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, the cathedral treasury and medieval libraries. The Cathedral also owns one of four original surviving copies of Magna Carta from 1215.
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.
Southwell is the Seat of the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. There has been a church on the site since the 7th century, believed to have been founded by Paulinus, the first Bishop of York, and is adjacent to the location of a Roman villa. The current building dates mainly from the 12th century, though its 'pepperpot' towers are 19th century replacements, and is a mixture of classic Norman and Gothic architecture. Next door is the largely ruined palace of the Archbishop of York.
Southwell Minster is a peach with a number of Not To Be Missed features, notably the Chapter House (famous for its carvings of foliage and Green Men), the North Porch, ornate 14th century Pulpitum, 11th century carved Tympanum, Bread Pews (with a section of Saxon floor underneath), Apple, Angel and East End windows and the memorials to airmen and the massacre at Katyn.
St Davids Cathedral (usually missing an apostrophe) sits at the bottom of a small hill beneath Britain's smallest city. Next to it are the ruins of the Bishop's Palace. St David, the Patron Saint of Wales, founded a monastery on the site in the 6th century, though this was raided and plundered by Vikings several times. The present cathedral, a trifle austere, dates from 1181. The highlight is probably the Shrine of St David. It is also the burial place of Edmund Tudor, father of King Henry VII, and of the 12th century monk, Gerald of Wales, medieval travel-writer. The location is gorgeous and the entire complex is one of the most significant historical Christian sites in Britain.