Saturday, 16th March 2018 – Chichester
We had tickets for the Sunday of the Goodwood Members’ Meeting this year and rather than haul out of bed at stupid o’clock we’d booked an Airbnb place in Chichester for the Saturday night so we could go down in good order and not have to worry about the weather, or the traffic. We’d been to Chichester once a long time ago for a theatre performance, but had not otherwise spent any time in the town, so I suggested we went early on Saturday afternoon, and nosed around a little before checking in to our accommodation.
We drove down the A34 through some rather alarming snowfall, but arrived in Chichester in good order and managed to find a car park very close to the city centre. We had considered stopping off at Fishbourne Roman Palace and Gardens but decided it really was not a day for being outdoors. Instead we would stick with plan A and head for the main town centre. Parked up, we discovered it was but a short walk to the rather splendid Cathedral, which could be seen looming over the playing fields of the Prebendal School which seem to surround the town centre.
There are some magnificent buildings around the cathedral itself, but none of them detract from what is a superb medieval building that turned out to be surprisingly full of art of a far more modern provenance.
First however we needed the cafe. It was painfully cold outside and we’d been on the road for two and a half hours so the cake and coffee in the Cloisters Cafe was entirely justifiable! They do a very fine white chocolate and passionfruit cake is all I can say.
Also, on a cold March afternoon, the place was almost deserted, as was the high street. It was very odd. I know it was bitterly cold, but the shopping streets around the cathedral seemed very pleasant and actually had lots of interesting looking shops (rather than the standard and now troubled chains that make so many high streets look alike across the country). No idea where the locals all were, but they weren’t out shopping.
Our worries about how the weather conditions might affect the race meeting were assuaged by the fact that we could hear racing engines all the while we were walking around so at least we hadn’t wasted our time heading for Sussex. Anyway, to return to the cathedral, which was begun in 1076 under Bishop Stigand and completed under Bishop Luffa in time for its consecration to the Holy Trinity in 1108 (and then had to rebuild it three years later). Needless to say there has been a lot of additional building since, in that way of cathedrals, and also – which is not so usual – a great deal of art commissioned for the cathedral.
Things of particular interest are listed on the leaflet handed out by cathedral staff as you go inside. I was particularly interested in some of the paintings, including “The Baptism of Christ” by Hans Feibusch which dates from 1951 Another of his works was on display in the treasury.
There is also a small but fascinating Graham Sutherland work, “Noli me tangere” in one of the side chapels.
We seem to have blundered across a number of very modern fonts recently, with the spectacular one Salisbury back in January, and now a modern stone and copper version here. To counteract all this modern art there are also some lovely pieces of medieval work, including the Arundel Screen, which dates from the early 15th century.
If you want to really go back, there’s also a piece of Roman mosaic on display in the building.
It’s close to two very fine Romanesque sculptures set in the wall, and contrasting with the Piper Tapestry round the corner adorning the high altar. It pretty much glows with colour.
There is also a small but spectacularly beautiful chapel at the far end of the building that is set aside for private prayer. I snuck in and took a photo or two since it was a empty as the rest of the building.
And as if that was not enough there’s a Marc Chagall window, based on Psalm 150: “O praise God in his holiness… let everything that hath breath praise the Lord”.
I was surprised to find a memorial to Gustav Holst in the floor. It seemed a very modest work, though very apt.
And finally there is the Arundel Tomb, the resting place of Richard Fitzalan (died 1376), Earl of Arundel and his second wife, Eleanor of Lancaster, which provided the inspiration for a Philip Larkin poem, “An Arundel Tomb”.
By the time we’d finished going round, it was time to head off to our Airbnb.