Monday, 29 August 2016

St David's II: The Interior

This was not my first visit to St David's. I had visited once before with my parents, and standing there in the nave the cumulative aesthetic and spiritual strength of this building brought my mother to tears. It is impossible, I think, not to be moved.
The nave possesses an immense spaciousness.  That was what struck me first of this my latest visit.  Only then did I notice the architecture: the great slope of the floor as it rises towards the pulpitum at the east; the ornate Transitional arcades and combined triforium and clearstorey and the way it leans so precariously backwards; and finally the incredible the immense late Gothic ceiling with its great pendant bosses, the last thing to be added to the cathedral before the Reformation. The cumulative is indeed almost overwhelming.  This is much grander architecture than at Brecon, but there is that same sense of the parochial - a feeling amplified by the more intimate scale of architecture at the east end. The cathedral is filled with beautiful things: there are the pale late Gothic choir stalls situated under the central tower, and the wide meadows of encaustic tiles designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the choir, aisles and transepts.  They had a layer of richness and apart from the east wall of the chancel, with its three panels of  mosaic by Salviati, are the only evidence that he had been this way.  The sanctuary, however, is stilled paved with its original Medieval tiles, possibly made over in Malvern.  The prominent tomb in the chancel belongs to Edmund Tudor, 1st husband of the remarkable Lady Margaret Beaufort and father and grandfather to Henry VII & Henry VIII respectively.  It originally stood in the choir of Greyfriars in Camarthen and was moved here at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  The shrine of St david has recently been restored and modern icons added.  I'm not sure I like them as much as an original Greek one that's on display in the south transept.

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