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Title: Hereford - Tales of English Minsters
Author: Grierson, Elizabeth Wilson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                      TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

  Punctuation has been standardized.

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    |                                                       |
    |               TALES OF ENGLISH MINSTERS               |
    |                                                       |
    |                         HEREFORD                      |
    |                                                       |
    |                           BY                          |
    |                                                       |
    |                   ELIZABETH GRIERSON                  |
    |                                                       |
    |                       AUTHOR OF                       |
    |          “THE CHILDREN’S BOOK OF EDINBURGH,”          |
    |                          ETC.                         |
    |                                                       |
    |                          WITH                         |
    |                                                       |
    |             THREE ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR             |
    |              AND FOUR IN BLACK AND WHITE              |
    |                                                       |
    |                         LONDON                        |
    |                 ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK                |
    |                          1911                         |
    |                                                       |

        |                                              |
        |       TALES OF ENGLISH MINSTERS SERIES       |
        |                                              |
        |        EACH CONTAINING TWO FULL-PAGE         |
        |         ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOUR AND          |
        |           FOUR IN BLACK AND WHITE            |
        |                                              |
        |          DURHAM      |         YORK          |
        |                      |                       |
        |          LINCOLN     |         ELY           |
        |                      |                       |
        |       ST. ALBANS     |      ST. PAUL’S       |
        |                                              |
        |                  CANTERBURY                  |
        |                                              |
        |                 PUBLISHED BY                 |
        |                                              |
        |    A. AND C. BLACK · SOHO SQUARE · LONDON    |
        |                                              |


                      64 & 66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK

                      205 FLINDERS LANE, MELBOURNE

                      ST. MARTIN’S HOUSE, 70 BOND STREET, TORONTO

                      MACMILLAN BUILDING, BOMBAY
                      309 BOW BAZAAR STREET, CALCUTTA

                      LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                            IN COLOUR




                        IN BLACK AND WHITE





                    TALES OF ENGLISH MINSTERS


It is possible that anyone who visits Hereford Cathedral, after
having visited the other two great Cathedral Churches of the West of
England, Worcester and Gloucester, may feel a little disappointed,
for it is smaller and plainer than either of them, and there are
not so many stories that can be told about it. It has no Royal Tomb,
nor any great outstanding Saint, yet in one respect it is the most
interesting of the three.

Indeed, in this one respect, it is the most interesting of all the
English Cathedrals, for it does not only carry our thoughts back, as
the others do, to the days when the torch of Christianity was re-lit
in England by missionaries from Iona and Canterbury, but it takes
them farther back still to the days when the early British Church
existed, and had Bishops of her own; for, as doubtless you know,
Christianity was brought to Britain from Gaul as early as two hundred
years after Christ.

We do not know who brought it. The names of the first missionaries
are forgotten. Probably they were humble Christian soldiers who came
in the ranks of the Roman legions, and they would be followed by
a few priests sent after them by the Church in Gaul to minister to
them; and from the ranks of these priests one or two Bishops would
be consecrated.

It all happened so long ago that it seems vague and far away, and it
is difficult to pick out authentic facts.

We can only say with an old historian, that ‘we see that the Light of
the Word shined here, but see not who kindled it.’

Perhaps you know also that this early Christianity was swept away
from all parts of the country, except in Ireland and Wales, by the
coming of the heathen Angles, Saxons, and Danes.

We can easily understand how these two parts of what to us is
one Kingdom, managed to hold the Faith. They were more or less
undisturbed by the fierce invaders who came from the North of Germany
and from Denmark, and who were quite content to settle down in
fertile England without taking the trouble to cross the Irish Channel
and fight with the savage Irish tribes, or penetrate into the wild
and hilly regions of Wales.

So it came about that, while the English people were so harassed
and worried with war and cruelty that they forgot all about the new
doctrines which had been beginning to gain a slender foothold in
their land, the people of Wales had still their Church and Bishops.

These Bishops seem to have held much the same Sees as the Welsh
Bishops hold to-day. Bangor, Llandaff, Menevia or St. Davids,
Llanelwy or St. Asaph, and three others with strange Welsh names,
one of which was Cærffawydd, which meant the ‘place of beeches,’
and which we now know as Hereford.

For in these days Wales was larger than it is now, and was bounded
by the Severn, and Cærffawydd was a Welsh town, if town it could be
called, not an English one.

These Bishops were governed by an Archbishop, who is spoken of
sometimes as living at Carleon-on-Usk, sometimes at Llandaff, and
sometimes at Hereford.

Now, of course you have all heard about King Arthur and his Knights
of the Round Table; and you may have read about them in Tennyson’s
‘Idylls of the King’; about their bravery, and chivalry, and purity,
and how they took an oath--

   ‘To break the heathen and uphold the Christ;
    To ride abroad, redressing human wrongs;
    To speak no slander--no, nor listen to it;’

and about Bishop Dubric, who crowned the King at Cirencester, and
married him to Guinevere his wife.

Part of those wonderful stories is purely legendary, but part is
true, for it is believed that King Arthur was a real person, and so
were many of his Knights.

Bishop Dubric, or Dubricus, certainly was a real person, for we know
that he was Bishop of Cærffawydd, and it is said that it was Sir
Geraint, the Knight who married Enid, and rode with her, in her old
faded dress, to Court, who built the first little church here, where
the Bishop had his chair or ‘stool.’

Be this as it may, it is certain that there was a tiny little
Cathedral here, long before the other English Cathedrals were thought
of, for you know that a church is a Cathedral, no matter how small it
is, if it has a Bishop’s official chair inside it. And it is probable
that this little Cathedral was built of wood, and roofed with reeds
or wattles.

