Faith & The British: Pt 11 – St Peter’s, Gloucester

Our next Cathedral is in the city of Gloucester, and it was famously used in the filming of one of the most iconic British Film Series of the last few decades…

St Peter’s and the Holy & Indivisible Trinity:

Location: Gloucester, City of Gloucester District, Gloucestershire, England

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: 1089 – 1499

Architect: Frederick Sandham Waller (1822 – 1905), Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811 – 1878)

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This magnificent building has its origins back in 1089, when a monk called Serlo gained enough money from the existing monastery to build the Church that still exists today, which was the original Abbey. Henry III (1207 – 1272) was crowned at the Abbey in 1216, before later building works in the 13th century. During these works a Lady Chapel and a Tower was added, before the arrival of another King, Edward II (1284 – 1327), in 1327. He wasn’t crowned here however, but buried. The King was killed at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, in suspicious circumstances so it is widely theorised that he was murdered by either his son, Edward III (1312 – 1377) who took over, or one of his followers. The central Tower was added in the 15th Century and stands a staggering 225 feet tall, rising above most other buildings in the city. Each corner of the Tower has a pinnacle on top. This replaced the previous tower, as did a new Lady Chapel also built around this time.

As was the fate of most Abbey’s around the country, it fell victim to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, instigated by King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) in 1536.

Due to the remains of his ancestor, Edward II, being interred here, Henry allowed the buildings to be spared, and they became Gloucester Cathedral, and a new Bishops seat, that of the Bishop of Gloucester, was created in 1541. The monks left, and a Dean took over. All the previous Abbey buildings became part of the Cathedral, hence the reason there are Cloisters and a Courtyard still existing today. During the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) between Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) who abolished the Monarchy, and forces loyal to the Monarch, Charles I (1600 – 1649), Cromwell wanted to destroy the Cathedral, but it was saved when the Mayor of Gloucester intervened. In 1660, a few years after the war ended, the Dean of Gloucester retook control of the building, and it has prospered ever since. The building has been maintained throughout the following centuries, and unusually it has not been rebuilt like so many other churches.

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The main entrance when we visited was at the front of the Cathedral, down the side facing the Camera in the picture at the start of this post. As you enter, there is a shop just to your right, which is out of shot on this picture. Continuing straight on, you enter the 174 feet long Nave, which contains a beautiful ceiling 68 feet above the main aisle. On either side are enormous stone columns, leading in rows up towards the Choir and the Chancel at the far end. A wooden screen separates the Nave from the Choir, topped by a large Organ.

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There are a number of monuments around the Cathedral, including this statue of Dr Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823), an English Doctor who created the worlds first vaccine, the vaccine for Smallpox. Just to the left of the statue is the shop, where you can buy a license to take photographs around the building.

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Moving into the Choir, you get a better look at the Organ and the lovingly crafted Choir Stalls. The present Organ was built in 1971, by Hill, Norman & Beard, a company founded in 1916 in Norwich when two previous companies came together. Aside from Gloucester Cathedral, they also built the Organs in use in both Lichfield and Norwich Cathedrals. The designers were called Ralphs Downes and John Sanders, and the sound the Organ produced was a very classical sound. It was later given a rebuild and restoration in 1999 by a company from Worcester called Nicholson & Co.

The screen isn’t an original feature, as when it was built there was an Altar where the screen stands, with a large crucifix hanging above it. Past the Organ is the Choir area, which has a beautiful patterned floor, with the Choir stalls on either side. The Stalls contain immaculate detail, and are one of the best examples we have seen. The Transepts lead off from either side of the Choir, with the North Transept off to the left, and the South Transept off to the right.

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The roof in the Nave was incredible, and the stone masons at the Cathedral were actually pioneers in the vaulting used on the ceilings. If you look at the ceiling in the Chancel (this section is directly above the Organ and Choir) you will see the incredible vaulting across it, called Lierne. This is the earliest known example of Lierne, and the same pattern can be found on the ceiling of the South Transept. It dates back to around 1337, and it must have been a herculean task to create such an amazing pattern.

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Continuing East through the Choir and the Chancel from the Nave, you are greeted by the truly stunning East Window,  which was the largest window in the world when it was originally installed back in the 1350’s. The detail on every pane is immaculate, and it features a variety of figures.

The figures begin with the Nobility, through to the Bishops/Abbots, then on to Saints (including St John, St Laurence and St Thomas) , Apostles and finally Angels which sit below the final set of panes which feature heaven, where God sits with more Angels playing instruments around him. This represents a hierarchy within the Church as a whole, and also includes Christ himself in the centre of the main section of the window. He is depicted sat next to the Virgin Mary who has been crowned, and Christ is blessing her.

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Moving out of the main body of the Cathedral, you enter some of the original Abbey buildings, most significant of which are the Cloisters. This area is made up of a central square with enclosed corridors running around all four sides of the Square, creating one long corridor. Traditionally the Monks lived in the Cloisters and associated buildings, which provided a retreat from the outside world and the regular people who would have lived in the area. Being such a secluded place, the Cloisters were perfect for quiet contemplation and religious studying.

Whilst they have obvious historical significance, they were seen recently in the Harry Potter film series, when this area of the building appeared in the 1st, 2nd and 6th films, standing in for Hogwarts Corridors. It has retained its stunning medieval feel, so what better place to stand in for a Castle in the wizarding world where the historic magical kingdoms featured in fairy tales are reality. There was some controversy at the time, due to the nature of the films as some felt that the Cathedral wasn’t an appropriate place to film, but it has attracted even more visitors to come and explore.

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This is the view from the centre of the Square, which contains a small courtyard with some well designed horticultural features in the centre. The Cloisters are attached to the North side of the Cathedral, and the great tower of the building rises up high above the Square. Its an amazing view, and we have only visited a handful of Cathedrals during our travels that actually have Cloisters, including Salisbury Cathedral, Christ Church in Oxford and Durham Cathedral.

