The South Travel Guide

The South Sights

Winchester Cathedral

  • The Close Map It
  • Winchester
  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 08/20/2030

Fodor's Review

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. One of the largest cathedrals in Europe, throughout the structure you will find 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's Winchester Bible, one of the finest remaining 12th-century illuminated manuscripts, is temporarily on display in the North Transept. The patron saint of the cathedral is St. Swithun (died AD 862), an Anglo-Saxon bishop who is also buried here. He had requested an outdoor burial plot, but his body was transferred to the newly restored church in 971, accompanied by, legend has it, 40 days of rain. Since then, folklore says that rain on St. Swithun's Day (July 15) means 40 more days of wet weather.

Among the other well-known people buried here are William the Conqueror's son, William II ("Rufus"), mysteriously murdered in the New Forest in 1100, 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. 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, the crypt, and the Treasury are 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.

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Sight Information


The Close, Cathedral Precincts, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9LS, England

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Sight Details:

  • Cathedral £8; tower tour £6

Published 08/20/2030


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