    _Page 20._

It must have been rebuilt, or at least repaired, once or twice
during the centuries that followed, but we know very little about
its history until we come to the year A.D. 794, when a terrible event
happened which led to a larger and more stately church being erected,
this time of stone.

If you have read the story of St. Albans Cathedral,[1] you will know
what this event was; but I will try to tell you more fully about it
here, for although it is very sad, it gives us a true picture of what
even the life of Kings was, in these dark and troublous ages.

  [1] ‘Tales of English Minsters: St. Albans.’

The name of the King who reigned over East Anglia--that is, the land
of the ‘North folk’ and the ‘South folk,’ or, as we call it, Norfolk
and Suffolk--in these days was Ethelbert, and he had an only son,
Ethelbert the Ætheling.

This Ethelbert was such a goodly youth, so tall and straight and
handsome, so skilled in all manner of knightly exercises, and so kind
to the poor and needy, that all his father’s subjects adored him.

He loved God with all his heart, and would fain have given up his
princely state and retired into some religious house, so that he
might have more time to study His Word, and to learn about Him.

But he had plenty of what we call ‘common sense,’ so when his father
died, and he was left King in his stead, he said to himself, ‘Now
must I bestir myself and put away the dreams of my youth. I had
visions of forsaking the world like Cuthbert or Bede, or the holy
Paulinus, who won King Edwin to the Faith.[2] But if it had been the
will of God that I should serve Him in this manner, I would not have
been born an Ætheling,[3] and inheritor of the throne of East Anglia;
and, seeing He hath thus dealt with me, I must serve Him according to
His will, and not according to mine own. Therefore will I seek to be
a just and true King.’

  [2] ‘Tales of English Minsters: York.’

  [3] Heir Apparent.

Then, knowing that a King has need of a wife, he sent for all the
aldermen and wise men of his Kingdom, as soon as the days of mourning
for his father were over, and told them that he wished to wed the
Princess Elfreda, daughter of Offa, King of Mercia, and that he
willed that a deputation should go from among them to the Court of
that Monarch, to ask, in his name, for her hand.

Now, this Offa was a very great and mighty King, who cared for
nothing so much as to extend the boundaries of his Kingdom, and he
had succeeded in doing this in an extraordinary way. He had conquered
the parts of the country which are now known as Kent, Sussex, Essex,
and Surrey, and on the West he had driven back the Welsh beyond
Shrewsbury, and had built a huge earthwork, which was known as
‘Offa’s Dyke,’ to mark the boundary of their domains. In this way
it came about that in his days Cærffawydd, or ‘Fernlege,’ as it had
come to be called, was in Mercia instead of Wales.

He had built for himself a great Castle at Sutton, near the banks
of the Wye, and here he was holding his Court when King Ethelbert’s
Ambassadors arrived, and laid their request before him.

He granted it at once, for he had but two daughters, the elder of
whom, Eadburh, was married to Beorhtric, King of the West Saxons,
who owed allegiance to him, and he thought that he would also have
a certain power over the young Monarch of the East Angles if Elfreda
became his wife.

So the grave bearded aldermen returned to their own land, and told
their Royal Master how they had fared.

King Ethelbert was overjoyed at the success of his suit, and
appointed a day on which he would set out, accompanied by all his
retinue, to travel to the pleasant West Country in order to fetch
home his bride.

Now, in those days people believed a great deal in dreams, and omens,
and signs, and the old chroniclers tell us that, just before the
young man set out, his mother, Queen Laonorine, came to him, and
begged him not to go, because it was a very dark and cloudy morning,
and she had had a bad dream the night before.

‘Look at the clouds,’ she said; ‘they be so black, methinks they
portend evil.’

‘Nay, but clouds break,’ answered her son cheerily.

‘Yea! Verily! But ‘tis from clouds a thunderbolt may come,’ replied
the anxious mother.

‘Let us not trust in omens, but in the living God, who “ordereth a
good man’s goings,”’ replied the King, and, kissing her, he joined
his nobles, who were already on horseback waiting for him outside,
and rode gaily away.

It was the month of May, and for four days they rode through the
fresh green lanes, till they drew near to where the powerful Monarch

They crossed the Severn at Worcester, and rode over the great hill
of Malvern, and when they were within a day’s journey of the Royal
Palace of Sutton, they pitched their tents at Fernlege, on the banks
of the Wye, and there Ethelbert and most of his nobles waited, while
one or two knights rode forward to inform King Offa of his arrival.

In the evening, so the quaint old story goes, the young King left his
tent, and, ascending a little hillock, from whence he could obtain a
wide view of the surrounding country, sat down at the root of a giant

Everything was so fair and peaceful that he smiled as he remembered
his mother’s fears, and he thought to himself how delighted she would
be when he arrived at home once more, accompanied by his beautiful
young bride. Musing thus he fell asleep, and dreamed a dream.

He dreamt that he was standing beside the little church which stood
down by the riverside, which had been founded by Sir Geraint, and
that all of a sudden an angel appeared, who carried a basin in his
hand, and, to the King’s horror, the basin was full of blood.

But the angel’s calm face was quite untroubled as he picked a little
bunch of herbs and dipped them in the blood, and began to sprinkle
the rude little building with the scarlet drops.

And lo! to Ethelbert’s amazement, the building began slowly to
change; it grew bigger and higher, and the reeds and wattles turned
to blocks of stone, and presently a magnificent Minster stood in its

Apparently it was some great Festival, for a sweet-toned organ was
pealing inside, while from all directions multitudes of people came
thronging to the church, singing hymns of praise as they did so. And
as they drew near the King, he heard that there was one name which
mingled with the name of God and of the Saints upon their lips, and
that name was his own, ‘Ethelbert.’

