Salisbury Cathedral

First weekend in March — time for a road trip! I knew the weather likely wouldn’t be good, and although it’s peak season for daffodils, we’re a bit too early for the best of the gardens. So I decided to go for the timeless: England’s tallest cathedral.

Salisbury sits in Wiltshire, about two hours west of London. It was one of the richest cities in Medieval England due to its wool and textile industry, but nowadays it’s a pretty small backwater. The streets are lined with a mix of architectural styles from Medieval to Modern(ish). It never quite managed to be quaint or charming, at least not in the way of the Cotswolds or some other towns I’ve seen, but it’s still remarkable to think that the Saturday farmer’s market has been happening for at least 800 years…

The cathedral was built in the early 1200s, was one of the earliest English Gothic churches, and remarkably took less than 40 years to build (most cathedrals were built over centuries). The result is a pleasingly unified feel, and you can appreciate how much simpler the early gothic style was compared to the later gothic style.

The cathedral’s other claim to fame? It has one of the best preserved of the four original copies of the Magna Carta. Just sitting there in a little tent in the Chapter House. It’s pretty remarkable. One of the most important foundational legal documents in the anglo-american legal tradition, embodying the notion of the rule of law (as opposed to absolute monarchy) and establishing certain freedoms that are still in effect to this day.

By the time I had seen the cathedral and Magna Carta, I had such a bad headache I was starting to feel ill, so I checked in to my B&B (a gardeny cottage on the outskirts of town), took a nap, and called Justin. Feeling somewhat revived, I walked back into town for a fancy Indian dinner at Anokaa, which everyone is raving about. After dinner, before walking back to the B&B, I swung past the church again to appreciate the nighttime illumination.

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