We got our hands dirty, finally, in a stone carving workshop in Lincoln Cathedral. Mike and Paul walked us through the cathedral, which is as massive on the inside as it seems on the outside. Paul is a jovial fellow from Nottingham and said that we were very lucky to be at Lincoln because it was the best in the world. I rolled my eyes a bit because everybody thinks that the church/castle/whatever in their town is the best, until he added this: “Cathedrals are like women – the best one is the one you are with at the time.” He kept us smiling throughout the day as we chiseled and he gave us pointers, saying things like “That’s the dog’s bollucks, mate!” which apparently means your work looks really good.
When we first saw “The apprentices’ wall” inside Lincoln Cathedral and were told we would be carving one of the flowers made up the wall, we doubted this would be possible with only one day’s tutelage. Our group is comprised of craftsmen of considerable skill in many different fields, but none of us had ever tried our hand at stone carving and we were intimidated by the amazing work scattered throughout the shop that mke and Paul had produced for the cathedral (check out the picture of Mike’s Gargoyle he is currently working on). The technique, once it was explained to us, seemed pretty straightforward and every single one of us was able to produce the flower out of stone.
After we finished our workshop, Paul was kind enough to show us a little more of the Cathedral. AS we ascended the narrow steps up one of the many narrow towers, he explained that the Cathedral was founded nearly 900 years ago, and that it has seen many different events and transformations. I’ve been to many different churches across Europe, and a lot of them start to blend together after a while. This one is by far the most impressive I’ve seen. We climbed a long way and still only made it about half way up, looking out over the city and countryside from the naive roof. There is so much history and information to write about for the cathedral, and I don’t think any camera can capture the massive presence of the place. What is most interesting to me about Lincoln is that there are stone masons and craftsmen out there like Paul and Mike who are working today to not only repair and restore a structure as grand as Lincoln Cathedral, but are actually making new pieces of their own design and working them into the building. Mike showed us a piece he carved that commemorates the laws passed banning the use of dogs in fox hunting. Though this just occurred in England a few years ago, it is a big part of the ever continuing history of a country and its people, and so becomes worthy or permanence and commemoration. Thereby, the tradition of a church existing as a living history and ever- changing center of social history continues. The writing is literally carved on the wall. Now that’s the dog’s bollocks, mate.