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Pictures of Southwell Minster

a Cathedral in the town of Southwell, in the county of Nottinghamshire

About Southwell Minster

Historically a monastery was probably founded here in the 10th century, with the church being begun around 1108. The building has two western towers with distinctive pyramid style roofs; the crossing tower is somewhat squat. The chancel is 13th century Early English, and the chapter house, famous for it's carved foliage decoration was planned at around the same time.

It was not until the 19th century that the Minster church was raised to cathedral status, today it continues to be known as Southwell Minster, but is officially the Cathedral and Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The exterior of the building is extremely attractive, it occupies a tranquil setting with other historic buildings close by including the relics of the former Archbishop's Palace which was ravaged during the English Civil War. The only remaining building from this is The Great Hall, this is not normally open to the public. The present Bishop's Palace has been incorporated into the ruins.

Of the treasures inside the Cathedral, the Stations of the Cross by Jonathon Clarke, are said to have been the sculptor's first big commission. This sculpture must rank amongst the finest of any church, they were given to the Cathedral by an unknown donor in 1999. Another 20th century acquisition is a Thompson mouse, these items are in sharp contrast to the cathedral's historic treasures which include a Roman mural and a Saxon tympanum. Others are a magnificent font, a Madonna and Child statue by Kelham, a superb pulpit and Bread pews of note.

The chapter house is renowned for being the only one in the country without a central pier to support its incredible stone vaulting. It is further acclaimed throughout the world for its carvings known as "The Leaves of Southwell" these show a range of images of animals and carved creatures mingled together to represent superstition and fable combined with religious beliefs. The rich decoration includes many of the leaves to be found in nearby Sherwood Forest.

There are many magnificent stained glass windows, some older than others. A recent addition is The Angel West Window installed in 1996, this is the largest and most modern church glass in the country. The centre piece of the window is the Virgin Mary, to whom the Cathedral is dedicated. The most important glass in the Minster was found in a pawn shop in Paris. These windows can be seen in the lower sanctuary, they depict scenes from the bible and were brought from France by local MP, Henry Gally Knight.

The elaborate Quire Screen leaves you breathless at its beauty, this contains 286 heads of men, animals and grotesques all placed in social order from top to bottom, with the Kings and Queens at the top and lesser mortals lower down. Visitors will also note the fine misericords, pews and copes; some of these lovely copes remain from Jacobean times.

This is a church well worth spending time in, everywhere you look there is something rare or special, from the fun of the Thompson mouse to the splendour of the Quire screen. A walk around the Cathedral is like taking a magical tour of church majesty, it is full of surprises, a constant source of fascination, and quite simply overwhelming.

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