The Crypt of Winchester Cathedral


One of my biggest complaints about Winchester Cathedral was that I felt a bit nickle-and-dimed.  (Do the British have an equivalent expression? I don’t think so…).   The one-time entrance fee to the church was £6.50, although for £10.00 you could get an annual pass good for a whole year. So we did that, since I think we’ll be back at some point. Unfortunately, that entrance fee does not include any sort of guidebook, just the regular brochure. If you want to climb to the top of the tower, you have to pay at additional £6.00.  And the audio tour is extra as well, for £3.00.

The steps that come down into the crypt, as seen from the viewing platform.

The only additional part of the cathedral that didn’t cost anything was the crypt, although the hours for the crypt are different from the rest of the church, and you have to sign up for a tour at the main desk in order to be able to see it. What a pain!  By the time we made it over to the crypt and saw the sign, we’d already missed the last tour.

We didn't see this part, since it was closed, but the Cathedral has this picture on the website.

But we were able to go down to the “viewing platform”, which gives you just a taste. The space is quite condensed, so the columns feel short compared to the size of the arches supporting the ceiling. Apparently there is a water well directly beneath the main altar — that area is only open during the summer months when it is dry. Throughout the rest of the year, the crypt is completely flooded as it lies well below the water-table.

This pic is also from the Cathedral website. It's a close-up Sound II. Apparently there is a small tube inside the man, and when the crypt floods, water is forced upwards and into his cupped hands.

There is a sculpture by Antony Gormley in the crypt, and it’s kind of surprising to see it. It’s a lead sculpture made out of a plaster case of Gormley’s own body (as is most of his work). But this man cups his hands together and stares down at the water he holds.  The sculpture is called Sound II, although it was completely silent when we went below.

This is the picture I was able to take. The floor wasn't flooded, but you can see the moisture collecting in the cracks. It makes for a really interesting pattern.

I have to admit, I really like Antony Gormley’s work. I love that he takes each piece and makes it fit in the surroundings — it’s like this man was destined to stand in this crypt forever. I like the uniformity of the body, the generic “human-ness” about the form — it’s actually Gormley’s form but it represents all of us. I wish I could have gotten a closer look, but I guess, since we have the annual pass,  we’ll just have to go back when it’s not flooded!

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Posted on 03/04/2011, in Castles & Cathedrals, travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. thank you for taking the time. Beautiful coments and inspiring.

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