Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral is a cathedral located in Norwich, Norfolk, dedicated to the Holy and Undivided Trinity.

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral
















The cathedral was started in 1096 and constructed out of flint and mortar and faced with a cream coloured Caen limestone. A Saxon settlement and two churches were demolished to make room for the buildings. The building was finished in 1145 and had the fine Norman tower, that we see today, topped with a wooden spire covered with lead. Several periods of damage caused rebuilding to the nave and spire but after many years the building was much as we see it now, from the final erection of the stone spire in 1480.

The large cloister has over 1,000 bosses including several hundred carved and ornately painted ones. The buildings are on the lowest part of the Norwich river plain and surrounded on three sides by hills and an area of scrubland, Mousehold heath, to the fourth and North direction.

Norwich Cathedral was built following the removal of the see to the city from Thetford. At the time of the Norman Conquest it had been at North Elmham. The new cathedral incorporated a monastery of Benedictine monks.

The structure of the cathedral is primarily in the Norman style, it having been constructed at the behest of Bishop Herbert de Losinga, who had bought the bishopric for £1900, and retains the greater part of its original stone structure. Building started in 1096 and the cathedral was completed in 1145. It was built from flint and mortar and faced with cream coloured Caen limestone. An Anglo-Saxon settlement and two churches were demolished to make room for the buildings and a canal cut to allow access for the boats bringing the stone and building materials which were taken up the Wensum and unloaded at Pulls Ferry, Norwich.

The ground plan remains almost entirely as it was in Norman times, except for that of the easternmost chapel. The cathedral has an unusually long nave of fourteen bays, The transepts are without aisles, and the east end terminates in an apse with an ambulatory. From the ambulatory there is access to two chapels of unusual shape, the plan,of each being based on two intersecting circles.[1] This allows more correct orientation of the altars than in the more normal kind of radial chapel.

The crossing tower was the last piece of the Norman cathedral to be completed, in around 1140. It is boldly decorated with circles, lozenges and interlaced arcading. The present spire was added in the late fifteenth century, replacing one blown down in 1362. It is of brick faced with stone, supported on brick squinches built into the Norman tower. The fall of the Norman spire caused considerable damage to the east end, as a result of which its clerestory was rebuilt in the Perpendicular style.

The cathedral was damaged after riots in 1270, which resulted in the city paying heavy fines levied by Henry III, rebuilt by 1278 and re–consecrated by Edward I.

A large cloister with over 1,000 bosses was started in 1297 and finally finished in 1430 after black death had plagued the city. The building was vaulted between 1416 and 1472 in a spectacular manner with hundreds of ornately carved, painted and gilded bosses. In 1463 the spire was struck by lightning and caused a fire to rage through the nave which was so intense it turned some of the creamy Caen limestone a pink colour. In 1480 the Bishop of Norwich, James Goldwell, ordered the building of the stone spire which is still in place today, with flying buttresses later added to help support the roofs.

The total length of the building is 461 feet (140 m). Significant alterations from later periods include the 315 foot (96 m) spire and a two-storey cloister, the only such in England, as well as the vaults of the nave and chancel. Standing at 315 feet, the cathedral’s spire is the second tallest in England, and dominates the city skyline — only the spire of Salisbury Cathedral is higher at 404 feet. Along with Salisbury and Ely the cathedral lacks a ring of bells which makes them the only three English cathedrals without them. One of the best views of the cathedral spire is from St. James’s Hill on Mousehold Heath.

The bosses of the vault number over 1,000. Each is decorated with a theological image and have been described as without parallel in the Christian world. The nave vault shows the history of the world from the creation; the cloister includes series showing the life of Christ and the Apocalypse.

The precinct of the cathedral, the limit of the former monastery, is between Tombland (the Anglo-Saxon market place) and the River Wensum and the Cathedral Close, which runs from Tombland into the cathedral grounds, contains a number of interesting buildings from the 15th through to the 19th century including the remains of the infirmary.

The grounds also house the King Edward VI school, statues to the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Nelson and the grave of Edith Cavell.

The cathedral was partially in ruins when John Cosin was there at Grammar School in the early 17th century, and the former bishop was an absentee figure. During the reign of King Charles I, an angry Puritan mob invaded the cathedral and destroyed all Catholic symbols in 1643. The building, abandoned the following year, lay in ruins for two decades. Norwich Bishop Joseph Hall provides a graphic description from his book Hard Measure:

It is tragical to relate the furious sacrilege committed under the authority of Linsey, Tofts the sheriff, and Greenwood: what clattering of glasses, what beating down of walls, what tearing down of monuments, what pulling down of seats, and wresting out of irons and brass from the windows and graves; what defacing of arms, what demolishing of curious stone-work, that had not any representation in the world but of the cost of the founder and skill of the mason; what piping on the destroyed organ-pipes; vestments, both copes and surplices, together with the leaden cross which had been newly sawed down from over the greenyard pulpit, and the singing-books and service-books, were carried to the fire in the public market-place; a lewd wretch walking before the train in his cope trailing in the dirt, with a service-book in his hand, imitating in an impious scorn the tune, and usurping the words of the litany. The ordnance being discharged on the guild-day, the cathedral was filled with musketeers, drinking and tobacconing as freely as if it had turned ale-house.

Only at the Restoration in 1660 would the cathedral be restored under Charles II.

In 2004 the new Refectory (winner, National Wood Awards 2004), by Hopkins Architects and Buro Happold opened on the site of the original refectory, on the south side of the cloister

Work on the new Hostry, also by Hopkins Architects started in April 2007 after the Cathedral Inspiration for the Future Campaign had reached its target of £10 million. It was opened by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh on 4 May 2010. The new hostry has become the main entrance to the Cathedral. There is no entry charge to visit the Cathedral; instead, visitors are asked to make a suggested voluntary donation to help cover the costs of running the Cathedral each year.

Norwich Cathedral has a fine selection of 61 misericords, dating from 3 periods – 1480, 1515 and mid-19th century. The subject matter is varied, mythological, everyday subjects and portraits.

There are two gates to the cathedral grounds, both on Tombland (the pre-Norman marketplace). In 1420 Sir Thomas Erpingham, benefactor to the city, had the gate which bears his name built, sited opposite the west door of the cathedral leading into Cathedral Close.

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