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Britain > Norfolk > Norwich > Anglican Cathedral

One of the finest Cathedrals in Europe, dating from 1096


Nave and West Window
Roof Bosses
Bishop Goldwell Tomb
Organ & Choir Stalls
Thomas Gooding Skeleton
Monastic Cloisters
Cathedral Close
Norwich Anglican Cathedral was the vision of the 1st Bishop of Norwich, Herbert de Losinga in 1096. The building itself is built in the shape of a cross and constructed out of light, smooth, Caen stone and grey, fossil filled stone from Northamptonshire. The cathedral boasts the second tallest spire and the second largest medieval cloisters in England. It also has the largest collection of decorative roof bosses in England and is the only church in the Northern Hemisphere to have its Saxon Bishop's Throne in its original position.

Sand coloured stone from Caen

Did You Know?

In 1272 there was a riot by the citizens of Norwich, who had grown increasingly hostile towards the cathedral. Damage was done to the monastery, cloisters and fires ravaged the building. It has been described as one of the most violent attacks on a religious house to occur in medieval England. This act of violence was not well received and the citizens were forced to rebuild that which they had destroyed!
Norwich Cathedral continues to hold traditional services to this day – it remains a place of worship, where one can seek solace and comfort. It is attended by the pupils of Norwich School, who use the cathedral for their daily assembly. It is also the venue for many lectures, concerts and exhibitions.

11 Things to See at Norwich Cathedral

1. The Nave

Entering the cathedral through the main west door you will enter the Nave. You now get to appreciate the immensity of the size of this church. The Nave is the second longest in the country, second only to St Albans. The distinctive pillars have rounded arches and are constructed of stone blocks with an infill of local flint. If you look closely, you can still see the masons chisel marks on the stone. On the west wall is the impressive 15th century stained glass window, designed by Edward Stanley and installed in 1850. You will notice that the window shows scenes from the lives of Moses and Jesus Christ; the bottom section depicts the Old Testament and the top the New Testament.

2. Painted Roof Bosses

The roof bosses provide a unique medium for the theological education of a largely pre-literate age. They are arranged in storytelling cycles that depict the entire Christian history of the world. Located in the Nave and throughout the Cathedral, they number 1,106 in total, some of which are over 2ft in diameter. In the seven eastern bays the Old Testament is represented, while the western bays comprise New Testament scenes. In the Nave you will see The Creation of the World, Noah building his Ark and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

3. The Font

Along the south aisle of the Nave, you will find the main font, still used for christenings today. It is made of copper and was originally used for making chocolate! It was donated to the Cathedral in 1997 following the closure of the Norwich Nestle factory.

4. Skeleton of Thomas Gooding

Further along the south Nave aisle, you will find the curious memorial to Thomas Gooding. A respected Elizabethan chorister; his final request was that he should be buried standing up as he thought this would give him an advantage for his passage into the afterlife. He left us with the eerie inscribed warning reminding us of our own mortality As I am now, so shall ye be.

5. Organ

From 1096 until 1538, Norwich Cathedral was part of a Benedictine monastery. Originally the Cathedral was divided into two separate churches - the people’s church in the west section and the monk’s church in the east section. Walking to the middle of the Cathedral and looking up, you will see the Cathedral organ, with its 6,655 pipes; it marks the point where the people’s church ended and the monk’s church began.

6. Choir Stalls

A choir has sung daily services in this magnificent building for over 900 years. Beginning with the monks, who sang for the first 500 years, there has been an unbroken tradition of choral music, still here today with choristers, lay-clerks and choral scholars. The stalls date from 1420 and are elaborately carved with a variety of medieval scenes, including birds and animals. The most recently added carvings can be found at the organ end of the stalls, where you will see a Norwich City football club emblem and a carving which marked the millennium celebrations.

7. Bishop Goldwell's Tomb

As you walk down the Presbytery, you will come to Bishop Goldwell's tomb. If you look carefully there is evidence of damage caused during riots in 1272 and also the Reformation of 1643. You can see graffiti inscribed by Parliamentary musketeers, a musket ball is still lodged in Bishop Goldwell's tomb to the north side. Notice his hands which would have been in prayer, are missing. The tomb itself is crowned by an enormous 'Golden Well', a play on words signature which also appears on 97 of the 132 bosses in the Presbytery roof.

8. Bishop's Throne

Towards the rear of the Cathedral and you will see the Bishop's Throne high up in the eastern Apse. What you see is a modern restoration, but it follows the original design. Norwich is the only cathedral in the Northern hemisphere of the world to have retained its ancient throne in this central position. The wooden structure is set on the original medieval stones that actually appear to be older than the Cathedral itself. They are thought to have come from the original Anglo-Saxon Cathedral at North Elmham. The throne or in Latin cathedra, meaning the seat of the Bishop, is where cathedrals derive their distinctive name.

9. Treasury

The Treasury is the jewel of the cathedral, set high above the reliquary arch to the left of the High Alter in the north aisle of the presbytery. It was a gift to the Cathedral from a worshipful company of goldsmiths. The display, opened in 1973, and consists of silver and gilt pieces, whose crafting span some 650 years. It's an exceptional display, with communion cups, patens or plates, chalices and flagons from churches and cathedrals throughout the Diocese. Often the pieces are returned to their various parishes for use at special services and festivals. The display holds some outstanding craftsmanship; the West Acre Flagon, made in 1674,  and the Great Hockham Alms Dish, made in 1894,  are two fine examples.

10. Cloisters

The Cloisters at Norwich Cathedral were built between 1297 and 1318. At 180 feet square, Norwich Cloisters come second only to Salisbury in size. The Monastery itself lay to the south of the Cathedral. The Monks spent most of their working lives here; there are alcoves where books would have been kept and also the original 'lavatorium' the washing area at the entrance to the Refectory. At that time washing was an important part of the Monastic ritual. Originally the Lavatorium consisted of two stories, with the Monks living in dormitories above. Around the Cloisters you can see more roof bosses at closer range; 100 of them alone depict the complete Book of Revelation.

11. Cathedral Close

Norwich Cathedral Close is one of the largest in England. You will find it a very tranquil place, with seats to relax in among the green lawns and trees. It was originally used by the residing Monks for food and shelter; for both themselves and passing travellers. It contains the medieval Prior’s Hall, now called the Deanary. You will also find the Bishop’s Palace, a redbrick and flint building near Erpingham gateway. Many of the buildings have incorporated earlier structures, including former monastic buildings. In the upper close the buildings form part of the Norwich School, as well as offices. Houses in the Lower Close are mainly residential and date from several periods.
Visitor Information
Norwich Cathedral is open to visitors most days (free, but donations welcome).
Norwich Tourist Information Centre, The Forum, Millennium Plain, Norwich, NR2 1TF. Tel: 01603 213 999

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