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I'm an architectural photographer. I travel around Britain interacting with special places. I work from my camper van called Woody and I share my experiences via this digest.

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The Crypt at Winchester Cathedral


'Hold me while spirits of the past
& Rivers of blood run through me
All this past feeds this present
And brings the truth into me.'

Lemn Sissay (Belong)



I walk up to the door that says ‘crypt’ and it looks as though it’s locked. I look around, there’s nobody here to ask - so I lift the sneck and it opens. I negotiate a set of worn steps down into the crypt. Without any expectation of what awaits, I start to dust off a cobweb caught on the arm of my coat from the wall. Then I look up and see the crypt for the first time.

I stop and stare and take in a few breaths. I’m in a state of awe, but it isn’t the view here in the crypt that has made me so. I’m here to steady my thoughts - to stop and think about the enormity of something that lies within the presbytery above my head.

Just the evening before, I was listening to a podcast about the discovery of Richard III’s bones in Leicester in 2012. It was such a remarkable and eventful occasion. His remains were reburied in Leicester Cathedral in 2015, but not without dispute and controversy from alternative proposed sites in London and York

From ancient times - human bones have taken on significance through their associations - contributing to identity, regime change and righteousness in battle. Famously, St. Cuthbert’s bones were carried all over England to keep them safe from the Vikings, and more recently, Prince Grigory Potemkin’s remains were removed from St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Kherson by Russian troops.

Back in Winchester Cathedral, I walk up to the aisle next to the presbytery and look at what has awed me. Along the top of the screens to the presbytery are six caskets, each one inscribed with lettering. The caskets on the screen are believed to hold the remains of England's most significant makers and shakers, including the bones of eight kings, three bishops, and a single woman.

From where I'm standing, I look up at one of the boxes and squint to try and read the Latin script. One person walks past with her eyes glued to her device, and I get in the way of another who has to change his tack to get a selfie next to the traceried window. 'Why are people not looking up?' I think

Amidst the hush of the presbytery, I can't help but ponder the contrast: while Richard III's remains have sparked worldwide attention, these bones remain shrouded in silence, elevated without ceremony.

Eventually, my eyes spot a word that I recognise: Reginae, but the rest are a jumble, until I lock onto four simple letters that read out a name: Emma. Whilst it isn’t certain, it is highly likely that the bones inside the casket are that of Emma of Normandy alongside her last husband, King Cnut the Great.

Emma was a remarkable woman, the daughter of the Duke of Normandy. Her mother, Gunnor, was Danish. She became Queen of England, wife to two kings—Aethelred the Unready and King Cnut the Great—and mother of two English kings, Harthacnut and Edward the Confessor. It was through her bloodline that William the Conqueror laid claim to the English throne.

Whilst the political landscape veered from Saxon to Danish and back again, Emma remained at the heart of it all - losing her first king husband to her second king husband, orchestrating the survival and kingship of her progeny, and ultimately, being the kingpin to William the Conqueror’s accession to the throne.

Emma of Normandy with her two young sons fleeing before the invasion of Sweyn Forkbeard (1013) Public Domain - courtesy of Wikipedia

And whilst I'm stood there, upon that spot beneath the chest, it dawns upon me.

People talk of the discordance of those times, but amidst the howling turmoil between 'the Unready' and 'the Conqueror', there shone one powerful act of continuity: the bloodline through Emma of Normandy. Made within the bones above my head were the blood cells that coursed through the rise and fall of kings and kingdoms—a period that always had Emma at its axis, a period that still impacts these isles to this very day.

I find myself marvelling at the profound nature of buildings, their contents and the spaces they inhabit. It's remarkable how their survival through the ages unveils fresh perspectives, often challenging our entrenched beliefs and assumptions. These structures, filled with the echoes of the past, have the ability to disrupt our fixed notions and invite us to explore the world with renewed curiosity and open-mindedness.

Within the presbytery, I start to make a move until I see somebody else stood with neck craning looking at the caskets. She looks over to me and says:

‘Overwhelming isn’t it? You can feel the chests bursting with energy from those times - the stories they could tell.

'Could tell? I say. 'They are still telling their stories for those who listen.'

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For Members: the bone chests have been added to my Treasure Hoard Gazetteer

🟨 Treasure Hoard Entry: The Bone Chests of Winchester Cathedral
At Winchester Cathedral, along the top of the screens to the presbytery are six caskets. Each one has been inscribed with lettering.

