The UK is a weird place. There are cities in this country that are about the size of a small town and large city sized towns which are not cities. Why is this? Well, city status in the UK relies on a few things. It helps if there’s a big cathedral in the area. There are many cathedral cities in the country- some are in big cities, others in small ones. I’ve only been to 6, but I hope to one day visit more- in particular, Canterbury Cathedral, where Thomas Beckett was assassinated in 1120 after disputes with Henry II and Leicester Cathedral, where Richard III is buried. But for now, here are the cathedrals I’ve visited-
This cathedral is about 15 minutes away from where I live. I have been to Winchester countless times and the cathedral is one of the most impressive aspects of the city. The city is historically important as it was the capital of Wessex, one of the ancient kingdoms of what’s now known as England. King Alfred ruled Wessex from Winchester and his statue is still in the city. Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest in Europe, with the longest nave in Europe and it’s the burial place of Jane Austen. It also contains the bones of King William II, who was shot and killed in the New Forest and who was taken to Winchester Cathedral but never buried. There’s so much history behind the cathedral and it’s a very impressive sight, and I’m not just saying that out of bias. Next to the cathedral is Wolvesey Castle, a ruined castle which was the sight of a battle in the 12th century between Stephen and Matilda during the Anarchy.
Image by Steve Parker via Flickr
I visited this cathedral during my trip to Cornwall last year. It is one of the only cathedrals in the UK to have three spires and the first Bishop of Truro became Archbishop of Canterbury. When it was completed in 1910, it was the first cathedral to be built on new ground since Salisbury. The organ of the cathedral is often considered one of the best in the country. Truro itself is a very small, but interesting city. It’s the southermost city in the country and has a wide variety of shops and attractions. It’s got a great museum detailing the history of Cornwall. I recommend visiting Cornwall as it is a very interesting area of the country.
Another very large and very important cathedral, with the tallest spire in the UK and the largest cloister. It also has one of the four remaining copies of the original Magna Carta from 1215. The cathedral has been around since 1258 and has historical importance. When I visited there a few days ago, I learnt that the cathedral was built on marshland and the water from the marsh can be reached with a stick in a hole in the cathedral. The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in the world, as it has been called the foundation of democracy. It was written by the barons of the country to control King John, who they believed had gone out of control. It was signed in 1215 in Runneymede (which I visited earlier this year) and some of the clauses of Magna Carta still exist, such as the freedom of the City of London (different from London. It’s complicated) and the right for anyone to have a free and fair trial. The copy of the Magna Carta is held in the Chapter House of Salisbury Cathedral.
You all know this one. One of London’s most famous landmarks, St Paul’s is an icon of Britain and survived the Blitz. It has been around for over 300 years and even to this day buildings in London have to be built so the view of St Paul’s isn’t blocked. The original St Paul’s was destroyed in 1666 during the Great Fire of London and got rebuilt with the iconic dome structure afterwards by Christopher Wren. One of the most famous parts of St Paul’s is the Whispering Gallery, where any noise made against the wall can be heard at any other point around the gallery. If you visit London, visit St Paul’s Cathedral as it is well worth a visit. Doctor Who fans like myself will obviously recognise St Paul’s as the location of two Cybermen invasions in 1968 and 2014.
Image by Andreas Mortonus via Flickr
I went to Sheffield very recently as part of my holiday to the Peak District. My first taste of Yorkshire was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there. The modern cathedral is a combination of many different time periods, with the oldest part being from the 13th century. The cathedral was large and very interesting and the city itself was very different to what I expected. It went through a major regeneration so there are lots of incredibly new areas and pieces of modern art. The Winter Garden, which is full of plants all around the world, was a highlight. There was also an indoor market that reminded me of the Fremantle markets in Australia. In conclusion, this was a great day trip, and the cathedral was a prominent part of that.
Image by Mark Ellam via Flickr
We visited Lichfield on the way back from the Peak District. We needed somewhere to stop and rest so Lichfield it was. This is another cathedral city where the city itself is very small, much like Winchester. The cathedral is huge and looks awesome. There’s statues of various kings and bishops on the ledges of the building and it’s the only cathedral built in medieval times with three spires. During the English Civil War, the cathedral was heavily damaged by several sieges on both sides, which resulted in the stained glass, roof and spires being destroyed. A major restoration project took place in the 19th century to rebuild the cathedral. The buildings around the cathedral are known as the Cathedral Close and are some of the most complete in the country. This trip was a pleasant surprise.
That’s only 6 cathedrals compared to the many, many cathedrals scattered around the country. Most of these cathedrals are ancient and stand as a reminder of the history of the country. I love visiting new places and exploring the history of this country through cathedrals and other areas is always a highlight of trips.