“ Salisbury Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral located in Salisbury, England. The cathedral has the tallest church spire in the UK, the largest cloister in England, and one of the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta. Building commenced when the bishopric was moved to Salisbury from Old Sarum in 1220 during the tenure of Richard Poore. Due to the high water table in the new location, the cathedral was built on only four feet of foundations, and by 1258 the nave, transepts and choir were complete. The west front was ready by 1265. The cloisters and chapter house were completed around 1280. Because the cathedral was built in only 38 years, Salisbury Cathedral has a single consistent architectural style, Early English Gothic. „
Cathedrals are basically just really grandiose churches fit for a bishop, and, even if you cannot appreciate the spiritual side of things (as a cynical atheist such as myself sadly cannot), the architecture and internal splendour alone should be aesthetically and historically pleasing enough to make for an enthralling visit if nothing else. One such fine example is Salisbury Cathedral, a must if you find yourself sightseeing in Salisbury. The cathedral is located in the centre of the historical city where there isn't really any convenient parking so to get there you will have to find your way in to the city before walking with all the usual methods available: driving in and parking at the main city centre car parks (there are long and short stay ones available on Old George Mall or Crane Street); park and ride (Wilton (A36), Beehive (A345), London Road (A30), Petersfinger (A36) and Britford (A338)); buses or coaches, and the train in to Salisbury station which is about a 10 minute walk away. The cathedral is well signposted so you can't miss it, and Salisbury is a lovely city to walk around with the River Avon and River Nadder flowing through it as you make your way to The Close where the cathedral is located.
==History of the Cathedral==
By 1092 the final construction of a Norman Cathedral at Old Sarum was complete. In 1220 AD Bishop Richard Poore ordered a new cathedral to be built in its place calling upon his trusty architect Elias de Derham. Apparently construction for such monstrous buildings normally takes multiple generations but this new Salisbury Cathedral took a mere 38 years to complete and so has one of the most consistent styles of architectures seen in a cathedral. A few additions were tacked on by the 14th Century - the largest Cloister in England and the Chapter House - but the biggest feat was to extend the spire to 404 feet making it the tallest medieval structure not just in England but in the world. The Bishop, probably in an X-Factor style audition, amassed a group of priests, clerks and canons to serve the cathedral and gave them an acre and a half of land surrounding the cathedral, aka The Close, for houses to be built for their residences. He himself, in true style, built himself a whole Bishop's Palace (utilised today as the Cathedral School) as obviously he deserved to live in splendour.
You first spot the cathedral as you enter The Close, which itself is architecturally very attractive with some wonderfully old looking houses surrounding a nice green. The cathedral itself is also surrounded by a lot of open green space with some well-placed trees and surreal looking bronze and marble statues about (modern art, eh?) and when the sun is shining there's an incredibly peaceful atmosphere even with hundreds of people milling about. The architecture of the cathedral is stunning with the dramatic spire shooting high into the sky, some beautiful stained glass windows plus a wonderful symmetry to the design with the wall carvings depicting many figures such as saints and archangels etc. Entry to the cathedral is free but there is a "Donations Desk" standing firmly between you and the entrance hinting on a moral level that providing some kind of monetary offering before being granted entry is a valid and encouraged option. I declined purely out of principle for all the poor souls from the Middle Ages that had to pay tithes to the churches rather unfairly. Or maybe I'm just stingy and mean, but either way I strolled in guilt free. Well, if the outside looked amazing it's nothing compared to the grandeur inside...
If you come as part of a group you can pre-book a guided tour and the tower tour, but if you turn up spontaneously as far as I can tell you're left to your own devices and can try to do either a guided tour and/or tower tour but would be very much dependent on luck as to whether you can squeeze in. It sounds like there are a lot of expert guides on hand with specialities in architecture, stained glass, embroidery plus art & sculptures which you can request for your guided tour, at a suggested cost of £5.50 / £2.50 depending on age or you can simply ask for an introductory talk before flying the nest. As for the tower tour, this is £10 for adults, £8 for children/senior citizens and a family ticket is £27 (2 adults + 3 children) but the tour lasts 90 minutes and involves 13th century staircases with no handrails in certain places so is not for the faint hearted and you must be committed for this tour. Unfortunately, we couldn't get on a tower tour as we came at the wrong time and didn't have time to stick around so if you are planning a visit to Salisbury Cathedral instead of just randomly turning up then I'd advise pre-booking some stuff if you're interested.
