oldest church we’ve seen yet! It’s very typical early English Gothic style, which was quite cool to see. The outside was all darkened and decorated, but the inside was all simple and plain. The cathedral also has the tallest spire in England – 123m high and 6500 tonnes in stone. Pretty amazing considering it was made in medieval times!

Salisbury Cathedral

Love these old cathedrals and their cloisters – reminds me of Diablo. 🙂 Apparently, these are England’s largest cathedral cloisters (58m square). They were quite serene and simply decorated.

Cloisters

We got our first look at plain undecorated ceilings in the cloisters. But then we went into the nave, and it was so surprising to see a stark, plain, white ceiling.

Nave at Salisbury Cathedral

This is apparently very very typical of early Gothic architecture. Simple and plain, but with lovely lines. However, we were told that all these ceilings would’ve been painted in bright beautiful colours. There are still remnant bits of paint left in places. They did paint some sections of the ceiling right up at the altar to give an indication of what the whole cathedral – and many other cathedrals from those times – would’ve looked like.

Painted ceiling

The other spectacular thing at the cathedral that we *couldn’t* take a photo of was one of the surviving copies of the original Magna Carta’s. It was signed by King John in 1215 and is the basis of the current legal system – laws that should be followed by all people including their leaders. Only 3 of the 63 laws written in the original are currently still law, but many of them inspire current day ideas (such as, trial by jury and a feudal tax and administration system). Some are pretty archaic, i.e. Clause 48 stated that all evil customs connected with forests were to be abolished. Here’s a BBC photo of the original document.

Magna Carta Salisbury

All-in-all, Salisbury Cathedral was a lovely visit, and we’ll have to visit the nearby Wincester cathedral which is early gothic style as well. However, the main reason for going down to Salisbury was to visit Britain’s most iconic archaeological site. We wanted to see Stonehenge. Those stones are massive!

Coming up to Stonehenge

Stonehenge has been a destination for visitors, be them pilgrims, poets, philosophers or tourists, for 5000 years. It’s mystery is part of the sight’s appeal – as the exact purpose of this monument has been lost.

Postcard Stonehenge

Despite countless theories about what the site was used for, ranging from a sacrificial center to a celestial  timepiece. But no one really knows what drove prehistoric Britons to expend so much time and effort on its construction. These stones weigh 4 tonnes and half of them were hauled from South Wales 250 miles away.

A Stone at the Henge Stones at the Henge

The stones are all laid out in a particular formation, and the most prominent theory is that the site was some kind of astronomical calendar, mapping out the midsummer and midwinter solstice. Regardless of their purpose, they’re pretty spectacular to see. Huge rocks in a field, yes. But spectacular.

Stonehenge

Definitely a recommended sight to see.

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