Other buildings originally associated with the Abbey include School Buildings, A Chapter House and the Abbots Cloister, all of which come off the East side of the Square, in the direction of the Tower. Presumably the Abbots Cloister would have been the private areas reserved for the Abbot, who was the head of the Monastery. The Chapter House was used as a meeting place, where services and meetings could be held with all or most of the Monks present. Originally there were various other buildings included around the Cloisters, from Kitchens to Dwellings for the Monks, but many of these have been lost through history when the Dissolution took place, as they were no longer needed once the Monks were forced to move out.

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This beautiful little room is located in the South Ambulatory, one of the two aisles that run from the Transepts, down the edge of the choir and round to the Altar beneath the East Window. As the name suggests, the South Ambulatory connects with the South Transept, and is where you shall find the Chapel, which is officially named St Andrew’s Chapel.

This has to be my favourite part of the building, not for its grandeur, or design, but for the stunning effect the light creates when it shines through the windows as you watch, bathing you in a purple glow, as the windows seem to come alive as the light passes through them and bounces off every wall. A similar Chapel exists on the North Side between the Transept and the North Ambulatory, and together they make quite a pair.

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Also in the South Ambulatory is this remarkable wooden effigy of the Duke of Normandy, created out of “Bog Oak”, which is wood that has been submerged in a peat bog for centuries. He is one in a long line of Dukes, and the name comes from the Normandy region of France, the ruler of which was granted the title of Duke upon its creation in 911 by Charles III of France (879 – 929). As history passed the region by, William the Conqueror became the Duke, and then subsequently conquered England, making himself both Duke of Normandy and King of England in 1066. Subsequent Kings of England kept both titles, until King John eventually lost Normandy to the French in 1204, and the two titles became separate. Henry III officially renounced his claim to being the Duke of Normandy in 1259 after he succeeded to the throne after John.

But which of the many Dukes of Normandy lies in Gloucester Cathedral? It is in fact a man called Robert Curthouse (1050 – 1134, eldest son of William the Conqueror) who held the title between 1087 and 1106. After his father died of his wounds during the Siege of Mantes in France, Robert was given Normandy, and his brother William was given England, splitting the lands up between the two. There was one more son, Henry, who managed to seize the throne from William, and went on to invade Normandy, taking that region as well, from Robert, in 1106. Robert was then imprisoned, and eventually moved to Cardiff Castle, where he passed away in his 80’s.

His tomb has the Coats of Arms of the “Nine Worthies”, 9 people legendary figures from history, and includes figures from various religions. The 9 are:

3 Jewish Figures:

David (Biblical Figure who ruled Israel and Judah as it’s 2nd King), Judas Maccabeus (Jewish Warrior who led the revolt against the Seleucid Empire around 160 BC) and Joshua (Israeli Spy in the Torah)

3 Christian Figures

King Arthur (Legendary figure who helped to defend the Britain against the Saxons and famous for his “Round Table” and pulling the “Sword from the Stone”) , Charlemagne (circa 747 – 1814, King of the Franks, then Italy, and later Europe. The Franks being the area that comprises modern day Western Europe) and Godfre of Bouillon (1060 – 1100, first ruler of Jerusalem, and leader of the First Crusade in the Holy Land).

3 Jewish Figures

Hector (Prince of Troy in Greek Mythology), Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC, Roman Dictator who famously headed the first invasion of the Island of Great Britain) and Alexander the Great (356 – 323, King of the Greek Kingdom of Macedon)

Interesting Joshua’s Coat of Arms isn’t actually present on the tomb, and was in fact replaced by that of Edward the Confessor (1003 – 1066, the son of Aethelred – King of England from 978 – 1013, and the last ruler of Wessex. His successor was Harold Godwinson (1022 – 1066), the last Saxon King as his reign ended in 1066 with his death at the Battle of Hastings when William the Conqueror arrived and took England).

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Our tour ends back in the Nave, as we gazed up at the West Window, a stunning creation, that so far I am unable to find information on. Various impressive windows are described in various texts but none specifically mention a West Window, so rather than it being styled as the West Window it must have a specific name. Even so, it looks magnificent.

Other sections of Stained Glass around the building contain some notable images, as one created in 1350 shows a game of Golf being played, which is interesting as it was supposedly invented in Scotland in the 15th century. Looks like the Monks beat them too it! Another Window also shows a ball game similar to Football but I think it is a long way off what we know today as Football.

Gloucester Cathedral is stunning, and there is so much history and architecture to explore. Its certainly worth a look, and you could spend hours exploring every grand aisle, side chapels and mystery corridors. You can find out more about the Cathedral on it’s official website here, and you can explore the historic city of Gloucester in my dedicated post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 10 – St Mungo’s, Glasgow

Far north in the city of Glasgow, stands St Mungo’s Cathedral, a stunning example of Gothic Architecture from Scotland, and a rare intact example, so we couldn’t resist the temptation to visit and explore…

St Mungo’s:

Location: Glasgow, Glasgow City Council Area (historically Lanarkshire), Scotland

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of Scotland

Constructed: 12th Century

Architect: N/A

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The Cathedral is supposedly built on the area that its namesake, Saint Mungo, built his original Church. Mungo is also buried inside the Cathedral, in the crypt. There are no traces of his original Church that I am aware of, and the present Cathedral was built around the 12th century, with the Bishop of Glasgow having his seat here.

The Scottish Reformation, a break with Catholic Church in Rome headed by the Pope, occurred in 1560, leading to the destruction of various Church buildings. St Mungo’s was one of a few to survive intact, and remains in fantastic condition to this day. In Scotland, many Cathedrals are technically a High Kirk (Church in Scottish), and this includes St Giles in Edinburgh, and St Mungo’s here. There has not been a Bishop based here since 1690, so the title is more honorific today, and it is still the main Cathedral in the city of Glasgow.

