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Newsletter - May 2013

A Thousand Years of History

Our new lecture year started with an exploration of ‘Medieval Cathedrals as Time Machines’, led by Jon Cannon. We examined these extraordinary buildings as both history and works of art, the religious culture and the imagery in the sculpture, stained glass and metalwork. It was, we were told, a visually literate culture that understood the symbolism portrayed; it was also intensely hierarchical. In medieval times no other building could approach the scale of the cathedral for its wealth. The aim of the cathedral builders was to reflect the description in the Bible as to what heaven must be like – to provide a glimpse of heaven to ordinary mortals.

A cathedral means a bishop, and in the medieval political world the Church is one of the twin poles of the establishment. Our time-travel tour started around 600AD when the west half of the Roman Empire was collapsing and Britain was already largely Christian; the Roman Augustine baptised the Kentish King Ethelbert and the archbishopric of Canterbury was established.

Edward the Confessor’s coffin being carried to Westminster Abbey 1066 as depicted in the Bayeux tapestry

Edward the Confessor’s coffin being carried to Westminster Abbey
1066 as depicted in the Bayeux tapestry

Between the 7th and 11th century other cathedrals were established, including Winchester, the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kings of Wessex, and the forgotten cathedral of East Anglia at South Elmham. The Bayeux tapestry illustrated the new Romanesque architecture of the Normans in Westminster Abbey, and the French Lanfranc was appointed archbishop of Canterbury. In 1079 Winchester could claim to be the capital of England and was at that time the largest building under a single roof in the country – a statement of the power of the Church.

The murder of Thomas Becket

The murder of Thomas Becket

Building in the 12th century was a time when the competing visions of French and English styles overlapped. After Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury, the old cathedral burnt down and the experimental Gothic style was used in its then modern replacement. By the time of King John the measured style we call Early English was dominant. Salisbury Cathedral represents this style; it was relocated to its present site from Old Sarum and built as a complete cathedral rather than showing the successive alterations and additions of many other cathedrals.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral.

Ceiling boss in Norwich Cathedral Ceiling boss in Norwich Cathedral

Ceiling boss in Norwich Cathedral

In the early 14th century a series of remarkable buildings went up, including Ely and Bristol Abbey in the decorated style – including ceiling bosses depicting scenes such as the end of the world or Noah’s ark. The 14th to 16th century saw the birth of perpendicular architecture, a uniquely English style, and the late medieval era saw the rise of a popular religious culture. During the Reformation some cathedrals escaped unscathed, such as Lincoln, but many others lost nave roods, high altars and saints’ shrines – thousands of works of art were lost. The great age of cathedral building was over.

Salisbury Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral.

The lecture was richly illustrated by beautiful slides of Norwich, Salisbury, Wells, Lincoln and many other cathedrals as well as details from manuscripts and paintings. Some members purchased Jon Cannon’s book ‘Cathedral’ for its richly detailed information – information that could scarcely be covered in so short a time.

Your Top Five Speakers

Norwich DFAS Feedback Speaker Ratings 2012/2013


Linda Smith

Great Tarts in Art




Antony Penrose 

Lee Miller




John Ericson

Art inspired by Wine




Rebecca Hossack

Aboriginal Art




Janus Slowikowski




Thank you for your feedback; please continue in 2013/14.

Media Award

NADFAS runs a competition every year for society’s media production, whether a website, print or digital. We can congratulate ourselves this year as we are runner up in the Digital Media award – and in case you were wondering what we submitted, it was the digital display that runs in the foyer behind the reception desk before every meeting. Maybe this will attract a little more attention now!


Thank you to those who voted in our ‘coffee’ survey; by a narrow margin the ‘after’ group were the majority so there will be no change in the new programme year. Sorry to those who would prefer the opposite!

Locksley School arts project

The focus of our young arts project is this school in Tuckswood that helps excluded students with behavioural issues before they can return to their mainstream school. We are paying for the materials and an artist, Tyrel Broadbent, to work with pupils and create a large mosaic for an exterior wall. Several committee members have been to see work in progress and it is going well and the staff are delighted with the response of some of the children. An update on the completion and possible opening ceremony will come later!

Birthday celebration

At our September lecture we will celebrate 30th birthday with a glass of bubbly and piece of birthday cake. This will take place at 6p.m. before the lecture so please put it in your diary. Another reminder will be sent nearer the time.

New members

Don’t forget to RSVP to our Chairman’s invitation to a Sunday drinks party. We look forward to meeting as many new members on this occasion as possible. Didn’t receive your invitation? Email us at

Future Exhibition

Ceiling boss in Norwich Cathedral Ceiling boss in Norwich Cathedral

Alan Sorrell, The Artist in the Campagna,
gouache, pen and ink on paper, c. 1930

Alan Sorrell at Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP
25 October 2013 - 25 January 2014

A new member of our society, the artist Julia Sorrell, has asked us to mention this forthcoming exhibition of her father’s work. Born in London in 1904, Alan Sorrell studied at the Royal College of Art. In 1928, he won the painting scholarship for the British School at Rome and would later become Senior Assistant Instructor of Drawing at the RCA. He is best known today for his drawings of early historical sites and monuments.