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Bristol Cathedral

Situated on College Green in the smart, green, student quarter of Bristol, this fine-looking Cathedral is almost a thousand years old and has been slowly adapted and renovated over that time. Augustinian canons were originally housed in the building in Norman times and only three sections of the Cathedral survive from that phase of its architecture. Its German Gothic exterior is more or less a one-off in the United Kingdom, making a visit to this attraction an absolute necessity if you are coming to the West of England. As soon as you go inside Bristol Cathedral you will be blown away by the fabulous golden ‘lierne’ vaulted ceiling. The aisles are lower in elevation than the choir which is something of a quirk of this particular holy building.


The chapter house that dates back to the final years of the Norman period is remarkable for its pioneering incorporation of pointed arches. Its 40 sedilia and carved patterns reflecti various different complex shapes, some of them interwoven together in a most extraordinary way. The eastern wing of the chapter house was assaulted and almost destroyed by rioters during the 1831 Bristol Riots which was a moment of social protest triggered by unjust electoral practices. Thankfully this gorgeous building survived along with the rest of the Cathedral which has been tastefully preserved and maintained in superlative condition. Of the numerous art works and decorative features inside the Cathedral, the Saxon ‘Harrowing of Hell’ being the number one. Sixteenth century misericords by the hand of Robert Elyot boast astonishing stone carvings based on Aesop’s Fables. A very rare candelabra from the mid eighteenth century is also to be found within this truly remarkable structure. Famous people buried in the Cathedral include the Bishops of Bristol Paul Bush, Gilbert Ironside the Elder, Thomas Westfield and Thomas Howell, as well as numerous members of the medieval Berkeley family of noblemen. Bristol Cathedral had its moment of cinematic fame when it appeared in the Richard Burton thriller The Medusa Touch (1978) under the guise of a large London church. A grade I listed building, Bristol Cathedral continues to be Bristol’s most impressive work of architecture.

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