Salisbury and Stonehenge

We went to Stonehenge on our way to the great cathedral town of Salisbury. My husband was thrilled to see the famous standing stones -- as you can tell from the ecstatic look on his face. Not kidding, really -- that's a look of sheer glee he's wearing.

tangent: The last time I was at Stonehenge, we were forbidden to walk on the grass because the British were concerned that we would carry foot and mouth disease on our shoes. So, you know that Stonehenge is really just a big pile of rocks in the middle of a grassy field right? You figure out how limiting that was. I'll wait.

Salisbury Cathedral is one of the great sites in England – it is a true Gothic cathedral, with a spire that is the highest in the United Kingdom (I took this picture from the spire, which we were able to tour). I love this spire story: The Nazi bombers who flew over England during the Blitz had strict instructions not to destroy the Salisbury Cathedral spire – not for any altruistic love of beauty, but because the pilots used it to get their bearings as they headed toward their London bombing missions.

Check out this groovy new baptismal font – dedicated last year by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its water continually pours out of the four corners of the font, while the surface is smooth enough that it serves as a mirror, reflecting the beautiful stained glass window at the far end of the nave.

Our guide called this a misericorde, but what I call it is a butt-rest. The priests of the cathedral, who stood throughout the long Masses, used these little ledges (excactly butt-height -- how convenient!) to sneak in a little relief for their legs.

These banners were the coolest thing: so, this regiment that has an association with the town of Salisbury donated each of these flags after the unit was consolidated with another after World War II. The flag in the front (they're called "colours," not flags, by the way) is so sheer that it looks like netting. This is because it was washed away while the regiment was crossing a bridge over the Ganges River during a monsoon in 1842. They recovered the flag -- seven months later! And this is what it looked like. Even though it looks so tattered, it is still given all the respect due to the colours of the regiment.

The spire holds bells that ring a Westminster chime on the quarter-hour, then this big thing rings the hours. This bell dates from 1230, and was one of few to escape the clutches of the evil Oliver Cromwell and his greedy henchmen during the Civil War (boo, hiss -- hate Oliver Cromwell!).

Next stop: London!