||[Jan. 25th, 2012|09:36 am]
We played hookey for a couple of nights. We went to York. We came back to a frantic phone message from Odi and all the rest of the dreary, deadly stuff that was swirling round us before we left, but it was glorious while it lasted.|
York Minster is one of the loveliest buildings in Christendom. As much as anything it's the gleaming white stone that does it. If the walls of Heaven are any shinier than the walls of York I shall be most agreeably surprised.
On the evening of the first day I took a walk across the battlefield at Towton- where more people were killed in a shorter time than at on any other occasion in British history. I believe the rate of attrition was even greater than it was on the Somme. When I was playing about with my photographs afterwards I found one of them had an orb in it. Yes, I know orbs are artefacts of digital photography, but I prefer to think that a medieval man-at-arms was crouching in the hedgerow watching to see what I was doing.
Who fought at Towton? I believe Shakespeare's Henry VI part III contains the answer. Afterwards, the Duke of York and other worthies had their heads displayed on Micklegate Bar in York, and someone made a crack about York looking out over York*. Very droll. If Towton is less famous than other battles it's because it achieved very little in political terms. One gang routed some other gang and held onto power for a while until the other gang came storming back. A few years back the archaeologists excavated a war grave on the battlefield. The poor fellows in it had been most unchivalrously hacked about.
Yesterday, on our way home, we stopped at Selby. Selby Abbey is partly Romanesque. There is nothing that gives me greater aesthetic pleasure than a Romanesque arch unless it's a Romanesque capital.
*My friend Laura points out that this incident happened before the Battle of Towton. I remember a TV production of the play (adapted from the RSC's famous Wars of the Roses cycle) in which the Duke of York was played by fruity old Donald Sinden.