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Cathedrals

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CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL

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.

Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury
Kent
CT1 2EH
Medieval
Canterbury Cathedral website
Church authorities
DORNOCH CATHEDRAL

The interior of tiny Dornoch Cathedral is stunning: magnificent stained glass windows set in simple stone walls, crowned by a white, vaulted, roof. It exudes tranquillity. Founded by the Bishop of Sutherland, Gilbert de Moravia a little after 1222, in 1570 Dornoch Cathedral was almost totally destroyed during a clan feud between the Murrays of Dornoch and the Mackays of Strathnaver, when it was set on fire. It was partially repaired in 1616, but the restoration was not completed until the 19th century. The pop star Madonna had her son, Rocco, baptised at Dornoch in 2000; she and her then husband, Guy Ritchie, were married at nearby Skibo Castle.

St Gilbert Street
Dornoch
Sutherland
IV25 3HN
Medieval
Dornoch Cathedral's website
Dunrobin Castle
Church authorities
DURHAM CATHEDRAL

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.

The Cathedral Office,
The College
Durham
Co Durham
DH1 3EH
Norman
Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral's website
Church authorities
ELY CATHEDRAL

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.

Chapter House
The College
Ely
Cambridgeshire
CB7 4DL
Medieval
Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral website
Oliver Cromwell's House
Church authorities
GLASGOW CATHEDRAL

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.

Castle Street
Glasgow
G4 0QZ
Medieval
Mungo's Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral's website
St Mungo's Museum, Provand's Lordship, Glasgow Necropolis
Church authorities
HEREFORD CATHEDRAL

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.

Cathedral Close
Hereford
Herefordshire
HR1 2NG
Medieval
Hereford Cathedral's website
Ledbury, Ross-on-Wye
Church authorities
LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL

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.

19a The Close
Lichfield
Staffordshire
WS13 7LD
Medieval
Ladies of the Vale
Lichfield Cathedral website
National Memorial Arboretum
Church authorities
LINCOLN CATHEDRAL

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.

Minster Yard
Lincoln
Lincolnshire
LN2 1PX
Medieval
Lincoln Cathedral website
Lincoln Castle
Church authorities
PETERBOROUGH CATHEDRAL

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.

Minster Precincts
Peterborough
Cambridgeshire
PE1 1XS
Norman
Website for Peterborough Cathedral
Stamford, Burleigh House
Church authorities
PORTSMOUTH CATHEDRAL

Calling itself 'the Cathedral of the Sea', the Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury began life as an Augustinian chapel, dedicated to St Thomas, in 1188, and later became a parish church. The chancel and transepts of the current building date from this time, but it is largely a more modern creation. Following damage by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War, the church was rebuilt and developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. It became the Anglican cathedral of Portsmouth in 1927 and the building was extended, in neo-Byzantine style; this work was halted during the Second World War and only completed in 1991. The building exterior does have a faintly Oriental look; the interior is wonderfully light, in a kind of Baroque-Greek style.

High Street
Portsmouth
Hampshire
PO1 2HH
Georgian
Portsmouth Cathedral website
Old Portsmouth, Garrison Church, Royal Naval Dockyard
Church authorities