Who doesn’t like a crypt? Oh, all right so they’re not for everyone. But I find them fascinating. The one in Winchester Cathedral isn’t usually open to the public. It has a habit of flooding, so there are no tombs, no alters and certainly no coffee shop. Although there is “Sound II”, a solitary sculpture by Andrew Gormley.
It was by chance that we went down there just as a volunteer was getting ready to do a crypt tour. And as there was only four of us, it meant we got to ask lots of questions.
Alfred the Great established Winchester as his base when he started to unite together the disparate parts of what would be England. The cathedral itself was founded in 642 and was rebuilt and re-worked for many hundreds of years afterward.
As the crypt floods, there’s not a lot down there and the decoration is non-existent. But it had a delightfully creepy atmosphere.
Chunks of masonary and old statues are some of the only things to be found, like a religious attic.
There are also a few Anglo-Saxon coffins, found during building work. One was found on the spot that St Swithin, the saint that pilgrims came to visit, was said to have been buried. It was unfortunately empty, having been a victim of Henry VIII’s reformation.
There’s also a well, fed by an underground spring, whose origins remain unclear. It’s positioned directly below the altar but whether they built the altar there because of it is another matter.
In case you were wondering, the statue is staring at a pool of water in its hands – although it does look like its peering at an iPhone. I thoroughly enjoyed this unexpected tour. It would make a very good location for a murder mystery, horror tale, or something supernatural or historical. If you time it right you might well get the chance to try the tour yourself.
Large ancient buildings still have the power to fill us with awe even though we’re used to skyscrapers looming over us. Perhaps it’s because we know that they were built without all the mechanical apparatus we’re used to now. Literal blood, sweat and tears went into them. It would be rude not to be impressed.
I also have a notebook from a previous visit to the cathedral. It’s good and chunky one with plenty of pages if a little plain under the cover.
Have you ever visited an intriguing crypt? Or had a serendipitous event? Let me know or just leave a comment if you enjoyed this post!