Last Updated on
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.
The roots of Chichester Cathedral lie in its now vanished predecessor at Church Norton, ten miles away on Selsey Bill, which is said to have been founded by St Wilfred in 681AD. The see was transferred to Chichester, once an important Roman town, in 1075. A new cathedral was built and consecrated in 1108. From the late 13th century it became a centre of pilgrimage as the site of the shrine of St Richard of Chichester, who was bishop from 1245 to 1253. His shrine, along with much else, was destroyed during the Reformation in 1538 and the Cathedral suffered damage again, at the hands of Parliamentary forces in 1642, during the Civil War. The Cathedral was considerably restored in the Victorian period. Its many treasures include its soaring spire, unique free-standing medieval bell-tower, rare 12th century sculptures and notable modern artwork items, including a window by Marc Chagall. Burials include the composer Gustav Holst and the 13th century 10th Earl of Arundel, Richard FitzAlan and his wife, Eleanor of Lancaster; their effigies are holding hands.
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.
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.
Leicester Cathedral is dedicated to St Martin, a 4th century Roman soldier, and possibly stands on the site of a Roman temple and Anglo-Saxon church. The first Bishop of Leicester was Cuthwine, in 680AD, but the last Saxon bishop fled from the Danes in the 9th century and, for a thousand years, Leicester had no bishop - until the church of St Martins was made Leicester Cathedral in 1927. The Cathedral is probably best known since 2015 as the burial place of Richard III and there are a number of exhibits (as well as his tomb) relating to the king in the church, including modern stained glass windows depicting his life in St Katherine's Chapel. Other features include the medieval north porch and the new cathedra and cross. Though the original church of St Martin's was built by the Normans, most of the current building, including the 220 foot high spire, is Victorian. Keen and helpful guides...it's almost dangerous on your own.
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.