Wondering greatly, he awoke, and the vision passed quickly from his
mind, for at that moment his Ambassadors returned, bearing courteous
greetings from the Mercian Monarch, who hoped that on the morrow he
would come with all speed to his Palace.

Meanwhile, at Sutton, a scene was going on which is almost the story
of Ahab and Jezebel and Naboth’s vineyard over again.

For King Offa and his wife, Queen Quendreda, were sitting in the
King’s private chamber, talking about their coming guest and his
fertile dominions, just as Ahab and Jezebel had talked about Naboth.

And Quendreda was putting an awful thought into Offa’s mind. ‘It were
a good thing,’ so she whispered, ‘to have the King of East Anglia
for a son-in-law, but it were a better to murder him quietly, and
add his Kingdom to that of Mercia. Then would Offa be a mighty
Monarch indeed.’

I think there is no sadder picture in the whole of English history
than this, which shows us this great and wise King, for remember
he _was_ a great and wise King, who had done an immense amount
of good to his country, whose name might have been handed down to
us, like that of Alfred the Great, or Victoria the Good, or Edward
the Peacemaker, sitting listening to the advice of his wife, who
was a thoroughly wicked woman, seeing clearly how bad, and cruel,
and treacherous that advice was--aye, and saying so, too--and yet
feeling tempted in his heart of hearts to follow it, because of the
one weak spot in his otherwise strong character, his ungovernable
lust for land and power.

If only he could have looked into the future, and seen how that one
dark deed would leave a stain on his memory, which would last when
his good deeds would be forgotten, and how a blight would descend
on his house almost as though it were a direct judgment from God,
I think he would have ordered his wife to be silent, and never to
speak such words to him again.

But to see into the future is impossible. So, as if to shake the
responsibility from his own shoulders, he did not actually forbid
the scheme, but he pretended to be very angry, and strode out into
the hall, and called to his knights and to his son, Prince Ecgfrith,
to mount and ride with him to meet the stranger King.

When he was gone, the unscrupulous Queen, who felt that she was now
at liberty to work her wicked will, sent for the King’s most trusty
henchman, Cymbert, the Warden of the Castle, who was tall, and strong,
and a mighty fighter, but who had a heart as hard as stone.

  Illustration: _Valentine & Sons, Ltd._

When he had answered the summons, and come and bowed low before her,
the Queen said to him: ‘Cymbert, it is not fitting that thou, the
Warden of this mighty Castle, shouldst be but a slave and a thrall,
wouldst thou not like to be a freeman?’

‘That would I, O Queen,’ replied the henchman.

‘And more than that, wouldst thou earn land of thine own, where thou
couldst build a house?’

‘Yea, verily!’ was the answer.

‘All these things shall be thine,’ said Quendreda, ‘if thou wilt but
carry out my orders. Thou knowest that this very day the King of the
East Angles cometh, that he may wed my daughter. ’Tis my wish to have
him put to death, so that his Kingdom may be joined to that of Mercia.

‘To this end I will lodge him in the Royal chamber, beneath which,
as thou knowest, runs a secret passage, which leads to the little
postern in the wall.

‘Thou must arrange a trap-door in the flooring, which will sink or
rise at will, and over it I will cause a couch to be placed.

‘Then, to-night, at supper, I will make the Monarch pledge me in a
cup of wine, into which I will empty a potion. When he feeleth sleep
come creeping upon him, he will retire to his chamber, and throw
himself on the couch, and, to a man like thee, all the rest will
be easy.

‘When he is dead, thou canst take his body out of the postern by
stealth, and bury it, and no man will know what hath become of him.’

At the very moment that this wicked scheme was being arranged, the
two Kings and their trains had met, and after greeting one another
courteously they all came riding, with great joy, home to the Castle.

The black-hearted Queen went out to meet them, but her fair young
daughter, Princess Elfrida, was not with her. She was too shy and
modest to greet her lover in public, so she had crept up alone to
the top of the Castle, and stood there, peering over the battlements,
to see what manner of man he had become. For it was not the first
time that they had met. They had been playmates in their youth when
Ethelbert as Ætheling had visited Sutton with his father, and they
had thought much of each other ever since.

And it chanced that Ethelbert glanced up at the battlements, and when
he saw the maiden, with her flaxen locks and blue eyes, looking down
at him, his heart leaped for joy, and as soon as he had greeted the
Queen, and quaffed a cup of mead, he made his way up to where she
was, and there they sat together, so the old books tell us, all the
sunny afternoon, while the rest of the gallant company, King Offa,
and Prince Ecgfrith, and all the knights and nobles, went a-hunting
the wild wolves in the forest near by.

And as they sat they talked together, and Ethelbert told the Princess
how all the people of East Anglia were looking forward to welcome
their young Queen; and, both of them being true Christians, they made
a solemn vow that they would rule their land in ‘righteousness and
the fear of God, even as King Ethelbert of Kent and Bertha his wife
had ruled their kingdom.’[4]

  [4] ‘Tales of English Minsters: Canterbury.’

That night a great feast was held in the Palace of Sutton, a feast
more magnificent and gorgeous than had ever been held there before.
King Offa sat at the head of the table, wearing his royal robes and
the golden crown of Mercia on his head. Beside him sat his wife,
and close by were the youthful bride and bridegroom, and ‘that noble
youth Ecgfrith’ as the old chroniclers call him.

