Begun in 1118, the story of this cathedral reflects some key events in English history. The first church on this site was founded in 655 by Peada, a nobleman from the early English kingdom of Mercia. It was destroyed by the Danes in 870 and reconstructed in 972, only to be burned down again, this time by mistake, in 1116. The next incarnation, consecrated in 1238 after 120 years under construction, still towers over Peterborough. It has seen its fair share of strife, including occupation by Cromwell's forces, who fired muskets into the ceiling and broke most of the statues, stained-glass windows, choir stalls, and the high altar. Although the cathedral has been left with few monuments, the result is a startlingly spacious interior into which light streams through the clear glass. Three soaring arches, each 85 feet high, mark the outstanding west front. In the peaks of their gables are the figures of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Andrew. Inside, the nave ceiling, dating from 1220, is one
of the most significant examples of Romanesque painting in Europe—note the monsters as well as figures of saints, bishops, and kings. It was here that Henry VIII buried Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, after her death (supposedly by natural causes) in 1536. There are general tours daily; tours of the tower and precinct (Cathedral grounds) are offered several times a week—call or check the website for the schedule.