Cathedrals in Britain

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

At the midpoint of my list of #cathedrals to visit, excluding the 20 in London, I began to note some consistency. When a cathedral is smaller, it was typically a parish church that was elevated to cathedral status. The large majestic structures were purpose-built to be the bishop's seat.

For example, the cathedrals of St Thomas of Canterbury and St John the Evangelist, both in #Portsmouth, are still parish churches. St Thomas, Church of England, has gradually seen its footprint expand as it became the #CathedraloftheSea and was named a cathedral in 1927, having been first built as a parish church in 1188 in the Old Port area.

#PortsmouthCathedral

A model of the Portsmouth Cathedral showing the stages of its expansion.

The Catholic Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist is a large parish church near the port (close to the nautical museum with the #MaryRose and #HMSVictory) and serving a diverse community. St John's was built as a cathedral in 1882, so is purpose built.

St John's in Portsmouth

Another good example of an elevated church is #LeicesterCathedral. Dedicated to St Martin with construction starting soon after the Norman Conquest, it was made a cathedral in 1927. It is the burial place of King #RichardIII. A small footprint and a single central spire, it sits near a park close to the city center.

#LeicesterCathedral

Purpose-built cathedrals include the very large and well known, typically being founded as abbeys or monasteries, bracketing the Norman Conquest. Some achieved being named a cathedral at the Dissolution, with Henry VIII granting status. #Worcester, #Ely and #Salisbury are all huge beautiful cathedrals with high vaults, long naves and tall towers and set near the center of cities. They all have long histories with lists of bishops going back centuries.

#WorcesterCathedral

#ElyCathedral

#SalisburyCathedral

Reflecting back to the 20 churches in London, all 14 non-purpose-built had formerly been Anglican parish churches, which, through redundancy, were sold to other sects to be used for their worship. If a sufficiently large congregation merited a bishop, it became a cathedral.

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