Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Salisbury Cathedral (Salisbury)

The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Salisbury is one of England’s best loved buildings.

The diocese was founded at Sherborne in 705, and moved to Ramsbury in 920, back to Sherborne in 1058, to Old Sarum in 1075, and finally to Salisbury in 1220, when a new city was built beside the Avon.

It was Bishop Richard de Poore who made the momentous decision to build a new cathedral and city. It was a sensible decision, as the old site, Old Sarum, was on top of a hill and water was scarce.

The work was supervised by Elias of Dereham, and the master mason Nicholas of Ely. Astonishingly for such a magnificent structure, it was completed within fifty years. It is the only English cathedral to be built in one style – Early English.

The oldest part of the cathedral is the Chapel of the Holy Trinity and All Saints, usually referred to as the Lady Chapel, to where the bones of St. Osmund and other Bishops of Old Sarum were translated, making Salisbury a place of pilgrimage.

The beautiful spire, at 404 feet the tallest in Britain and a structure known to people all over the world, was designed by William of Farleigh and built between 1334 and 1365. It was strengthened several times over the centuries, notably by Sir Christopher Wren in 1668.

In the impressive Chapter House is one of the copies of Magna Carta. In the nave is a clock, dating from 1386, which is said to be the world’s oldest working clock.

The Cathedral Close at Salisbury is the largest in England, and is enclosed by a wall and gates. It contains several notable buildings, including Mompesson House and the one where the former Prime Minister Edward Heath lived for his last years. Also in the close is the stunning “Walking Madonna” statue by Elisabeth Frink.

The view of Salisbury Cathedral across the water meadows was painted by both Constable and Turner, and it was this view that readers of “Country Life” voted the best in England in 2002.

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