Where the spirit soars in the rock of ages
Of the several dozen diocesan cathedrals in England, some are just special. Yes, everyone knows St. Paul’s, of course, but for sundry reasons each of these provincial ecclesiastical fortresses merits a place on our top 10 list.
1 YORK MINSTER
Seat of the Archbishop of York, York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps, and home to the greatest display of medieval stained glass in Britain. With high clerestory windows, it’s also refreshingly light. www.yorkminster.org
2 WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL
Burial place of Saxon kings (and Jane Austen), Winchester has the longest nave of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. Among the most historic of English cathedrals, Winchester also has one of the prettiest of settings. www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk
3 DURHAM CATHEDRAL
Among the most impressive cathedrals viewed from a distance, Durham is one of the most important examples of Norman architecture in the world. Heavy, stolid and a World Heritage site for good reason. www.durhamcathedral.org.uk
4 PETERBOROUGH CATHEDRAL
Peterborough’s 12th-century Early English dramatic West Front is uniquely impressive. So is the painted wooden ceiling that fills its nave; among the most important in Europe. An under-valued gem of a cathedral. www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk
5 CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL
Mother church of the Anglican communion and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. With its roots in the 6th century, the magnificent church of today was built in the 1070s. Still marked is the scene of Becket’s martyrdom. www.canterbury-cathedral.org
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6 SALISBURY CATHEDRAL
With the tallest cathedral spire in the country (at 404 feet) and the largest close, 14th-century Salisbury Cathedral is unusual in having been built in a single generation. The cathedral of the soaring spaces.
7 LINCOLN CATHEDRAL
The magnificent West Front gives Lincoln its most distinguishing feature. Begun in 1072, however, England’s third largest cathedral is noted for its bells, and for its slightly eclectic architectural style.
8 WELLS CATHEDRAL
Pretty Wells Cathedral sits in England’s smallest cathedral city. Known for its beautiful Early English façade and its extraordinary collection of original (or nearly) stained glass, Wells always amazes visitors.
9 NORWICH CATHEDRAL
More than 1,000 unique bosses decorate the vaulting that leads the heart toward its 315 foot spire. Faced with bright limestone brought from Caen, Norwich also features the only two-story cloister in Britain.
10 WORCESTER CATHEDRAL
A singular collection of 14th-century misericords and the tomb of King John highlight this imposing 13th-century cathedral. Like so many other cathedrals, though, its roots extend back another millennium.