Monday, 10 May 2010

Litchfield Cathedral

Lichfield is an old cathedral city and birthplace of Dr Samuel Johnson, famous, amongst other things, for producing a Dictionary of the English Language.  The little boxy car in the foreground probably dates the card to the 1970s.

The impressive carved west front dominated by three balanced spires is a wonderful sight on this, the smallest Cathedral in England. Its full name is the Cathedral of St Mary and St Chad. The latter name gives the clue that the sites origin is of an older Saxon church of 700, Lichfield at that time was the centre of the Kingdom of Mercia. One of the consequences of the Norman invasion of 1066 was that Saxon churches and Cathedrals were replaced by Norman ones. In Lichfield this Norman Cathedral was then replaced by the current Gothic Cathedral, started in 1195.  The building continued to grow and expand and by the 1500s had 20 alters.  All this was going to change with the coming of the Reformation when Henry VIII  in 1538destroyed St Chad's shrine, which meant no more pilgrims visiting so no money flowing into the coffers of the church.

More turbulent times were ahead during the 17th Century English Civil War between king and Parliament.  The cathedral was under siege three times, once by the Royalist and twice by the Parliamentarians as battles raged to and fro. The result was not only was the exterior was considerably damaged, including one of the spires, but also much of the glass and memorials inside. There have been a number of restorations over time, one it is said by Sir Christopher Wren, builder of St Paul's Cathedral, but the one that brought the building back to its Gothic glory was that done by the great Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott when many of over 100 carved figures on the front were replaced.

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