Having spent entire summers visiting the great cathedrals and churches Italy has to offer I am surprisingly complacent when it comes to the buildings on my own doorstep. Having grown up in Winchester, the cathedral is part of the furniture. I have spoken and sang to the congregation, I have mourned and celebrated in its aisles but I rarely visit with my camera.
During January the chairs are cleared from the Great Nave. The uninterrupted flag-stone floor would have been the way it was experienced by all at the time of its construction. As a photographer it gave me the rare opportunity to photograph the vast interior without the distraction of rows of wooden chairs.
The light level in here is low and unless you want to shoot with a high ISO a tripod and a slow shutter are essential. Shooting from the West door allows you to take in the sweeping vaulted ceiling highlighting both the length and the height of the nave. Shooting up in Winchester Cathedral is a treat with ornate ceilings and soaring pillars.
Moving into the cathedral there are an array of features which the guides direct you towards including Jane Austin’s grave and memorial window. The stained glass windows vary in style from the mismatched West window – a medieval window which was smashed during the English civil war in the 1600s. When the window came to be restored the fragments of glass were arranged in a haphazard fashion. You will also find windows from William Morris’s studio in the Epiphany Chapel.
As you move further back in the cathedral the variety of building phases becomes apparent. In the retrochoir you will find the largest medieval tiled floor in England. You will also find medieval wall paintings in the Holy Sepulchre Chapel which were only uncovered in the 1960s.
From here be sure to take the stairs down to the crypt. This is the site of Anthony Gormely’s Sound II sculpture. In the winter months as Hampshire’s water table rises the sculpture is part-submerged in water which creates beautiful reflections with the vaulted Norman crypt. To my shame this is the first time I have seen the statue in person and it generates a quiet awe.
The flooded crypt serves as a reminder of the years William Wallace spent laying concrete bags to underpin the cathedral which was sinking into the peaty ground by the early 1900s. Wallace’s diving helmet and a statue in his honour are located at the back of the cathedral to honour the work he did.
When services are not being held you can explore the choir. Here you’ll find some of the cathedral’s most impressive features with a high timber ceiling, ornately carved choir stalls and the gothic screen. There are many less-seen views of the cathedral that can be captured in here – be sure to look out for the green man. With restoration work active in this section of the building a large part of the ceiling is covered albeit discreetly.
Whether it’s art, architecture, history or the religious significance which excites you there is no doubt that Winchester cathedral provides it in all in spades. I’m guilty of neglecting this and many more jewels on my doorstep but no more. I’ll be visiting the places that feel like wallpaper, camera in hand, to reacquaint myself with my home town.
Kat Molesworth is a Photographer and lifelong camera enthusiast. She works for a range of commercial and private clients and teaches photography workshops in the UK.
Kat is also Director of Blogtacular, the conference for creative bloggers. You can find her on Instagram as@thatkat and she writes her personal blog at Housewife Confidential.