My Exeter / by Lucia Daramus

Lucia Daramus
My Exeter
It is autumn. The end of autumn. I’m walking on the streets in Exeter. The yellowish -red leaves are on the pavement. Some of them are dancing in the air around the Cathedral. Death leaves and Cathedral. What a combination! I’m asking what is the story of this phenomenal and beautiful building?!
It has laces, fine stone laces. My friend, Alasdair advised me: ‘ if you want to find the Cathedral’ story you have to read inside Devon and Exeter Institution.
What is it? I am curious. He said to me that it is a private library that…
A,,,I know, I know, it is the hidden library. I know from my consultant Linsday J. She told me about this fantastic library, built 200 years ago.
I went with my older friend to the library and he introduced me there. It was amazing, amazing…feathers armchairs, old wooden shelters for books and books, books, books, old books…I am happy to read them here.
The first book read here was ‘The History Of Antiquities Of Exeter Cathedral by Brittar John, a book from 1836.
From this book, I found that Exeter was the capital of the Damnonii or the Damnonions Britons. This Cathedral Church remained from the time of Leofric the first Bishop of Exeter. But the site and the Cathedral had some levels of discovery. The Cathedral was erected in etaps: I, II, III, and the final.
There were three cemetery sites discovered by Museum Archaeological Unit: cemetery I, dated 5th – 7th, cemetery II (7th – 10th), and cemetery III dated 10th – 12th ).
I am on the streets again. The Devon and Exeter Institution is situated near this phenomenal building with an amazing history. I’m watching the Cathedral and I’m thinking of its cemeteries so, so old, and of course, I’m asking myself what also is hidden in this Cathedral? Something more?
Read, read, read. The books are able to make me fly with my mind in secret places, to visit with my mind thousands of cities from today and from yesterday.
When Leofric died in 1072 he was buried in his beautiful Church. This was the first Church (Cathedral).
The second Cathedral, The Romanesque or William’s Cathedral is also fascinating.
Some parts of the fabric of that century were incorporated into the present Cathedral. There were some towers very fine executed and with beautiful decorations: St. Paul’s
tower and St. John’s tower. Near St. Paul Chapel there is a Norman window. ‘ The two great towers are the anchors of our knowledge of the Norman Cathedral’.
There is also one Norman door surviving in the west well. Reading, I discovered that the Romanesque Cathedral was full of colours.
I’m reading, reading, reading academic pages, but my mind is written lines of a poem about death, Cathedral, a dawn in Exeter, etc…
Dawn from the night
Between a blue forest and a gray mountain
a hill with a shoulder of beach
and the valley, a young pink valley
under which are flouting
steams of a white coffee…
Oh, this dawn with white sun
Oh, this dawn falling from the colourful night.
I’m watching to Exeter’s birds
and I’m seeing their lights
in their last breaths
Oh, oh, this dawn, white-yellow dawn
oh, this dawn, this dawn
between night and sleeping day
dancing from – in the dark.
And an old man
with a long and gray beard and hair
talking in a wisdom way
and his beard, and his hair
white, white as steams of milk
talking, and deeply talking
about our unpredictable death…
soon, soon a yellowish leaf
will kiss our foreheads end
Maybe in a dancing, flapping dawn?
Maybe under laces towers of Exeter Cathedral….
And….I need, of course, to talk about the third Cathedral, and the rebuilding, and a new bishop.
In 1258, in April, Walter Bromscombe was Bishop of Exeter. A few years later the rebuilding of Exeter Cathedral began. By 1280 not only had The Lady Chapel been constructed, but the two flanking chapels, those of St. John The Evangelist on the North, and St. Gabriel on the south were advanced. In the fifteenth century, it was planted a schoolroom in the Cathedral, for Latin, children being able to learn Latin.
But what was in the Medieval time? Everybody around 1340-s suffered from the Black Death. Later, in 1388 Bishop Brantingharm decided to build a special room for the collection of books. There were six public entrances in the Middle Ages, and all six led into the nave. Above stoned glass, on the walls near the windows was the Church Triumphant: carved and painted Christ, saints, and angels.
