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One Week, Two Cathedrals. . Part One.

If the path to hell is, as is supposed to be, paved with good intentions, then surely my route there is already mapped out with a floor made up of abandoned blogs, neglected websites and journals that gather dust on shelves. I'm sure the lovely St. Hilda (picture left) would not have countenanced such a lackadaisical attitude, had such things been around in her day. Her image, seen here in stained glass at Chester Cathedral, shows a woman firm of purpose and full of dedication, a powerful figure, standing in front of Whitby Abbey, which strangely enough is shown in its current ruinous state.

St. Hilda is just one of many saints depicted in the handsome stained glass around the cloisters at Chester Cathedral, many of which I coerced my long-suffering husband to photograph for me when we visited in early April - a glorious Spring day, with daffodils springing up everywhere, and the first waxen lotus-like buds of the magnolia tree beginning to break out.

The Cathedral is free to enter, but of course donations are more than welcome, and the friendly and open welcome encourages generosity. It was pretty much thronged with people, many of whom have little idea of what constitutes appropriate behaviour in a church. Much as I could expand on this subject, I will instead try hard to convince myself that being judgemental is equally inappropriate on my part, and leave it at that.

In the centre of the cloisters there is an enclosed garden with a water feature of sinuous figures, and the tinkling of the water and birdsong are deeply soothing. Forget-me-nots are sprinkled along the flowerbeds, and the central pool glints with the shimmer of copper and silver from coins thrown in, for luck, or wishes, or something more profound.

St. Werburgh's Shrine has been reconstructed from parts of the original, looking a little battered by its ill-usage at the Reformation, but still a handsome structure. There is a small wooden statue of the saint within the top part, like a little child dressed up in robes far too large, which is lit from beneath, so that the diminutive saint appears to float upon a column of light. Close study of the original carvings reveals an entertaining detail of a dog having a thorough ear-scratch.

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