is just a tiny selection of some of our grand and beautiful British
Cathedrals, which is a living testament to the outstanding skills,
talent and craftsmanship of those who built them.
history of Britain and the aspirations of her Christian communities
can be traced in the glorious excesses of the cathedrals. From
Norman grandeur to the modern interpretations found in Liverpool and
Coventry, explore the changing styles of the cathedrals in our
cathedrals of Britain span the millennium - from the cathedrals
dating from the 1100s to the modern cathedrals found in Liverpool
and Coventry. They display a wide array of architectural styles from
Early English Gothic, to the majesty of the Renaissance at St Paul's
and the sixties modernism of Liverpool's Roman Catholic Cathedral.
In the Middle Ages and up to the Reformation in the 1500s, the
Church enjoyed enormous power and wealth, and cathedrals are
eloquent symbols of its dominant place in British society.
in the Middle Ages weren't the quiet, reverential places of worship
we know today. In Lincoln, for example, the central nave or aisle
was where pilgrims chatted and shared news; there would have been an
elaborately carved stone screen to separate the ordinary people in
the nave from the priests and monks worshipping and singing in the
were elaborate and brightly coloured before much of the interior
decoration and original medieval art was destroyed during the
Reformation and the Civil War. During the Civil War, cathedrals were
used as garrisons, prisons and even stables. Now only traces remain
of the vibrant colours that were often whitewashed out of existence.
of the cathedrals in Britain are orientated east to west. The nave
is situated in the west end of the cathedral where people would come
to pray. For that reason, it is the long hall of the cathedral. (The
nave is 5 on the diagram below.)
The choir (11)
is at the east end of the cathedral. It is here that the high altar
(13) is generally found. The clergy traditionally prayed here and an
elaborately carved screen was often built to separate them from the
general public in the nave. This part of the cathedral is often
called the 'quire' - the 19th century spelling of 'choir'. St Paul's
in London still uses this spelling.
north and south transepts (7, 9) separate the choir from the nave.
This means that the layout of cathedrals usually forms the shape of
a cross. Side altars are found in the transepts as well as the tombs
of important people. The central tower or dome (8) of the cathedral
is found at the centre of this 'cross'. These high towers are
supported by piers or pillars. At Salisbury Cathedral, it is
possible to see that the piers have been slightly bent out of shape
by the weight of the tower.
tombs of past bishops and famous saints are often found in side
chapels (2, 3). In the later Middle Ages, the wealthy would pay for
private chapels to be built where their families could say mass in