The cathedrals in the United Kingdom are a tribute not only to the religious inspiration that created such majestic monuments to faith, but also to the brilliant architecture of the individual buildings, and the history that has preserved them. A trip to the British Isles would be incomplete without a visit to these magnificent buildings.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Sir Christopher Wren, the master architect of 17th century England, designed St Paul’s Cathedral on sanctified ground; a church dedicated to St Paul had been present at that location for more than 1400 years. Wren’s baroque cathedral was built to replace the previous version which was destroyed in 1666 in London’s Great Fire. Visitors can climb to the 365-foot dome (a mere 271 steps to the top) in order to enjoy a panoramic view of downtown London. Once you descend again, you can travel to the cathedral’s underground crypt, where naval hero Admiral Lord Nelson, war hero the Duke of Wellington, and, fittingly enough, Christopher Wren, are buried.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
Scotland’s St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh has been central to the Scottish city’s spiritual life since the 13th century, although a place of worship has been located on the cathedral’s site for more than 900 years. St. Giles has been added to, renovated, and changed over the years, but what it may lack in uniformity, it makes up for in appeal, particularly its high spire and stained glass windows.
St. David’s Cathedral
St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, Wales is named for the patron saint of the Welsh, and was located on a site that was prominent in the country even before construction on the building began in 1181. Its beginnings in the small town of the same name were not auspicious; soon after construction ended, the cathedral was damaged by earthquakes, the collapse of a central tower, and Oliver Cromwell, when it was largely destroyed. In the late 18th century, restoration got underway.
Located in Winchester in southern England, Winchester Cathedral pre-dates the Norman Conquest of 1066, to a time when England was ruled by Anglo-Saxon monarchs. But even after the Normans defeated the Anglo-Saxons, the cathedral retained its prominence. It owns the bragging rights for having the largest nave and overall length of any of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals. Jane Austen’s funeral was held here in 1817, and she’s buried here, but her memorial stone doesn’t refer to the author’s novels because they weren’t published while she was alive. The cathedral’s Triforium Gallery has precious works of art on display, along with the 12-century Winchester Bible. The song, Winchester Cathedral, has nothing to do with the cathedral except the name, but it’s a quirk of British pop history that a 1960s song would pay musical tribute to a 1500-year old cathedral.