Of all the artistic and cultural movements in Europe during the last thousand years, perhaps the most fascinating and least understood is that which resulted in the building of the great Gothic Cathedrals. Although the most striking examples of this movement are to be found in France, England was not excluded from whatever mysterious cultural forces suddenly galvanised craftsmen across wide areas to devote all their time and energies to the building of these wonderful structures. Carlisle Cathedral is a truly stunning, if comparatively modest masterpiece.
As anyone who has traveled in Europe will know, these buildings have a strange timeless quality, that leads us almost to take them for granted. Since many people now do not follow Christianity, or indeed any faith, with such fervour that it would lead them to cut and dress such huge stones in labours that would keep them busy for years at a time, in some cases whole lifetimes, it is strange to look at them with modern eyes. Inside, you will find yourself dazzled by the great stained glass windows and the ornate wooden carvings decorating the interior.
Naturally, the meaning of the various decorations within and without the Cathedral is the subject of much speculation, in particular concerning the bosses on the ceiling of the Prior’s Tower. Rather like the stone shields you will find in the hands of the carven figures in many of France’s Gothic wonders, the pictures seem to have nothing obviously to do with the story of Jesus and his resurrection. One such anomaly is the grinning, sword-wielding fellow, who is sticking out his tongue, while apparently emerging from a snail shell!
This puzzling image, amongst others you will find here, is central to the bizarre mystique of Carlisle Cathedral. Of course, it is still a centre of worship for the Anglican Church Community, and the Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Carlisle, so you will find many of the faithful here when you visit.