It was also in the Cathedral that the UG (University of Glasgow) was created, as classes were once held in the Cathedral Precinct, around 1451. The University came about after the idea was put forwards by King James II (1430 – 1460), and subsequently granted permission by Pope Nicholas V (1397 – 1455). The Bishop at the time, William Turnbull (died 1454), took charge, and he, along with his successors over the next 2 centuries, served as the University Chancellors. By 1460 the University had moved to new premises over the road, and then to its present location in 1870.

Slightly off topic, but the UG presented a number of firsts, and it also happens to be the 4th oldest University in the English speaking world. Notable students include Donald Dewar (1937 – 2000) Scotlands 1st First Minister. Firsts include the first ultrasound of a foetus in the womb, and the first University in Scotland to have a female medical graduate (1894) and the first computer (1957).

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Moving inside, it instantly hits you the sheer scale of the building, and considering its age its a marvel of engineering for that era. The entrance that was open on the day we visited was down the side of the building, on the side facing the camera on the previous picture. This led into the Nave, where there was a choice of turning left, or right.

Moving left, you will reach the West End of the building, which contains the West Door at the bottom of the picture, with the clock above it. Above that, is the West Window, a stunning creation with a rose window at the top. It’s official name is “The Creation” and depicts the creation of the Earth by God, with Adam and Eve respectively shown on the two centre panes, just above the clock. The rest of the panes show the various creatures and environments also created by God during the 7 day period.

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Turning to look back up the Cathedral, this is the view you would see if you walk in through the side door and turn right. 105 feet above us, long wooden beams criss crossed the ceiling, holding the roof up, and much of it is medieval timber, as during the Reformation it remained untouched, unlike many other buildings.

The Nave here is a grand space, and an impressive 63 feet wide. As I have mentioned in a few other posts, there are no pews here, but rows of chairs can be put out as needed. The tall columns hold up the roof, with an aisle separating them from the main windows of the building. At the far end of the Nave is one of my favourite features of the building, and separates the Nave from the Chancel/Choir behind it. I refer of course to the towering stone screen which has a stone entrance at the bottom, and a window shaped hole at the top so that not only can light shine between the two sections, but the sound of the Organ can also pass through as well.

The screen is officially called the Pulpitum, and dates back to the 1400’s. On either side of the entrance are two altar platforms, which were installed a century later, in 1503 by Archbishop Blackadder (who also built the Blackadder aisle on the crypt level beneath us). If you look past the Pulpitum, you can see a large Organ on either side, at the top of the wall of the Choir, but more on them in a moment.

As we visited in January, there were still a number of Christmas items up around the city, including the trees in the Cathedral, and these partially obscure a wooden chair just behind each of them. These are memorial chairs, with the right one dedicated to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), which existed from 1903 until 1958 when it was merged with the Royal Naval Reserve to create a new force. The left chair is a memorial to a similar service, the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) which was formed in 1936. Unfortunately there was either a service or some sort of event happening in the Choir so we weren’t allowed to go any further into the building, so we just marvelled at the Nave and its many features.

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On this picture you can see the left Altar platform in front of the screen, and next to that is one of the entrances to the Crypt level, although sadly it was closed that day. The RAFVR chair is also shown in the centre of the picture. The two chairs contain the emblem of their force at the top, and the RAFVR has a blue circle with an eagle in the centre.

In the large window shaped space at the top of the Pulpitum, you can see one of the two Organs that sit high above the Choir on the other side. The twin Organs were built in 1879 by Henry Willis & Sons from London, who have created Organs for Cathedrals throughout the UK from St Pauls to Liverpool Anglican. There had been an Organ in place before the Reformation, but it was removed during it, so this was the first permanent Organ to be installed since. The same company enlarged it in 1903, and 1931, and another company, J. W. Walker & Sons, founded by Joseph William Walker in 1828, took over for the 3rd enlargement in 1971. In 1996 the whole thing was rebuilt, but the original pipes were kept so it has original pipes by Henry Willis.

As the Crypt was closed, there were a few well known features of the Cathedral that we didn’t get to see, although we shall certainly revisit sometime in the future to explore the Crypt. These features include:

The Tomb of St Kentigern, another name for St Mungo. The Crypt was built in the 13th century to house his tomb, and it is fitting he was returned to the city and Cathedral that he founded. I mentioned earlier the Blackadder Aisle, this was built around 1500 by its namesake, and contains some interesting stonework. There is also an effigy of a man named Bishop Robert Wishart (died 1316). He was bishop during the wars of Scottish Independence, and was a support of both William Wallace (1270 – 1305, Scottish Independence Leader) and Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329, the Scottish King until his death in 1329). All three men were instrumental in securing victory against the English King Edward I (1239 – 1307, who repeatedly tried to conquer Scotland in the 14th century. Edward died of Dysentery near the Scottish Border during a campaign heading North to meet Robert the Bruce, and his son, Edward II (1284 – 1327) took over as King.

Glasgow Cathedral is one of my favourite Cathedrals, its stunning both inside and outside and contains some of the finest stonework we have seen in a long time. The city itself is the 3rd largest in the UK, and the largest in Scotland, and has much to offer visitors. You can read all about the city in my dedicated post here. Glasgow is hosting the Commonwealth Games 2014 as I write this, so at a time when the world is watching Glasgow, let it take you on an adventure too.

Faith & The British: Pt 9 – All Saints, Derby

By the riverside in the city of Derby, stands an impressive building, visible from various locations in the city, and providing one of my favourite views in the city from the high street. That building is the Cathedral of All Saints…

Cathedral of all Saints:

Location: DerbyCity of Derby Unitary District, Derbyshire, England

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: circa 1350 – 1725

Architect: James Gibbs (1682 – 1754)

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The first Church recorded for this site was built in 943, by King Edmund I (921 – 946, King of England). There are no surviving foundations for this Church, so the oldest building here is the present Cathedral, which incredibly dates back to the 14th Century, when construction was started around 1350. The main body of the Church was built first, with the Tower following between 1510 and 1530. Standing 212 feet tall, it is the only truly original section of the building surviving as the rest was rebuilt in 1725, by Francis Smith (1672 – 1738, English Builder from Warwick), and designed by James Gibbs. The Bells in the Tower actually predate the Tower itself, and were cast in the 15th Century. These still ring out across the city, making them the oldest ringing bells in the UK.

