Can anything rival Salisbury Cathedral for sheer elegant beauty? The smooth curved lines from end to end fuse together into a perfectly harmonious whole, unlike the confused and crowded jumble of architectural elements and styles that hinders many otherwise great cathedrals.
This is no coincidence, but the happy result of Salisbury’s extraordinarily rapid construction, which proceeded from start essentially to finish from 1220 to 1258 (while most other cathedrals were built and rebuilt in stages over centuries). Indeed, Salisbury is something of a miracle, not only for the speed of its construction, but the fact that the builders seem to have stumbled upon (not having any geological knowledge on which to base their decision), the most solid section of bedrock in the whole region–the only ground strong enough to hold the immense weight of the cathedral.
This weight, of course, is so immense because of the 404-ft. high spire on top of the cathedral, making Salisbury the tallest surviving pre-15th-century church in the world, and the tallest surviving church of any era in England. (unfortunately, it was hard to get a good outdoor shot on a grey day.)
The sheer weight of the central tower, added in 1315, caused the pillars at the end of the nave to sink seven inches and warp inward, as you might be able to discern in this splendid photo looking west from the Quire. Additional supports were hastily but tastefully added, and the tower stabilized for the next seven hundred years.
Installed in 2008 to honor the 750th anniversary of the Cathedral, the Infinity Font is the most beautiful baptismal font I have seen, with a never-ending flow of living water, yet smooth as glass to reflect the beautiful building around it.
The perfect consistency of Salisbury’s architecture never becomes boring or excessive because it is all done in the style known as Early English Gothic, full of sophistication and variety, yet maintaining a freshness and simplicity lost in later, overly decorative or elaborate expressions of Gothic.
(the view from the triforium)
(the northern transept)
(Wells isn’t the only cathedral that can boast elegant inverted arches)
(a full-color version of the first photo, just because it’s so cool)