Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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34
ROMAN CHICHESTER
CHAP.
Seen from the Channel it rises, a friendly landmark (white or gray, according to the clouds), and while walking on the Downs above or on the plain around, one is frequently pleased to catch an unexpected glimpse of its tapering beauty. I have heard it said that Chichester is the only English cathedral that is visible at sea.
Within, the cathedral is disappointing, offering one neither richness on the one hand nor the charm of pure severity on the other. A cathedral must either be plain or coloured, and Chichester comes short of both ideals; it has no colour and no purity. Its proportions are, however, exquisite, and it is impossible to remain here long without passing under the spell of the stone. Yet had it, one feels, only radiance, how much finer it would be.
For the completest contrast to the vastness of the cathedral one may cross into North Street and enter the portal of the toy church of St. Olave, which dates from the 14th century, and is remarkable, not only for its minuteness, but as being one of the churches of Chichester which, in my experience, is not normally locked and barred.
That Chichester was built by the Romans in the geometrical Roman way you may see as you look down from the Bell Tower upon its four main streets—north, south, east and west —east becoming Stane-street and running direct to London. Chichester then was Regnum. On the departure of the Romans, Cissa, son of Ella, took possession, and the name was changed to Cissa's Ceastre, hence Chichester. Remnants of the old walls still stand ; and a path has been made on the portion running from North Street down to West Gate.
More attractive, because more human, than the cathedral itself are its precincts : the long resounding cloisters, the still, discreet lanes populous with clerics, and most of all that little terrace of ecclesiastical residences parallel with South Street, in the shadow of the mighty fane, covered with creeping greenness, from wistaria to ampelopsis, with minute windows,
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