The 'Accursed Hill' (Old) Sarum in the 13th C and the move to New Sarum

The poem “On the translation of the old church of Salisbury and the construction of the new” by Henry d’Avranches c 1225

Henry of Avranches was a 13th C poet and cleric who wrote De translatione veteris ecclesie Saresberiensis et constructione nove

(On the translation of the old church of Salisbury and the construction of the new) in or soon after 1225.

 

It begins...

"Richard, I wish to tell you why Salisbury Cathedral should move.

As Gilboa was the accursed among mountains

So likewise was the hill of Salisbury"

Richard is Bishop Richard Poore.

David cursed the mountain of Gilboa after Saul and his sons died there in a battle against the Philistines.

The hill of Salisbury is where the Normans built the first and second cathedrals.

 

His litany of complaints about (Old) Sarum included

  • Nothing grows up there,

  • the wind howls and it is too noisy to hear the mass

  • there is no water,

  • the chalk is so white it blinds the eyes, 

  • there is tension between the soldiers and the clergy,

  • the soldiers take the food and water,

  • it is a steep climb for the clergy.

 

When he wrote this the new Cathedral building had already begun in 1220. To mark 800 years the poem was put to music and published and broadcast as the Salisbury Anthem in the Covid limited spring celebrations of 2020. He wrote “Happy the man who will live to see the cathedral completed”.  It was consecrated in 1258, he died in 1260.  

You Tube Salisbury Anthem (1).jpg

Click the image to play a recording of The Salisbury Anthem. ('You Tube')

Sources

The poem Henry of Avranches, De translatione veteris ecclesie Saresburensis et constructione nove is in a manuscript held by Cambridge University Library (Manuscript  CUL MS Dd.11.78, fol. 92v.)

Text (in Latin) Russell, Josiah Cox and John Paul Heironimus. The Shorter Latin Poems of Master Henry of Avranches Relating to England. By J. C. RUSSELL and J. P. HEIRONIMUS. Medieval Academy Books, No. 21 (1935). Available online 

https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.medievalacademy.org/resource/resmgr/maa_books_online/russell_0021.htm#hd_ma0021_head_061

Translation used in the Salisbury Anthem is by Francis Young https://drfrancisyoung.com/2020/05/03/how-the-ancient-church-of-salisbury-was-moved-and-a-new-one-built-by-henry-davranches/ 

 

https://specialcollections-blog.lib.cam.ac.uk/?p=20118  Music is by James Morgan and Juliette Pochin

BBC Sunday Worship broadcast to mark 800th anniversary https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000htq6

 

David cursing Gilboa, 2 Samuel 1:21

 

Salisbury The Changing City. Bruce Purvis.  2003 Chapter One. The Accursed Hill

 

 

 

 

Kerry O’Connor

Local History Group 

October 2020

The Salisbury Anthem 

 by Francis Young

 

Happy the one who lives to see this done.

This church completed, finished with such care;

A shining effort, built for everyone:

Though built by kings, a place that all may share.

I wish to tell why Salisbury's church was moved

By Bishop RIchard: Sarum hill was cursed 

Like Mount Gilboa and was barren proved:

The birds were silent there, or parched with thirst.

A glorious citadel on Sarum stood.

And the cathedral in the fortress lay:

The king took from the church, because he could:

Caesar detained the rights of God beneath his sway.

Happy the one who lives to see this done.

This church completed, finished with such care;

A shining effort, built for everyone:

Though built by kings, a place that all may share.

Yet Sarum still was scarely fit for life:

Bright chalk dismayed the eye, and wind the ear.

The steep ascent was needless pain and strife.

But worst of all the lack of water here.

For all these reasons was the church removed

From Sarum hill and placed on this new site

On a well-watered plain that fruitful proved.

A wooded spot of beauty and delight.

Happy the one who lives to see this done.

This church completed, finished with such care;

A shining effort, built for everyone:

Though built by kings, a place that all may share

Beside a spring the new cathedral stands

Where bubbling water issues nectar sweet;

One day a city fair will grace these lands

Where nuts and herbs the clerks delight complete.

Happy the one who lives so long to see

The church complete, after such labour done:

Its artful care shines for posterity

Since bishop, king and mason worked as one.

Happy the one who lives to see this done.

This church completed, finished with such care;

A shining effort, built for everyone:

Though built by kings, a place that all may share

Copyright Salisbury Cathedral.

Permission to appear on this website requested May 2020

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