Still, even without access to the tours there is plenty to see and admire within the cathedral and there are lots of leaflets plus a guide book to buy if you wish to learn a lot more about the history of the place. The view down the cathedral and sheer size of the stained glass windows makes you realise just how big the cathedral is, especially compared to piddly little village churches, and the opulence is awe-inspiring. There is a suggested route but I think you can be a rebel and defy it if you so choose without bringing about the apocalypse. Besides all the original features of the cathedral to look out for (including tombs; monuments of long since passed bishops and earls and other significant dead people; intimate chapels; a font; the medieval clock from 1386 that still works, and the quire which has 106 stalls for the assortment of vicars and canons plus the pipes of the Willis Organ that was installed in 1876) there are a lot of attractions added for tourists including the Memorial Glass Prism created by Laurence Whistler in memory of his tragically war-lost brother, artist Rex Whistler; some models of the cathedral, plus many similar sculptures to the ones outside from Helaine Blumenfeld's "Messenger of the Spirit" exhibition (although I believe this exhibition has now run its course so all the sculptures have probably disappeared in a puff of smoke by now which is a shame as despite not understanding a jot what I was looking at even with a guide I could tell they were skilfully made).
So it looks like the whole cathedral is fair game apart from the vestry, but beware there are nuns and monks lurking around every corner so god fearing people should always be on their best behaviour, and best not start any religion v. atheism conversations while you're in the cathedral as you may find yourself engaged in an awkward silence with a perturbed nun. You are allowed to take photographs apart from when there is a service going on and in the Chapter House where the final star attraction waits for you, but before entering the Chapter House you should also make sure you spotted the hidden creatures hiding around - the Monkey (above the vestry ready to throw nuts at anyone about to enter), the Cricket (on an arm rest in the Quire stalls) and Cat (some medieval graffiti on a plinth outside the Cloisters). As you walk to the Chapter House you will pass Britain's largest cloisters designed for reading and meditation which would be a boring patch of grass if it weren't for the trees and beautiful surrounding walls. Anyway on to the Chapter House where, with baited-breath you will discover none other than...
...the Magna Carta! Housed within is in fact one of four surviving copies of said Magna Carta (Great Charter) as sealed by King John in 1215. You can't get too close to it to study the text and material all for obvious reasons as it is encased in protective glass but it was written in beautiful handwriting that has been preserved magnificently on vellum, but unless you are scholarly and have an expert understanding in Latin you won't be reading it anytime soon. Thankfully though a translation is on hand in many languages via leaflets and information boards but despite its massive historical significance for democracy and overwhelming fame it is actually a very dull document bogged down with legal jargon so I'd recommend just an extract and not trying to read the whole thing, but hey, how do I know what people will find interesting? Even if the document itself isn't that interesting it is hard not to be in awe of something so powerful, so if you can linger a while despite the pulsing crowds you can also take in the magnificent medieval frieze around the walls depicting scenes from the Old Testament.
* Once you've finished you will come back through the restaurant which has a nice glass roof which lets a lot of light in and throughout the day serves up self-service homemade food with cakes and pastries, sandwiches, rolls, paninis plus hot and cold drinks as well as proper hot lunches including homemade soups. The shop closes between 5pm and 5:30pm depending on the time of year so the last thing you can get is afternoon tea.
* There are two sets of toilets available including disabled toilets - one in the restaurant and one beyond the Chapter House at the corner of the Cloisters.
* There is an information point just inside the entrance.
* There is also a gift shop just by the restaurant which is slightly religion oriented as you'd probably expect with an assortment of books, postcards, CDs, jewellery, choir recordings, plus some good stuff on the Magna Carta so probably worth a look around if only for the confectionary.
