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STM Events : Visit UK : History & Culture : Historical Sites & Cathedrals of England

Historical Sites and Cathedrals of Southern England

Rochester Cathedral

Although it is overshadowed by its near neighbour Rochester Castle, the cathedral has a fascinating history.

Second only to Canterbury in age (the city was established in 604) for all its early history, the cathedral as we see it is mostly 12th century.

The west door is a notable example of Romanesque sculpture. Rochester became an important pilgrimage centre in the 13th century when William of Perth, a Scot on his way to the Holy Land, was murdered there, and miracles were reported at his tomb.

Canterbury Cathedral

Even if Thomas Becket had chosen somewhere else to earn his martyr's crown, Canterbury would still deserve attention for its role in the spread of Christianity throughout England.

It was here that St. Augustine began the conversion of the pagan islanders in 597.

St Paul's Cathedral

Quite a "modern" church, although the location has a history extending back to 604 A.D.

The first Norman cathedral on this site was begun in the 11th century, and it took two centuries to finish. The huge building fell into disrepair and became a market place and pedestrian through road so in the 17th century Inigo Jones was commissioned to rebuild it, but the Civil War put a halt to that

Charles II asked the young Christopher Wren to draw up plans for remodelling, but before any work was done, the entire structure was burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1665.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is a Gothic monastery church in London that is the traditional place of coronation and burial for English monarchs. Neither a cathedral nor a parish church, Westminster Abbey is a place of worship owned by the royal family.

Located next to the Houses of Parliament in the heart of London, Westminster Abbey is a must-see for any London visitor. With its oldest parts dating to the year 1050, the Abbey contains some of the most glorious medieval architecture in London.

Because of its royal connections, it was spared King Henry VIII's general assault on monastic buildings during the Reformation.

Southwark Cathedral

Formerly known as St. Mary Overie ("over the river"), Southwark only became a cathedral in 1905. The church and the area around it have what might charitably be called a colourful history. Founded in Saxon times, it passed to the Augustinian order in 1106. The chancel and retrochoir were rebuilt after a fire in 1212 and are rare medieval survivors in London.

The area around Southwark was governed by the Bishops of Winchester in the Middle Ages as a private kingdom. Here they controlled a prison called the Clink, now the name for prisons the world over.

It hosted the most infamous red-light district in greater London and was a major source of income for the bishops. In fact, the ladies employed in the brothels of Southwark were called "the Bishop of Winchester's geese".

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral is one of the most beautiful Anglican cathedrals in the country.

The site was commissioned by Saint Swithun (d. 862), as bishop of Winchester and tutor to young King Alfred, although the present structure, dates mostly from 1097.

Jane Austen is buried here. Also buried in Winchester Cathedral are the bones of many Saxon kings, the remains of the Viking conqueror Canute and his wife, Emma, and the remains of William Rufus (William II), son of William the Conqueror.

The Round Table

Although now known to have been constructed in the 14th Century, and repainted in its present form for King Henry VIII, the table has for centuries been venerated by generations of tourists as the mysterious table of the 'Once and Future King' Arthur.

The names of the 24 knights are written around the edge of the 5.5 metre diameter table, weighing 1200kg, surmounted by King Arthur on his throne.

Arundel Cathedral

This Cathedral is a Victorian Gothic (Catholic) cathedral in French style.

The building of Arundel Cathedral was initiated by Henry, 15th Duke of Norfolk and completed in 1873.

The Duke employed as his architect Joseph Hansom, inventor of the Hansom cab.

While this might seem an odd choice, Hansom carried out his brief brilliantly and created a soaring church faced with Bath stone.

Salisbury Cathedral

The awesome sight of Salisbury Cathedral spire never fails to impress: soaring a breathtaking 123 metres (404 feet) into the sky, it is visible from every direction.

It dominates the landscape for many miles around.

Salisbury is unique amongst medieval English cathedrals, built within one century with no substantial later additions.

It is arguably the finest example of the Early English Gothic style of architecture in Britain.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is a powerful reminder of the once-great peoples of the late Stone and Bronze Ages. Erected between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC, a number of the stones were carried hundreds of miles over land and sea, while antlers and bones were used to dig the pits that hold the stones.

Modern techniques in archaeology, and the series of recent digs, have helped to shape new theories about the stones, but their ultimate purpose remains a fascinating and enduring mystery.

Wells Cathedral

The first church was built near the wells in 705 and the present Cathedral was begun in 1180.

It is one of the most impressive of the English Cathedrals and has survived eight centuries with all its associated buildings still around it ­ the Chapter House, Vicars’ Hall, the cloisters and the unique Vicars’ Close ­ all treasures from the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Today the Cathedral still dominates the attractive small city of Wells, in the heart of Somerset.

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral dating mostly from the 13th and 14th centuries. It is notable for its stout Norman towers, its Gothic west front covered in weathered sculptures, and its beautiful nave, which boasts the longest unbroken Gothic ceiling in the world.

Exeter Cathedral is considered the finest surviving example of Decorated Gothic, a form of architecture that flourished in England from 1270 to 1369.

The Cathedrals of England calls it "the Decorated cathedral par excellence." Frommer's England agrees, adding that Exeter Cathedral is simply "one of the prettiest churches anywhere."

Bath Abbey

A church built by a dream, in this case the dreamer was Oliver King, Bishop of Bath and Wells and Secretary to Henry VII.

It seems the good bishop had a dream of angels climbing a ladder, and a voice said to him, "Let a King restore the church". Accordingly, he had the Norman abbey church pulled down and in 1499 work began on a new cathedral.

The chancel and side aisles had been vaulted by the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the tower crossing was completed under Elizabeth, but the nave was not finished until Victorian times - the resulting fan vaulting creates a superb rhythmic unity. 

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