The imposing Norman exterior of the city's greatest monument, begun in 1079 and consecrated in 1093, makes the Gothic lightness within even more breathtaking. Throughout the structure are outstanding examples of every major architectural style from the 11th to 16th century: the transepts and crypt are 11th-century Romanesque; the great nave, the longest in Europe, is 14th- and 15th-century Perpendicular Gothic, and the presbytery (behind the choir, holding the high altar) is 14th-century Decorated Gothic. Other notable features include the richly carved 14th-century choir stalls, the ornate 15th-century stone screen behind the high altar, and the largest surviving spread of 13th-century floor tiles in England. Little of the original stained glass has survived, except in the large window over the entrance. When Cromwell's troops ransacked the cathedral in the 17th century, locals hid away bits of stained glass they found on the ground so that it could later be replaced. Free tours are
run year-round. The Library and Triforium Gallery, which contains the Winchester Bible, one of the finest remaining 12th-century illuminated manuscripts, is being renovated and will reopen in August 2016.
Among the well-known people buried here are William the Conqueror's son, William II ("Rufus"), mysteriously murdered in the New Forest in 1100; Izaak Walton (1593–1683), author of The Compleat Angler, whose memorial window in the "Fishemen's Chapel" was paid for by "the fishermen of England and America"; and Jane Austen, whose grave lies in the north aisle of the nave. The tombstone makes no mention of Austen's literary status, though a brass plaque in the wall, dating from 80 years after her death, celebrates her achievements, and modern panels provide an overview of her life and work. Firmly in the 20th century, Antony Gormley's evocative statue Sound II (1986) looms in the crypt, often standing in water (as it was designed to do), because of seasonal flooding. You can also explore the tower—with far-reaching views in fair weather—and other recesses of the building on a tour. Special services or ceremonies may mean the cathedral is closed to visits, so call ahead. Outside the cathedral, explore the Close, the area to the south of the cathedral with neat lawns, the Deanery, Dome Alley, and Cheyney Court.
The Close, Cathedral Precincts, Winchester, SO23 9LS, England