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PPROACHING Lincoln from the south by the London road, we arrive unexpectedly on the brow of a steep hill, from which we gaze into a lovely fertile valley stretching away to the right and left. Through the centre of it flows a gentle river called the Witham. Immediately opposite to where we stand rises another hill; and in the valley, and up and over the hill, lies outspread before us the beautiful city of Lincoln, with the magnificent cathedral towers rising above it and crowning the picture. This most noble of English buildings is charmingly situated. We see its whole length at once, and it is 470 feet long, with two handsome towers on the left, and the great tower, rising grandly from the centre, to the height of 267 feet

This is our first view of Lincoln Cathedral, a structure that took two centuries to build, and which therefore presents us with several changes - always for the better - of architecture in England.

The cathedral was begun by Remigius, who came over with the Conqueror. He was a most excellent and benevolent man. William of Malmesbury says of him, "that being in person far below the common proportion of men, his mind exerted itself to excel and shine." He was indeed an extraordinary dwarf. To set an example to his workmen, and to show them the reverential and devout spirit in which he reared this temple to God, he carried the stones and mortar to them on his own shoulders. He fed daily for three months each year - we suppose it was in the winter - one thousand poor persons; and he clothed the blind and the lame among their number. Remigius had been the Bishop of Dorchester, but was translated to Lincoln, and as we see, founded the cathedral; he built also the adjoining bishop's palace, and the houses for the ecclesiastical offices.

It is sad to think that he died the very day before the minster he had built was opened; and strange in the extreme, that when he invited all the bishops to assist in the act of consecration, the Bishop of Hereford excused himself from coming, because he had ascertained by astrology that the church would not be consecrated while Remigius lived!

The central portion of the west front is all that now remains of Remigius's building; but it is supposed by a great authority that it did not differ much from the present building, except in size; it was sixty feet shorter eastwards, and the eastern front of Remigius showed a semicircular tribune.

In 1185 an earthquake destroyed some of the original building, but Hugh de Grenoble re-erected it and added greatly to it. He began his repairs and additions in 1186, and continued them till 1200. The east or upper transept, with the chapel attached to it, the choir, chapter house, and east side of the west transept are all due to Bishop Hugh. This bishop was a native of Grenoble, and of such saintly and austere piety, 1 that when his body was brought to Lincoln for interment, the kings of England and Scotland, who had met there for a conference, put off their business to meet his body at the gates, and bore it on their shoulders to the cathedral close, where it was carried to the choir by a number of great and distinguished persons. It was finally buried at the east end of the cathedral. He was canonised in 1220, and sixty years later his body was taken up and placed in a shrine of pure gold in the presbytery. This gold shrine was eight feet long and four wide.

At the dissolution of the monasteries the shrine was plundered, of course, with the cathedral, and must have been a rich prize. The nave, which is unequalled in its majestic size and beauty of proportion, was one of the last additions; and the curious Galilee porch, which is very interesting.

Dr. Milner has explained the use of the Galilee. "There were'" he says, "formerly such porches at the western extremity of all large churches. In these public penitents were stationed; dead bodies were sometimes deposited, previous to their interment; and females were allowed to see the monks of the convent who were their relatives. We may gather in a passage from Gervase that upon a woman's applying for leave to see a monk, her relation, she was answered in the words of Scripture, 'He goeth before you into Galilee, there shall ye see him."' (Milner.)

The lower part of the main tower is said to have been built by the famous Bishop Grosteste.

This prelate was by no means favourable to the papal pretensions; he went to Rome to satisfy himself as to the demands of the pontiff, and was so disgusted with all he saw and heard there that he wrote a severe letter (and published it) about the papal pretensions and short-comings. The pope was so enraged that he excommunicated Grosteste; but his sentence took no effect. The good bishop paid not the slightest attention to it, but went on calmly with the duties of his diocese, where he was greatly beloved for his wisdom, piety and charity.

The eastern front of the cathedral is of surpassing beauty. "The buttresses," says Knight, "almost cease to look like buttresses, so profusely are they decorated with crockets, creepers, and finials, with clustered columns at the angles, and with brackets and canopies for statues on the faces."

This front is wonderfully preserved, and is, indeed, "a joy for ever," as is also the angel choir, the extreme beauty of which is almost indescribable.

The bishop's porch is much mutilated, but traces of its great beauty still remain. The alto relievo above the doorway, of the Last Judgment, is wonderful, both for design and execution; and the porch must originally have been superb. The chapels and monumental remains are of great beauty and interest. Among the monuments are those of Bishop Remigius, the founder of the cathedral; of Catherine Swynford, John of Gaunt's third wife, and the sister of Chaucer's wife; and the remains of a monument, covering the stone coffin of little St. Hugh, a child who had been (it was said) crucified by the Jews on Good Friday, in mockery of our Lord's crucifixion.

This false accusation, for it has never been proved, was followed by very sad consequences. In 1255, a hundred and two Jews were taken from Lincoln and confined in the Tower, and in the end twenty-three were executed in London and eighteen at Lincoln.

The king seized all the houses of these unhappy Jews for his own use and profit.

The story probably suggested to Chaucer his Prioress's Tale, one of the most touching and beautiful of the "Canterbury Tales." The scene of her story is laid in Asia, but no doubt it was the tradition of little Hugh that inspired it. We give a verse or two from Wordsvorth's modernized selections from Chaucer.

