3. The Crossing

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We are now at the crossing. Find a good place on the steps here where you can see up and down the cathedral. Imagine the building laid out from above, it forms the shape of a cross and we’re standing where the two lines of the cross overlap. This cross shape, or crucifix, is the prime symbol of Christianity, reminding Christians that Jesus Christ suffered and died for the world when he was nailed to a cross or crucified. Symbolism like this is fundamental to reading the cathedral. It was built for worship and prayer and everything in it is designed to assist or enhance this.

Take its east-west alignment for example. Look down the nave towards the large window at the end. This is the west end, where the sunsets and so it symbolises the dying day and turning your back on sin.

When people come into the cathedral from the west end they’re facing East and looking upwards towards the rising sun of the new day and so symbolically towards new life and spiritual rebirth.

This journey is emphasized by what happens to the Cathedral’s floor. If you look back towards the west end doors and then turn around and look through the carved stone’s screen to the High Altar at the other end, perhaps you can see what I mean. The floor of the cathedral rises up from the west to its highest point of the east.

This carved stone screen decorated with statues is the pulpitum screen, or rood screen. It separates the nave, historically the people’s part of the Cathedral, from the quire, where monks continually offered prayers up to God.

Look up to the roof above the steps here. Can you see strange faces surrounded by leaves carved into the wood? These are green men, and if you look carefully you will see several stone versions of these at various places around the Cathedral. Green men are ancient pagan fertility symbols. So why are they here in a Christian Church? The answer is that the early Christians decided that the best way to convert pagans was to take their religious symbols and Christianise them. So by the time these green men were installed in 1840, their sprouting leaves for a long time represented God’s creation and therefore the Resurrection – when Jesus rose from the grave after his death.