Nobles and thanes and aldermen crowded round the board, and gleemen
who sang fierce war-songs of Hengist and of Cerdic, and of Arthur and
his Knights, and the red wine was poured out, and they drank long and
heartily; more heartily, perhaps, than they ought to have done.

For the Queen made Cymbert, who stood behind the King’s chair, fill
his cup again and again with strong, fierce wine, which had been a
present from the Frankish King, and when his brain was heated, and
he was not master of himself, she leant against him, and whispered
in his ear; and the poor half-drunken Monarch muttered that she could
do as she would, little recking that from that time the glory would
depart from his house.

Then she spoke lightly and gaily to her guest, handing him a golden
cup filled with wine as she did so.

‘Now must thou drink to us, fair sir, and to thy bride, even as we
have drunk success and long life to thee.’

And the young King took it gladly, and drank the blood-red draught,
little dreaming that it had been drugged by the cruel hand that gave
it to him.

But so it was, and soon, feeling drowsy, he retired to his chamber,
and dismissing his attendants, threw himself, all undressed, on the
couch, and fell into a heavy slumber.

You know the rest of the sad story: how the trap-door fell, and the
couch fell with it, and how Cymbert the Warden either smothered him
with the silken cushions among which he was lying, or, what is more
likely, cut off his head with his own sword, for the tale is told
either way.

When the cruel deed was done, the Warden and the servants who were
with him, took the lifeless body, and carried it out secretly by
the postern, and at first thought of throwing it into the river.

But remembering that the Queen had ordered it to be buried, Cymbert
made the others dig a great hole, into which they flung it, and, such
was the wildness and lawlessness of the time, when they had covered
it up, and stamped down the earth upon it, they thought that the
whole matter was ended.

That was a very great mistake, however, for, although the deed was
done, there were many, many consequences to follow. It was as when
a stone is thrown into the midst of a pond. The stone may sink, but
in sinking it makes ripples which go on widening and widening until
they cover the whole surface of the water.

Of course the murder could not be hidden, for on the very next
morning the East Anglian thanes and noblemen demanded to know what
had become of their Master, and when they discovered the fate that
had befallen him, they made haste to flee, in case they too should
be murdered.

Then the next thing that happened was that Princess Elfrida, the
poor broken-hearted young bride, felt so shocked and terrified at
the thought that her own father had allowed the man she was about to
marry to be put to death in such a treacherous manner, that she was
afraid to live at home any longer, so she slipped out of the Palace,
accompanied by one or two trusty attendants, and fled to a monastery
at Crowland in the Fen country, where she became a nun.

Perhaps that was the first thing that made King Offa’s conscience
begin to prick, but, like King Ahab, he tried to brazen the matter
out; saying to himself, “The deed is done and I cannot undo it, so I
may as well have the Kingdom.” So he sent an army to East Anglia, and
took possession of it.

But I think that all the time he must have been feeling more and more
unhappy, for, remember, at heart he was a good man, and had lived, up
to this time, a noble and honourable life; and a certain terror must
have fallen upon him when, two months later, his wife Quendreda died,
and, sitting by his desolate hearth, he remembered the old story of
the King of Israel who had done as he had done, and on whom the wrath
of God had so speedily fallen.

It must have been almost a relief when one day Eadwulf, Bishop of
Lichfield, came to him and said: ‘What is this that thou hast done?
Killed a defenceless man in thine own Palace, and taken possession of
his Kingdom. Hadst thou killed him in open battle, no one could have
blamed thee, but to murder him in secret when he came as a friend was
not worthy of thee, O King.’

‘I know it, I know it,’ replied Offa, who was now thoroughly sorry
for his deed; ‘but it was the wine which I drank, which my wife gave
to me. It inflamed my brain so that I knew not what I said.’

Now, at that time people had the idea that they could atone for any
wicked act that they had done by giving money or lands to the Church,
or going on some pilgrimage; so Eadwulf told King Offa that he
thought that first of all he had better see that King Ethelbert’s
body had Christian burial--you remember it had just been thrown into
a hole--and that after that he must go a pilgrimage to Rome, and tell
the Pope the whole story, and do whatever he told him to do as a

Then he added some words which were very solemn, but which turned out
only too true. This was what he said: ‘Because thou hast repented of
thy evil deed thy sin will be forgiven; nevertheless, the sword shall
not depart from thine house. It was in thine heart that Mercia should
be the greatest of English Kingdoms, and so it might have been. But
now the glory shall depart from thee, and another King, even the King
of Wessex, shall be greater in power and shall become the first King
of the whole of England.’

Offa did as he was bid. He had the body of the young King taken from
its rude grave, and buried in the little church of reeds and wattles
at Fernlege, near which Ethelbert had sat and mused on the night
before his death.

  Illustration: _S. B. Bolas & Co._

Then he went to Rome and told the whole story to the Pope, and said
how penitent he was, and how gladly he would do anything in his power
to atone for his sin; and the Pope, who wanted to have more churches
built in England, told him to go home again, and show his sorrow
by building a really fine church at St. Albans--where the first
English martyr Alban laid down his life for the Faith--and another
at Fernlege, where there was only the plain little Cathedral Church
of wood.

Offa promised that he would do these things, and when he returned to
England he gave orders that the two buildings should be begun without
delay. Very soon afterwards he died, and it fell to the lot of one
of his Viceroys, whose name was Milfred, to carry out his plans at
Fernlege, and to build an ‘admirable stone church’ there.

And so King Offa vanishes from history, and although we cannot
doubt that his penitence was very deep, and that his great sin was
forgiven, it is very striking to read how Bishop Eadwulf’s words
were fulfilled, and how the glory did indeed ‘depart from his house.’

