The South Sights

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Great Hall Review

A short walk west of the cathedral, this hall is all that remains of the city's Norman castle, and it's still used today for events and ceremonies. It's thought the English Parliament had one of its first meetings here in 1246; Sir Walter Raleigh was tried for conspiracy against King James I in 1603; and Dame Alice Lisle was sentenced to death by the brutal Judge Jeffreys for sheltering fugitives, after Monmouth's Rebellion in 1685. The hall's greatest artifact hangs on its west wall: King Arthur's Round Table has places for 24 knights and a portrait of Arthur bearing a remarkable resemblance to King Henry VIII. In fact, the oak table dates back only to the 13th century and was painted by order of Henry in 1522 on the occasion of a visit by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; one theory is that the real Arthur was a Celtic chieftain who held off the invading Saxons after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th or 6th century. The Tudors were among several British monarchs who periodically revived the Arthurian legend for political purposes. Take time to wander through the garden named for two Queens, Eleanor of Provence and Eleanor of Castille—a re-creation of a medieval shady retreat.

Updated: 06-10-2013

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