?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Harold Godwinsson At Waltham Abbey - Eroticdreambattle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Tony Grist

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Harold Godwinsson At Waltham Abbey [Jun. 20th, 2016|10:23 am]
Tony Grist
There are three stories I know about the burial of King Harold Godwinsson.

1. He was buried in Bosham near Chichester- where there was a royal palace.

2. He was buried on a Sussex beach or cliff- where he could stand guard over the country he died defending.

3. He was badly wounded at Hastings, was smuggled off the battlefield, healed by a Saracen woman and then lived out a long life, traipsing round Europe, looking, unsuccessfully, for political and military support, returned to England disguised as a hermit, died at Chester and was buried under the high altar of Waltham Abbey, Essex, of which he'd been an enthusaistic and generous patron.

I don't suppose there's much of Harold's church left at Waltham. The existing building is mostly Anglo Norman and looks like this...



Restoration work was carried out by William Burges, one of the most confident and full-bloodied Victorian architects. The east end
is entirely his- and so is the ceiling, painted with the signs of the zodiac. Old meets new in the image below. Opinions vary as to the success of the conjunction, but whatever you think of Burges, you can't ignore him.



Here almost everything you can see is Anglo-Norman. Lovely!



Waltham is a little shame-faced about its claims to Harold- as if it knows it's bluffing. An unprepossessing stone- now in the middle of  lawn because the east end of the abbey church was demolished at the Reformation- marks the supposed site of his burial. I was reading the other day that there was a proposal to dig for him, but it doesn't look as if anyone is really bothered.

This is Harold's "grave marker". Not very impressive, is it?

linkReply

Comments:
From: cmcmck
2016-06-20 09:48 am (UTC)
I knew the story of the old holy man, blind of one eye.............

It's a classic returning hero trope.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-06-20 12:01 pm (UTC)
It's a good story- and maybe it's true. It seems the document that records it is remarkably circumstantial.

Do you know Kipling's story, The Tree of Justice, which riffs on the legend?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sorenr
2016-06-20 10:10 am (UTC)
That is a spectacular church; the interior looks like a full-on cathedral - except the size of the people reveal the smaller scale. Also, I really DO love a vaulted nave, but it's nice that some old churches retain their original flat ceilings; it changes the entire sound and experience of being in a church space.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-06-20 12:08 pm (UTC)
The original church- as built by the Normans- was on the scale of a small cathedral. I think it was bigger than- say- Rochester. What's left is only a fragment of the whole.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sorenr
2016-06-20 10:28 pm (UTC)
Sometimes a fragment can be more special than the whole. There's more room for imagination - and after all, we've all seen huge cathedrals, so perhaps that's why I'm so excited about your pictures of smaller churches.

I do wonder how tall that ceiling is. I'd guesstimate it at around 15 metres/45ft, which is obviously not very high for such a grand church building - but then, it seems to be a transitional building with Romanesque features but a decidedly Gothic structure with arcade, gallery and clerestory.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-06-21 08:27 am (UTC)
Wikipedia tells me that the Norman church- which is essentially what still stands- was built between 1090 and 1150. That I suppose covers the period when the Gothic style was beginning to emerge.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sorenr
2016-06-21 06:00 pm (UTC)
When you look at the structure of the "walls" between the nave and the aisles, you see the same structural pattern as in Chartres or Amiens, except of course that the gallery level is not a gallery as the aisles aren't vaulted but follow the roof line.

In fact, the more I look at the pictures, the more fascinated am I by the way Norman architecture fits into the change from Romanesque to Gothic... In Denmark the change was different, as our greatest cathedrals were built in brick and most smaller churches were built in field stones - so columns and elaborate carvings are rare here.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-06-21 07:08 pm (UTC)
Gothic grows out of Anglo-Norman. Durham cathedral- which is wholly of the Romanesque period- had pointed arches several decades before any building in France.

I think we're too rigid in our definitions of architectural style. After all Romanesque and Gothic are terms that didn't appear until centuries after these buildings went up.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sorenr
2016-06-21 07:18 pm (UTC)
All styles are just contemporary until they grow old-fashioned. Then we name them...

And while I do think the pointed arches are a feature of Gothic architecture, it really seems to me that the structure - the perforation of walls and the change from "shaping space" to "shaping stones" - is the key to Gothic architecture. Convex building elements replacing concave elements. Columns, pilasters, ribs, haut reliefs...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: puddleshark
2016-06-21 06:53 am (UTC)
Oh dear, oh dear... That east end... is flamboyant. And belongs in another church. One somewhere in France.

Lovely, lovely Romanesque interior, though.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-06-21 08:32 am (UTC)
Burges doesn't attempt to blend in. He's saying, "We moderns can stand up to the medievals and trade them punch for punch." In some ways it's an admirable stance- and Burges was a genius of sorts- but I could wish he'd not adopted it here.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: splodgenoodles
2016-06-21 08:50 am (UTC)
Suspect there's not much of Harold left there either.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2016-06-21 09:28 am (UTC)
Well no...

I understand the church official responsible for giving the archaeologists permission to dig turned their application down on the grounds that they were unlikely to find anything and if they did it would be impossible to prove it had anything to do with Harold.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)