Rain was forecast for my second day in Salisbury, so I didn’t feel like trying to do Calleva and tramping an hour+ through Nomansland in search of what’s left of the Roman city, no matter how important it was during the period in which The Pendragon Chronicles are set.
So instead, I bought the bus ticket complete with entrance to Stonehenge and Old Sarum. I haven’t seen Stonehenge in over a dozen years, and while it isn’t part of my research, it is a part of the lay of the land in the region I’m writing about — and it’s pretty cool. 🙂
The last time I saw it, the visitor’s center was right next to the monument, and it got in the way of the experience a bit. Now, the visitor’s center isn’t even within sight of Stonehenge. They have not yet completed the process of renaturalizing the area where the old buildings stood, but even so, it’s more impressive now than it was then.
Of course, the very first time I was at Stonehenge at the tender age of 19, tourists could still wander around among the stones, and that was amazing in its own way — but I think I like this last visit best. With the monoliths constantly surrounded by tourists, they lose something of their majesty. When we the curious are forced to maintain a respectful distance, the magnificence is all the more obvious, even if you can’t experience it up close.
If you’re interested, you can see my pictures from my most recent visit to Stonehenge here.
It proved fortunate that I was at Woodhenge the day before. One of the things I learned on the audio tour while I was wandering around the big rocks is that a new theory postulates that Stonehenge is the “House of the Dead” to Woodhenge’s “House of the Living.” A number of things make this a very convincing theory. Woodhenge is near the large Pre-Roman settlement of Durrington Walls. The “avenue” which archeologists believe was the entrance to Stonehenge points in the direction of Woodhenge. And the landscape surrounding Stonehenge is littered with graveyards and burial mounds. The house of the dead built in stone, to last. The house of the living, built in wood, which will pass, just as life does.
Of course, that theory could be just as off-base as the medieval tale that Stonehenge was built by Merlin, or the Victorian theory that it was built by Druids. But it has a certain logic to it that appeals to me, given the evidence of the surrounding landscape.
When I got back from the bus trip to Stonehenge and Old Sarum, it was still early enough in the day for me to also visit the inside of Salisbury Cathedral again. I remembered it as one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve ever visited, and I felt that way this time too.
The construction of the cathedral marked the beginning of the city of Salisbury. The church of the bishopric was originally in Sarum (now Old Sarum), but church authorities were interested in a new, bigger church that wasn’t on property owned by the Crown, so they started building a cathedral on church lands a little over a mile from Sarum.
During the course of the middle ages, the town followed the church, and by the fifteenth century, Sarum was basically a ghost town. Henry VIII finally gave permission for the remaining buildings to be dismantled and the valuable building materials be reused elsewhere. That’s why all that’s left of the once thriving town of Sarum, including its castle and its church, are the foundations.
Salisbury Cathedral also contains the original of the Magna Carta. The writing is miniscule, something I hadn’t expected at all. I thought such an important document would be big and flashy somehow. Instead, it’s about half the size of a movie poster, and the writing is so small, I would need a magnifying glass to decipher it, assuming I could even read the medieval script in the first place.
– You can read my first post about my trip here.