We have seen how his wife died, and how his youngest and fairest
daughter became a nun. Then he himself died and was buried, not in
either of the two great Minsters which he had caused to be erected,
but in a little chapel on the banks of the Ouse, near Bedford. One
day a dreadful flood came, and the Ouse overflowed its banks and
washed away the chapel, and King Offa’s bones along with it, and no
one ever knew what became of them.

Soon afterwards his only son, Prince Ecgfrith, died, and slowly
the Kingdom of Mercia grew less and less important, and the little
Kingdom of Wessex grew greater and greater, until its King, King
Ecgbert, great-grandfather of Alfred the Great, became ‘Overlord’
of the whole of England.

As for King Offa’s eldest daughter, Eadburh, her story is the saddest
of all, for she was a wicked woman like her mother; and she did one
bad thing after another, until at last she had neither money nor
friends left; and the old chroniclers tell us that, ‘in the days of
Alfred, who reigned over the West Saxons, and who was Overlord of all
the Kingdoms of England, there were many men yet living who had seen
Eadburh, daughter of Offa, and wife of Beorhtric, begging her bread.’

But it is pleasant to think that if Eadwulf’s words came true in such
a terrible way, the dream or vision which poor King Ethelbert had on
the last night of his life came true also, but in a much happier and
sweeter manner.

For, as I have said, under the direction of Milfred, King Offa’s
Viceroy, a noble stone church replaced the little wooden one at
Fernlege, or, as it soon began to be called, ‘Hereford,’ which means
‘The Ford of the Army,’ because, when the Mercian soldiers wished to
pass into Wales, they crossed the River Wye at this point.

This new church was dedicated to ‘St. Ethelbert and the Blessed
Virgin,’ and into it, when it was finished, the Bishop’s chair was

For, although the young King could not be called a martyr, he
certainly left the record of a pure and brave and noble life behind
him, and it seemed fitting--and we are glad that it did so--that
the memory of his name should linger, all down the ages, round the
stately Cathedral which was built as an expiation of his death, and
in which, for half a century at least, his body rested.

It was not taken into the new Cathedral at once, however, which
seems rather curious, but it was left for more than a hundred years
in the grave in which it had been laid by Offa, before he went on
his pilgrimage to Rome.

Perhaps this was because there was constant fighting going on all
these years between the people of Mercia and the Welsh; and Hereford,
being just on the border of the two Kingdoms, was so constantly
exposed to the danger of being raided, or looted, or burned down,
that no one had any time to think about anything else.

But at last there came a period of peace, and the Bishop of Hereford
who was living then, whose name was Æthelstan, determined that he
would restore the Cathedral, which had got sadly knocked about in
these border quarrels. When he had done so, he took King Ethelbert’s
bones from their humble resting-place, and had them brought into his
newly restored church and placed in a gorgeous shrine which he had
prepared for their reception.

A great misfortune fell upon this good Bishop, for, for the last
thirteen years of his life, he was blind, and I have no doubt that,
during all the long period when he could not see, it must have been a
great joy to him to think, as he was led out and in to Service, that
he had been allowed, before the darkness fell on him, to repair the
House of God, and to provide a fitting tomb for the royal youth in
whose memory it had been erected.

Alas! he little knew what a few short years were to bring; and we
almost wish that the poor old man had died before his life-work was
all undone.

For in 1056 a quarrel took place between Elfgar, Earl of Chester, and
Edward the Confessor, who was King of England at that time. I do not
know what the quarrel was about, but at any rate Elfgar was summoned
to appear before the ‘Witan,’ or Parliament in London, on a charge of
high treason.

His guilt was not proved, but the King was so angry with him that he
made him an outlaw, which was, of course, very unjust.

Elfgar, as was to be expected in these old warlike days, determined
to have his revenge, so he went and hired the services of a band of
Danish pirates who chanced to be cruising about in their ships round
the coast of Ireland. Then he went to Gruffydd, King of North Wales,
who was his friend and neighbour, and asked him if he would help him
also. Gruffydd agreed readily, for he hated the English, and soon
a fleet of Danish ships came sailing up the Severn, full of fierce
pirates and wild Welshmen, all of whom were sworn to obey Elfgar and

They came to the West Country because they knew there were a great
many rich churches there that they could plunder, and as soon as
the river became too shallow for their ships, they disembarked, and
marched in the direction of Hereford.

Now, as perhaps you know, Edward the Confessor was very fond of the
Normans, and he had made one of his favourites, a Norman noble named
Ralph, Earl of Hereford. This Ralph was a brave man, and quite ready
to lead the citizens and the people of the neighbourhood out against
the lawless invaders, but he made one great mistake.

It was the custom, in his own land, for all the gentlemen to fight
on horseback, instead of on foot, as was the way of the Anglo-Saxons,
and he insisted on his followers following the foreign fashion,
setting the example himself, with the result that everyone felt
awkward and embarrassed, and very soon it became evident that Elfgar
and his friends were going to have the best of it.

Seeing this, Earl Ralph lost his head, and ran away, and perhaps
we cannot wonder that the simple country folk followed his example,
although, alas! one or two hundred of them were overtaken and killed
before they had gone very far.

Then the victorious hoard of savages, for they were little else,
swept on, straight to the Cathedral, where they knew that the holy
vessels, at least, and the ornaments on the altar, would be of gold
or silver.

But if they thought that they could obtain these easily they were
mistaken, for they had not reckoned on the kind of men with whom they
had to deal. For the brave priests determined to defend their church
to the last, and shut and barricaded the doors in their faces; and,
although at last they were overcome and the church looted, it was not
until seven of their number lay dead in the great Western doorway.

