Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire

Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire

In the literal and spiritual heart of the city, the Norman-built Winchester Cathedral has taken centre stage for a thousand years. Built on the grounds of an early Christian church, it was founded in 1079 and opened in 1093, extensively developed and adapted over the following centuries by successive bishops. From its Norman crypt to its ornate Renaissance chantry chapels to its 15th Gothic nave, it embodies a real medley of architectural styles that only serve to make this stunning building all the more intriguing and impressive.

If you’re planning a holiday in Hampshire, then you should put time aside to visit one of the county's top attractions, Winchester Cathedral. The longest Gothic cathedral in Europe, its bulking mass encapsulates a thousand years of history and is brimming with secrets, treasures and artefacts. As you walk through the cathedral, you can see Norman carvings, Pre-Raphaelite stained-glass windows, and even enclosed chests containing the bones of Anglo-Saxon kings. In fact, it’s believed that the cathedral contains the graves of 12 English kings, which would essentially make it the UK’s first Royal Mausoleum.

Not just famous for its royal connections though, but Winchester Cathedral has important ties with many famous names. From saints to novelists and from activists to divers, its history is intertwined with people from all walks of life. Perhaps most notably, Jane Austen, England’s greatest novelist, is buried in the cathedral. You can see her memorial gravestone in the nave, written by her brother, which pays homage to “the benevolence of [Jane’s] heart, the sweetness of her temper and the extraordinary endowments of her mind”.

Wandering through the various parts of the cathedral (there are seven chantry chapels alone) and gazing up at the vaulted ceilings and intricate carvings is certainly a breath-taking experience. That said, to really bring the cathedral to life and learn more about its history and connections, you should consider taking part in a guided tour. For youngsters, a free children’s trail encourages interactive activity and the chance to experience the cathedral in a whole new light, meanwhile there are plenty of options for adults too.

Cathedral tours provide a fascinating introduction to the cathedral, while for the intrepid, tower tours offer a gripping chance to scale the heights of the cathedral, walk the full length of the nave roof and take in superb views across Winchester and its surrounding countryside. There’s also the opportunity to take part in a crypt tour, one of the oldest parts of the Cathedral. Little changed since it was first built in the 11th Century, the crypt is famous for its tales of flooding and a legendary diver, as well as for being the home of Antony Gormley’s sculpture Sound II.

Topping off Winchester’s Cathedral’s permanent installations are various exhibitions and displays. One particularly interesting exhibit explores the history of the Winchester Bible, the largest and best-preserved 12th Century English bible. Once you’ve finished exploring, you can head outside to stretch your legs or take a picnic in the cathedral’s gardens or wend your way to the Refectory tearoom for seasonal and homemade food and drink. With its award-winning contemporary design and choice of indoor and outdoor seating, it’s a great place to refuel and relax.

Feeling inspired? Peruse our collection of luxury cottages in Hampshire.

Winchester Cathedral, 9 The Close, Winchester SO23 9LS |01962 857 200 | www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk


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