Previously the Church had been a general Church, presumably the local Parish Church, until 1927 when it was elevated to the status of Cathedral. The view above is from the rear of the Cathedral, looking from the river Derwent. The Tower marks the main entrance at the front.

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Moving into the Church interior, a plethora of detail, colour and shapes jump out at you instantly. This view is looking along the Nave towards the Chancel at the far end, which is marked by a metal screen where the two meet. The screen is made out of wrought iron, and was designed by James Gibbs, and constructed by Robert Bakewell in the 18th century when the Nave was redesigned and rebuilt. It was later extended between 1968 and 1972.

Tall columns hold up the roof in rows between the pews, and look like they may be Corinthian. It is one of the few Cathedrals so far we have visited that actually have proper pews, as many of the others appear to just have chairs that are moved around depending on the service type and the size of the congregation on the day.

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This is a close up of the central screen, which includes a set of gates into the Chancel. Above the small arch at the top of the gates is the UK coat of arms, with the English Lion on the left, and the Scottish Unicorn on the right. The detail on the gates is stunning, and a similar set of gates, also by Bakewell, are situated outside the main entrance of the building, and were recently restored after Queen Elizabeth visited in 2011.

The main altar is at the far end of the building, along with the smaller of the two Organs. This one dates back to 1973, and is in the East end of the Cathedral, behind the Choir. It was installed by a firm called Cousans of Lincoln, an Organ company founded in 1877, and still trading today, although despite the name they are now headquartered in the city of Leicester. This section is shown on the first picture in this post, as the protruding section at the back of the building.

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Behind the Iron Screen is the Choir, with ornate wooden pews to seat the singers and major members of the clergy. Although not visible on this picture, the Bishops Throne is located on the other side of the Choir, off to the right. Most Cathedrals have one of these and they usually consist of a tall wooden chair that has a small wooden spire on top, a few times the height of the choir pews. Unusually out of the Cathedrals we have visited, there is no grand East Window, this space instead being occupied by the small Organ.

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This is a close up of the East End looking across the Altar towards the Organ. The Altar is contained within a small porch like section, with a column at each corner. There are more pews beneath the Organ, and they are known as the Retro Choir, and it makes sense to have the Choir beneath the Organ. The windows on either side of the Organ are simple plain windows, which suit the building just as well as Stained Glass would have done.

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Moving back towards the front of the building (West End) there are aisles on either side of the central columns, to the left and the right. At the far end is the main Organ, which was installed in 1939. It was built by John Compton (1876 – 1957, Leicestershire born Organ Maker who moved to London) and given an overhaul in 1992.

Above the Organ is an upper gallery, which is well crafted to fit not only around the Organ but also to match the rest of the woodwork in the building.

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Around the Cathedral, are shallow areas on either side of the main Choir and the Iron Gates, which contain a number of Graves and Memorials, to various historical figures. Just behind the plant to the left of the main memorial is a large plaque commemorating Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810) who is notable for discovering Hydrogen in 1766. It was, however, actually named by Antoine Lavoisier (1743 – 1794), a French Chemist, in 1783. Cavendish also figured out the mean density of planet Earth, leading to his nickname “The Man who Weighed the World”.

This plaque sits next to the Bess of Hardwick’s Monument, of whom Cavendish was a descendant. Her real name was Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (1521 – 1608) and Bess of Hardwick was her nickname, and she became very wealthy through her four marriages, one of which was to Sir William Cavendish (1505 – 1557), presumably the historical link to Henry Cavendish.

Derby Cathedral is a beautiful building, and if you want to find out more about the City itself and the many varied and interesting buildings and museums, you can read all about it in my dedicated post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 8 – St Michael’s, Coventry

Out of all the religious buildings this series of posts will cover, there is one that stands out as both a place of great sadness, and a place of celebration, for peace and justice. This amazing place is St Michael’s Cathedral in the city of Coventry, and the name applies to the ruined shell of the original Cathedral, and the new one that has grown up next to it…

 St Michael’s:

Location: Coventry, City of Coventry District, West Midlands (historically Warwickshire), England


Ruined Cathedral:

Status: Ruin

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: 14th – 15th Centuries

Architect: Various


New Cathedral:

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: 1956 – 1962

Architect: Basil Spence (1907 – 1976)

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This is a view of the present arrangement between the two Cathedrals, which are physically joined to create one overall building. There was one previous building, called St Mary’s, that was the joint Priory and Cathedral of the City between circa 1095 and 1539. Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monastery put an end to the buildings use, although some remains do still exist.

On the left is the original Cathedral, which began life in 1138 when the Parish Church of St Michaels was first mentioned. The majority of the overall structure is from the 14th and 15th centuries, replacing the previous Norman Church. Chapels were later added in the 16th Century, and the Church quickly became the local Parish Church, and one of the largest such Church in England. The Spire you seen in the above picture is the original Church spire, and wasn’t a new addition to mark Cathedral Status being granted in 1918 when the Diocese of Coventry was created. It prospered over the next few decades, but it’s long history was cut tragically short on November 14th, 1940, when the German Luftwaffe destroyed the building in a bombing raid over the city. All that survived you can see on the picture, with the Spire and the outer walls which are a shell of their former glory.

The very next morning the decision was taken to rebuild the Cathedral, to stand defiant against German Tyranny, and Basil Spence was hired to oversee the project. He argued however, that the original building should be left in its present condition as a memorial, and a new building built adjacent. His idea was listened to, and by 1956 the foundation stone had been laid by Queen Elizabeth II. Just 6 years later the Cathedral was complete, again with Elizabeth in attendance at its opening. The new building is visible on the picture to the right, and I shall show you some stunning aerial views from the original Spire later on in this post. It too contains a spire, which sits on top and is made out of metal, and required a helicopter to help install it. What I like most about the new building is that it was made out of exactly the same material as the previous building, a type of Sandstone from Hollington in Staffordshire.