So there you have it - religious or not Salisbury Cathedral is a remarkable place to visit as the architecture and splendour is a marvel, and I'm sure this is also a powerful place to come if you are in fact religious too, but there is a small hint of a few tourist trappings which may slightly detract from the original air of the place, but not too much (I'm sure the tourists crawling about the place have a far worse impact whipping their cameras out at every opportunity). It has a wonderful history to it that you can learn about from a guided tour if you are lucky enough, but the guide book is sufficient of you cannot. The tower tour sounds a treat but is a bit tricky to get on so plan ahead if you fancy some vertigo and have more than 90 minutes to spare. You can pay as little or as much as you'd like to visit so if you're in the area I'd thoroughly recommend giving it a visit if you enjoy sites of historical merit or with religious connections.
~Me and My Cathedral~
Salisbury Cathedral has been important to me for as long as I can remember. As a small child I played in the Cathedral Close whilst my mother was at the college nearby. When I foolishly (and unhindered by even the teensiest bit of talent) started to take clarinet lessons at the age of 8, I used to walk through the Close every Saturday morning to get to my lessons. At school we took frequent trips to the cathedral, walking in crocodile through the town with clipboards and worksheets under our arms to spend an hour or two messing around in the city's holiest building. I played (very badly) in concerts in the cathedral as part of the school orchestra, sitting awestruck under the mighty pillars that support the spire, normally so distracted that I forgot to follow the music and just joined in when it felt 'more or less right' or miming when I was totally lost. My school had Christmas carol services there and we'd file in past the enormous Christmas tree that was covered in decorations, to sit on cold seats and sing along with the organ.
At 16 we were told by school to do two weeks 'work experience' and for some bizarre reason that I no longer recall, I volunteered in the cathedral shop and cafeteria, learning from the guides where many of the weirdest and most unusual parts of the cathedral were hidden away. I forget the precise location now but I used to know where to find the memorial stone of the child who died before it was born - a puzzle that one of the guides kept dangling for many days before finally revealing*. In the summer between leaving school and starting university, and then again the summer after, I escaped from my holiday job in town to have my lunch in cathedral close every day, a great way to escape the claustrophobic staff room and get a daily dose of my favourite building.
When I moved away I never forgot my cathedral - it is MINE you see, in every possible sense this building is in my DNA. Every time I approach the city my spirits are lifted by the sight of the spire. Every time I go to the city I have to go back - not necessarily to go inside, but if the doors are open then I can't resist. My parents moved back into the city a few years back, living less than five minutes walk from the cathedral. On our last few visits we've been in the Close at least two or three times every day - usually with my camera in my bag because there's always a new angle to find or something I've not noticed before. At Christmas some friends from Philadelphia were in London and we persuaded them out to Salisbury, tempting them with a visit to Stonehenge first (it's over-rated, honestly!) and then off the Cathedral for afternoon tea and the Magna Carta.
~Every One an Expert~
Almost everybody who lives or has ever lived in Salisbury considers themselves an expert on the beautiful, grey giant at the heart of the city - we all have our favourite bits and the bits we think that nobody else knows. And every one of us swears there's no other religious building in the world that compares to our home cathedral. I've been all over the world to see fabulous mosques and temples and I have to confess that some do actually give Salisbury a run for its money but I still stubbornly refuse to give ground on the supremacy of the cathedral.
I know where to find the brass rubbing with the rabbits and I have my favourite tombs I like to show people. I can never resist the shock factor of taking people through the Cloisters to the Chapter House to see the best remaining original copy of Magna Carta. My American friends nearly fell over with shock after I reassured them that it really was a genuine original copy. The problem is that Magna Carta is presented with such conventional British modesty that visitors are prone to assuming that it must be a facsimile.
From the outside I have my favourite angles for photos - especially from the east end where hardly anyone ever goes, most being lured in by the brash show-off West facade and missing the stepped profile of the Eastern end. I'm amazed to see that the photo that dooyoo have used is taken from the east end which is a very unusual place to shoot the cathedral from (unless you are me). If I show you the West facade I'll point you towards the newest of the statues of an African bishop who was added only a couple of years ago.
~Tough at the Top~
Many years ago as part of a city festival my parents booked tickets for our family to go up the tower. You can't - sadly or not so sadly depending on your head for heights - go up inside the spire but you can get to the top of the tower up a network of wooden staircases. Stop and look at the medieval graffiti left by workmen who built the tower and spire as well as the views. Fortunately this was before I met my husband who hates heights - he would rather eat his own liver than go up the cathedral tower.
