Arundel Castle – Great Britain And Ireland

Such a vast architectural mass as Arundel Castle, implanted in Saxon, Roman, and feudal military necessities, strikes its roots deep and wide. The town appeared, in comparison, to be but an accidental projection on the hillside. The walls grow out of the town as the trunks of a great tree shoot forth from the ground—of a different growth, but an integral part of it.

Topographically, Arundel has only a few features, yet they are fine enough to form a rich ensemble. There is the castle, huge, splendid, impressive, set like a great gray pearl on the crown of the hill. On one side spreads the town; on the other, the tall trees of the castle park begirt its towers and battlements. At the foot of the hill runs the river—a beautiful sinuous stream, which curves its course between the Down hill-sides out through the plains to the sea. Whatever may have been the fate of the town in former times, held perhaps at a distance far below in the valley, during troublous times when the castle must be free for the more serious work of assault or defense, it no longer lies at the foot of its great protector. In friendly confidence it seems to sit, if not within its arms, at least beside its knee. . . .

There is no escaping the conclusion that a duke, when one is confronted with his castle, does seem an awfully real being. The castle was a great Catholic stronghold, the Dukes of Norfolk being among the few great families which have remained faithful, since the Con-quest, to the See of Rome. The present Duke of Norfolk, by reason of the fervor of his piety, his untiring zeal and magnificent generosity, is recognized as the head of the Catholic party in England. To learn that he was at present on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and that such was his yearly custom, seemed to shorten distance for us. It made the old-its beliefs, its superstitions, its unquestioning ardor of faith—strangely new. It invested the castle, which appealed to our consciousness as something remote and alien, with the reality of its relation to medieval life and manners.

The little cathedral which crowns the hill the most prominent object for miles about, after the castle—is the gift of the present Duke. It is a pretty structure, pointed Gothic in style, consciously reproduced with all the aids of flying buttresses, niches, pinnacles, and arches. It was doubtless a splendid gift. Perhaps in the twenty-first century, when the weather has done its architectural work on the exterior, and when the interior has been finely dimmed with burned incense, when stained glass and sculptured effigies of saints have been donated by future dukes, it will be a very imposing edifice indeed.

But all the beauty of ecclesiastical picturesqueness lies across the way. Hidden behind the lovely beech-arched gateway rests the old parochial church. In spite of restoration the age of six centuries is written unmistakably on the massive square bell-tower, the thirteenth-century traceries, and the rich old glass. It is guarded by a high wall from the adjoining castle-walls, as if the castle still feared there were something dangerously infectious in the mere propinquity of such heresies.

It has had its turn at the sieges that have be-set the castle. From the old tower there came a rattling hail when Waller’s artillery flashed forth its fire upon the Royalist garrison in the castle. The old bells that peal out the Sunday chimes seem to retain something of the jubilant spirit of that martial time. There was a brisk military vigor in their clanging, suggestive of command rather than of entreaty, as if they were more at home when summoning fighters than worshipers.

All is peace now. The old church sits in the midst of its graves, like an old patriarch surrounded by the dead whom he has survived.. . .

In looking up at the castle from the river, as a foreground, one has a lovely breastwork of trees, the castle resting on the crown of the hill like some splendid jewel. Its grayness makes its strong, bold outlines appear the more distinct against the melting background of the faint blue and white English sky and the shifting sky scenery. .

The earliest Saxon who built his stronghold where the castle now stands must have had an eye for situation, pictorially considered, as well as that keen martial foresight which told him that the warrior who commanded the first hill from the sea, with that bastion of natural fortifications behind him, the Downs, had the God of battle already ranged on his side. The God of battle has been called on, in times past, to pre-side over a number of military engagements which have come off on this now peaceful hill-side.

There have been few stirring events in English history in which Arundel Castle has not had its share. As Norman barons, the Earls of Arundel could not do less than the other barons of their time, and so quarreled with their king. When the Magna Charta was going about to gain signers, these feudal Arundel gentlemen figured in the bill, so to speak. The fine Baron’s Hall, which commemorates this memorable signing, in the castle yonder, was built in honor of those re-mote but far-sighted ancestors. The English-man, of course, has neither the vanity of the Frenchman nor the pride of the Spaniard. But for a modest people, it is astonishing what a number of monuments are built to tell the rest of the world how free England is.

The other events which have in turn destroyed or rent the castle—its siege and surrender to Henry I., the second siege by King Stephen, and later the struggle of the Cavaliers and Round-heads for its possession, during the absence abroad of the then reigning Earl—have been recorded with less boastful emphasis. The recent restorations, rebuildings, and enlargements have obliterated all traces of these rude shocks. It has since risen a hundred times more beautiful from its ruins. It is due to these modern renovations that the castle presents such a superb appearance. It has the air of careful preservation which distinguishes some of the great royal residences—such as Windsor, for instance, to which it has often been compared; its finish and completeness suggests the modern chisel. It is this aspect of completeness, as well as the unity of its fine architectural features, which makes such a great castle as this so impressive. As a feudal stronghold it can hardly fail to appeal to the imagination. As the modern palatial home of an English nobleman, it appeals to something more virile—to the sense that behind the medieval walls the life of its occupants is still representative, is still deep and national in importance and significance. Pictorially, there is nothing—unless it be a great cathedral, which brings up quite a different order of impressions and sensations—that gives to the landscape such pictorial effect as a castle.