Cathedrals Crowned – Which is England’s greatest?

This page sees England’s greatest cathedrals crowned by scoring each next to a number of categories. Most cathedrals claim to have some feature that surpasses that of all others, for example the longest nave, oldest stained glass or largest number of spires. A lot of people also have a favourite cathedral often chosen for very personal or subjective opinions.

Gloucester cathedral cloisters - one of the earliest appearances of fan vaulting. (copyright Rachel Arnold)

I will settle these claims and personal favourites, once and for all, by assessing each cathedral in turn and giving it a final score based on the following factors:

  • Architecture -How impressive, innovative or unusual the building is
  • Art and Artefacts – The significance or rarity of any artefacts or artworks in the cathedral
  • Saintly stories – How impressive, amusing or unusual the associated saint is, including miracles performed and what they are patron of
  • Claims to fame – Is there any famous people or stories associated with the cathedral
  • Age – The date from which is was first built

I will score each category out of 10, then add the age to that to get a total. Eventually we will find a winner and see England’s greatest cathedrals crowned.

What is a Cathedral?

Cathedrals were truly built to the glory of God and as a celebration of popular religion. Visitors flock from far and wide to marvel at their grandeur and beauty. But what makes a cathedral a cathedral? The word ‘cathedral’ comes from the Latin ‘cathedra’ which means ‘chair’ and referred to the seat that a bishop sat in the early Christian basilica. This word eventually became synonymous with the ‘seat’ of the Bishop or the Bishopric. A Bishop used the cathedral as his base to govern over the Bishopric.

The Basilica of St Denis and the Notre Dame de Paris are the building blocks for the gothic giants that typify our English cathedrals today. This style developed in the twelfth century in France and churches and cathedrals in England followed suit.

Since then cathedrals have endured at the centre of city life. Although for some people, they may not play a huge role religiously, they still have symbolic and sentimental importance. Just remember the overwhelming support from the public when the Notre Dame de Paris was engulfed in flames, on 15 April 2019.

To me they represent the ancient history and culture of our country built in stone. The also represent continuity and a link to the past. It will be a pleasure to explore them and think about each in detail.

Peterborough cathedral has one of the most distinctive west fronts. (source: wiki-commons).

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