~Bow and Arrows and Having the Builders In~
Legend has it that the location of the cathedral was defined by an arrow fired by the town's finest bowman from high up on the hill at Old Sarum. Old Sarum is the Roman hill fort that was home to the Norman Cathedral whose ruins can still be visited. Frankly it's nonsense. Unless the arrow were magically caught by a passing eagle and flown down to the site of the cathedral, there's no wind on earth that could have taken an arrow so far. But that doesn't matter - it's just a nice story.
Construction started in 1220 and was never going to be a straightforward job. The site is on a water meadow so building a massive building on unstable land was always going to be challenging but despite this, just 38 years later the cathedral was consecrated and opened for business, making it surely one of the most effective building programmes in history. The cloisters and chapter house were finished later and work on the tower and spire - the highest in the country and the tallest 14th Century structure in the world - wasn't finished until 1330. Work on a building this big and this old is never finished and every time you visit there's scaffolding up somewhere. The spire was covered for many years, then the West Front was hidden for many more. At the moment the section being worked on is one of the less photo-critical so you can still get lots of great pictures just by choosing your angles.
~A Typical Tour~
Most visitors will enter either through the doors in the West end of the cathedral or, at peak times they may have to queue and go in through the little door to the side of the West facade. When I was at school the cathedral introduced an entrance fee which seemed to throw a lot of visitors into a tizzy of indignation. Considering that even minor stately homes will happily fleece you for a tenner or more, I'm still not sure why people object to paying to visit a world-class cathedral. However, I think that the fee system was changed and now there are just large collection boxes around the building and visitors are encouraged to make a donation of around £5.50 per adult. Once inside you'll find yourself stepping into the nave at the west end. Be prepared to gasp when you see the height of the nave, the tall pillars and the simple grey stone of the building. If like me you tend to go clockwise round buildings, one of the first highlights you'll reach is the clock. Admittedly it doesn't LOOK much like a modern day clock but this is allegedly the oldest clock in the world that's still in working order. It dates back to 1386 and never fails to impress. Heading down the left side of the nave take a look at the tombs you pass and check out the stained glass windows - my favourite is the one dedicated to the armed forces. At the end of the long arm of the nave you'll reach the beautiful wooden pulpit. Head to the middle of the room and if it's open, walk up the centre through the choir stalls, all of them in ornate carved wood. Turn back and carry on down the left size, checking out the displays in the south transept before heading east past several small family chapels. At the east end admire the deep blue stained glass windows which I still think of as 'new' but they've been there since the 1970s.
Walking back down the right side one of my favourite tombs is the Mompesson Tomb with a wealthy man and his wife lying side by side in a brightly painted tomb. Nearby are statues of bishops in their finery. Most visitors won't get into the room where the clerical vestments are stored but this is in this part of the cathedral and is where we used to prepare for performances in the cathedral. On the North transept are a couple more small chapels and this is where you'll find the door to the cloisters, one of my favourite parts of the building.
The grass in the garden in the middle of the cloisters has been a disgrace the last few times I've been but it's still a lovely spot and a good place to catch some great shots of the spire. The chapter house sits off the side of the cloisters and is home to Magna Carta and has a stunning Minton tiled floor. It's probably historical sacrilege for me to admit that I admire the flooring more than the ancient document. After all this sightseeing I recommend to step back into the cloisters and head to the cafe a well deserved drink and a bun and views of the spire through the glass roof. When I worked in the cafe during my work experiences I could barely tell which was coffee and which was tea but I am happy to say that the quality of the drinks has definitely improved over the years.
If you have a longing to take away a fridge magnet, a cathedral pencil sharpener or a CD of choral music, then you'll be spoiled for choice in the shop so I'd encourage visitors to try to put a bit more money in the cathedral's coffers by buying some souvenirs. That done, it's time to leave and if the weather is good, take some time to find a spot on the grass and sit back and just stare at my cathedral. It's really something very special.
*The secret of the child who died before it was born lies in the dates -it was born days before the change from Julian to Gregorian calendars in 1582. The date of death in the new system was earlier than the date of birth in the old.
