Students Experience Lively Last Field Trip
By Kasi Dickerson
Students walked among thousands of people today as they toured Westminster Abbey; only thing was 3,000 of these people were dead.
Westminster Abbey is the burial site of 3,000 people including 7 monarchs: King Edward, Queen Eleanor Castile, King Henry III, King Edward I, King Henry VII, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary.
Unlike most cathedrals, Westminster has several small chapels within its walls. King Henry VIII's daughters Elizabeth and Mary are buried together in the Lady's Chapel.
"I found it ironic that Elizabeth and Mary were buried together because they were enemies when they were alive and Mary imprisoned Elizabeth," English graduate Lauren Hawkins said.
A section in the church called "Poet's Corner," is the resting place of famous writers such as Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer and Robert Browning. Poet's Corner started with the burial of Chaucer; however, he was buried here because of his connections with the palace of Westminster and not because of his writings. The trip was designed to supplement the class' reading of Alfred Lord Tennyson's book, "Idylls of the King" which was one of the first books reviving the Arthurian legends after the great Arthurian sleep from 1500-1812. The class stood on Tennyson's grave.
"I really enjoyed walking over famous dead authors' graves," Hawkins said.
Scientists, statesmen and many others are also buried in the abbey including Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
"I found it surprising that Charles Darwin was buried there," Kayla Haas said.
Shakespeare's contemporary, Ben Johnson, wanted to be buried in the abbey, but couldn't afford a grave; moreover, he decided to be buried vertically to save more space and money. There stands a little square plaque marking the grave of "O Rare Ben Johnson."
Westminster Abbey is an important and famous church in London. Important ceremonies such as the coronation, royal weddings and funerals occur here. In fact, students began their tour at the West Gate where Kate Middleton revealed her wedding dress to the public for the first time. William the Conqueror's coronation is the first documented of the 38 coronations to have taken place in the abbey, according to the Westminster Abbey website.
Inside the abbey, students viewed the oak coronation chair that was made in the reign of King Edward I. The chair is more than 700 years old and during coronations the Stone of Scone from Scotland is placed symbolically under the seat.
Westminster Abbey is also an example of perpendicular gothic architecture and was built during the revival of Arthurian Romance. The fan vaulting on the ceiling is the best example of this style and has been called the "jewel of the cathedral."
Next, the class sat in on a debate in the Houses of Parliament. Today's debate in the House of Commons was regarding legal aid reform. The public elects members to the House of Commons. When in session the opposing parties sit on each side of the room in green benches facing each other. Each speaker has five minutes to state his or her argument while giving way to other speakers when needed.
"I liked the House of Commons and listening to their style of debate because even when they were angry they were polite," Haas said.
Guidry challenged students to imagine what the House of Commons would have looked like in Tennyson's time. One key difference is that women would not have participated in debates.
The trip to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament marked the end of the Arthurian Romance class trips. Saturday students will travel back to Texas ending SFA's first European Consortium Program.
Romance Class Sees Round Table, Winchester Castle, Cathedral
By Kasi Dickerson
Legends of the round table came to life as the Arthurian Romance class visited the Great Hall in Winchester Castle that houses the alleged round table of King Arthur's court. A guide, who had a background in archeology, explained the architecture of the castle and the round table's history.
The massive round table hung on the wall on the "positive side" of the hall where royalty would have sat during banquets. The table dates between 1250-1280 A.D. which does not correspond to the time Arthur would have lived. Moreover, the guide explained how she believed the table was made for King Edward I because he was such a King Arthur fan. Plus, people in medieval times believed in King Arthur so the table was used sometimes as propaganda to motivate soldiers.
X-rays of the table have proven that it was originally wooden with some kind of covering. King Henry VIII, however, had the round table painted as a way to better make his claim to the throne by linking his lineage to King Arthur. Now there is a Tudor rose in the center and the table is painted in the Tudor colors. The table looks a lot like a roulette table with alternating green and white spaces lined with red. The center of the table reads "This is the round table of King Arthur with twenty-four of his named knights." The names of the knights also line the outer edge of the table.
"I learned from today's trip that Henry VIII ruined everything," Kayla Haas, creative writing major, said. "He ruined the round table by painting it and he destroyed statues at the cathedral."
King Arthur's round table symbolizes unity between the knights and Arthur. No one sits at the head of the table making everyone equal. However, when King Henry VIII placed an image of King Arthur on the table he created a prominent seat that broke the meaning of the table. Also the King Arthur portrait looks a lot like young King Henry VII without the beard. Coincidence?
