Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Chichester Cathedral (Chichester)

The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity is an outstanding mediaeval building, situated in the attractive city of Chichester in Sussex.

The see was founded by St. Wilfrid at Selsey in 709, and moved to Chichester in 1075. William the Conqueror had decreed, quite sensibly, that cathedrals should be sited in the major towns.

Much of the cathedral is Norman, built while Ralph de Luffa was Bishop in the late 11th and early 12th centuries.

The cathedral suffered two major fires, in 1114 and later in 1186, when the whole city was involved in the conflagration.

The central tower was completed by 1250, and the spire was added shortly after. But it eventually became apparent that the tower could not support the weight of both spire and bells, so the latter were removed and housed in the Bell Tower, built about 1410. This remains the only freestanding mediaeval Bell Tower associated with any English cathedral.

The central tower, having had some repairs by Christopher Wren, finally collapsed in 1861, but was reconstructed by Gilbert Scott, and now with its lovely spire rises to 277 feet.

Chichester's most famous Bishop was Richard de la Wych. He died at Dover in 1253, while he was preaching a Crusade, and was later canonised as St. Richard of Chichester. His famous prayer includes the words "may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly".

St. Richard was buried in the cathedral, along with the poet William Collins and the ashes of the composer Gustav Holst.

In the South aisle are two Saxon panels, depicting the raising of Lazarus by Christ at the house of Mary and Martha. These are believed to have been brought from Selsey, and influenced the work of both Henry Moore and Eric Gill.

Chichester Cathedral, as well as being an impressive place of worship, is a veritable art gallery, with pieces by a number of outstanding artists.

These include Graham Sutherland's painting "Noli Me Tangere" ("Touch Me Not", showing the resurrected Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene; the vivid John Piper tapestry on the theme of the Holy Trinity; the window by Marc Chagall (whose work can be found in only one other church, at Tudeley in Kent); the reredos by Patrick Procktor, with scenes from the life of John the Baptist and inspired by a painting by Nicholas Poussin; John Skelton's sculpture of Our Lady and the Holy Child; and the Anglo-German Tapestry by Ursula Benker-Schirmer, showing episodes from the life of St. Richard.

There is also a statue of William Huskisson, President of the Board of Trade and M.P. for Chichester. He gained the distinction of becoming the first person to be killed by a train, at the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester line in 1830.

Chichester Cathedral is the only one in England whose spire can be seen from the sea.

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