Built of local red sandstone, Hereford Cathedral retains a large central tower and some fine 11th-century Norman carvings, although most of the interior is 19th century. There are also some exquisite contemporary stained-glass windows in the Audley Chapel. However, its main attractions are two great treasures: a 12th-century chair, to the left of the high altar, one of the earliest pieces of furniture in the country and reputedly used by King Stephen (1092–1154); and
the Mappa Mundi, the largest medieval map of the world still in existence. Drawn in about 1300, it's a fascinating glimpse of how the medieval mind viewed the world: Jerusalem is shown dead center, the Garden of Eden at the edge, Europe and Africa are the wrong way round—and, of course, there are no Americas. In addition to land masses, the map details 500 individual drawings, including cities, Biblical stories, mythical creatures, and images of how people in different corners of the globe were thought to look—the last two frequently overlapping in wildly imaginative fashion. The map is held inside a chained library, containing some 1,500 books, among them an 8th-century copy of the Four Gospels. Chained libraries, in which books were attached to cupboards to discourage theft, are extremely rare: they date from medieval times, when books were as precious as gold. Tours of the cathedral (without the library), tower and garden run through summer; however, some are dependent on weather and are liable to change, so calling to confirm times is strongly recommended.
Cathedral Close, Hereford, HR1 2NG, England