Heritage Highlights: 14th century carvings in the choir stalls
Here is a church which suffers much from the well-intentioned efforts of Victorian restorers. Chester was originally built by Saxon canons in the name of Saint Werburgh, a lady whose claim to sainthood was not harmed by having three Saxon kings as relatives.
The second church on the site was built by Hugh "Lupus" (the Wolf), Earl of Chester, in 1092, perhaps as expiation for his worldly excesses. Anselm of Bec, later Archbishop of Canterbury, helped found Hugh's monastic settlement at Chester. Beginning in 1250 yet a third church was begun, this time in Norman Gothic style. The monks of Chester built the new church over the top of the old church, which they dismantled from the inside!
The church was raised to cathedral status by Henry VIII. In the interim Chester gained magnificent woodcarving in the choirstalls (about 1380).
Look closely at the carvings on the misericords and bench ends; aside from the obvious (St. Werburgh), there are details of Arthurian legend, Aesop's fables, and fabulous mythical beasts. At the shrine to St. Werburgh you can see the niches where medieval sufferers rested their heads while spending the night in a prayer for healing.
Chester Cathedral takes great pride in its excellent choir, and also hosts an extensive series of organ recitals.
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