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Culture of Great Britain

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CONTENTS

1 Artistic and cultural life in Britain.

2 Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren.

3 Westminster Abbey.

4 St. Pauls Cathedral.

5 The Tower of London.

6 Festivals of music and drama.

7 The Bath Festival.

8 The Chichester Theatre Festival.

9 The Welsh Eisteddfod.

10 The Edinburg Festival.

11 The national musical instrument of the Scots.

12 Music and musicians.

13 Art Galleries.

14 The art of acting.

15 British Drama Theatre today.

CULTURE of GREAT BRITAIN

Artistic and Cultural Life in Britain

Artistic and cultural life in Britain is rather rich. It passed several main stages in its development.

The Saxon King Alfred encouraged the arts and culture. The chief debt owed to him by English literature is for his translations of and commentaries on Latin works. Art, culture and literature flowered during the Elizabethan age, during the reign of Elizabeth I; it was the period of English domination of the oceans.

It was at this time that William Shakespeare lived.

The empire, which was very powerful under Queen Victoria, saw another cultural and artistic hey-day as a result of industrialisation and the expansion of international trade.

But German air raids caused much damage in the First World War and then during the Second World War. The madness of the wars briefly interrupted the development of culture.

Immigrants who have arrived from all parts of the Commonwealth since 1945 have not only created a mixture of nations, but have also brought their cultures and habits with them. Monuments and traces of past greatness are everywhere. There are buildings of all styles and periods. A great number of museums and galleries display precious and interesting finds from all parts of the world and from all stage in the development of nature, man and art. London is one of the leading world centres for music, drama, opera and dance. Festivals held in towns and cities throughout the country attract much interest. Many British playwrights, composers, sculptors, painters, writers, actors, singers and dancers are known all over the world.

Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren

Inigo Jones was the first man to bring the Italian Renaissance style to Great Britain. He had studied in Italy for some years, and in 1615 became Surveyor-General of the works.

The style he built in was pure Italian with as few modifications as possible. His buildings were very un-English in character, with regularly spaced columns along the front.

His two most revolutionary designs were the Banqueting House in Whitehall and the Queen's House at Greenwich. The plan of the latter, completely symmetrical, with its strict classical details and the principal rooms on the first floor, influenced architecture in Britain. But not during the lifetime of Inigo Jones. All those who followed him had to adapt this new foreign building technique to English ways and English climate, English building materials and English craftsmen.

Christopher Wren was the man who did it. He was a mathematician, an astronomer and, above all, an inventor. He invented new ways of using traditional English building materials, brick and ordinary roofing tiles, to keep within the limits of classical design. He, like Inigo Jones, was appointed Surveyor-General to the Crown when he was about thirty years old, and almost immediately he started rebuilding the churches of London, burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666. Wren's churches are chiefly known by their beautiful spires, which show in their structure the greatest engineering cunning.But Ch. Wren also influenced the design of houses, both in town and in the country.The best-known buildings designed by Ch. Wren are St. Paul's Cathedral in London and the Sheldonion Theatre in Oxford.

The period of the Industrial Revolution had no natural style of its own. Businessmen wanted art for their money. The architect was to provide a facade in the Gothic style, or he was to turn the building into something like a Norman castle, or a Renaissance palace, or even an Oriental mosque. For theatres and opera houses the theatrical Baroque style was often most suitable. Churches were more often than not built in the Gothic style. The twentieth century has seen great changes in Britain's architecture.

St. Pauls Cathedral

It is safe to say that the three most famous buildings in England are Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral.

St. Paul's Cathedral is the work of the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. It is said to be one of the finest pieces of architecture in Europe. Work on Wren's masterpiece began in 1675 after a Norman church, old St. Paul's, was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. For 35 years the building of St. Paul's Cathedral went on, and Wren was an old mall before it was finished.

From far away you can see the huge dome with a golden ball and cross on the top. The interior of the Cathedral is very beautiful. It is fall of monuments. The most important, perhaps, is the one dedicated to the Duke of Wellington. After looking round you can climb 263 steps to the Whispering Gallery, which runs round the dome. It is called so, because if someone whispers close to the wall on one side, a person with his ear close to the wall on the other side can hear what is said. But if you want to reach the foot of the ball, you have to climb 637 steps.

As for Christopher Wren, who is now known as the architect of London, he found his fame only after his death. He was buried in the Cathedral. Buried here are Nelson, Wellington and Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Those who are interested in English architecture can study all the architectural styles of the past 500 or 600 years in Cambridge. The Chapel of Kings College is the most beautiful building in Cambridge and one of the greatest Gothic buildings in Europe. It is built in the Perpendicular style. Its foundation stone was laid in 1446, but it was completed sixty-nine years later. The interior of the Chapel is a single lofty aisle and the stonework of the walls is like lace. The Chapel has a wonderful fan-vaulting which is typical of the churches of that time. We admire the skill of the architects and crafts men who created all these wonderful buildings.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is a fine Gothic building, which stands opposite the Houses of Parliament. It is the work of many hands and different ages. The oldest part of the building dates from the eighth century. It was a monastery - the West Minster. In the 11th century Edward the Confessor after years spent in France founded a great Norman Abbey. In 200 years Henry III decided to pull down the Norman Abbey and build a more beautiful one after the style then balling in France. Since then the Abbey remains the most French of all English Gothic churches, higher than any other English church (103 feet) and much narrower. The towers were built in 1735-1740. One of the greater glories of the Abbey is the Chapel of Henry VII, with its delicate fan-vaulting. The Chapel is of stone and glass, so wonderfully cut and sculptured that it seems unreal. It contains an interesting collection of swords and standards of the Knights of the Bath. The Abbey is famous for its stained glass.

Since the far-off time of William the Conqueror Westminster Abbey has been the crowning place of the kings and queens of England. The Abbey is sometimes compared with a mausoleum, because there are tombs and memorials of almost all English monarchs, many statesmen, famous scientists, writers and musicians.

If you go past the magnificent tombstones of kings and queens, some made of gold and precious stones, past the gold-and-silver banners of the Order of the Garter, which are hanging from the ceiling, you will come to Poets Corner. There many of the greatest writers are buried: Geoffrey Chaucer, Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling. Here too, though these writers are not buried in Westminster Abbey, are memorials to William Shakespeare and John Milton, Burns and Byron, Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray and the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Here in the Abbey there is also the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, a symbol of the nations grief. The inscription on the tomb reads: Beneath this stone rests the body of a British Warrior unknown by name or rank brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land...

In the Royal Air Force Chapel there is a monument to those who died during the Battle of Britain, the famous and decisive air battle over the territory of Britain in the Second World War.

The Tower of London

The Tower on the north bank of the Thames is one of the most ancient buildings of London. It was founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. But each monarch left some kind of personal mark on it. For many centuries the Tower has been a fortress, a palace, a prison and royal treasury. It is now a museum of arms and armour and as one of the strongest fortresses in Britain, it has the Crown Jewels.

The grey stones of the Tower could tell terrible stories of violence and injustice. Many sad and cruel events took place within the walls of the Tower. It was here that Thomas More, the great humanist, was falsely accused

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