Five things you didn’t know about Chester Cathedral

One of the stand-out buildings in Chester is the city’s cathedral, but how much do you know about it? Here are five facts that might surprise you:

1. The history of the cathedral site is incredibly old

Chester Cathedral’s history goes back nearly 2,000 years. It is thought that a Druid temple was built on the cathedral site in prehistoric times. Then, when the Romans invaded, they are believed to have erected a temple on the same area of land in honour of their god Apollo. This building’s use may have changed to become a place for Christian worship when the Romans later embraced Christianity.

It is know that a church was established on the Chester cathedral site in 660 and that, when they were under threat from Viking warriors, holy relics associated with St Werburgh were placed there for safety. In 907, another church was constructed in the same place by Queen Ethelfelda, the daughter of King Alfred, which was intended as a resting place for her remains.

2. The cathedral used to be a monastery

‘The Wolf’, or Hugh Lupus, who was Chester’s Norman Earl and William the Conqueror’s nephew, founded a monastery on the Chester site in 1092. The Norman Monastery was built in a style known as ‘Romanesque’, because it resembled Roman architecture, having solid masonry and rounded arches. By the time the last parts of the building were being constructed in around 1250, the Romanesque look had fallen out of fashion and the new craze was the Gothic style. The monks decided to rebuild the monastery in the new architectural fashion, creating ribbed ceilings and pointed arches. Dissolution of the monastery in 1539 caused this building work to cease.

3. Henry the VIII effectively gave Chester its cathedral

This came about because, following his dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s, Henry VIII decided to hand Chester’s monastery building to the Diocese of Chester for use as a cathedral. He sealed the writ that established the cathedral in 1541. The monastery’s former abbot then became the cathedral’s dean, and the first canons were the men who had been his senior monks.

4. The cathedral has been restored several times through the ages

In the 19th Century, major restoration work was carried out, some of which continued into the 20th Century. The external Bell Tower was opened as recently as the 1970s, while the nave’s stone floor was added in the 1990s and the cathedral’s Song School was created in 2005.

5. The cathedral has moved with the times and continues to do so

Today, as well as providing regular services, the cathedral is a major music venue. The historic building provides Chester’s biggest space for concerts and orchestral events, as well as choral performances and organ recitals. It also hosts dramatic productions, conferences and awards ceremonies. Guided tours and educational visits for schools regularly take place inside the cathedral’s walls. There is a plan to develop the cathedral estate in the future, creating what will be known as Chester’s Cathedral Quarter. The plan aims to regenerate the area around the cathedral while retaining its heritage and character.

Posted by Mark
May 10, 2014

1 Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment