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Tours > Gloucester > Inside Gloucester Cathedral

Inside Gloucester Cathedral
Massive Norman Columns in Gloucester Cathedral Nave

Enter the Cathedral via the main south door with its impressive array of saints (Victorian restoration). Entry is by donation. There is a suggested amount, but this is purely voluntary. Photography is allowed throughout the building and there is a small cathedral shop on your left as you enter. Nearby stands a memorial to Edward Jenner, the Gloucestershire-man who discovered the secrets of vaccination and rid the country of smallpox. The great nave is an impressive survival of heavy Norman architecture whose erection was begun in 1089. The columns are massive and one of those in the south aisle has a definite lean to it! The Norman style dominates throughout much of the cathedral interior, though it is not obvious from the outside. It continues in the eerie crypt, entered from the South transept (and currently - 1999 - closed to the public).

The Great East Window in Gloucester Cathedral Here is also the curious 'Prentice Bracket' apparently depicting an apprentice mason who fell from the vaults in the 15th century. Nearby, you can enter the presbytery to marvel at the jewel of Gloucester Cathedral: the great East Window (currently - 1999 - covered in scaffolding). This vast masterpiece of the glazier's craft, erected around 1350, is unseen until this point, because the cathedral organ completely blocks the view from the nave. It was erected to commemorate the chivalrous deeds of local knights in the Battle of Crecy and is a fitting backdrop to the high altar. The beautifully carved choir-stalls date from around the same period and have many amusing misericords where the monks would perch their bottoms during long services. There is a glimpse of important tombs to the north, but first the south ambulatory has further sights to reveal. The wooden monument here to Prince Robert, Duke of Normandy and eldest son of King William the Conqueror, dates from the 13th century. He died in Cardiff Castle, a captive of his brother, King William Rufus, in 1134 and is buried in the Cathedral's Chapter House. Almost opposite is the south-east ambulatory chapel with striking blue windows of St. Thomas designed in 1993.

Mid-14th Century Choirstall Carvings Behind the high altar is a fine Lady Chapel, the latest piece of construction work (1483). It is a beautifully serene place, seemingly detached from the rest of the cathedral. The twin chantry chapels with singing galleries above are an interesting feature, but followers of the saints should examine closely the wonderfully coloured windows both north and south. They are the work of the leading glazier of the 19th century arts and crafts movement and depict many major British saints along with scenes from their lives. Strangely, the Gloucester saints appear to be missing, notably St. Arild, whose shrine (now lost) attracted pilgrims to the Abbey for several centuries. She was never a major player in the World of pilgrimage though and it was a 14th century political martyr, rather than a holy-person, who brought pilgrims flocking to Gloucester by the thousand. The tomb of the murder-victim, King Edward II is in the north ambulatory. His monument is one of the finest of the medieval sculptor's craft. The effigy is of superb quality, while the multi-pinnacled canopy above is something else. In 1327, this politically unpopular monarch was deposed and murdered, at nearby Berkeley Castle, Monument to King Edward II in a most horrible manner. He was refused burial at Bristol Cathedral and other local monasteries. So, when the populace declared him a 'people's saint,' it was Gloucester which prospered. Edward lies between two Tudor monuments of great interest: an effigial monument to King Osric of the Hwicce (a Saxon Kingdom centred on Gloucester) who founded the Abbey in 679 and a cenotaph to William Parker, the last Abbot.

From the North Transept, you may enter the Locutorium where the Cathedral treasury is housed: a dazzling array of gold and silverware from churches all over the diocese. This room was originally a passageway from the cloister to the monks' graveyard, but later became a place where those under a vow of silence were allowed to communicate. For a very small fee, you can also enter the Cathedral History Exhibition from here. It is well worth the money just for the view over the chancel from the galleries high above where it is housed - and you get to walk through the passageway actually behind the great east window!

Fan-Vaulted Cloisters at Gloucester CathedralDo not forget to visit the cathedral cloister - the third of the cathedral's gems. It contains a complete circuit of beautiful traceried fan vaulting, the earliest examples in the country dating from the late 14th century. The south walk contains monastic cubicles for writing and study, while the north walk houses a rare and fascinating 'lavatorium' where the monks partook in communal washing with running water piped from a nearby spring. The Chapter House and cathedral restaurant can also be found in the cloisters; and the central garden makes a delightful place to sit and dream of ages past on sunny summer days.

Next Stop: Shops and Historic Buildings in Gloucester City Centre

Related Pages:
Gloucester City Page
History of Gloucester
History of Gloucester Cathedral
Architectural Development of Gloucester Cathedral