English Cathedrals

About the gazetteer

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.

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.

Did you know ... The smallest cathedral - Oxford - serves the largest diocese!

Cathedral List
Name County Heritage Rating
Arundel Cathedral West Sussex 4 Heritage Rating
Bath Abbey Somerset 4 Heritage Rating
Brentwood Cathedral Essex 2 Heritage Rating
Bristol Cathedral Bristol 4 Heritage Rating
Canterbury Cathedral Kent 5 Heritage Rating
Carlisle Cathedral Cumbria 3 Heritage Rating
Chelmsford Cathedral Essex 3 Heritage Rating
Chester Cathedral Cheshire 3 Heritage Rating
Chichester Cathedral West Sussex 4 Heritage Rating
Coventry Cathedral West Midlands 5 Heritage Rating
Durham Cathedral County Durham 5 Heritage Rating
Ely Cathedral Cambridgeshire 5 Heritage Rating
Exeter Cathedral Devon 4 Heritage Rating
Gloucester Cathedral Gloucestershire 4 Heritage Rating
Hereford Cathedral Herefordshire 4 Heritage Rating
Leicester Cathedral Leicestershire 5 Heritage Rating
Lichfield Cathedral Staffordshire 4 Heritage Rating
Lincoln Cathedral Lincolnshire 5 Heritage Rating
Norwich Cathedral Norfolk 5 Heritage Rating
Norwich Catholic Cathedral Norfolk 4 Heritage Rating
Oxford, Christ Church Cathedral Oxfordshire 4 Heritage Rating
Peterborough Cathedral Cambridgeshire 5 Heritage Rating
Portsmouth Cathedral Hampshire 3 Heritage Rating
Ripon Cathedral Yorkshire 4 Heritage Rating
Rochester Cathedral Kent 4 Heritage Rating
Salisbury Cathedral Wiltshire 5 Heritage Rating
Southwark Cathedral Greater London 3 Heritage Rating
Southwark Catholic Cathedral Greater London 3 Heritage Rating
Southwell Minster Nottinghamshire 4 Heritage Rating
St Albans Cathedral Hertfordshire 4 Heritage Rating
St Paul's Cathedral Greater London 5 Heritage Rating
Truro Cathedral Cornwall 3 Heritage Rating
Wells Cathedral Somerset 5 Heritage Rating
Westminster Abbey Greater London 5 Heritage Rating
Westminster Cathedral Greater London 3 Heritage Rating
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral Bedfordshire 1 Heritage Rating
Winchester Cathedral Hampshire 5 Heritage Rating
Worcester Cathedral Worcestershire 5 Heritage Rating
York Minster Yorkshire 5 Heritage Rating
Name County Heritage Rating
Cathedrals Menu
Wells Cathedral, Somerset

Cathedral A-Z Gazetteers
England | Scotland | Wales

Historic churches (i.e. parish churches)
England | Wales

Church architecture - visual dictionary

Cathedral plan - Most medieval churches followed a fairly similar layout. Here is a cathedral floor plan, based on Westminster Abbey.

Most popular English cathedrals
Ripon Cathedral, Yorkshire

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Architectural highlights
York Minster, Yorkshire

Cathedrals with unique or unusual architectural features:

  1. Ely - unique lantern tower
  2. Salisbury - highest spire (404 feet high)
  3. Bath Abbey - last major pre-Reformation church in England
  4. Gloucester - superb vaulted cloisters
  5. Wells - striking scissor vaulting
  6. Durham - the world's first structural pointed arch

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