Treasure hunting in the abbey.
I was going to start this post by remarking that the now standard request for ‘voluntary donations’ when entering religious institutions, is handled better by some cathedrals and the like than others, and that for me Bath Abbey hadn’t got the welcome and the request in balance on the day we visited, but then I decided that perhaps we were there on a particularly busy, cold and grey afternoon and that the welcomers were overdue a tea-break. Maintaining a welcoming attitude can’t be easy, especially faced with crowds of tourists intent only on ticking off the major attractions, it’s enough I’m sure to make even a saint a touch frosty.
Still, you shouldn’t let that put you off, because Bath Abbey is full of glories, small and large, that are certainly worth spending some time to explore.
You can spot one little quirkiness for free, because it’s on the outside of the abbey. Look either side of the west window and you’ll see a variety of angels climbing up and down ladders.
These angels commemorate a dream of Bishop Oliver King at the end of the fifteenth century, in which he saw angels climbing ladders to heaven – as a result, Bishop King went on to have the crumbling Norman ruins replaced and founded the building we see today.
Once inside, it is quite a surprise to find such a large, light and airy space. Even on a dull afternoon, the magnificence of the east window was overwhelming. Many of the visitors went straight to the pews to sit and enjoy the stained glass extravaganza.
As if the window wasn’t enough, a look up to the roof and you get another feast for the senses…
Fan vaulting to die for.
The stained glass windows all around the abbey are gorgeous – just a couple of examples here as my phone camera doesn’t do them justice.
The glass in these extremely tall windows is particularly remarkable for me, because the men who made them knew that they would never really be seen again properly once set in place.
I generally find myself attracted to the memorials in these places and this one caught my eye – this chap was cavalier during the Civil War, but it obviously didn’t stop him indulging in family life – three wives and nine children by my reckoning – it must have been that moustache! He lived to see the Restoration at any rate.
Sadly I managed to miss finding out who these two below were, but I was struck by their attitude – almost as if they’re just thinking about getting up and deciding what to do this morning… rather a relaxed and gentle pair don’t you think…
But perhaps my favourite little gem at Bath Abbey, was the carved musical angels either side of the choir (I couldn’t get close enough to take decent pictures – this is the best I could do – hope it gives you a flavour).
So there you have it – Bath Abbey, not at all what I expected from the outside, like opening a great-aunt’s jewellery-box and finding it full of quirky treasures.
*The man behind the altar is ironing the altar cloth – I wonder if he does his own shirts…