Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Cathedral was founded by St Augustine in 597AD, though the present building dates mostly from the late medieval period. Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered here in 1170 and it thereafter became a place of pilgrimage. The Cathedral is a holy place and part of a World Heritage Site.
Durham Cathedral's official name is 'the Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham'. It is the home of the shrine of St Cuthbert and burial place of the Venerable (aka 'Venomous') Bede. The cathedral, along with Durham Castle, occupies a rocky promontory high above the river Wear - originally an excellent defensive position, now dramatic and picturesque. It was founded in 1093 and the outstanding architectural feature (probably) are the massive, soaring, Romanesque/Norman arches in the nave. There's a wonderful simplicity about Durham Cathedral.
The Bishops of Durham - 'the Prince Bishops' used to wield temporal, as well as spiritual, power and effectively ruled the diocese for 850 years. That did not stop Oliver Cromwell using the Cathedral to hold 3,000 Scots prisoner after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650; many of them died within the Cathedral.
Durham Cathedral, along with the adjacent Castle, is a World Heritage Site.
Ely Cathedral was founded by Queen Etheldreda in the 7th century on the site of an earlier church. Sacked by the Danes, it was re-founded by Benedictine monks in the 10th century. The present, magnificent yet serene, cathedral dates from 11th century, was heavily refurbished in the 19th century and is partly surrounded by parkland. Do not miss the amazing octagon tower, the ceilings and the Lady Chapel.
Don’t be put off by its location, or the grossly ugly Royal Infirmary next door. Traditionally founded in the 6th century by St Kentigern (also known as ‘Mungo’ and the founder of the city), Glasgow Cathedral is one of the few medieval churches in Scotland to have survived the Reformation. The present building dates from the 12th century and contains numerous memorials, not least the alleged tomb of Mungo himself in the intriguing crypt. It is impressive, rather than beautiful. There is some wonderful stained glass, a marvellous 15th century carved stone pulpitum (quire screen) and the bewitching whitewashed Blacader Aisle, built by Archbishop Blacader (or Blackadder) in the 15th century on what is believed to be the site of Mungo’s first church.
Hereford Cathedral was founded in the year 696 and is dedicated to Ethelbert, a young late 8th-century king of East Anglia who was murdered on the orders of King Offa of Mercia (or his queen) and who was interred in the church. There is no trace of the earlier buildings; the current structures date from the 11th and 12th centuries and there is a magnificent Norman nave, with massive Romanesque arches. The Cathedral is famous for its chained library and its many treasures, not least the Mappa Mundi, a graphical representation of the medieval world, physical and spiritual, made (possibly for the Cathedral) by Richard of Holdingham in the early 14th century. The Chained Library, an early form of security system whereby books are literally chained to shelves in such a way that they can still be read, dates from 1611. Among its many manuscripts is an 8th century gospel and a copy of Magna Carta from 1217.
Lichfield Cathedral is the only 3-spired medieval cathedral in England; its spires have long been known as 'the Ladies of the Vale'. Founded by Chad in the 7th century (and dedicated to him and St Mary) the present Gothic building largely took shape between the 12th and 14th centuries. It was particularly badly damaged during the Civil War - canon balls destroyed parts and wrecked others - but subsequently restored. Lichfield Cathedral is the repository for the 8th century Chad Gospels and also home to the Lichfield Angel, a piece of Anglo-Saxon carving discovered during building work. Among the many other treasures to be seen is the marble memorial 'Sleeping Children', which is particularly evocative.
Lincoln Cathedral, dedicated to St Mary, is a magnificent Gothic building which, with the castle, dominates the city. It dates from the 11th century and is the third largest cathedral in Britain (after St Pauls and York Minster). From 1311 to 1549, when its central spire collapsed, Lincoln Cathedral was the tallest building in the world. Highlights include many ornate carvings, two enormous rose windows, the treasury and medieval libraries. Notable burials/tombs include Katherine Swynford, mistress then wife of John of Gaunt, the cadaver tomb of Bishop Richard Fleming and the entrails of Eleanor of Castile, first wife of Edward I. The Cathedral also owns one of four surviving copies of Magna Carta from 1215.
The Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew has its roots in Anglo-Saxon times. The first abbey was established at Peterborough (originally called Medeshamstede) in 655 AD and largely destroyed by Viking raiders in 870. In the mid 10th century a Benedictine Abbey was created from what remained. Some buildings were destroyed in Hereward the Wake's resistance to the Norman Conquest in 1069, but the church survived until an accidental fire swept through it in 1116. The present building was begun in 1118, consecrated in 1238 and the structure of the building remains essentially as it was on completion. Most significantly the original wooden ceiling survives in the nave, the only one of its type in this country and one of only four wooden ceilings of this period surviving in the whole of Europe, having been completed between 1230 and 1250. There is some fine 16th century fan vaulting at the east end of the church. Peterborough grew to be a wealthy monastic house, with 120 monks just before it was dissolved in 1539. However, the abbey church survived as Peterborough Cathedral. Parliamentary troops caused damage to glass and monuments during the Civil War. Two queens were buried in the Cathedral, Katherine of Aragon and Mary Queen of Scots: however, in 1612, James I/VI had his mother re-buried in Westminster and her grave is now empty.
The first cathedral was completed in 1092 at the now deserted Old Sarum, about 3 miles to the north of 'new Sarum' - modern Salisbury. Work on the present cathedral began in 1220 and was substantially complete by 1320. Salisbury Cathedral is a soaring Gothic masterpiece. It has the tallest church spire (404 feet - 123 metres), and the largest cloister and cathedral close in Britain, houses the world's oldest working clock, dating from 1386) and holds one of four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. Famously painted by John Constable, among its notable burials is ex-Prime Minister Edward Heath (1916-2005).
The cathedral that often gets missed, because everyone tends to flock to Westminster or St Paul's. But Southwark Cathedral is a beautiful oasis of calm and claims to be the earliest Gothic church in London, dating from 1220. Situated adjacent to London Bridge in an area that used to be renowned for its vice, it has a fascinating history and numerous features, including a soaring nave, a wonderful altar screen that dates from the 16th century and several interesting tombs. It became a cathedral in 1905 and its full name is the Cathedral Church of St Saviour and Mary Overie.