A scene of wild confusion followed, and when the wild invaders
marched away again there was nothing left of the little city or of
the great church which Æthelstan had restored with so much labour
and pride but a few smouldering ruins.

Among other things, King Ethelbert’s shrine was destroyed, and,
although we hope that his bones were taken care of, and buried
somewhere in the church, or else burned up altogether, we cannot
tell for certain what became of them.

Now, if there is one thing which we admire more than another about
the grand old builders of the Middle Ages, it is their perseverance.

They would spend a hundred years over the planning and building of
a church, when one man died another taking his place; and when--as
happened here, and many times elsewhere--the church was destroyed,
either by accident or design, they lost no time in useless
lamentations, but just patiently began to build it up again,
trusting that in the future a time would come when their work
would be prized and taken care of, as it deserved to be.

So we find that in a very few years the work was begun once more from
the beginning, this time by a Norman Bishop, named Robert de Losinga;
and we are glad to know that his work remains, for if we go into the
Cathedral we can see part of it still standing, for it was under his
directions that parts of the choir and of the south transept were

  Illustration: _Photochrom Co., Ltd._

That was more than eight hundred years ago.

Then followed the building of the nave, the Lady-chapel, the north
transept, and the tower, until, some four hundred years after Bishop
Losinga had begun it, the great church was completed, and stood much
as it stands to-day, except that a wooden spire surmounted the square
tower of stone.

This spire was taken down in 1790.

Now that we have learned all about its history, let us enter the
Cathedral and look what it is like inside.

As you see, it is built of red stone, in the form of a cross, the
choir being separated from the nave by a curious screen, which is
made of four metals--iron, copper, brass, and bronze.

The nave is very grand and stately, with rows of massive Norman
pillars and beautifully carved arches.

Although St. Ethelbert’s shrine no longer exists, if we go into
the choir we can see the place where it stood--here, in this arch,
between the two pillars nearest the altar on our right-hand side as
we face it. A statue of the murdered King has been placed, as you
see, on a pedestal, close to one of the pillars, and here, on the
floor, in front of the altar, is a circular slab of marble, on which
is traced a representation of his murder.

But if we cannot visit St. Ethelbert’s shrine, we can visit another,
which is six hundred years old, and which was erected to hold the
bones of a very celebrated Bishop of Hereford, who was such a good
man, that, after his death, people thought he deserved the name of
Saint;--Thomas de Cantilupe.

It stands in the north transept, and is just a great marble chest,
with what looks like another ‘openwork’ chest, also of marble, above

Round the sides of the lower chest a great many figures are carved,
and if we look at them closely we shall see that they are figures
of Knights Templars, with their cloaks and crosses, for Bishop de
Cantilupe was Grand Master of that Order.

Perhaps he obtained this office because he was very fond of soldiers,
and when he was a little boy he wanted to become one.

This was a very natural wish, for he was the son of a powerful Baron,
who had an estate and ‘manor’ in Buckinghamshire, and to become a
soldier was the common lot of most boys in his position.

He had an uncle, or great-uncle, however, who was Bishop of Worcester,
and this Prelate had other hopes for his nephew’s career.

One day, when little Thomas was staying with him, he asked the child
what he would like to be.

‘A soldier,’ said the boy promptly, looking up in the Bishop’s face.

The old man patted him gently on the head.

‘Then, sweetheart, thou _shalt_ be a soldier, but a soldier of the
King of kings,’ he replied, ‘and thou shalt fight under the banner of
thy namesake, St. Thomas of Canterbury, and thy harness shall be the
cassock of a priest.’

So the little fellow put the idea of earthly warfare out of his head,
and set himself to study Greek and Latin instead, and when he was
older he went to Oxford, and then to Paris with his brother Hugh,
and soon became a very distinguished student.

When he returned to England he became Chancellor of the University
of Oxford, and a very good Chancellor he was, for he knew how to rule
the students who were often very high-spirited and turbulent, just as
students are nowadays.

But their high spirits took rougher and more dangerous forms, just
as the times were rougher and more dangerous, for they used to fight
with one another with swords, and bows and arrows, and the Chancellor
used to get hold of these weapons and confiscate them, until such
time as their owners came to beg them back on condition that they
kept the peace.

Afterwards King Henry III. gave him a more important position, that
of Chancellor of England, for you must remember that in those days
the clergy were politicans as well as priests, and often held the
highest offices of State. Then, in 1275, when he was quite an elderly
man, he became Bishop of Hereford.

And a true ‘Father in God’ he proved himself to be, to the poor
people, at least, for he had one or two very serious and rather
funny quarrels with the rich and powerful nobles who lived in his
Diocese. These quarrels arose not because he was jealous of his own
dignity, but because he was jealous of the dignity of the Church,
and he imagined that any slight or insult paid to him as Bishop, was
really a slight and insult paid to the Church of God.

In fact, he must have been rather a puzzle to the rich people over
whom he was set to rule in spiritual matters, for some of his views
were so different from theirs.

They saw that he was haughty and imperious to anyone, no matter how
great he might be, who disobeyed him, or encroached on his dignity,
and they saw also that he was always splendidly dressed, like a King
indeed, for he wore a tunic trimmed with Royal miniver, and had a
miniver covering to his bed.

But they did not understand that under his haughtiness and
imperiousness, which certainly were faults, and under the apparent
luxuriousness of his dress, lay a very real desire, not for his own
honour and glory, but for the honour and glory of the King of kings,
whose ambassador he felt himself to be.