But what Exeter can talk to me about Romans? There are traces of Romans here in Exeter? I’m asking myself as a classicist what I am. I’m reading another book. This time about Roman Exeter. My friend, Alasdair told me about the Roman wall, asking me if I saw it. I need to know more and of course, I read books.
I discovered that Exeter was founded by the Roman army around 50 -55 AD. The developed city was built by the Augusta Legion ( Second Augusta).
A gold coin – an aureus – of Vespasian (75 – 79 AD) was found below High Street. Exeter’s Archaeologists discovered a fortress that had: a hospital, accommodations, a workshop, etc.
An impressive discovery of Roman Exeter was the legionary bathhouse. The bath contained: frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium, etc.
Fabrica, where worked fabri, was situated in the southwest of the baracks. In the Flavian period, the barracks of the first cohort were sited ‘on the dextral side of the latera praetorii’.
I continue to read and I found that a legion had six tribunes and a praefectus castrorum, occupying plots on the via principalis, according to Pitts and St. Joseph, 1985.
Other buildings in the fortress were the fabrica, macella, scholae, valetudinarium, horrea, principia, etc.
So, many traces. I’, breathing and I am walking on the Exeter streets, listening to Martha Argerich performing Chopin, and I am determined to discover the beauties of this old city. My eyes are watching to a Synagogue. A Synagogue means that there are Jewish people here. I am very happy. I need to know more about this building and also about the community. So, I’m going back to books. But when I am reading about the Jewish community, this community is Celebrating Hanukkah. So, my mind is writing a new poem about this subject.
The Light
” Avinu malkeinu sh’ma kolenu
Avinu malkeinu chatanu l’faneycha
Avinu malkeinu alkenu chamol aleynu
V’al olaleynu v’tapenu ”
I saw like Daniel I saw
the open heavens
angels coming down and climbing up
tongues of light sliding
on Hanukkah day
onto the people of Israel.
I saw, I saw, I saw….
the light in the Temple
the Menorah alight
eight days without oil
I saw Anthiohus defeated
I saw like Daniel I saw
the fight of Israel
children and mothers dying
but the light overcame
in heaven and on earth
Lo V’hail V’lo V’koah ki
Im B’ruhi
(neither force, nor power, but the spirit overcomes)
Reading books about Jewish Community, I found that Exeter Georgian Synagogue is one of the most important and rare Anglo – Jewish heritage. The Synagogue was built in 1763. The Synagogue is modest and the explanation is because of Jew-Bill who was an important MP and also an anti-Jewish man.
‘After almost a year in construction, the newly-built synagogue was consecrated on 10th August 1764.’
Exeter Hebrew has six Torahs. One of them is Sephardi, or Yemeni old around 1450. Later, the synagogue had in 1854 a ladies’ gallery which was decorated with flowers and foliage, a school also was founded. In 1821 a special service in synagogue led by Revd Levy marked the coronation of George IV.
Also, a charity box was planted in the Synagogue, being an important part of the life of Jewish. In 1830 Jewish community founded a Society for Charity to the Poor.
I’m reading in books also about Marriages, because the parliament passed a law of registration of all people who are married in a type of religion. So, I discovered that A. Abraham married in March 1824; R. Abraham in September 1830.
Being inspired by a possible Jewish wedding I am thinking of my poem inspired by Marc Chagall who was a Jew over years and who painted a Chapel in the Kent area, England.
La Mariée
Marc Chagall takes a bride
he bought a wife paying many , many flowers
the groom is flying above the houses
under the dense luminous blue sky
the bride has love wings
and she is picking the bouquet from the groom
through air with crystal splashes
and golden flakes of summer snow
Marc Chagall takes a bride
the wedding is performing in clouds
everything is flying…birds , people
horses and flying crickets
in the sky is wedding, marvellous wedding
the green , the blue, the yellow, the red
are flying, flying, flying through the mauve planets
through the daily stars of people’s minds
Marc Chagall takes a bride –
I’m walking on the streets in Exeter, with all these stories and poems in my mind. Now, this city is modern, with universities, and schools, with theatres and museums, in few words a cultural city and I am happy to be part of it, to write about its beauties in my writings, to paint its thousands of faces and masks.

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