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This is the main entrance to the Cathedral, which is freely open to the public as a Memorial, to enable reflection on days gone by. The base of the spire is visible on the right, and remarkably it survived almost unscathed. A Shop and Information Centre can be found at the very bottom, where you can buy a pass to ascend to the top of the tower. We visited in January so this seems to be open all year round.

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The Tower can be firmly dated to 1374 when construction on the Tower (West Tower) and the spire atop it began. The Botoner Brothers, William and Adam, who were both former mayors, were responsible for the tower, with their sisters, the Botoner Sisters Mary and Anne paying for the Spire. It was completed by 1450 and the top of the spire is a stunning 295 feet tall. A spiral staircase runs from the base up to the top of the tower section, and there are a few rooms you can explore on the way up, including a great view down inside the tower to the large Bells which still ring out across the city.

Between the towers completion in 1394, and the beginning of work on the spire in 1433, other parts of the Cathedral began to take shape, with the Nave and Aisles being added. 1450, not only notable for the completion of the Spire, also heralded a visit to the city by King Henry VI (1421 – 1471).

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Almost 300 feet later, you can gaze out across the city of Coventry, with the famous Holy Trinity Church across the road dominating the skyline. Other views including the surviving medieval buildings around the city, such as the Guildhall across the Street from St Michael’s, and in the distance, the city of Birmingham. Coventry used to be one of the most historic cities in the country, but the raid that destroyed the Cathedral did the same to much of the City Centre, leading to many new modern developments, but there are a number of places around the city where its stunning historical gems shine through. Its amazing being this high up, and before we visited we had no idea we could get this far up the Cathedral Tower, although we were aware of the sad history surrounding it. It stands as a beacon of hope rising high above the ruins below.

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From the Tower you can also see far down into the ruined shell of the rest of the building, which is a very sad sight, yet inspiring at the same time. You can see the bases of the columns along the central aisle leading through the Nave, with the East wall at the far end. There is no glass left in the frame, so sadly I can’t talk about what must have been beautiful Stained Glass from centuries ago.

If you look to the right, just before the ruined section jutting out, you will see a green roof. This sits over the top of the Haigh Chapel, also known as the South Porch. It has been restored and dates back to the 14th century, and is available to visit. Also, a figure of Christ stands on the left of the East section of the building, and there is an entrance to the Crypt just before the connection with the new building.

My favourite story about the Cathedral is that, after the bombing, a stonemason called Jock Forbes found two of the wooden beams that previously held up the roof, lying on the floor in the shape of a cross. He tied them together and a replica of this cross sits on the altar of the Cathedral at the East End which you can spot in the picture above. Over 160 were subsequently made from the ruins, and one of these was sent to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, Germany, which suffered the same fate as Coventry Cathedral. The Kaiser Church mirrors Coventry, as the ruins of the original are kept alongside the new as a Memorial. I think that Coventry as a name has not faired so well in conflict, as a HMS Coventry fought in the Falklands War against Argentina after they invaded the Falkland Islands, and was sadly sunk. It did however bear a cross of nails, as have all ships named Coventry since.

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Earlier I promised an aerial view of the new Cathedral, and here it is, and it looks stunning. The fact that the stone matches the original building is a fantastic feature, and it really does look like an extension. The main entrance is underneath the green canopy which connects to the two Cathedrals, and the tall fan like structure on the left of the New Cathedral is the Chapel of Unity, topped with a green dome. In the centre of the picture the Cathedral spire is visible, and this is the one that was placed by helicopter.

Looking along the left side of the building, the “Tablets of the World” extend most of the way towards the far end inside, towards the low square refectory. The canopy section at the front acts as a large porch, with one Cathedral on either side, and features a set of steps leading up to the two buildings, called St Michael’s Steps.

Descending from the tower, this is the view you get inside the shell of the original Cathedral. The Cross at the East End sits opposite us, and the detail on the walls still survives today, although all the window arches are empty. Winston Churchill visited the city in September 1941, and walked through the Cathedral, which still had piles of rubble within. The main frame hasn’t changed since the 1940’s, and has been lovingly preserved.

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Turning round to look back, we gazed in awe up at the spire of St Michael’s, with the spire of Holy Trinity Church in the background. Its truly miraculous that both of these iconic towers survived the blitz, and indeed so did a 3rd, although the Church attached to it, Christ Church, was destroyed. Sadly it was the Churches second destruction as it had been rebuilt once already. It’s so strange seeing the interior walls illuminated by the sunlight, and it really made us pause to reflect.

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Moving into the Porch, the imposing entrance window of the new Cathedral greets you, and it’s stunning in design. Designed by John Hutton (1906 – 1978) the Screen features 66 figures of Saints and Angels which took an incredible 10 years to create. The area leading down into the porch from the original Cathedral is called the Queens Steps, presumably after Elizabeth II.

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There are many statues located around the city, and one of these is called “Victory of the Devil” pictured above. This was designed by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880 – 1959, British Sculptor), showing the cities defiance to evil.

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You do have to pay to enter the new Cathedral unless you are coming for prayer, and it was a little steep for us that day but I got this picture from the main entrance, and it shows the stunning interior created since the originals destruction. A font is located just down and to the right, with the main choir at the end of the hall, surrounded by the towering Pipe Organ, created in 1962 by Harrison and Harrison (British Company from Durham, established in 1861). The Tablets of the World that I mentioned earlier are also visible, on the lower part of the left hand wall. These 10 Stone Tablets talk about God and faith, and continue down the right hand wall.

