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Winchester Cathedral at Winchestermarker in Hampshire is one of the largest cathedrals in Englandmarker, with the longest nave and overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. It is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Swithun and is the seat of the Bishop of Winchester and centre of the Diocese of Winchestermarker. Since March 2006 an admission charge has been required for visitors to enter the cathedral.

Pre-Norman cathedral

The cathedral was originally founded in 642 on an immediately adjoining site to the north. This building was known as the Old Minstermarker. It became part of a monastic settlement in 971. Saint Swithun was buried near the Old Minster and then in it, before being moved to the new Norman cathedral. So-called mortuary chests said to contain the remains of Saxon kings such as King Eadwig of England, first buried in the Old Minster, and his wife Ælfgifu, are also housed in the present cathedral. The Old Minster was demolished in 1093.


A 1723 engraving of Winchester Cathedral.
View along the nave of Winchester Cathedral to the west door
Construction of the cathedral began in 1079 under bishop Walkelin, and on April 8 1093, in the presence of nearly all the bishops and abbots of England, the monks removed from Saxon cathedral church of the Old Minstermarker to the new one, "with great rejoicing and glory" to mark its completion. The earliest part of the present building is the crypt, which dates from that time. William II of England and his older brother, Richard, Duke of Bernay are both buried in the cathedral. The squat, square crossing tower was begun in 1202 to replace an earlier version which collapsed, partly due to the unstable ground on which the cathedral is built. It has an indisputably Norman look to it. Work continued on the cathedral during the 14th century, in 1394 the remodelling of the Norman nave commenced to the designs of master mason William Wynford, this continued into the 15th and 16th centuries, notably with the building of the retroquire to accommodate the many pilgrims to the shrine of Saint Swithun. After King Henry VIII seized control of the Catholic Church in England, and declared himself head of the Church of England, the Benedictine foundation, the Priory of Saint Swithun, was dissolved (1539) and the cloister and chapter house were demolished, but the cathedral continued.

Restoration work was carried out by T.G. Jackson during the years 1905–1912, including the famous saving of the building from total collapse. Some waterlogged foundations on the south and east walls were reinforced by a diver, William Walker, packing the foundations with more than 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks and 900,000 bricks. He worked six hours a day from 1906 to 1912 in total darkness at depths up to 6 m, and is credited with saving the cathedral from total collapse. For his troubles he was awarded the MVO.

Explanation of Construction (Crucifixion): Homage to Mondrian


Important events which took place at Winchester Cathedral include:


Winchester Cathedral as seen from the Cathedral Close
Nowadays the cathedral draws many tourists as a result of its association with Jane Austen, who died in the city and is buried in the cathedral's north aisle of the nave. The original 19th century marker gave reluctant praise for her writing ability. Interestingly her gravestone makes no mention of her as a novelist, for which she is now best known. Most of her novels were published after her death. Much later a more descriptive marker about Austen's talent was placed on a nearby wall.

Another reason for its popularity is that the cathedral was the setting for works of fiction by Anthony Trollope, for example, his novels of 19th century church life known collectively as the Chronicles of Barsetshire . In 2005, the building was used as a film set for the The Da Vinci Code with the north transept used as the Vaticanmarker. Following this the cathedral hosted discussions and displays to debunk the book.

In addition Winchester Cathedral is possibly the only cathedral to have had popular songs written about it. "Winchester Cathedral" was a UK top ten hit and a US number one song for The New Vaudeville Band in 1966. The cathedral was also the subject of the Crosby, Stills & Nash song, "Cathedral" from their 1977 album CSN. In addition, Liverpool-based band Clinic released an album entitled "Winchester Cathedral" in 2004.

In the south transept there is a "Fishermen's Chapel," which is the burial place of Izaak Walton. Walton, who died in 1683, was the author of The Compleat Angler and a friend of John Donne. In the choir is the bell from HMS Iron Duke which was the flagship of Admiral John Jellicoe at the Battle of Jutlandmarker in 1916.

The Epiphany Chapel has a series of Pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows designed by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones and made in William Morris's workshop. The foliage decoration above and below each pictorial panel is unmistakably William Morris and at least one of the figures bears a striking resemblance to Morris's wife Jane, who frequently posed for Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

View looking into the crypt
crypt, which frequently floods, features a statue by Antony Gormley, called "Sound II", installed in 1986, and there is a modern shrine to Saint Swithun. In addition there is a bust of William Walker, a deep-sea diver who worked underwater in the crypt between 1906 and 1911 underpinning the nave and shoring up the walls.

A series of nine icons were installed between 1992 and 1996 in the retroquire screen which for a short time protected the relics of St Swithun destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538. This iconostasis in the Russian Orthodox tradition was created by Sergei Fedorov (sometimes spelt Fyodorov) and dedicated in 1997. The icons include the local religious figures St Swithun and St Birinus. Beneath the retroquire Icons is the Holy Hole once used by pilgrims to crawl beneath and lie close to the healing shrine of St Swithun. The 'external link' below connects to images of each icon and the retroquire.

The cathedral also possesses the only diatonic ring of 14 church bells in the world, with a tenor (heaviest bell) weighing 36 cwt (or approximately 1.83 metric tonnes).


Winchester Cathedral is home to an internationally recognized professional choir of 18 boy choristers and 12 lay clerks. The choir sings eight services weekly in the Cathedral as well as making regular recordings, broadcasts, concerts and international tours.The choir is currently directed by Andrew Lumsden.

The Cathedral Girls' Choir was founded in 1998 and sings one service each week alongside the lay clerks.

The Nave Choir of Winchester Cathedral is a mixed voluntary choir of around 40 members. Founded in January 2007 by Jamie W. Hall, the choir sings those services that fall outside those covered by the Cathedral Choir as well as special services and concerts.

Organ and Organists


Details of the organ from the National Pipe Organ Register


  • 1402 John Dyes
  • ???? Richard Wynslade
  • 1572 John Langton
  • ???? John Holmes
  • 1602 John Lante
  • 1615 George Bath
  • 1631 Thomas Holmes
  • 1638 Christopher Gibbons
  • 1661 John Silver

Assistant organists and Assistant Directors of Music

See also the List of Organ Scholars at Winchester Cathedral.

The nave looking east


  1. Alec Clifton-Taylor, The Cathedrals of England (Thames & Hudson, 1969)
  2. Winchester Cathedral, rationale for charging[1]
  3. Park Honan, Jane Austen: Her Life, St. Martin's Press (New York 1987) [ISBN 0-312-01451-1], p. 407.
  4. Dictionary of organs and organists. First Edition. 1912. p.340
  5. Who's who in Music. Fourth Edition. 1962. p.204

See also

External links

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