Many still debate whether or not King Arthur was a real historical figure; moreover, the guide explained her view on Arthur's existence. She believed Arthur was a real warlord who led the British in the great battles against the Saxons. She is just waiting for archeologists to find evidence supporting such a leader. Students are still deciding if they believe King Arthur existed or not.
"I don't think King Arthur was real, but seeing the table was like bringing fiction to life," Cheslea Sabella, English literature major, said. "The round table was my favorite part from our trip today."
After touring Winchester Castle and stopping at a local pub for lunch, the class headed to Winchester Cathedral.
The class received an architecture tour of the cathedral where the guide pointed out the different styles within the cathedral while explaining the history.
"I really liked seeing all the different styles mixing together," Austin Urias, nursing major, said.
Winchester Cathedral is the longest medieval gothic cathedral in Europe. Columns, arches, ogees, stained glass and sculptures all reflect different time periods of architecture.
"I learned the differences between Roman and gothic arches," Haas said. "Gothic ones are superior because they let in more light and they could support more weight."
In the nave, there was an intricate stone screen (basically a wall) with carvings and sculptures depicting different saints, Jesus and biblical figures. The sculptures were created in the Victorian era because the original ones were cut into threes and destroyed during the reformation because they were labeled as idols needing to be removed from the church.
"Having seen Notre Dame and all the big name cathedrals, they didn't really compare to the Winchester one," Sabella said. "I thought it was way more impressive."
At 2:15 p.m., the class embarked on a tower tour of the cathedral. This hour and a half tour took students up narrow, steep stairwells to the great cathedral bells, ringing chamber, tower and roof. Students climbed 213 steps up and down for a total of 426 steps.
"I knew with every step I took that if I fell everyone behind me would get hurt," Jack Porter, cinematography major, said.
Oak frames hold 16 bells weighing about 18,400 pounds in the bell chamber. The oldest bell dates back to 1621 and the bells still ring today.
Once reaching the top of the tower, students had a foggy view of Winchester. They could see below them the longest high street in England as well as the HMP Winchester prison. Two guides split the group and went around the four sides of the tower pointing out key landmarks and giving historical backgrounds.
The smell of oak greeted students as they walked the full length of the nave roof where huge oak beams support the cathedral. The roof weighs 500 tons and is made of 18 miles of oak.
Once back on the ground, the class took their last round of pictures in the cathedral and then made a side trip to the pilgrim's school. At the school, Dr. Marc Guidry explained the architecture and pointed out how the builders kept the shape of the wood instead of cutting it to fit the frame.
By 5:30 p.m., the class was back on the train for London.
Next week, the class has their final field trip to the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.
Class collides with Arthurian myths, legends at historic sites
By Kasi Dickerson
Legends and myths collided on Thursday as the Arthurian Romance class traveled to Stonehenge, Glastonbury and Avebury. All of these sites have been tied to the Arthurian legends. The class just read "Le Morte Darthur" by Sir Thomas Malory which referenced some of these sites.
A charter bus picked up the class at around 8 a.m. for their 2-hour journey to Stonehenge. Riding through the English countryside, the class had a front row seat to the lush green scenery while listening to the driver point out historical facts of the surrounding areas. For example, he explained how the roads they were driving used to be highway robber hot spots and pointed out Celtic burial mounds in the fields along the route.
Rain and a chilled wind greeted the class as they arrived at Stonehenge. With audio guides in hand, the class spent about 45 minutes walking around this Neolithic site.
"It was like walking through a time capsule of mystery and suspense," Jack Porter said. "The entire environment there only increased the amount of mysticism. I recommend anyone with a belly button to go there at least 14 times in their life."
In 3000 B.C., Stonehenge began with people digging a circular bank and ditch for posts or stones. Originally, Stonehenge held 30 sarsen stones weighing about 25 tons each with seven bluestones capping them, according to the English Heritage website. The tallest stone stands at about 23.9 feet and weighs over 45 tons which is equivalent to seven elephants.
There are many theories as to why Stonehenge was built. Some say it was used as a calendar while others say it was a place of religious rituals. Stonehenge has been an important research topic for over eight centuries.
After a quick stop at the gift shop and some hot chocolate, the class loaded back on the bus and headed to Glastonbury.
Glasonbury is known as the Island of the Apples and Avalon, prominent places in Arthurian legends. In one legend, Avalon is where Morgan Le Fay takes Arthur to heal after he is wounded in his last battle. Sir Thomas Malory describes the four queens taking King Arthur to Glastonbury in "Le Morte Darthur."
"Glastonbury was a surprisingly modern town. I thought all the mythical shops were interesting," said Kayla Haas, senior creative writing major. "It was kind of ironic because it has all these mythical shops and it is supposed to be a mythical place where Arthur was taken to be healed."