Sometimes they caught a glimpse of his real self and were more
puzzled still, for when they were dining with him they would see him
deliberately pass dish after dish which they knew he was very fond
of, and content himself with the plainest and poorest fare, in order
that he might learn to say ‘No’ to his own wishes.

Then, when the meal was ended he would rise, and select some dainty
from the table, and carry it out of the hall with his own hands; and
if he had been followed, he would have been found beside the bed of
some poor sick servant, coaxing him to eat what he had brought to him.

They knew also that he ordered bales and bales of woollen stuff
to give to the poor in winter, with which to make stout cloaks and
petticoats, and that he examined the goods most carefully when they
arrived, to see that the colours were nice and bright, and just what
he wanted them to be.

Once, as was his wont, he was going to visit a poor sick person in
a miserable hovel in the town, when a high-born Baron met him, and
remonstrated with him, telling him that such work was beneath his
dignity, and that he should leave it to the common clergy.

‘Sire,’ replied Bishop Thomas gravely, ‘I have to give an account to
God for the souls of the poor as well as of the rich;’ and the Baron
had no answer to make.

There is just one other story which I will tell you about him, and
this shows his haughty and imperious side.

The Castle at Ledbury belonged to him as Bishop, so did the right of
hunting over the Malvern Hills, which were Church lands.

It is quite possible that he did not care in the least for hunting
himself, and that he would have granted the privilege to anyone who
had come and asked him for it. But when, one day, he was riding with
his attendants on these same Malvern Hills, and heard the sound of
a hunting-horn, and, on asking what it meant, was told that Gilbert
de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, who was at that time the most powerful
noble in England, also claimed the right of hunting there, and was
out that day with his hounds, his anger rose, and he rode forward
alone to meet the Earl and order him off the ground.

The Earl looked at him contemptuously, and, answering with a sneer
that ‘he was not going to be driven off his ancestral land by a
“clergiaster,”’ and that ‘he had a good mind to chastise him for
his impertinence,’ rode on.

Not a word spoke the Bishop; he simply turned his horse’s head and
galloped back to his attendants.

A few hours later the Earl and his followers, tired out with
the chase, had dismounted, and were resting under the shade of
a wide-spreading oak, when the trampling of hoofs was heard.

Looking up, they saw an extraordinary procession, a procession which
was generally only to be seen in a church.

There was the Bishop in the foreground, vested in mitre, cope,
and stole, and there, behind him, rode his attendant priests and
acolytes, carrying lighted candles, and a great bell, and a book!

And while the Earl stared at them, half in anger, half in fear,
the book was opened, the candles extinguished, the bell tolled, the
most solemn curses of the Church levelled at his head, and a form
of excommunication read, whereby he was denied all the rites of his
religion, even Christian burial itself.

And all this because he had hunted the wild deer on the Malvern Hills
in defiance of Bishop de Cantilupe, which in Bishop de Cantilupe’s
eyes meant in defiance of Almighty God.

It was not only with the English Barons that the Bishop had
differences, he had them with the Pope himself, when he thought that
the rights of the Church of England were being tampered with; and
it was when he was returning from Rome after having been to the Pope
about one of those differences, that he died in Italy, on August 25,

  Illustration: _Photochrom Co., Ltd._

His desire was that his bones should be laid to rest in his own
Cathedral Church in far-away England, so, as it was an almost
impossible task to convey a dead body across Europe in those days,
do you know what his followers did? They _boiled_ his body, until
the flesh separated from the bones; then they buried the flesh in
the Church of St. Severus near Florence, and the bones, which were
now quite easy to carry, they brought to Hereford, and buried them
in the Lady-chapel. They were afterwards removed to a little chapel
known as the Chapel of St. Catherine, and at last this beautiful
shrine was prepared for them, and they were placed inside.

Not very far from the shrine of Thomas de Cantilupe, on the east wall
of the transept, there are two tablets, one above the other, which
I think you would like to look at, for they tell a very curious and
pathetic story.

As you see, they have both been placed there in memory of the same
man, Captain Arkwright, but not at the same time. For if you read the
inscriptions you will see that one of them is thirty-one years older
than the other.

Captain Arkwright was a young soldier who was very fond of
Alpine-climbing; and on October 13, 1866, he set out to try to ascend
Mont Blanc. He never returned, for he was caught in an avalanche, and
swept away out of sight. Although careful search was made, his body
could not be found, and after a time all hope of ever finding it was
given up, and this topmost tablet was erected to his memory.

Thirty-one years passed by, and those of his friends who were alive
had become elderly men and women, and I suppose his memory had grown
a little dim to them, when strange news came from the little village
of Chamonix, which lies at the foot of the great White Mountain.

You all know what a glacier is? A river of ice which moves very very
slowly down the side of a snow mountain, but which comes at last to
the region where the air is so warm that it melts, and runs away down
into the valley in a torrent of muddy water.

Well, Captain Arkwright’s body had been swept by the avalanche into
a deep crevasse, or ‘crack’ in one of these glaciers, and all these
years it had been moving, encased in ice, slowly down the mountain,
until, on August 23, 1897, it appeared at the foot of the glacier
near Chamonix, in a perfect state of preservation, just as it was on
the day when he was killed.

It was taken from the ice which had held it so long and so
mysteriously, and laid in Chamonix churchyard, and one of Arkwright’s
old schoolfellows, who by this time had become Dean of this Cathedral,
had the second, or lower, tablet erected as a memorial of the strange

Now let us cross the church, and go into the south transept to look
at a curious raised tomb which stands there, which I am sure all the
little boys and girls, at least, would like to look at.