There are many parts of the New Cathedral that are impressive, but its more than that, so as this picture looks towards the main section of the New Cathedral, we look to the future, and hope that this kind of sad yet inspiring story is not repeated in this country. You can find out more about Coventry in my dedicated post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 7 – Holy & Undivided Trinity, Carlisle

In the border city of Carlisle, one landmark stands out above all others, sat on a hill in the city centre. The Cathedral Church of the Holy & Undivided Trinity is a stunning building in the middle of the historic city centre, and there is plenty to discover inside…

Holy & Undivided Trinity:

Location: Carlisle, City of Carlisle District, Cumbria (historically Cumberland), England

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: circa 1122

Architect: Various

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Our story begins back in 1122 as it was around this time that the building was founded as an Augustinian Priory, built out of Red Sandstone.  Incidentally this is quite interesting, as it is one of only four such buildings that would be upgraded to Cathedrals. The building was begun by a man named Aethelwold (died 1156), and after the Church was upgraded to Cathedral status a decade later, he became the first Bishop of Carlisle, from 1133 to 1153.

100 years later the Cathedral was surrounded by two friaries, a Dominican Friary and a Franciscan Friary, which were both founded slightly further out in what would become the City Centre, near the West Coast Main Line station today. During 1307 Edward I (1239 – 1307) visited the Cathedral, and because of this the building received a refurbishment over the next century. Whilst the Cathedral has survived the main centuries from its conception to the modern day, the friaries were not so lucky, and after King Henry VIII pursued the Dissolution of the Monasteries from around 1536, the friaries ceased to have any function, and the Cathedral stood alone. As I said the Cathedral survived through many centuries, but it lost an important section of itself when the English Civil War hit Carlisle between 1642 and 1651. The Castle and City Walls were in need of repair, and the easiest way to do this was to remove stone from the Cathedral to patch up the other defences. The original Nave of the building, shown at the back of this picture, was once much longer, but a large portion of it was demolished for the stone by the Scottish Presbyterian Army. If you look at the stone work on the side of the surviving Nave as well you can tell that it has been patched up with new materials, presumably where extra stonework was taken.

Various restorations of the Cathedral have followed, including between 1853 and 1870 when Ewan Christian (1814 – 1895, British Architect, who also designed the National Portrait Gallery in London) helped to restore the building.

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The main entrance to the Cathedral is at the end of the South Transept, and as you walk in the shop/information office is directly to your right. Moving straight ahead you will enter the space between the Transepts, with the Tower high above. Supposedly the tower once had a spire, which blew down at some point before 1420. If you turn to the left, this is the view that greets you. The Nave is a stunning area of the Cathedral, and the place where I shall start our virtual tour.

It contains a font in the centre, and the beautiful West Window behind it. This is one of a number of windows around the Cathedral designed by John Hardman, a manufacturer of Stained Glass from Birmingham, which also includes the East Window which we shall get to in a minute.

A chandelier hangs from the ceiling, and this area happens to be the shortest Nave of any Cathedral in England. Usually the Nave is the main portion of the Church, but as noted above this was demolished for other uses, leaving the Chancel as the more prominent part of the building. Within the Nave there is a Chapel of the Border Regiment, set into one of the two bays that remain, one on either side.

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Moving towards the Chancel, this is the view you see as you enter the Cathedral, looking from the South Transept into the North. It’s most notable feature is the Tait Memorial Window , which features 5 of the 7 daughters of Dean Archibald Campbell Tait. Sadly they all died within 33 days from March to April in 1856, all aged under 11, of an infection. The 2 other children survived and moved with their parents to London when the Dean became the Bishop of London. They are actually buried in Stanwix Graveyard elsewhere in Carlisle, where a memorial also sits.

Beneath the window is the Bishops Court, which was a miniature courtroom, with the central panels behind the Altar and the pews on either side for people attending the session. The main panels are called the Brougham Triptych, which was built in 1520, in the Belgian city of Antwerp, and it contains the mark of the Antwerp Guild of Woodcarvers. It is called the Brougham Triptych as it previously inhabited St Wilfred’s Chapel in Brougham, after it was bought by Baron Brougham from a church in Cologne in the 1840’s. At some point it moved to Carlisle. A Triptych is made up of three carved panels together, as shown above.

These types of Court are also known as a “Consistory Court” and were established by King William I (1028 – 1087, AKA William the Conqueror) and this is a great example of the court. Others exists in the other Diocese’s around the country, with the most complete example being in Chester Cathedral, in the city of Chester. Whilst today these courts mainly discuss matters relating to the buildings themselves and facilities contained within, they can take members of the Church below the rank of Bishop to court for misconduct.

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The Chancel is by far the most impressive part of the Cathedral, and the largest. It stretches all the way up to the East Window at the far end, which sits above the main altar. A fire badly damaged the building in 1292, and the window dates to the rebuild afterwards, from around 1350. It is a staggering 50 feet tall, and you can tell by the size of the people stood below how large it looks. As it happens, it is the largest such window in the whole of England, and sits 26 feet wide. There are two main sections of Glass, with the top half being original glass, showing the Last Judgement of Christ, with the lower portion showing the Lift of Christ. This portion was built Hardman & Co (John Hardman), around 1861, in memory of Bishop Hugh Percy (1784 – 1856, Bishop of Rochester and Carlisle).

The area at the front of the picture is the Choir, which was installed before at least 1545, with space for six chorus boys. This has been expanded to include space for 16 male and 16 female choristers, along with 6 clerks. The beautiful wooden sections are from the aforementioned 1545, but the actual choir of singers dates back to 1133, when there were 4 laymen and 6 male choristers. A laymen is a “non-ordained member of a Church”.

The Choir area was built in the 13th century, and damaged by the subsequent fire leading to a rebuild from 1322 until 1350. On the back of the wooden stalls are a series of painted panels, depicting various religious scenes. The Labours of the Months, 12 scenes depicting different labours from the 12 months of the years, are carved into the capitals of 12/14 pillars in the Choir area. A capital is a carved section at the top of the pillar. You can see a slideshow of the 12 pictures here.

