In contention with Durham to be the oldest of our great cathedral fabrics, Norwich wins hands down for warmth. Just as well since we were there for a concert by Medieval Baebes (sic) who were less swaddled than the average December babe or silver traveller.
Norwich is always very welcoming, even this year to the extent of permitting an after hours visit to its craft exhibition, and a good one it was too, with ceramics, glassware, and fabric design of high standard. We had previously looked at the fashion designs at the School of Art – very dashing and at times challenging. Not for even mild-ish winter wear.
The cathedral cloister is very atmospheric as night falls. So much so that a young couple took the centre of its lawn – too dark to see if they’d followed the maze (if it is still cut into the grass) – as an ideal cuddling space. Perhaps they were in medieval mood, for the songs can be risque.
Light in the evening plays tricks with small cameras, so the cloister seems to have elves where the prosaic would see lights. Inside the cathedral normality reigns, with a globe lit by candles and restrained lights on the Chritmas trees. The grand arcades between nave and aisles have much in common with Durham and Ely, even to some of the chevron designs cut into the piers. We spent time admiring the vaulting, which adds a Gothic height to the Romanesque body, and discussing how the delightful keystones have a practical function as well as illustrating the mystery plays that used to bring Bible stories to life before the Reformation. (Not for the first time I heard Cromwell blamed for bringing all that to an end on radio recently. Fortunately the speaker was corrected by someone who pointed out Edward VI was responsible.)
The Christmas lights of Norwich are always splendid and restrained, even in the Market Square. Near the cathedral they were ‘in the best possible taste,’ as the West End revues used to claim.
Just one jarring note ended our visit. It wasn’t in the singing but at the municipal car park where, after setting a £6 charge for long stay they add £2.20 for being there late in the evening. And to add insult to injury, the machine could accept neither credit cards nor notes.