As you see, three figures rest upon it. A father, a mother, and a
tiny little baby, who lies half-hidden among the draperies of her
mother’s gown.

If you look at the baby’s forehead you can trace the letters of
her name, ‘Anne’; and this tells you that the tomb is what is known
as a ‘chrysome’--that is, it is the burial-place of a little child
who died within a month of its baptism, and who was buried in its
baptismal robe. As a rule in such a case, a cross is marked on the
baby’s brow, but this child is marked with its name instead.

The girl-mother, for she was only eighteen, who died when her baby
was born, and was buried along with her, was the wife of a knight
named Sir Alexander Denton, who was so broken-hearted at his loss
that he made up his mind that he would never marry again, and that
when he died he also would be buried here.

But in later years he married another lady, and, after all, was
buried in a church in Buckinghamshire, though, as you see, his effigy
has been placed here to make the family group complete.

There are three very ancient things belonging to this Cathedral at
which we must look before we leave it--a very old map, which hangs
in that wooden case on the wall, quite close to the ‘chrysome’ tomb;
a very old chair which stands on the north side of the altar; and a
very old manuscript, which we can see in the library.

Let us look at the map first. At one time it was believed to be
the oldest map in the world, and although an older one has been
discovered in Germany, the two must have been made about the same
time, for they closely resemble each other.

As you may think, it is very precious, so precious that during the
time of the Civil War it was hidden under the floor of a little
chantry on the other side of the church, and was only discovered
some hundred and fifty years ago.

If we examine it we shall see what the people who lived in the year
1300 or thereabouts imagined the world to be like. To begin with,
they made the top of the map east, and the bottom west, so their
ideas of direction were different from ours.

The world is round, surrounded by the sea, and at the top of it
lies the garden of Eden, with rivers running out of it. In the centre
is Jerusalem, and all round that city are representations of Old
Testament events: the Flood, and the Ark; the Red Sea, and the
journey of the Children of Israel; Lot’s wife, etc.

Great Britain is marked on the map, with the names of very few towns,
but most of the Cathedrals are noted; while the other countries of
Europe are also shown, with the animals which were supposed to live
there, and it is very curious to notice how monkeys were believed to
live in Norway, and serpents in Germany.

We must not spend too much time here, however, for we have still to
see the old chair and the old book.

The chair is in the sanctuary, on the north side of the altar. It
stands here because it was used as the Bishop’s chair (for it is so
plain we can hardly call it a throne) until the present throne, which
stands near the choir-stalls, was erected.

We do not know when it was made, or how many Bishops have sat in it,
but it must be at least nearly eight hundred years old, for we know
that the wicked King Stephen visited Hereford, after its Bishop had
been forced to fly, and in his pride and arrogance dared to sit in
his place during Service, wearing his Royal crown.

Now let us go out by this door in the south wall of the nave, and
pass along what is known as the ‘Bishop’s Cloister,’ until we come
to the library which is built on the site of the ‘Old West Cloister.’
The building is new, but the books it contains are very ancient and

For this is a chained library--that is, most of the books are
fastened by chains to a rod which is placed above the shelf on which
they stand, so that anyone can take them down, and lay them on the
broad desk-like shelf which finds a place below the bookshelves,
and read them there, but they cannot be taken away.

Here is the very ancient book which I have mentioned. It is a copy
of the Gospels, written in Anglo-Saxon characters, and it must be at
least a thousand years old.

But old as it is, there are many other books, bound in boards of thin
oak covered with sheepskin, which are quite as interesting.

Here are two Prayer-Books, for example, one of which lets us see the
Order of Service used at Hereford in 1265, the other that which was
used at Bangor, in Wales, in 1400.

They are quite different, and, as you look at them, the librarian
will tell you that one is ‘Hereford Use,’ the other ‘Bangor Use.’

For you must understand that long ago the Service in church was not
the same all over England, as it is to-day. One form of Service was
used in one Cathedral, and in all the surrounding district; another,
a little different, was used in another, and so on.

In this way there was a ‘Roman Use,’ which was the same as that used
in Rome; a ‘Sarum Use,’ which was the most common, and was the same
as that used at Salisbury; a ‘Hereford Use’; a ‘Lincoln Use’; a ‘York
Use’; and a ‘Bangor Use.’

Let us take down this enormous volume, and see what it contains. The
whole of the Books of Genesis and Exodus, with beautifully printed
notes, and spaces for other notes, which have never been put in. Look
how straight and neat and symmetrical the columns of printing are,
and the spaces between them. How did the monks manage this, do you
think? See, these tiny punctures in the vellum, like tiny pin-pricks,
tell us. They used a little wheel with tiny spikes in the rim, to
space their columns.

Here is an ancient book of devotion. To whom did it belong? Open it
and you will find out, for ‘H. Latimer’ is written inside--he who
died for his belief at Worcester.

Here is the ‘Neuremberg Chronicle,’ a famous book in bygone days,
for it was almost the only picture-book that children had, and it
contains two thousand quaint woodcuts, showing the progress of the
world from the Creation down to the time it was written.

Here is a ‘Breeches’ Bible, which gets its name from the fact that
the printer has printed that Adam and Eve made themselves ‘breeches’
instead of ‘aprons’; and near it is a ‘Cider’ Bible, which was
printed by a man named Nicolas de Hereford, who was so accustomed
to the beverage used in his native county that he translated the
verse in Judges, which tells us that Sampson’s mother was to drink
no strong drink, by ‘drink no cider.’

Here we can see William the Conqueror’s seal, and here is that of
Oliver Cromwell.

Indeed, there are so many interesting and curious things to be seen
in the chained library at Hereford that a book could be written about
them alone.


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