Salisbury Cathedral dominates the medieval market city of Salisbury at 123m it is the tallest spire in the country. The close (the walled area surrounding the cathedral) is the largest in Engaland at 80 acres and provides a beautiful green space for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors. The cathedral is a fantastic example of early English architecture and is worth a look whether you are interested in architecture/history or religion or just want to potter around an awe inspiring building. The cathedral is surrounded by a large square of grass which, during warmer months is teaming with tourists and people escaping the city for a quiet and relaxing day lying in the sunshine, eating icecreams and enjoying the view. There are often sculptures by local artists situated in the grounds aswell as several resident statues including the Walking Madonna. I would recommend the cathedral and its grounds as a must see for anyone living in/visiting Salisbury.
I have done a sponsored sleepover at Salisbury Cathedrel to raise money for the homeless. It was very good, and raised quite a bit. there were a lot of squaddies taking part, so I know where my sleeping bag was going! Went for a walk to the bell tower and had my ears cleaned out by the row! The bells waigh two tons and have been up there since 1220, when the first stone was laid. On opening the door to go out, there is a noise like a hurricain, or one of those factory air conditioners. The view is brilliant with panoramic views over the close towards Serum Castle, and the River Avon which snakes through the valley below. Got quite chilly during the night. I don't pay to go in. I always say I have come to prey, why should a resident of Salisbury be charged to prey to God? You can light candles for ten pence, and there are some services. Recently there has been a firework show, the tickets (£15) were sold out. Prince Charles has been on a walk about there too. if you look at the spire you will see that it slants towards the left at an angle. This is because the structure is built upon faggotts and bulrushe's, and two ft of gravel, it is sinking. The clock is the oldest in the world (not the UK!) It works by weights and pullie's, and sounds deaffening when the thing chimes. There is also a tomb where Elizabeth Seymour (Jane Seymours sister) is buried. Jane was the third wife of King Henry 8th.
On the journey back from a recent trip to Dorchester, I stopped off at Salisbury Cathedral on the way back into London. It's an imposing building, surrounded with large meticulously maintained green lawns, and boasting the tallest church spire in England. Dating back to 1220, Salisbury Cathedral is one of Britain's finest medieval cathedral, and it has not weathered terrifically well. Around the outside of the building (particularly in the area around the East end of the church) are large signs warning visitors not to go too close, for fear of being hit by falling masonry. Large areas of the cathedral, particularly around the spire, have been heavily buttressed at some later date, and other areas have been strengthened with pieces of scaffolding. Still, despite all this conspicuous work to ensure that the cathedral remains standing, it remains an impressive sight. INSIDE THE CATHEDRAL There is an admission fee to go around Salisbury Cathedral, or rather, there isn't, there is a "suggested donation" that you will be asked for. It's not particularly cheap, either - £3.50 (£2.50 concessions). Nevertheless, the interior of the cathedral really is impressive enough to warrant the entrance fee... sorry, mandatory donation. The visitor entrance to the cathedral takes you through the Cloisters. Salisbury Cathedral's cloisters are very impressive. These were built in the mid-13th century, and are the largest of any cathedral in England. The central Cedars of Lebanon were planted to commemorate Queen Victoria's accession to the throne in 1837. Upon entering the cathedral proper, you find yourself at the West end of the church, and can look along the length of the cathedral towards the High Altar, and the imposing stained glass windows above it. The Gothic architecture is exemplary, and particularly impressive, given that the main part of the cathedral was built in just 38 years, in the 13th century
! On the north side of the nave, at the West end of the church, is probably the most impressive of the cathedral's features, in my opinion. A medieval clock, thought to be the oldest working clock in the world, dating back to 1386, sits ticking away the seconds. The clock was originally designed for a separate belltower near the cathedral, to initiate the striking on the hours, however, in 1792 it was moved into the cathedral itself. The clock has no face, consisting for the most part of huge metal cogs, each slowly rotating. Heading East along the church, you pass several tombs along the nave. In the centre of the church, you can look up into the spire. The spire itself was constructed several years after the building itself was completed. Beneath the spire, on the floor of the church, is an 18th century plaque indicating the extent to which the spire has tilted away from the vertical over the years – some 75 centimetres! To the East of the spire crossing is the quire. Most of the woodwork in the quire dates back to the original 13th century construction, and is very ornate. The High Altar at the end of the quire contains stone from the older, 1092, cathedral just along the road at Old Sarum. To the North of the High Altar is a small Chantry Chapel, constructed for Edmund Audley, who was Bishop of the cathedral in the early 16th century. Much of the original colouring remains, however the figures in the niches of the chapel were destroyed in the Reformation. East of the High Altar can be found the Trinity Chapel. This was the location of the first altar to be consecrated within Salisbury Cathedral, back in 1226. The body of the Bishop who founded Old Sarum's 1092 cathedral, Bishop Osmund, rests beneath a tomb slab in the centre of the Trinity Chapel. The Chapel itself is dedicated to prisoners of conscience around the world, and an Amnesty International symbol sits prominently beside the altar. The East win
