图书图片
PDF
ePub

eessors, removed his body to the new church of Winchester; though, according to Robert of Gloucester, " the canons of Dorchester say Nay, and say that it was another body than St. Birinus that was so translated." Be that as it may, Birinus was canonized, and was held in such reputation that the people raised a shrine to him, at which they made their addresses for the preservation and cure of their cattle from disease, and many miracles were effected before it. Nor was his fame entirely local. "In the ' Sarum Processionale,' in the litany appointed to be sung on the sixth Feria (Friday) in the second week in Lent, in the bede roll of the saints he is ordered to be invoked: 'Sancte Birine, ora pro nobis.'" (Skelton's ' Oxford.')

Dorchester declined with the Saxon dynasty. It appears to have suffered from the ravages of the Danes, who several times overran and plundered these parts. In 662 Winchester was separated from the diocese, and formed into a distinct bishopric; afterwards the sees of Salisbury, Exeter, Bath and Wells, Lichfield, Worcester, and Hereford were taken from it, yet it is said to have been even then the largest in the kingdom; while the town maintained a distinguished rank among the cities of England, Henry of Huntingdon placing it fourteenth in his list of twenty eight British cities. Dorchester received the first bishop appointed by William the Conqueror, Remioius, a Norman. At this time the town appears to have been decaying; and in the next reign (1092) the see was removed to Lincoln. Henry of Huntingdon informs us that the town was at this period ill-peopled and small, but the majesty of the churches was great. Camden says there were once three parish churches in Dor* Chester, and Leland has informed us of their positions. "There was a parish church a little by south from the abbey church, and another parish church more south above it. Then there was the third parish church by south-west." The town was originally walled; and according to Camden, a castle once stood on the south side of the church, but there were "not the least traces" of it in his time. In 1140, Alexander, the third bishop of Lincoln, founded a priory of black canons here; twelve churches in this county being appropriated to its support. Its situation was almost contiguous to the present church, and some portions of the walls yet remain; a part of them may be seen in the grammar-school near the church; and a larger portion somewhat northward of it forni3 a large quadrangle; these walls are very massive, and serve as the foundation for an extensive range of wooden barns which enclose a farm-yard, apparently of the same size as was the original quadrangle.

The church was a part of the ancient priory; and was most likely raised on the site of the original church of Birinus. The date of its erection eannot be precisely fixed; part of it is Norman, but the greater part probably belongs to the end of the thirteenth century, while some of the windows are much later. It is of large size and lofty, but. of unusual length in proportion to its breadth; its dimensions being—interior length, one hundred and eighty-six feet (exclusive of the tower) ; width, sixty-nine feet; height, forty feet. It consists of a nave and chancel with north and south aisles. Externally, its appearance is striking and picturesque; but it is more picturesque in parts than as a whole. The south-west angle, with its ornamented buttress,

the porch and cross, with the yew by which it stands; and the south-east angle, with the noble chancel windows, for example, afford very beautiful and pleasing combinations. The interior is far more interesting than the exterior. Only a portion of it is now employed for divine service, the rest, parted off by the filling up of the large arches, being used as lumber-rooms. The chancel is of unusually large proportions, and by far the most imposing portion of the edifice; its lofty and handsome pillars and arches, its curious but magnificent windows, imparting to it an air of uncommon grandeur. Three of these windows deserve particular notice—the great east window; that on the south; and the north, or Jesse window, so called from the stone framework of it being a genealogical tree springing from the loins of Jesse, and the whole representing the genealogy of the Saviour. "The east window is a remarkably fine specimen of late Decorated, and is singular in its design. It is not, as is usual, divided by mullions into lights as far as the springing of the arch, but is filled with tracery almost its whole length, that in the head being intersecting, and that below flowing alternately with the upright mullion. It has up its centre on the exterior a buttress, and in the interior a solid piece of masonry, which gives it in its present stale the appearance of being two separate windows; but originally these were united by a large circle in the head, no doubt filled with tracery, and forming together one magnificent window. A great part of this window is filled with stained glass, which has evidently been brought from some other window, most probably from the one which was removed when this part was added." (Addington, Hist, oj Dorchester Church.)

The window on the south is somewhat similar in appearance, but has more the character of the Perpendicular style. It is divided by a transom, on which, at the junction of the mullions, are small sculptured figures representing a procession, with a bishop, &c. Beneath the window are four carved and decorated sedilia, under the canopies of which are small openings containing stained glass of a very ancient date, having probably belonged to the original Norman east window. The figures on this glass, as well as those sculptured on the framework of the window above, are supposed to have reference to the history of Birinus. "Opposite to this, on the north side, is the celebrated Jesse window. It is a window of four lights with intersecting tracery in the head. The centre mullion represents the trunk of a tree, its branches crossing over the intermediate mullions as far as the jambs. In the centre, at the base of the window, is sculptured the recumbent figure of Jesse, and from his body rises the tree. The branches are ornamented with foliage their whole length, and with a figure sculptured at each intersection of a mullion; that of David occupying the lower angle on the east side. Some of them are male, some female, several are crowned, and some have wings, and all seem originally to have had their names painted on the labels, which they in general hold in their hands. On the upper part of the centre mullion, representing the tree, has been apparently a figure of the Saviour, and at the base of it appears to have been a figure of the Virgin, crowned; but both these have been wilfully mutilated. The tree terminates in a large finial formed of leaves. The label is ornamented with foliage, and the head of this, as well as of the other two windows, has two rows of ball-flowers." (Addington.) This Jesse window, which is probably unique, has often been engraved. Having very recently carefully examined the church, I have no hesitation in saying with its historian, that, "if restored to its original design, there are few buildings which could excel this chancel."

The rest of the church need not detain us long. The nave and aisles are fine and interesting. The aisles are of different periods, but both beautiful; the south aisle, which is the most recent and the finest, is separated from the chance] by a rather handsome wooden screen. At the east end of this aisle is a large altar platform still perfect; on the wall above it are some remains of a fresco painting, the head of the Virgin, or a female saint, very fairly executed, being quite distinct. Throughout the church, on the walls, the carvings of the sedilia, the monuments, &c, traces of painting are discernible. The north aisle contains a portion of the original timber roof, which is elsewhere removed or covered by a plaster ceiling.

In the interior are many monuments that will repay examination; very few of them, however, are in anything like a perfect state. In the chancel are two recumbent statues: one, carved in alabaster, is of a cross-legged knight, clad in ring-mail, and is supposed to represent one Holcum; the other, in freestone, is the effigy of John de Stonore, a judge of considerable repute during the reigns of the Second and Third Edwards. There are in various parts of the church slabs on which have

« 上一页继续 »