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The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

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Address: St. Nicholas Churchyard / Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 1PF

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      11.07.2012 20:57
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      A small Cathedral but the most northerly in England.

      St Nicholas Cathedral, New Castle Upon Tyne

      We spent a day in Newcastle exploring the area around the Tyne and Millennium Bridges and across the river to the castle and then this Cathedral.

      This certainly isn't the biggest or most impressive cathedral in our country but it this the principle place of worship in most northerly diocese in England and I can never pass a cathedral or large church or indeed many places of worship without having a look if they are open. I am not in any way religious but I do find all buildings that have a spiritual focus have an aura about them that I can't quite explain and they are also often very beautiful and interesting buildings in themselves.

      This cathedral dates from the 13th century at its oldest parts and then later additions and changes took place in the 15th century. The impressive spire is a later addition and dates from 1448 and this was used by ships of old as a navigation point when heading up the Tyne.

      In 1182 St Nicholas became the cathedral for Newcastle. I am not sure whether it is a well known fact but I was interested to learn that the word cathedral comes from the name of the Bishop's chair or 'cathedra' which is why a cathedral becomes a cathedral rather than a church if it is the seat of the bishop. The cathedra in this particular cathedral is quite a special chair beautifully carved in wood by Ralph Hedley.

      This artist also carved the beautiful and impressive choir screen. This wooden carved screen and the cathedra were later additions added in the 19th century. There are so many amazing figures and symbols that you could spend quite some time just studying all the intricate carvings on here. It was an impressive piece of artwork.

      One of the most famous people to have a memorial in this cathedral is someone I hadn't heard of before but Admiral Lord Collingwood is the forgotten hero overshadowed by his more famous friend and fellow Admiral Lord Nelson. It was Collingwood who actually successfully finished off and won the battle of Trafalgar after Nelson was killed but Nelson seems to be credited with the win in history books. Newcastle and this cathedral in particular are very proud of Admiral Collingwood who was both baptised and married in this cathedral, they have a memorial in his honour right near the entrance of the cathedral. Each year on the anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar a special ceremony is held in the cathedral to honour his memory as well.

      Near this memorial is the font and above this is a very fine carved wooden canopy which celebrates the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I.

      I am not going to talk about every little thing in the cathedral but will mention those I found interesting. As you walk down the cathedral towards the altar on the right hand side you come to a small chapel. This is St George's Chapel and the window in here caught my attention as it celebrates in stained glass those people from Northumberland, not just Newcastle, who have become famous for their political or technological achievements.

      On the opposite side of the cathedral is another small chapel that of St Margaret and this little chapel's stained glass window is the oldest in the cathedral. Above the small altar is a 15th century stained glass window more traditionally showing the Virgin Mary holding Jesus to her breast. This chapel is obviously special to mothers and there were banners and memorials for the mother's Union in here as well.

      I didn't realise before visiting this cathedral that Newcastle had a special connection with Denmark and more particularly with Danish seamen. Down the end of the Cathedral beyond the main altar is a memorial to Danish seamen who died in WWII and I had no recollection of Denmark in WWII but that probably says more about my ignorance than what the Danish contributed to battles on the sea in WWII.

      When I was at college I remember watching people doing brass rubbings in Lincoln cathedral and since then have always been quite inspired by brasses in church. This cathedral claims to have the largest brass memorial in England. This brass memorial is known as the Thornton Brass, I don't think it is the chocolate Thorntons as they are from Derbyshire I believe, but this Thornton family are famous in Newcastle as Roger Thornton was Mayor of Newcastle and an MP on several occasions.

      The memorial shows the Thornton parents Roger and his wife Agnes being welcomed into heaven with all their children. A bit bizarre, the saints and Apostles are all there to welcome them too so presumably as the children are in the memorial this must have been commissioned after they deaths too or maybe they were just assuming they would follow their parents that way. This is also a pretty old memorial and dates back to the 15th century.

      This cathedral is patently quite proud of its artefacts and boasts that their lectern is the only pre-reformation brass lectern in the North of England. Apparently it dates back to the 16th century but looked pretty similar to many other brass eagle lecterns I have seen in other churches including our own local church and I was not amazingly impressed by it.

      We went hunting for the oldest memorial in the cathedral and this is meant to date back as far as the 13th century. It is a memorial to an unknown knight who is thought to have served under King Edward I who was king from 1272 until 1307.

      This is far from being my favourite religious building or even most interesting cathedral but it is worth going in to have a look if you are passing by as it is interesting. I found the wooden carved choir stalls and altar screen very impressive and the other little odd items around were worth a look. We spent around an hour exploring the inside of the cathedral but much longer than that is not really necessary unless you have a particular interest in some aspect of the building.

      They do have a refectory offering snacks and coffee and teas and this is open most weeks from Monday to Friday from 10.00am till 2.30pm. We had just had a coffee in a cafe down by the river so we didn't go in there so I can't really tell you much more about what they offer.

      If you are in Newcastle and like looking in churches and cathedrals then this is worth a visit but it isn't a must see place of interest. I enjoyed the time I spent but would not necessarily say if you are in the city you must see St Nicholas Cathedral Church in Newcastle.

      Thanks for reading and hope this has been of some interest to you. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
      ©Catsholiday

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