Chichester Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, otherwise called Chichester Cathedral, is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Chichester. It is located in Chichester, in Sussex, England. It was founded as a cathedral in 1075, when the seat of the bishop was moved from Selsey.

Chichester Cathedral has fine architecture in both the Norman and the Gothic styles, and has been called by the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner “the most typical English Cathedral”. Despite this, Chichester has two architectural features that are unique among England’s medieval cathedrals—a free-standing medieval bell tower (or campanile) and double aisles. The cathedral contains two rare medieval sculptures, and many modern art works including tapestries, stained glass and sculpture, many of these commissioned by Dean Hussey.

The city of Chichester, though it retains two main cross streets laid out by the Romans, has always been small enough for the city’s entire population to fit inside the cathedral at once, causing Daniel Defoe to comment:

I cannot say much of Chichester, in which, if six or seven good families were removed, there would not be much conversation, except what is to be found among the canons, and the dignitaries of the cathedral.[5]

The spire of Chichester Cathedral, rising above its green copper roof, can be seen for many miles across the flat meadows of West Sussex and is a landmark for sailors, Chichester being one of only two medieval English cathedrals that is visible from the sea, the other being its near neighbour, Portsmouth Cathedral

 

Chichester Cathedral was built to replace the cathedral founded in 681 by St. Wilfrid for the South Saxons at Selsey. The seat of the bishop was transferred here in 1075. It was consecrated in 1108 under Bishop Ralph de Luffa. In 1187 a fire which burnt out the cathedral and destroyed much of the town necessitated a substantial rebuilding, which included refacing the nave, and replacing the destroyed wooden ceiling with the present stone vault, possibly by Walter of Coventry. The cathedral was reconsecrated in 1199.

In the 13th century, the central tower was completed, the Norman apsidal eastern end rebuilt with a Lady chapel, and a row of chapels added on each side of the nave, forming double aisles such as are found on many French cathedrals. The spire was completed about 1402 and a free-standing bell tower constructed to the north of the west end.

In 1262, Richard de la Wyche, who was bishop from 1245 to 1253, was canonised as Saint Richard of Chichester. His shrine made the cathedral a place of pilgrimage. The shrine was ordered destroyed in 1538, during the first stages of the English Reformation. In 1642 the cathedral came under siege by Parliamentary troops.

The towers at Chichester have had a particularly unfortunate history because of subsidence, which explains the positioning of the 15th century bell tower at some distance from the cathedral. The south-west tower of the facade collapsed in 1210 and was rebuilt. The north-west tower collapsed in 1635 and was not rebuilt until 1901. The masonry spire was built in the 14th century and was repaired in the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren. It survived a lightning strike in 1721 and stood for 450 years before it telescoped in on itself on February 21, 1861, fortunately without loss of life. A fund was set up to raise the £48,000 needed for the rebuilding, and the contributors included Queen Victoria. It was rebuilt, a few feet taller, by Sir George Gilbert Scott and completed in five years. It now rises to a height of 82 metres. The rubble from the original spire was used to construct West Ashling Chapel.

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