How do you get a single view of all of the bone chests?

Winchester - Part One

Winchester became the capital of Wessex and through the progeny of Alfred the Great was at the heart of the unification of England as an entity - an embryonic national capital.

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral as it stands has its origins in the C11th. It holds the shrine of St. Swithun. The Anglo Saxon Cathedral lies beneath the ground to the north of the cathedral and intersects it at an angle.

The Memorial Shrine of St. Swithun

The shrine of St. Swithun is situated in the retrochoir at Winchester and is surrounded by chantries.

The Great Screen

Surely one of the marvels of the late medieval world?

The Great Screen was completed in 1476 and forms the backdrop (reredos) to the altar. It was desecrated in the C16th with many statues being replaced in the Victorian era. It's size and scale is remarkable - a photograph can't really do it justice.

✨ Members can see the Great Screen (and the choir) at Winchester Cathedral in glorious VR - almost like being there - viewable on any device. Click below:

Be there: Winchester Cathedral - The Great Screen & Choir
Surely one of the marvels of the late medieval world? The Great Screen was completed in 1476 and forms the backdrop (reredos) to the altar.

The Romanesque Transepts

The transepts and tower are Romanesque dating to the 1080's - they are full of atmosphere - one of my favourite parts of the cathedral.

The Tournai Marble Font

If you are able to see the font (it's undergoing conservation at the moment) you will see on the side, etched into the Tournai marble, a depiction of a building that looks much like the transepts in the photo above.

The C12th font is a marvel - and depicts scenes from the life of St. Nicholas. The Tournai marble originates in Belgium.

The Lady Chapel Paintings

The paintings in the Lady Chapel date to 1500 and depict miracle scenes attributed to the Virgin Mary. They lie beneath a set of reproduction panels - but don't turn away - they give a wonderful sense of the period - how it might have felt to first see the room.

The medieval encaustic floor tiles

Such a rarity and in such good condition - look down and be mesmerised.

Winchester Cathedral Pure Scroll (No Words)

📸 I took my pro cam with its 24mm tilt shift lens. The lens shifts up and down to maintain the perpendiculars. It was built for places like this. Here are the shots taken especially for subscribers:

Winchester Part Two

Next week I take a remarkable perambulation to a wonderful pub and a unique church within a medieval courtyard.


I arrive in Winchester quite early and need sustenance.

I check the fridge in the van, but there's not much that wets my appetite. I check on my google maps for a cafe that's open early and it takes me to a lovely establishment on Jewry Street called Josies. Great coffee and food

Van Life Gallery
My van, Woody, is my time-travelling machine, taking me to some remarkable places that have altered my mind like wine through water.


Winchester Cathedral | Welcome

The Essay - Anglo-Saxon Portraits - Episode 26 - Episode 26 - BBC Sounds
Historian Pauline Stafford assesses the life of Queen Emma of Normandy.
Great Lives - Sue Cameron on Emma of Normandy - Sue Cameron on Emma of Normandy - BBC Sounds
Twice queen of England and mother of two kings, but have you heard of Emma of Normandy?
Car Park King: Richard III - A King’s Legacy - A King’s Legacy - BBC Sounds
A city changes forever as the last English King to die in battle is laid to rest.


From this time last year:

'They talk of the Celtic obsession with heads - how decapitating the head of their foes acted as a kind of spiritual acquisition of the enemies soul. There’s an interesting line of development from those beliefs through to the protective head carvings and motifs we see around our church doors and openings.'

Andy Marshall’s Genius Loci Digest: 21 April 2023
Every now and then, I come across a piece of work that makes me put my camera down.”


✨ Misericords Comperandum has been updated with new photos:

Comperandum - Misericords
A nod to Banister Fletcher: Misericords
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In essence I’m offering my professional services for free to historic locations in Britain.

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Digest Membership Sponsor: Leisuredrive Campervans Ltd.
Established in 1969, we are the UK’s longest standing independent campervan company.


My Camper-Van-Camino - exploring the world one brush stroke at a time.

I've added some more sketches to my concertina wanderbrush exercise. Will keep you updated with new sketches.


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Photographs and words by Andy Marshall (unless otherwise stated). Most photographs are taken with Iphone 14 Pro and DJI Mini 3 Pro.