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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury
County
Kent
Post Code
CT1 2EH
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Useful Website Address
Primary Management
Church authorities
CHICHESTER CATHEDRAL

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, Noviomagus, 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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
West Street, Chichester
County
West Sussex
Post Code
PO19 1RP
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Fishbourne Roman Palace, Weald and Downland Museum, Bosham
Primary Management
Church authorities
CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL

The Cathedral stands on the site of an ancient Saxon Church, founded in the 8th century by St Frideswide, the Patron Saint of Oxford. Though nothing now remains of this church, a Saxon cemetery lies under the cathedral cloister.

The present building was constructed in the last quarter of the 12th century as the monastery church for a community of Augustinian Canons.  The monastery was called St Frideswide’s Priory, and inside the church stood an ornate shrine on which were kept the relics of the saint. Pilgrims visited the shrine throughout the Middle Ages, including Catherine of Aragon, who, in 1518, came to pray for the birth of a healthy son.

In 1524, just before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Cardinal Wolsey gained permission from the Pope to close down St Frideswide’s Priory so that he could use the land to build a vast new college for the university. He planned to include a new chapel for his ‘Cardinal’s College’ but died before the building was complete, which meant that the old monastery church was retained.  King Henry VIII founded the college as Christ Church instead and in 1546 moved the first Bishop of Oxford into the church, thereby creating a unique institution: a college chapel that is also the Cathedral for the Diocese of Oxford.

Christ Church Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Oxford and one of the smallest cathedrals in England. Unusually for a cathedral, its centre stalls face inwards, in collegiate style. Its interior is breathtaking; the stonework almost glows and the stained glass is stunning.  The Becket Window in the Lucy Chapel dates from 1320 and is one of very few images of Becket to survive.  There is still a shrine to St Frideswide.  But perhaps best of all is the remarkable stone vaulted ceiling in the chancel, which is 500 years old.

Visitors should note that services begin five minutes later than ‘normal’ time, because the Cathedral keeps the old ‘Oxford Time’ (ie five minutes west of Greenwich). This means 6pm Oxford Time is 6.05pm GMT or BST.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Meadow Gate
The Broad Walk
Oxford
County
Oxfordshire
Post Code
OX1 1DP
Main Historic Period
Tudor
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Oxford city centre and colleges.
Primary Management
Educational establishment
COVENTRY CATHEDRAL

Coventry has had three cathedrals. The Priory Church of St Mary was founded as a Benedictine community in 1043, allegedly by the Earl of Mercia, Leofric, and his wife Godiva. It became a cathedral in 1102 but was dissolved and destroyed in 1539. The parish church of St Michael, founded as a chapel in the 12th century, became Coventry's second cathedral in 1918. However, this was destroyed in the blitz of 14 November 1940. The third cathedral, also dedicated to St Michael, was created next door to the ruins in a spirit of reconciliation during the 1950s and was completed in 1962. Both buildings are stunning: the ruins are thought-provoking; the modern, with its soaring and light interior, is unusually beautiful, and inspiring, for a structure of its period.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
1 Top Hill
Coventry
County
West Midlands
Post Code
CV1 5AB
Main Historic Period
Modern
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Ruins of Priory of St Mary, Statue of Lady Godiva
Primary Management
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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
St Gilbert Street
Dornoch
County
Sutherland
Post Code
IV25 3HN
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Dunrobin Castle
ELGIN CATHEDRAL

The spectacular ruins of Elgin Cathedral still impress.  The cathedral was established in 1224 on land granted by King Alexander II and was dedicated to the Holy Trinity.  Though suffering fire and, most famously, sacking by the Wolf of Badenoch, Alexander Stewart, the Earl of Buchan, the cathedral continued to grow and thrive, and was known as ‘the lantern of the north’, until the Scottish Reformation of in 1560, when the cathedral was abandoned.  Gradually, it fell into an ever-worsening state, until it began to receive some care and attention in the 19th C.  Highlights of a visit now include the magnificent 13th C west front, octagonal chapter house, carved stonework and Scotland’s tallest gravestone (5m high and dedicated to the Anderson family).

Region/Nation
Location/Address
King Street
Elgin
County
Moray
Post Code
IV30 1HU
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Moray Motor Museum, Brodie Castle, Scottish Dolphin Centre
Primary Management
Historic Scotland
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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Chapter House
The College
Ely
County
Cambridgeshire
Post Code
CB7 4DL
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Link to featured article
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Oliver Cromwell's House
Primary Management
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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Castle Street
County
Glasgow
Post Code
G4 0QZ
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Link to featured article
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
St Mungo's Museum, Provand's Lordship, Glasgow Necropolis
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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Cathedral Close
Hereford
County
Herefordshire
Post Code
HR1 2NG
Main Historic Period
Medieval
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
Ledbury, Ross-on-Wye
Primary Management
Church authorities
Leicester Cathedral

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.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Peacock Lane
Leicester
County
Leicestershire
Post Code
LE1 5FQ
Main Historic Period
Victorian
Useful Website Address
Tip/Nearby
King Richard III Visitor Centre is opposite.
Primary Management
Church authorities

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