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Turning to look back at the far end of the Choir, the stunning wooden spires above the 46 seats are visible, beneath the impressive Cathedral Organ. Whilst the earliest records for a physical Organ date back to 1571, an actual Organist wasn’t employed until 1650 when a man named Thomas Southick was hired.

The current Organ was built in 1856, by Henry Willis (1821 – 1901, British Organ builder from London) and it was a revolutionary design at the time. It was later enlarged in 1875, and again in 1906. I am unsure of it’s original position within the building, but it was moved here in 1930. It has been rebuilt twice since then, first in 1962 by J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd, a British firm from 1828 established by Joseph William Walker, and again in 1997 when David Wells gave it a more Victorian tone.

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Our favourite part of the Cathedral is the ceiling, above the Chancel, Choir, East Window and main Altar. It’s a masterpiece and one of the most colourful ceilings we have seen inside a religious building, which are usually just wood or stone.

The structure of timbers was erected around 1400, after the fire that destroyed many of the previous wooden timbers. The patterns on it are much newer however, and were only added between 1853 and 1856, by an artist called Owen Jones (1809 – 1874). It was repainted in 1970, and it looks stunning, and it really stands out so that you can see every detail. Its amazing how much detail has gone into each panel, and although they all look the same they come together to create a fantastic pattern.

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This is a close up view of the Chancel, with the chairs on either side. Just behind where I am standing is the Bishops Throne, with a golden Eagle Lectern in front of it. The sun shines brilliantly through the East Window, illuminating this whole section of the building. Its humbling entering the Chancel, as although Carlisle Cathedral is the 2nd smallest of the ancient Cathedrals around England (after Christ Church in Oxford) it has one of the most amazing views entering this area of the Cathedral.

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Located in the North and South Aisles of the Choir, behind the wooden stalls, are a number of tombs, with perfectly sculpted figures adorning the tops of them. This particular one is for Francis Close (1797 – 1882), who was the Dean of the Cathedral for 25 years between 1856 and 1881. The statue on top is made out of Marble, and looks almost saintly, and it was glowing slightly earlier in the sunlight.

Carlisle Cathedral is a beautiful building, to go with a beautiful and historic city. You can find out more about the Cathedral by visiting it’s official website here, and you can explore the city itself in my dedicated post here. There is a certain feature on the outside of the building which caught our eye, a grotesque on the side of the outer wall in a rather odd shape, and Gemma will tell you more in her post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 6 – St John’s, Brecon

We have so far been inside two fantastic Cathedrals in Wales, and the first of these was in Powys, Mid Wales, in the charming town of Brecon…

St John’s:

Location: Brecon, Powys, Wales

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church in Wales

Constructed: circa 1215

Architect: Dr Geoff Worsley

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Brecon Cathedral is situated in the beautiful rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons National Park in the heart of Wales, just outside the pleasant town of Brecon. The present building dates back to 1215, when it was rebuilt when King John (1166 – 1216) was King of England and Wales. A few previous Churches had existed on the site, starting with the Celtic Church sometime after the 5th Century when Celtic Christian was prevalent across Celtic nations, and Wales is one of the ancient ones. This was followed by a new Church built after 1093, by Bernard de Neufmarche (1050 – 1125, who conquered the Kingdom of Brycheiniog, which Brecon is a part, between 1088 and 1095) and dedicated to King John.

The Church eventually became a Priory, but after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) between 1536 and 1541, it became the Parish Church. It was part of a wider selection of buildings, which included the main Church pictured. The other buildings do still exists, but fulfill a variety of functions today, from a Cathedral Clergy to the Heritage Centre and Restaurant.

In the 1860’s, after some work in 1836, the building was restored following a period of decay, and the tower was strengthened later in 1914. The building became a Cathedral in 1920, after the Church of England was disestablished in Wales, leading to the creation of the Church in Wales which still operates today. Brecon is the head of the Diocese covering Swansea and Brecon, since it’s creation in 1923.

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This is the central Nave of the building, with the Chancel and the East Window of the Sanctuary visible in the distance. The Central Tower sits high above the Chancel, with the North Transept off to the left, and the South Transept to the right. When we visited they were setting up for a concert, although I can’t remember who was performing, and this involved setting up a stage underneath the tower, with lighting along the aisles. There are no pews in the Nave, just rows of chairs arranged on the beautiful patterned floor which you can see above. Underneath the Tower hangs a wooden cross, which features a figure of Jesus on it.

There are two chapels in the Nave, one off either side of the aisles, with the Corvizors & Tailors Chapel on the left, and the Weavers & Tuckers Chapel on the right. The Font is located just behind where I was stood to take this picture, along with the two West Windows, split between the two portions, which features a Good Shepherd, and the main West Window beneath it.

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This is a close up shot of the East Window from 1882, which features Christ in the very centre, with Mary and St John beneath him to either side, and Mary Magdalene in the centre, pointing up at Christ who has saved her soul. As with many windows in the Cathedral, it is a memorial, and this is one is to the South African War between 1877 and 1879.

A wooden cross hangs from the ceiling underneath the tower, also depicting Jesus.

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Off to the left of Chancel is the Vicar’s Chapel (also called the Havard), which joins on to the North Transept, shown above. It contains rows of pews, with a tall central window set into the far wall. This area acts a War Memorial to the South Wales Borderers (the 24th Regiment of the Foot) and of the Monmouthshire Regiment of 1923. Around the outside of the Chapel are the colours of previous Regiments, dating back centuries.

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Leaving the Chapel then brings you out into the North Transept, shown above. It contains various memorials and more stunning windows, with a curved wooden beam roof that is a thing of beauty. Underneath it is the North Window, which was added in 1903. Designed by Taylor & Clifton, it features three large windows, in memorial to those who died in the Boer War between 1899 and 1902. Various saints and Christ himself are shown across various panes, and you can find out more by following the link near the end of this post.

