At the heart of the county of Norfolk sits the famed Norwich Cathedral, known as one of Norwich’s twelve heritage sites. Steeped in history, this location which is over 800 years old, is ideal for an amazing cultural or religious experience.
The History Of Norwich Cathedral
Built between 1096 and 1145, it required the demolition of two churches and an Anglo-Saxon settlement to create enough space for the 461 ft long structure. This architectural masterpiece was constructed out of mortar, flint and Caen limestone and features over 1000 bosses in its large two storey cloister making this the largest collection in a cathedral as well as a vast collection of Bible stories in stone. Complete with its original 315 ft spire, the cathedral stands as one of the largest in England.
The cathedral began construction sometime after the Archbishop of Canterbury divided the Kingdom of East Anglia into the two dioceses of Dunwich and North Elmham in 672. The Norman Conquest required the bishop’s seat to be moved to Thetford before Herbert de Losinga purchased the Bishopric of Thetford from Henry II. Bishop Herbert proceeded to transfer his seat to Norfolk where he then began the construction of his new cathedral and founded a monastery with monks coming from Canterbury.
In the years that proceeded the completion of the building, various additions were made such as the spire added to the Norman tower in the 15th century and several repairs have been made from events such as fire due to rioting townsfolk and lightning striking the spire and causing yet another fire. Most recently the cathedral became home to the controversial 55 ft helter-skelter which was built to aid the viewing of the roof bosses and attracting more visitors.
Visiting Norwich Cathedral
There are plenty of reasons to visit Norwich Cathedral regardless of whether you identify as religious or not with various events and services happening all the time.
The cultural experience begins the moment you step towards the main gates where you will find a commemorative statue of Edith Cavell, a World War I nurse who aided Allied prisoners to escape from Brussels before being shot by the Germans and has since been buried within the cathedral precinct.
Once you have made your way through the gates, named after Sir Thomas Erpingham, you will find another commemorative statue of Horatio Nelson who was Norwich School’s most famous pupil. You will also be able to take in the sights of the stunning architecture with flying buttresses and sand-coloured Caen stone.
Whilst inside the cathedral it is essential to see the 14th century Despenser Retable altarpiece in the St Luke’s chapel which depicts the death and resurrection of Christ. The piece has a deep history as it was stolen in the 16th century and wasn’t recovered until 1847 when it was found nailed to the bottom of a table where it had been hidden for over 100 years. Along with beautiful medieval stained-glass windows the cathedral also hosts a number of exhibitions for artists throughout the year which is great for any art lovers that wish to take a trip to Norfolk.
Whilst exploring the cloisters why not take a trip into the labyrinth crafted to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen? The continuous path represents a spiritual journey which affirms the guiding hand of God which is leading us onwards. Whilst the labyrinth can be used purely for fun it can also be used for quiet reflection and seeking guidance, forgiveness or just to spend time with God.
Services such as morning and evening prayer along with holy communion and others are held daily for anyone seeking a truly religious experience and choirs sing at various services each day.
The Refectory offers a range of food & drink with a contemporary setting to relax in whilst exploring the cathedral and the gift shop provides some perfect memorabilia to remember your visit by.
When you’ve finished your trip around the cathedral, the cathedral close and quarter offer a number of beautiful listed buildings as well as a place to view the peregrine falcons which nest on the spire from April – June.
Is Norwich Cathedral free to enter?
Norwich Cathedral is free to enter. Donations are always welcome and at your discretion.
What are Norwich Cathedral opening times?
Norwich Cathedral is open from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm Monday to Friday, 10.00 am to 3.00 pm on Saturday and 1.00 pm to 2.30 pm on Sunday.
Guided tours are offered Monday to Saturday to gain even greater insight into the history and heritage behind the building, a number of events such as meditation and photography groups are held weekly and the fantastic new helter-skelter provide extra entertainment for anyone of any age making this a great place to visit while staying on the Norfolk Broads.