We are prepared in this shrine for a noble revelation of our English architecture, and we come with great expectations to this famous chapter house. We cannot be disappointed, for we have only to open our eyes to feel that we are in the very Ark of Beauty. We come into it through the vaulted vestibule, charming in itself, opening off the north choir aisle by a lovely doorway carved all round with leaves. It has a dignity of its own, as if it knew where it is leading us. We see in the wealth of carving on its arcaded walls a remarkable sculpture of a lay priest pulling the hair of a regular priest, a lady with a brooch, a quaint creature like a baboon, a blackbird pecking berries, and the face of a man who seems to be winking.

So we come to what is probably the most beautiful doorway in any cathedral in England, divided by a single clustered shaft, with exquisite carvings of leaves and flowers. It is a noble entrance to a place beyond compare, of which it has been said that it is among chapter houses as the rose among flowers. The doorway is recessed with a series of pillars, and the capitals of three on the right are carved from a single stone with oak and mulberry leaves and buttercups. The maple leaves round the doorway spring from one wyvern's tail and run into another. The chapter house inside is built like York's, an octagon without a central column. It has 36 seats, with triangular canopies over them, and the carving of these canopies is one of the stone wonders of the world. We do not know who did them, but among the figures is one of a monk who may, we like to think, have been the artist himself, for his natural hair curls under his cap. Why is he so real? Perhaps it may be that he is the lifelike artist who gave this place immortal fame in art. To him all things were real, and all work was life.

There are corbels where they never could be seen; but long before Longfellow said so this disciple knew that the gods see everywhere, and the corbels nobody sees are as fine as all the rest. The craftsman made a slip in his calculations, not finishing in line at the door, but he covered it up with a beautiful leaf. Over the doorway he put the head of a smiling man, and a dog to keep him company, looking down on all who come and go. Just inside the doorway he carved the head of a girl, with hair that might have belonged to the 20th century girl we saw standing beside it.

This unknown genius of Southwell copied his work from Nature; he took it from the fields hereabouts, and it is always true. His foliage may be tightly massed, but the stems are always there. His heads have plant symbols of the spirit of good and evil issuing from their mouths. He has a bird carrying its young from the poisonous ivy. He has two dogs with a hare run to earth, carved among ivy leaves, and we remember the gamekeeper's explanation that the hare seeks the ivy when it is about to die. He has a marvellous carving of acorn-cups from which the nuts have fallen, to be eaten by the pigs hidden below, a fancy the carver of the choir stalls was to copy nearly 600 years later. He has what has been called a May Queen, a woman with hawthorn leaves springing from her head like wings. He has monks with jester's caps, fabulous beasts, and on the top of a shaft from which the vaulting springs he has a goat eating ivy (he knew that it is harmless to them) and a herdsman blowing his horn.

The chapter house is built of stone quarried hereabouts, the stone which crumbled in our Houses of Parliament after only a hundred years. Here it is hard (with all this intricacy of carving) after six centuries, and from the canopied seats to the vaulted roof its condition is remarkable. It is flooded with light through its transparent windows, in which are set about a hundred pieces of 13th, 14th, and 15th century glass.

The east window of the choir is made up of two tiers of lancets, and has glass of remarkable interest in the lower tier, showing the Baptism of Christ, the Raising of Lazarus, the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and the Mocking and Scourging. The windows are bold and aglow with colour, and some of the figures are supposed to be of historic characters, Martin Luther among them. The great interest of this Flemish glass is that it is from a church destroyed in Paris during the French Revolution. It found its way into a pawnshop and came to Southwell a few years after Waterloo. It is thought these windows may have been seen by Marie Antoinette on her way to execution.

There is a great window in the south choir aisle made into a mosaic with a thousand fragments of 13th century glass. The best of the modern windows is one of our own time by Christopher Whall, showing in glowing colours the Crucifixion and the Vision of St John. Some of the vivid glass in the aisles is interesting for its quaint scenes, one showing the Temptation of Our Lord, with Satan's eyes gleaming and a cloven hoof peeping from his robe. Another has Paulinus (who Christianised this part of the Trent valley), holding a model of this Minster, which some say he founded. The bright red and blue glass in two round clerestory windows of the south transept was made by two boys, who took it into Norwood Park to burn in the colour.

Much of the impressiveness of this stately Minster comes from the fact that it is not encumbered with memorials. The monument which draws all eyes unto it is the lovely alabaster tomb of Archbishop Sandys. He lies with two angels at his head and two at his feet, and in a panel his wife kneels with a perfectly charming group of eight children behind her. The tomb is as old as the Spanish Armada. In the south choir aisle lies the oldest stone figure here, a 12th century priest. A very holy place has been given to Bishop Riddings, 43rd headmaster of Winchester and first Bishop of Southwell. He kneels at prayer, magnificent in bronze, stretching out his hands as we used to see him. Of the second bishop, his successor Dr Hoskyns, there is a bronze showing him in his robes, and his kindly face comes to life as the bronze turns on a spindle at the touch of a finger.