"Among these scholars was a widow's son,
A little scholar, scarcely seven years old,
Who day by day into this school has gone
And eke when he the image did behold
Of Jesu's mother; as he had been told,
This child was wont m kneel adown and say
Ave Marie as he goeth by the way."

The child learns at school the "O Alma Redemptoris," and sings it as he goes through the Jews' quarter; enraged at this they murder him and throw him in a pit.

"Now this poor widow waiteth all that night
After her little child, and he came not;
For which by earliest glimpse of morning light,
With face all pale with dread and busy thought,
She at the school and elsewhere hath him sought,
Until thus far she learned, that he had been
In the Jews' street, and there he last was seen"

The mother hastens thither and asks the Jews for her child: they say he is not there; but she seeks and calls to him, and by-and by she hears his dear little voice singing from a pit close by the Alma Redemptoris. Thus the murder is discovered, the body raised and taken to the abbey, and the babe is canonised.

The poem ends thus:- Young Hew of Lincoln! in like sort laid low
By cursed Jews - thing well and widely known,-
For it was done a little while ago-
Pray also then for us, while here we tarry,
Weak, sinful folk, that God, with pitying eye,
In mercy should His mercy multiply
On us, for reverence of His Mother Mary."

A painted statue of little Hugh of Lincoln was formerly kept in the cathedral. It had marks of crucifixion in the hands and feet, and a wound in the side from which blood was issuing.

The story was commemorated also in the ballad, "Sir Hugh, or the Jew's daughter." There is in Lincoln a Norman building called the Jew's house, a curious piece of architecture, said to have belonged originally to Belaszel de Wallingford, a Jewess, who was hanged for clipping coin in the reign of Edward I.

Lincoln has a wonderful bell called Great Tom of Lincoln. It has been recast, having been accidentally broken, and is of immense weight and size It is six feet high, six feet ten and a half inches broad, and weighs five tons eight hundred-weight. Its tone and volume are very grand and melodious

King John was partial to Lincoln. There was an old prophecy that threatened misfortune to the king who should wear his crown in Lincoln; and, some say, if he even entered the city. Stephen entered the town, and John wore his crown there, to show the absurdity of the prophecy; but both he and Stephen were so unfortunate that they did but confirm a foolish superstition. Henry II. wore his crown only in the suburb of Wigford, to humour the fears of the townspeople.

William the Conqueror ordered a strong castle to be built here; the remains of which stand on the hill west of the cathedral. In the reign of Stephen the Empress Maud was besieged in it by the king; he took the castle, but Maud managed to escape. It was retaken by her partisans, and again besieged by Stephen, to whom the town was loyal; but Maud's half-brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester, came to its relief, and Stephen gave him battle. During the fight, Alan, Earl of Richmond, deserted to Gloucester's army, and Stephen, though fighting gallantly, was taken prisoner.

In the barons' war the town was taken by Gilbert de Gaunt, who held it for the French Dauphin, but the castle held oat for John, and Gilbert, hearing that the king was marching to release it, retreated. John, however, lost his baggage and treasure in the Wash, and died of fever; and Gilbert returned and retook the town. The Earl of Pembroke, regent for the little King Henry III., advanced to relieve it, and Fulke de Brent, who was on the king's side, threw himself into the castle. The besiegers were attacked both in front and rear, for Fulke made a sortie, while Pembroke attacked them, and they were entirely defeated, and the Dauphin's party ceased to have any power in the country.

In the civil war Lincoln was for the king, but in the struggle with the Parliamentarians the Royalists were obliged to retreat into the castle and cathedral, which were stormed, and, although very gallantly defended, taken on the night of May 5th. 1643.

The remains of the castle consist now of the outer wall of an extensive range of Norman buildings with perpendicular windows, and of the gateway with the billet in the dripstone over the archway, and two Norman windows. In one of the towers of the postern are the remains of a staircase by which one can climb to the top of the ruins. At the south-west angle is a tower with some rooms intact still, a window, and some closets in the thickness of the wall. There is a crypt of Norman work under the hall.

The castle is situated on the banks of the river Trent. The greater part of its site is now filled by the county jail and courthouse. In one corner of it is "Cob's Hall," supposed to have been a chapel, and on the north side, in the outer wall, are the remains of a turret, in which is a gateway supposed to be of Roman build, when Lincoln was one of their stations.

Lincoln abounds in remains of ancient architecture. We have mentioned the Jews' house; "John of Gaunt's stable" is also ancient and Norman. From a window of this hall Lord Hussey was executed for rebellion against Henry VIII. The original house has been pulled down, but there remains a beautiful oriel window. Abeda House, a very curious building, was erected by William Browne, merchant of the staple, in 1493; in the windows of the chapel is some very old painted glass.

The Stone Bow is a good gatehouse of Henry VIII.'s reign. It has a large arch in the centre, with a small round tower on each side; above it is a clock In a niche on the east side of the south front stands a statue of the angel Gabriel; on the west, the Virgin Mary treading on a serpent; in the centre is a shield with arms. The Stone Bow does not stand alone, but has houses joining it on each side, old battlemented buildings, one of which is a hair-dresser's shop.

St. Mary's Church and conduit, in High Street, is a very fine ecclesiastical building, and has an old tree by the entrance.

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Picturesque England
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Picturesque England - Matthew Spong 2004