Following the discovery of Richard III’s remains under a car-park in Leicester, the body is likely to be re-interred in the grounds of the nearby Leicester Cathedral – a situation which, combined with the opening of a dedicated exhibition, has seen a twenty-fold increase its visitor numbers. Leicester Cathedral, however, is just one of a number of English cathedrals which remain incredibly popular with visitors looking to explore their history, wealth of cultural artefacts and some truly stunning medieval architecture. But which are England’s most beautiful and interesting cathedrals? Here are some of our favourites:
A stunning gothic masterpiece, Salisbury Cathedral is a bit of a front-runner. Built, as one of many English cathedrals after the Norman invasion of 1066, Salisbury is home to Britain’s tallest cathedral spire but also Europe’s oldest working clock dating back to the 1300s. Visitors can view an original copy of the Magna Carta or climb the 332 step spiral staircase of the main tower, which leans almost two feet, and offers spectacular views over the city and the Salisbury Plain to Stonehenge and beyond.
Near to Salisbury, Winchester Cathedral was once the site of a small Anglo-Saxon church but was later transformed in to the magnificent cathedral that still stands today. Guests once flocked to here to visit the final resting place of St Swithun, whose remains supposedly offer healing qualities to the sick, whilst visitors today are more likely to enjoy the exhibition dedicated to Jane Austen who is laid to rest within the cathedral grounds.
Possibly England’s most renowned cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral is currently basking in the limelight following the recent enthronement of a new Arch Bishop of Canterbury. The cathedral has been the destination of pilgrimages since the middle ages and the murder of the then bishop Thomas Beckett as related in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Today’s pilgrims come in the form of tourists who flock to see the magnificent 12th and 13th century stained-glass “Miracle Windows” and the cathedral’s surrounding medieval structures such as the monastic ruins and the revived herbarium.
The seat of the Archbishop of York, York Minster’s importance in the Anglican Church is second only to that of Canterbury. The Minster is the largest medieval cathedral in Northern Europe, dominating the York skyline and, from the 602 metre tall central tower, offers stunning views over the surrounding countryside towards the Dales and Moors. Guests can enjoy the intricate gothic architecture and the world’s largest area of medieval stained glass in a single window.
St Pauls Cathedral.
Burnt down twice in its history, most recently in the Great Fire of London of 1666, St Pauls Cathedral as it stands today was a 35 year labour of love of architect Sir Christopher Wren. And its magnificent dome remains an unmistakable feature of London’s iconic skyline today. At the time of building, the dome was the second largest in the world, behind only St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and in the interior is painted with intricate frescoes of the life of St Paul. Visitors today can explore the cathedral from top to bottom from the crypt through the whispering gallery to the Golden Gallery at the very pinnacle of the dome.
These are five of our top selected English Cathedrals but there are many more besides. In Wells the towering cathedral dominates what is essentially a small town, Lincoln Cathedral appeared in the “Da Vinci Code” film, Durham Cathedral enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status whilst Liverpool boasts no fewer than two cathedrals (both Anglican and Catholic). If you want to explore England’s cathedral cities then why not tailor-make your own tour by contacting us here.