About the gazetteer
The cathedrals in our gazetteer are primarily medieval. Most were intentionally 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 the population expanded and settlement patterns changed.
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.
Did you know ... The smallest cathedral - Oxford - serves the largest diocese!