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Chichester Cathedral (West Sussex)
Chichester Cathedral has fine architecture in both the Norman and the Gothic styles.
Places to stay near here
- Free admission
- Art and sculpture
- Historic Property
Chichester Cathedral has fine architecture in both the Norman and the Gothic styles, and has been called by the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner "the most typical English Cathedral". Despite this, Chichester has two architectural features that are unique among England's medieval cathedrals- a free-standing medieval bell tower (or campanile) and double aisles. It is the only cathedral in England that is visible from the sea. The cathedral contains two rare medieval sculptures, and many modern art works including tapestries, stained glass and sculpture, many of these commissioned by Dean Hussey.
The city of Chichester, though it retains two main cross streets laid out by the Romans, has always been small enough for the city's entire population to fit inside the cathedral at once.
The Cathedral is open daily and guided tours are availabe for a small donation.
History to the present day
Chichester Cathedral was built to replace the cathedral built in 681 by St. Wilfrid for the South Saxons at Selsey. The seat of the bishop was transferred here in 1075. It was consecrated in 1108 under Bishop Ralph de Luffa. In 1187 a fire which burnt out the cathedral and destroyed much of the town necessitated a substantial rebuilding, which included refacing the nave, and replacing the destroyed wooden ceiling with the present stone vault, possibly by Walter of Coventry. The Cathedral was reconsecrated in 1199.
In the 13th century the central tower was completed, the Norman apsidal eastern end rebuilt with a Lady Chapel, and a row of chapels added on each side of the nave, forming double aisles such as are found on many French cathedrals. The spire was completed about 1402 and a free-standing bell tower constructed to the north of the west end. The building suffered from subsidence. Free-standing bell towers are common in Italy where subsidence is a problem.
In 1262, Richard de la Wyche, who was bishop from 1245 to 1253, was canonised as Saint Richard of Chichester. His shrine made the cathedral a place of pilgrimage. It was ordered destroyed in 1538, during the first stages of the English Reformation. In 1642 the cathedral came under seige of the Parliamentary troops.
The towers at Chichester have had a particularly unfortunate history. The south-west tower of the facade collapsed in 1210 and was rebuilt. The north-west tower collapsed in 1635 and was not rebuilt until 1901. The spire, built in the 14th century and modelled on the much taller one at Salisbury Cathedral, was repaired in the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren and survived a lightning strike in 1721. It stood for 450 years before it famously telescoped in on itself on February 21, 1861, fortunately without loss of life. It was rebuilt, slightly taller, by Sir George Gilbert Scott and completed in five years. It now rises to a height of 82 metres.
The nave, from the West End of the Cathedral.The Cathedral has many other unique features. Under the floor of the nave are the remains of a Roman mosaic pavement, which can be viewed through a glass window. Also in the interior is the grave of the composer Gustav Holst and the Gothic "Arundel tomb" referred to in a poem by Philip Larkin.
The Cathedral contains several modern works of art, including tapestries by John Piper and Ursula Benker-Schirmer, a window by Marc Chagall, a painting by Graham Sutherland (Noli me Tangere), and a reredos for the St John the Baptist's Chapel by Patrick Procktor.
St Mary's Hospital Almshouses in Chichester, which are linked to the Cathedral, are thought to be the oldest in Britain, dating back to the 13th century. Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, composed for the Cathedral, are among his finest music.
Arrival information and how to find us
Address: Chichester Cathedral, West Sussex, , United Kingdom