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This view is looking back from underneath the Central Tower towards the main entrance and the West Windows. A piano sits in the centre of the area beneath the Tower, and the South Transept is off to the left, and joins onto the Vestry and the St Lawrence Chapel.

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I think the roof is one of the most stunning parts of the building, and could almost be an original feature, if it wasn’t for the fact that sadly wood decays over time so it must have been replaced quite a few times over the last few centuries. The ribs are a very intricate design and make me recall some of the design work from the Lord of the Rings, in the Elvish city of Lothlorien, where I think it would fit brilliantly.

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This is a view into the Corvizors and Tailors Chapel, which is the special chapel for two of the Trade Guilds, the Corvizors (which I think was an old Cobbler) and the Tailors. It is now part of the main church, whereas it was once separated when it was inhabited by the guilds. The Chapel on the far side is also a Guild Chapel, for Weavers and Tuckers.

On the far right an arch is visible, and these leads into the North Transept. There are at least 5 impressive Stained Glass Windows in this Chapel, with 2 in the adjacent one. You can find out about the various stained glass windows around the Cathedral by following this link.

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One rather interesting find is shown above, and is called the “Games Monument” from around 1555, and rather than being a monument to a sport, it is a memorial to the Games family of Aberbran. Supposedly there were other figures in the collection but were burned by Oliver Cromwell’s Soldiers. I assume the rest of the figures showed the main figures of the family, and as this figure is female it could be a wife of one of the males, or a daughter.

The Cathedral is a fantastic building, and has kept its charm from centuries past. Brecon itself is a lovely town to visit and you can find out more about it in my dedicated post here.

Faith & The British: Pt 5 – St Mary & St Pauls, Blackburn

There are 6 cathedrals in the Historic County of Lancashire, and I shall be covering 4 of these during these posts. The first of these is in the town of Blackburn…

St Mary the Virgin & St Paul:

Location: Blackburn, Blackburn with Darwen Unitary District, Lancashire, England

Status: Cathedral

Faith: Church of England

Constructed: 1820 – 1977

Architect: John Palmer (1785 – 1846), W. A. Forsyth (Died 1950), Laurence King

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Blackburn Cathedral is a stunning example of architecture over the last few centuries. As you arrive at Blackburn Railway Station you get this view over at the building, and it is arguably the best place to see it from. Between the station and the Cathedral stands the Bus Station, and at the rear of that is a statue of Queen Victoria, the head of which you can just see protruding from the white roof in the lower left hand corner.

Much like St Philips Cathedral in Birmingham, Blackburn Cathedral was originally a Parish Church, which was greatly expanded and enhanced. This has been a site of Christian Worship since at least 596 AD, where supposedly a Romano-British church was left after the Romans withdrawal from Britain. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Blackburn was already established and there was a church here, and evidence points to various dates it must be predate, such as before the reign of Ethelred the Unready (987 – 1016). As the centuries passed by the actual physical building was rebuilt numerous times, in the 14th century it was rebuilt whilst King Edward III was King, and by the 15th century a new Norman Church was present.

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The last Church here was built between 1820 and 1826, by John Palmer, as by 1818 the previous one was in a bad state and needed replacing. It formed a stunning Georgian Building, and was chosen by the Bishop of Manchester, William Temple, as the building that would become the Cathedral. This Church still exists today, and actually makes up the Nave shown above. The rest of the Cathedral was then built around this, starting in 1938, with W. A. Forsyth as the head architect. World War II started just 1 year later, halting building work as resources were geared towards the War. It wouldn’t be until 1950 that construction would get going properly, and a new architect, Laurence King, was hired in 1961 after Forsyth’s death in 1950.

Rising building and material costs after the war had necessitated a rethink on the design, which originally included a much larger Tower, but this was replaced with a Lantern Tower. The Tower contains 56 pieces of coloured glass, and of course the standout feature is the enormous spire, constructed out of aluminium in 1967. Building work was completed in 1967, and the building was ready for business.

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This area is in the centre of the Cathedral, under the Lantern Town, and is called the Sanctuary, where the sections of the building cross each other. In the middle is the Corona, the large metal crown which represents both Suffering and Glory. The thick cables holding it aloft then run all the way up into the Tower.

The stone columns really show up well as you reach here, as more light is getting in and you can see the alternating colours of the stone, arranged in square shapes with four sub columns, one on each of the corners. The Transepts are located either side of the Sanctuary, to the left and to the right.

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Looking up at the ceiling high above, criss crossing arches lined with gold joined the central walls. At the far end is a metal statue of Christ The Worker, up above the main entrance. This area merges seamlessly with the rest of the building, even though this was once a previous Church.

When the Cathedral was built, an undercroft/crypt was built along with an extension to the East, and that still exists, and houses a Cafe and a Gift Shop.

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This beautiful model inside the Cathedral shows with great accuracy how the building looks from the outside. Due to its sheer size and the amount of surrounding buildings, its difficult to get a picture that shows off the whole building from outside, unless you were taking an aerial shot. The main tower is at the front above the door, and you can see the Lantern Tower in the centre, with the many spires around the outer circumference. The spire rises in the centre, and the transepts extend out from either side.

A number of very rare treasures are housed within the Cathedral, including 8 Misericords from the 15th Century which were installed at Whalley Abbey, that were brought here for preservation. A misericord is a wooden shelf on the underside of a folding seat, and ideal for use when you have been stood up for a long time for prayers or hymns. Another treasure is also from the 15th Century, the Pax, a gilt tablet engraved with a picture of Madonna on a crescent moon holding baby Jesus. These were once widespread, but after the reformation many of them were destroyed, leaving only 8 in the whole country. It was hidden in the Cathedral to avoid destruction, and was found in 1820 when preparations were being made to build the new Church.

Blackburn Cathedral is a beautiful example of the architectural quality of religious buildings across the historic county of Lancashire, and you can find out more about the town itself in my dedicated post here.