Attendance at cathedral services are up 14% in a decade. But which are the countrys best?

Britains cathedrals are booming, even as parish churches are in decline. Attendance at cathedral services is up 14% in a decade and that does not include tourist visits. No one quite knows why. It appears to be a combination of music especially evensong fine art, architecture and coffee. In the language of the age, the cathedral offers an experience without a commitment. So which are the finest?

10. Norwich

With its in-your-face tower and nave so grandly Romanesque you wonder why anyone bothered with gothic. The carved medieval figures on the doorway surrounds are delightful.

9. Salisbury

The only cathedral designed in one go, and rather tedious as a result. But the view of the steeple is incomparable, a defining image of Englishness. The chapter house and cathedral close are exquisite.

Canterbury
Canterbury Cathedral, the earliest gothic work in England. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Winchester

Once the cathedral of a capital city, now famed for its west wall of Perpendicular glass and seemingly endless nave, giving way to a Norman transept more like a fortress than a church. The east end is an exhibition hall of shrines and chantries. As Winchester was built in a flood plain, its crypt is full of water, in which a naked Antony Gormley statue stands up to his shins, gazing at his cupped hands.

7. Westminster

A jaded stage set for the rituals of monarchy, but its ambulatory is a fascinating junk shop of memorials of the great and no longer great, Highgate cemetery come to town. Beyond lies Henry VIIs chapel, which, with its fan vault and dripping pendants, is surely the most dazzling interior in the land.

The
The octogonal tower at Ely. Photograph: Mike Mayhew/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

6. York

A thumping Perpendicular palace, awesome from around the city walls. The largest cathedral by volume in England, with its newly restored east window containing the finest medieval glass.

5. Canterbury

Silvery limestone towers beckon pilgrims across the Kent landscape to the earliest gothic work in England. A gruesome statue marks the spot where Thomas Becket died. The ancient crypt carvings are both terrifying and hilarious.

4. Durham

A massive assertion of Norman power over the rebellious north, its the most superbly sited of all cathedrals. The drum roll of its mighty nave builds up to the spectacular retrochoir of double windows and weird sculptures.

3. Lincoln

A mysterious warren of a cathedral, looking bashed about and in need of restoration. Its crazy vault mystifies all who try to read it, while the Angel Choir boasts the imp turned to stone for insulting an angel.

2. Ely

The ship of the Fens, its towers best seen floating on a morning mist across the fields. The swirling upward view inside the central lantern is near psychedelic the view down from the gallery no less so. Exquisite carvings in its Lady Chapel still bear the scars of iconoclast vandalism.

Wells
Wells Cathedral. Photograph: thyme/Getty Images

1. Wells

Its sculpted west front glows incomparably in the sunset, its giant scissor arches uplift its crossing, and its column capitals offer an encyclopedia of medieval life. Wells also boasts the most serene chapter house anywhere.

Simon Jenkinss Englands Cathedrals is published by Little, Brown

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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