The cathedrals in our gazetteer are
primarily medieval. Most were intentionaly built as cathedrals, though there are several that were originally monastic churches (e.g. Bath Abbey) or parish churches (e.g. Southwark Cathedral) that were later raised to cathedral status after the Reformation, as population
expanded and settlement patterns changed. Dress warmly. Even in summer
the medieval stone giants can chill your bones.
WHAT IS A CATHEDRAL?
Technically, a cathedral is the 'seat', or home church of a bishop. The term originated with the Latin word 'cathedra', which was a throne, a literal 'seat' for a bishop. Some of the original medieval 'cathedra' - stone bishop thrones - are still preserved.
The honour of 'first English cathedral' is usually awarded to Canterbury Cathedral, begun in 597 AD by St Augustine. However, the first cathedral in England may actually have been built around 370 AD by the Romano-British Emperor Magnus Maximus, on Tower Hill, later site of the Tower of London. That 4th century church was destroyed by barbarians in the 5th century, and the masonry was used to build London's city walls and the Tower of London itself.
The smallest cathedral - Oxford - serves the largest diocese!
Ely is best known, and rightly so, for its extraordinary octagonal lantern tower. When the Norman tower fell in 1322 a new tower was erected, using oak beams to support 400 tons of stone and lead in a structure at once massive and airy. The first church here was erected in 673 by St. Aetheldreda, and rebuilt in 870 following … ... more