- Location: Winchester, Hampshire, UK
- Significance: Cathedral
- Attraction Type: Architecture, History, Heritage, Tombs, Library
- Opening Hours: 8:30 to 6 pm every day (5:30 on Sunday)
- Admission Charges: No admission charges, except for fixed charges on Christmas Day, Sundays and certain other Holy days like Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
- How to Reach: Winchester is extremely well connected by rail to most major English cities including Oxford, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Newcastle. Fast trains run every hour from London Waterloo station. You can easily reach here by bus and coach from around Heathrow.
- Nearest Airport: London Heathrow Airport
It is interesting that the Winchester cathedral, which has witnessed the funeral of some of the most powerful English kings from the Anglo Saxon age, would have collapsed into the depths of time, if not the persistent attempts of a diver saved it. The castle was in a state of total collapse following water-logging when TG Jackson’s immense reconstruction project got initiated in the 20th century. William Walker, the ‘Winchester Diver’, dived for six hours a day, every day for six years, packing 25000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks and 900,000 bricks at the foundations to stop it from total collapse.
History of Winchester Cathedral
The Winchester Cathedral was founded in the 7th century. It had a Norman structure and contained remains of Saxon Kings in the mortuary. A number of kings revered this cathedral and chose to be laid there in their final rests, including Saint Swithun. Soon after the Battle of Hastings, in 1093, the old Minster containing the remains of King Eadwig of England and his wife Aelgifu was demolished in 1093, and the building was shifted to the new cathedral devoted to the Trinity, Saint Peter, Paul, and Saint Swithun, which is where the cathedral now stands.
Soon after, King William II started a process of rebuilding the church, this time in accordance with Romanesque architectural styles, although signs of Norman influences were still imminent in certain parts of the cathedral, particularly the nave. Right from the very beginning, the church had an adjoining monastery for Benedictine monks. William Wynford started a reconstruction of the church in the 15th century that ultimately went on to the 16th century, this time changing the look to the English Neo-Gothic and Renaissance styles. However, Henry VIII’s acts of dissolution of monasteries fell hard on the cathedral itself. The Benedictine monastery that stayed alongside the church from the very early days of its construction, was dissolved and the chanty and chapter house demolished. Fortunately, though, the cathedral was allowed to remain.
However, the church started to fall into comparative obscurity thereafter, probably because the resident monks played an important role in the maintenance of the church. It was a timely restoration project initiated in 1906 with T.G. Jackson at the helm that he cathedral was saved from total collapse.
Winchester Cathedral Overview
The Winchester Cathedral is the largest Gothic Cathedral in England and has the longest nave in the whole of Europe. Its great history, wonderful architecture, and major tombs, chantries, and chapels attract a large number of visitors every year. From 1998, entry to the Church has been made free of any cost. The cathedral is visited by pilgrims as well as secular visitors. The Winchester Cathedral, being the seat of the bishop of Winchester and the head of the Winchester Diocese, attracts a large number of churchgoers who come here to attend the church services. An organ is also an object of attraction, as well as its excellent choir.
Attractions of Winchester Castle
A tour through the cathedral is like taking a walk through the last 1000 years of English history. Every age, from the early Norman age to the Tudors, with the Middle Ages in between, have left their marks in the cathedral architecture and other aspects. There are a number of excellent tours through the cathedral that bring into life the historical and architectural profile of the cathedral. You can also climb the cathedral tower and get a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. When the season is dry and the conditions are favorable, you can also undertake a crypt tour which is extremely fascinating. Visit the excellent library and the Triforium Gallery of the Cathedral. The tomb of author Jane Austen is also on the major attractions of the cathedral.
There are plenty of accommodation opportunities in Winchester, including hotels and B&Bs. The Dell Bell Bed and Breakfast, Somerville, Lang House, 7 West End Terrace, and Complyns Bed and Breakfast are some of the popular accommodation options. The cathedral has an excellent hospitality venue and restaurant about 25 m outside the main cathedral. You can enjoy a great dining experience there and also book it for special events like seminars, conferences, and weddings.