The oldest street in Europe where residential buildings still stand is Vicars Close in Wales. It was laid out in the XIV-XV centuries, and it does not look like ordinary modern streets.
"Closed place of residence of vicars" – this is how the street name sounds in translation. Vicars used to be called deputy priests. They lived in special streets and squares next to the cathedrals, which were called Close ("closed"). This is due to the fact that these territories did not belong to the city, but to the bishop or cathedral. A prerequisite was walls and gates, so that it was possible to shelter the clergy in times of popular unrest.
Chorale of Vicars
The Welsh Cathedral had its own group of singing priests who had to be settled in a closed street near the temple. It was for them that Vicars Close was laid out, which is unlike any other street in the country and is considered the oldest in Europe.
Vicars performed worship 8 times a day – a large amount of work was another factor in settling them near sacred places. Also, when they lived in the city, they had access to earthly entertainment, which they enjoyed, casting a bad shadow on their sacred status and all the ministers of the cathedral as a whole.
To begin with, 42 identical houses were erected. Inside there were rooms measuring 6x4 meters. The windows in the house were arranged so that they faced the east, where the sun rose, and to the west, where it set. For heating in the rooms there were fireplaces. There was also a small backyard where they washed and relieved themselves. However, some believe that the toilet was then in the house on the second floor.
Over time, the walls were punched, increasing the usable space in the house, and adding rear buildings. Such changes began due to the reduction in the number of vicars and the emergence of their families.
At the moment, the interior of the houses has been preserved since the XIV century, but the exterior was changed in the XV century: a water pipe was laid (replacement of wells), small flower beds with flowers were broken and they began to heat with coal, which led to changes in the shape of the chimney. The latter have become the most memorable feature of Vicars Close. For such a large external restructuring, the money of Bishop Thomas Beckington was used, who bequeathed it to the Cathedral of Wales. Unfortunately, these funds were not enough for long, so during the last repair in the XIX century, the lead water supply was changed on the street for the first time and reconstruction was made after a fire that destroyed part of the buildings.
Vicars Close is also known for its small architectural feature with an optical illusion. The length of the street is 140 meters, while the beginning and end are different in width: next to the main gate it is 10 meters, and near the cathedral - 7 meters. Thanks to the geometric architecture and paving stones, there is a feeling that the path from the building to the gate is shorter than the other way around. This feature attracts tourists from all over the world and carries a philosophical note.
Access to the street is free. At the moment, 12 people live there, as well as organists, bell ringers and assistants of church servants in the household.
The full name of the cathedral is the Cathedral of St. Andrew the First-Called. This monument of early English Gothic is considered the first in its style in Europe. In the cathedral there are two astronomical clocks operating on the mechanism of 1386-1392 manufacture. They are the second oldest on British soil after salisbury clocks of the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.