dow was designed in 1980 by Gabriel Loire to represent prisoners of conscience around the world. It's a very impressive set of stained-glass windows, predominantly blue in colour, lending a very sombre mood to the place. Returning to the Cloisters, you proceed into the Chapter House of the cathedral. CHAPTER HOUSE The cathedral's imposing octagonal chapter house was originally built in the late 13th century as a meeting place for the governing body of the cathedral. Nowadays, it's used to display the cathedral's treasures, which consist of Church silver and silver gilt, and numerous medieval manuscripts. Probably the most interesting of the manuscripts, however, is one of the four remaining original copies of the Magna Carta. (Two of the other four are in the British Library in London, and the other is in Lincoln Castle, in case you were wondering). The Salisbury Cathedral copy of the document is in particularly good condition, and is displayed in such a way that visitors can actually lean over and read it... well, supposing they can read Latin, that is. King John's seal has not survived, unfortunately, but in other respects, this copy of the document is extremely well preserved. Around the outside of the Chapter House is an impressive frieze depicting the events of the Biblical books of Genesis and Exodus. Immediately recognisable are events such as Noah's Ark and Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Less recognisable perhaps is the surprisingly gruesome scene of Cain murdering Abel. If you ask the spectacularly over-eager staff in the Chapter House, they'll give you a list of which biblical story is depicted in each section of the frieze. GENERAL THOUGHTS Salisbury Cathedral is very easy to get to, and parking near the cathedral is surprisingly plentiful, even on a Bank Holiday weekend... or maybe we were just lucky! The cathedral produces two leaflets for v
isitors; 'Welcome to Salisbury Cathedral' gives you a tour of the cathedral pointing out some of the most interesting features; and 'All Creatures Great & Small' which points out some of the animals hidden within the stonework, carvings and embroidery of the church, which should make the tour a bit more fun for children. If you want to go up the spire, then tours with extremely limited numbers of places run every few hours Monday to Saturday, and it'll cost you an additional £3. Details of this are available on the cathedral's website at http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk. CONCLUSIONS Salisbury Cathedral is a very impressive building, and a fine example of Gothic architecture. Touring the cathedral will take about an hour and a half, and is well worth a visit, even though it is something of a cheek for them to demand an admission fee.
Although it's annoying to be charged an admission fee to visit a cathedral, in this case it's good value as a guided tour is included. The tour highlights many features of the cathedral that would otherwise be overlooked, and makes the visit very interesting. The cathedral building is beautiful. Having been built all at one period, it has a glorious unity. It is also very light: most of the windows are plain, rather than stained, glass. The tour provides some suprising information about it: in particular, the tower and famous spire were built some time after the rest of the cathedral, and their weight has actually bent the pillars supporting them. (The tower isn't about to fall down: the problem was solved about 50 years after they were built by the addition of internal buttresses, but the top of the spire is now about 3 feet from where it should be). Other features include the oldest clock still working (it works by chiming the hours, and does not have a face); an engraved glass prism showing three views of the cathedral; the modern stained glass windows; effigies including that of a standard bearer at the Battle of Bosworth who was over 7 feet tall. One grating moment was the compulsory prayer, broadcast over loudspeakers. The assertion that this reminded visitors the place was more than a tourist attraction was at odds with the compulsory entry charge, and an encouragement to take the opportunity for private prayer if one wished would have been more appropriate. The cathedral does exploit its status as tourist attraction, so must be aware that not all visitors are christians or wish to take part in prayers. The restaurant is worth visiting even if you don't take a tour of the cathedral. The food was excellent, both for lunch and afternoon tea; the surroundings were lovely. Altogether, I would recommend a visit to this cathedral which does fully justify its entry charge.