The most pathetic of the small group of monuments here is one of our own time which we believe to be unique. It is in a chapel off the north transept, and is a beautiful altar of sacrifice made from aeroplanes shattered in battles over France. The panels are made from broken propellers, the cross from cylinders, the vases from aluminium, and the plates from copper. The whole of this altar as we see it was at the very heart of the Great War, every fragment crashed by the guns. The pieces were put together by mechanics in the repair sheds of an aerodrome, and the altar was used there in the church hut until the aerodrome was closed. It stands here as a memorial to men of the Royal Air Force from a camp at Norton Woodseats, near Sheffield.

A little chapel off the choir has another altar with a story. It was found in a farmhouse in use as a chest, and appears to be a piece of 14th century panelling in which are painted figures in dark crimson, with black, green, and white circles over them. It is thought it was made into an altar by a village carpenter in the 17th century.

Many small things we find to stir our interest here. In a case by the chapter house door is a charter of Philip and Mary concerning land taken away from Southwell and given back to it; Philip is called King of England, France, Spain, and Jerusalem. Here also is a rare 14th century manuscript Bible, in beautiful coloured writing. In the Library is the precious manuscript known as the Liber Ambus, a folio written on vellum with nearly 500 pages. It grew through three centuries, begun in the 14th, continued in the 15th, and finished in the 16th.

The splendid brass eagle lectern is medieval, and has a story. It belonged to the monks of Newstead, and was found in one of the lakes there early last century. It was bought by a watchmaker at Nottingham, who, on taking it to pieces, found in the pedestal a bundle of legal deeds and documents concerning the privileges of the monks. The documents were still intact, and are today divided among the collections at the British Museum and at Newstead. The papers were hid in the lectern and put into the lake for safety on the breaking-up of the monastery by Henry the Eighth, the monks expecting to return. They never did return, and the lectern held its secret in the lake for nearly three centuries.

The story is told also of one of the two muzzled bears on the gables of the transepts that it was stolen by a workman and found in a garden, ultimately returning to its lawful place. It is good to think of these bears guarding the great crowd of carved figures like themselves in this old Minster. Inside and out there may be about 3000 sculptured heads.

A story of our day belongs to the high altar. It so happened that the 700th anniversary of the choir in 1934 was the Jubilee of the Mothers Union, and to celebrate the events every member of the union in this diocese gave a penny towards the cost of the altar.

Those who come to be surprised at Southwell and stay to love it will find themselves sitting perhaps on an old bench in the south transept. Men have sat on it for 500 years, and it seems to us the right place to sit and draw a last inspiration from the Stones of Southwell. These benches were once used for a court, and it was such seats that gave rise to the legal phrase ''sitting on the bench." As we sit here we see, a yard or two away, the old stone seats by the transept walls built in the days before benches for those who could not stand in the church; it was such seats as these which gave rise to the saying that the weakest go to the wall. Interesting it is to sit and think of these things, and to hear Jerusalem my Happy Home played by the old chimes, given in 1693 by Thomas Wymondesold.

But it is not only of such things that we are thinking: we are remembering that as we sit on this old bench and look along the transepts we are in the presence of Roman and Saxon and Norman, for we lift a little trap-door below our feet and look at a tesselated pavement that has been here 1700 years; the Romans made it. We look along the north transept to a doorway at the corner and there is a tympanum with David (now headless) fighting a lion and Michael slaying a dragon; the Saxons made it. We look up into the great central tower, with stupendous arches impressive enough to endure for ever; the Normans made them. We look through the 14th century screen and see the marvellous carving of the oak stalls done as it were the other day; a 19th century craftsman made them. It may be doubted if we can sit in any other English cathedral with so much work spanning 17 centuries about us.

The clock goes slowly round in this cathedral village, a little place apart from the rushing world. The bishop's garden is shaded by 15th century walls, with an old fireplace and trefoiled arches open to the wind and rain. The Provost's lawn has a Roman pavement under it, and his herbaceous border looks up to the Minster's square tower with its hundred Norman columns. (The Provost's little dog lies under a tree with his name on a stone, close by the only weeping pear tree we have seen). We came upon a good old man whose family has cleaned the brass of the Minster for three generations, and upon a charming old lady who used to ride about the village in a Sedan chair.

And in this quiet corner of the world the Jackdaw of Southwell is more famous than the Jackdaw of Rheims. We found him hopping about unafraid. He belonged to a choir boy who kept him in a cage but set him free when the cats began to worry him. Jack flew a little way, but not too far, and made his home in the village. He met the children coming from school, and every day he flew three-quarters of a mile to the home of an errand boy, where he would stop and call "Jack" till the boy came out.

Southwell is the sort of place where these things happen, a gracious ebbing place for the tide of life. We found the Provost (as they call the Dean in this place where nothing is quite the same) happy with his bees and his flowers, and he told us that for 17 years he had been here and 17 in the heart of London. On his desk in London he kept a photograph of an angel; he had no idea what it was, but kept it as a lovely thing. Then he came to Southwell and found it in the centre of the famous screen, the Beckoning Angel. It had been beckoning him all the time, his sister said, and we can only pray that when an angel beckons us it will be to some such heaven as Southwell is.