Hereford is someway off the main tourist routes in Britain, but those intrepid enough to discover the city, will be richly rewarded, especially in the vicinity around the cathedral. Our visit last week was not our first and we skipped the two great attractions on this occasion. The Mappa Mundi is one of the great treasures of the Medieval World. Dating from around 1300 it is the largest map of its time still in existence. With Jerusalem at its centre it described the known world with some very strange creatures around the perimeter.
Hereford’s other great treasure is its Chained Library. The library, with some 1500 books and manuscripts all chained to the shelves contains volumes from as far back as 1100. The contents relate to theological and legal matters and were collected from around Herefordshire over the centuries.
On this occasion, though, we wanted to look specifically at some contemporary art.
The Special Air Squadron hold a special place in the spirit and community of Hereford. In 2016 a monument was commissioned to commemorate the seventy fifth anniversary of the founding of the Regiment in 1941. The monument, in one of the south bays of the nave has at its base, a stone sculpture from Mons marble, Elgin sandstone and a Brazilian granite apse. The interior of the apse yields a beautiful array of shades of blue. These colours are then echoed in the stained glass that fills the window above, as they range through forty colours in 3000 pieces of from darker shades at the base to brilliant hues in the window’s tracery. The work was completed in Scotland, Germany and China by the renowned artist, John Maine, and transported to Hereford in 2016. In such a prominent position in the Nave this glass and stone sculpture is not only a great new attraction, but recognition of the special relationship between the SAS and the City of Hereford.
The Thomas Traherne windows in the Audley Chapel was the second contemporary treasure we came to see. Tom Denny’s work at Gloucester and Leicester Cathedrals has already been referred to on this website in July 2018. Denny’s work seems to function better in the more intimate side chapels as in this location on the south side of the chancel. The four panels are based on the writings of Traherne (1636-1674) on theology and man’s place in God’s world. The intimacy of the chapel allows the spectator to get close to the glass and examine the intricate details of the images and buildings within the overall framework.
There is of course much more to see in this wonderfully maintained building. When we visited last week the west end was dedicated to Alfie Bradley’s Knife Angel of 2018. We first saw this in 2019 outside Coventry Cathedral. The sculpture is made of some 100,000 knives accumulated by 43 police forces, either confiscated or handed in through amnesty schemes. The statue has become a well known symbol, aiming to educate children and young people of the catastrophic impact violent behaviour has on a community. The sculpture is only at Hereford for a few more days until 12th July as it moves to Chelmsford in September and then on to Blackburn. However, the cathedral, acting as a symbol of community and spirituality will still be there and worth visiting.