Pilgrimage to Hereford

What a wonderful day was had by all!  On 7 May our coach took us first to Oakchurch, with an opportunity to have a coffee and perhaps something a little more substantial and a look round this ‘County Department Store and Garden Centre’.  Most of us were unsure what to expect but it had a very good provisions section, a garden centre and clothes.

Then it was on to Hereford where we went our separate ways.  There was so much to do and just the day there, so each went for our own preferences.  Having recently stopped for coffee some went straight off for a walk by the river – what a beautiful walk – while others visited the cathedral and the Old House Museum as well as managing to do a little shopping.

Hereford Cathedral is the home of Mappa Mundi.  Dedicated to the martyred King Ethelbert it has stood on this site since Saxon times and is home to a community which has worshipped and worked together continuously for over 1300 years.

Today’s building contains some of the finest examples of architectural excellence from Norman times up to the present day.  Norman pillars divide the 12th century nave from the 14th century side aisles.  The font dates from around 1150.  The principal altar is surmounted by a silver gilt corona made by Simon Beer in 1992.

I was personally very taken with the three tapestries commissioned by the Dean and Chapter designed by John Piper in 1976 and conserved in 2011 which are hung in the South Transept.  The theme is The Tree of Life – an image used in the Bible to tell the Christian story of the redemption of humankind. The first depicts the tree in the Garden of Eden.  The figures of Adam and Eve flank the tree around which is curled the serpent.  Eve has taken the forbidden fruit.  This is the tree of disobedience.  The next tapestry is the cross at Calvary and shows the deposition of Christ with attendant figures.  A ladder is visible and also the hand of God can be seen, together with the sun and moon.  This is the tree of obedience.  The final tapestry completes the trilogy and shows the tree of life described in the last book of the Bible: On either side of the river stood a tree of life, which yields twelve crops of fruit, one for each month of the year.  The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelations 22. Vv. 1-2).  This is the tree of new life.

The largest surviving medieval world map – The Mappa Mundi – is displayed alongside the famous chained library in the award-winning New Library Building with an interpretive exhibition and changing displays of rare manuscripts, books, documents and artefacts.

Also in the centre of Hereford is the Old House Museum.  Dating from 1621 the Old House is one of Hereford’s finest buildings and is a fascinating remnant from a previous age.  Over the centuries many changes have taken place in Hereford but throughout all this the Old House has remained a constant at the heart of Hereford.

Originally a butchers shop but now a museum, the Old House is furnished with pieces dating from the Jacobean era; including unique children’s nursery furniture, original wall paintings and beautifully carved fireplaces.

So much to see and take in that some of us were talking about returning to see what we hadn’t managed to see that day!

Margaret Rees