In Glastonbury, the class split up for an hour lunch break. Some had time to both eat lunch and tour the Glastonbury Abbey ruins.
Glastonbury Abbey has the alleged gravesite of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere as well as the supposed tomb of King Arthur. The abbey is another example of King Henry VII's dissolution of churches.
"It was neat to see all of the ruins and especially the supposed gravesites of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere," Austin Urias, nursing junior, said.
At about 3:30 p.m. the class left the town of Glastonbury and was dropped off at the Glastonbury Tor, a 512 ft hill with a tower left over from the first church in England known as Glastonbury Abbey, according to the National Trust website.
"The Tor was probably my favorite part, but I also really enjoyed Glastonbury Abbey," Urias said. "I concentrated on the surfs or peasants who had to carry the stones up there because it was really hard for me to walk up it. It must have sucked. Obviously the view from up there was incredible. Thank goodness the day cleared up. It was windy, but nice."
The Glastonbury Tor has been a place of spiritual pilgrimage for many years. According to the National Trust website, some people believe that Jesus visited his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, here. Also legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail with him after the crucifixion and that it is hidden in a cavern underneath Glastonbury Tor. The Tor is also the site where the abbot of the abbey, Richard Whiting, was hung because he refused to pledge allegiance to King Henry VIII. (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wra-1356292763044/view-page/item454457/).
At the top of the Tor, students could see for miles, some could even see Wales and Bath.
"It was 500 feet to the top but the hike was so worth it because the view was breathtaking," Lauren Hawkins, English graduate said. "It was such a clear day you could see all the way to Wales."
Reuniting with the bus, the class made their way to their final site, Avebury. Avebury, the largest pre-historic stone circle in Europe covering 28 acres.
"I was able to touch the rocks unlike Stonehenge where there is a rope around it and people watching you," Charoltte Pitman, English/criminal justice major, said.
Next week, the class will visit Winchester Castle and Winchester Cathedral.
Bath, Bells and Bonnets
By Kasi Dickerson
It's getting hot in here! On Thursday, Dr. Guidry's Arthurian Romance class explored the Roman Bath House in Bath and discovered a glimpse of Roman life. This field trip was designed to give students a better understanding of King Arthur's Roman half.
As students walked through the marble and brick ruins of the bathhouse, their tour guide explained the history of the area and the Roman way of life. In fact, the marble flooring is the same floor that Romans walked on thousands of years ago.
In its heyday the bathhouse served people of all social classes. The hot spring that is unique to Bath kept the bath waters hot year round and acted as an indoor floor heating system. Today, the spring still exists and is 116 degrees every day. The bath was thought to have healing powers, so people would come to Bath to drink the waters for healing. Doctors, today recommend drinking a gallon of the spring water a day as it is stocked with minerals. Some students braved the foul-tasting spring water and had a drink.
"They warned us that it would be really warm, but the one thing they didn't warn us about was that it tasted a little like...scratch that... a lot like blood. You know like when you are little and you get a cut and you suck on it to try and stop the bleeding; not that pleasant so I washed it down with an orange Fanta," said Charlotte Pitman, English/ Criminal Justice major.
Next, students toured the Bath Abbey. This church was built in 1499 and now has about 4,000 bodies buried there. Extravagant stained glass windows brighten the abbey and the walls are covered with tablets as memorial sites.
"The first thing I noticed walking in and looking up were the shields on the ceiling. I was interested in them and of course we got to stand on top of them after climbing tons of steps up the tower," Pitman said.
Students hiked up 212 steep and narrow stairs to get to the clock tower of the abbey. On the way up, students stopped to see the clock from the inside and learn how hundreds of years ago a man would stay up there 12 hours a day to manually change the clock hands and light it with a lantern so those in the city could see the clock.
Students also received a demonstration of how the bell ringers would sound the bells. Tour guides also displayed the church bells to the group and told the history of the bells.
Once at the top, students went outside and had a grand view of the city of Bath.
"I liked the view, but I was more interested in the bells. I even volunteered Austin to hold the lantern behind the clock so they could save energy, but the tour guide declined gracefully and suggested I offer him in September," Pitman said. "It was really kind of funny."
After the abbey, the class viewed The Royal Crescent, a building where British nobility used to stay when coming to Bath.
Before heading back to London, the class toured the Fashion Museum, which housed wardrobes from the 1800's to today. Some students even tried on dresses and coats from the Victorian era.
Next Thursday the class will travel to Stonehenge and Glastonbury.