Most of the time we plan our next destination with care, but sometimes it's those serendipity last minute decisions that take us to some of the more memorable locales. Take for instance the short six days we had between December housesits. We knew we wanted to remain in the south of England, but where? John suggested Chichester and I'm ever so glad he did. It's a gem of a town.
The Chichester Cross is in the centre of town and dates from the medieval period. It was built as a meeting place for people and a place to sell their wares. That tradition continues today as shown below.
Our accommodation in Chichester was a small townhouse that has a section of the Roman wall in its backyard. The entrance is the dark blue door just left of the black one and we immediately felt at home.
For a small community of 27,000 Chichester has a lot to offer visitors including a 900-year old cathedral with a separate bell tower (shown in foreground).
The bell tower is also visible below on the far left. Sadly, it's in need of repair and for the most part covered with wire netting to prevent chunks of stone falling on pedestrians.
The interior of the cathedral is a wonderful mix of old and new.
There are the usual tombs of bishops and beautiful alters as seen below.
But it also includes the unusual such as these two painted murals located at opposite sides of the nave.
They depict the various bishops of the cathedral. One interesting tidbit is that they were commissioned by one bishop and surprise surprise all of the bishops regardless of their term of tenure just happen to look exactly like him. Ah, the joys of being the wealthy and powerful benefactor!
Another unusual feature of the cathedral is not that it is located directly above a Roman ruin, but that the ceramic tiles remain untouched but visible through a glass floor panel.
Looking skyward, the ceilings are equally impressive.
One of the chapels is now a museum for the cathedral's collection of silver and pewter. We met a volunteer cleaning one relatively large chalice with a toothbrush. This retired gentleman complained numerous times about the hours he and other volunteers devote to the task each year, and yet actions speak louder than words. He clearly loved it and nothing could convince us otherwise!
The cathedral is also home to many modern works of art including this stained glass window designed by Marc Chagall.
Although controversy concerning the modern tapestry designed by John Piper on the high alter in the 1960s continues to this day John and I quite liked it. Woven in Aubusson, France it was removed for a period of time in the 1980s, but the powers that be had a change of heart and had it reinstalled.
It was around this same time another tapestry designed by Ursula Benker-Schirmir was installed behind Piper's tapestry on the retro alter.
Another lovely feature is the wooden ceilings in the cloisters.
Surrounding the Chichester Cathedral is the Bishop's Gardens that even in December are a delight.
We also walked along the Roman City wall.
At various places along the wall are bastions. At one time there were sixty such towers to defend the Roman settlement.
Do you see that large mound close to a children's playground?
The mound was the site of a castle complete with a motte and bailey. When it was built by the Normans it was four times larger than it is today and the timber castle was visible for miles.
As you can see the playground is just inside of the wall.
We also visited The Novium Museum, home to what remains of Chichester's Roman Baths.
On another floor is a room exhibiting all things Chichester from prehistoric times right up to the first and second World War. This portable stock was used as punishment for the wayward from medieval times right up to the 1800s.
The piece de resistance was this exhibit to one of Chichester's finest, Admiral Sir George Berry who served with and was a close friend of Horatio Nelson.
As luck would happen we timed our visit at the same time as the man responsible for the exhibit dropped by. We struck up a conversation and soon Barry Aldridge, author of My Dear Murray, shared insider information about the various exhibit pieces and George Berry himself. Talk about a thrill. It made the admiral come to life. For instance, the reason he escaped being injured or even killed at the Battle of Trafalgar alongside Nelson was due to his obligation to settle his father-in-law's very complex last will and testament. Nelson wanted him to be in charge of the entire fleet, but he remained in Chichester. Murray died not long after at the age of 50, while his wife lived to the ripe old age of 96.
For such a small community Chichester has much to offer and we're so happy to have visited.
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