Gloucester Cathedral

Cathedral in Gloucester

Gloucester Cathedral
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Gary Ullah

Gloucester Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, is one of Britain’s greatest buildings, representing over 1,300 years of Christian faith and heritage. The Cathedral is open daily, entry is by donation, and all are welcome.

The Cathedral stands in the north of the city near the River Severn. It originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter (dissolved by Henry VIII).
Wardle records that in 1058 Ealdred, Bishop of Worcester at the time, rebuilt the church of St Peter. The foundations of the present church were laid by Abbot Serlo (1072–1104). Walter Frocester (died 1412) the abbey’s historian, became its first mitred abbot in 1381.[5] Until 1541, Gloucester lay in the see of Worcester; the Diocese of Gloucester was then created, with John Wakeman, last abbot of Tewkesbury, as its first bishop. The diocese covers the greater part of Gloucestershire, with small parts of Herefordshire and Wiltshire. The cathedral has a stained-glass window depicting the earliest images of golf. This dates from 1350, over 300 years earlier than the earliest image of golf from Scotland. There is also a carved image of people playing a ball game, believed by some to be one of the earliest images of medieval football.

The cathedral consists of a Norman nave (Walter de Lacy is buried there), with additions in every style of Gothic architecture. It is 420 feet (130 m) long, and 144 feet (44 m) wide, with a fine central tower of the 15th century rising to the height of 225 ft (69 m) and topped by four delicate pinnacles, a famous landmark.

The crypt, nave and chapter house date from the late 11th century. The crypt is one of the four apsidal cathedral crypts in England, the others being at Worcester, Winchester and Canterbury. The nave was begun in 1089. The church was largely complete by 1100. In the early 12th century, the western towers were added; the south tower collapsed around 1165.

In 1222, a fire damaged the timber roof and several of the monastic buildings. To repair the damage and update the architectural style, an ambitious building campaign was launched, including the revaulting of the nave Early English style (completed 1243); the construction of the central tower (begun 1237); the rebuilding of the collapsed south tower (completed 1246); and the rebuilding of the refectory.

The south aisle was rebuilt in 1318–29. The pilgrimage to the tomb of Edward II (died 1327) brought a huge influx of cash enabling the rebuilding and redecorating of the south transept (1329–37), the north transept (1368–73), and the choir (1350–77). The Norman choir walls are sheathed in Perpendicular tracery. The multiplication of ribs, liernes and bosses in the choir vaulting is particularly rich. The late Decorated east window is partly filled with surviving medieval stained glass.

Between the apsidal chapels is a cross Lady chapel, and north of the nave are the cloisters, the carrels or stalls for the monks’ study and writing lying to the south. The cloisters at Gloucester are the earliest surviving fan vaults, having been designed between 1351 and 1377 by Thomas de Cantebrugge.

The most notable monument is the canopied shrine of Edward II of England who was murdered at nearby Berkeley Castle (illustration below) in 1327. The building and sanctuary were enriched by the visits of pilgrims to this shrine. In a side-chapel is a monument in coloured bog oak of Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror and a great benefactor of the abbey, who was interred there. Monuments of William Warburton (Bishop of Gloucester) and Edward Jenner (physician) are also worthy of note. The Abbey was the site of the coronation of Henry III on 28 October 1216. This is commemorated in a stained-glass window in the south aisle.

Between 1873 and 1890, and in 1897, the cathedral was extensively restored by George Gilbert Scott.

The Gloucester Cathedral appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Gloucester!

This website uses affiliate links which may earn a commission at no additional cost to you!

Visiting Gloucester Cathedral

Duration: 20 minutes

Nearby Attractions