Salisbury Cathedral, formally known as the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an Anglican cathedral in Salisbury, England, and is considered one of the leading examples of Early English architecture. The main body was completed in only 38 years, from 1220 to 1258.
The cathedral has the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom (123m/404 ft). Visitors can take the "Tower Tour"where the interior of the hollow spire, with its ancient wood scaffolding, can be viewed. The cathedral also has the largest cloister and the largest cathedral close in Britain (80 acres (320,000 m)). The Cathedral contains the world's oldest working clock (from AD 1386) and has the best surviving of the four original copies of Magna Carta (all four original copies are in England). Although commonly known as Salisbury Cathedral, the official name is the Cathedral of Saint Mary. In 2008, the cathedral celebrated the 750th anniversary of its consecration in 1258.
The cathedral is the Mother Church of the Diocese of Salisbury and seat of the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam.
As a response to deteriorating relations between the clergy and the military at Old Sarum, the decision was taken to resite the cathedral and the bishopric was moved to its present place in Salisbury. The move occurred during the tenure of Bishop Richard Poore, who was a wealthy man and donated the new land for construction. The new cathedral was also paid for by donations, principally by all the canons and vicars of South East England, who were asked to contribute a fixed annual sum until its completion. Legend has it that the Bishop of Old Sarum shot an arrow in the direction he would build the cathedral; the arrow hit a deer and the deer finally died in the place where Salisbury Cathedral is now.
The foundation stone was laid on 28 April 1220. Much of the freestone for the cathedral came from Teffont Evias quarries. Due to the high water table in the new location, the cathedral was built on only four feet of foundations, and by 1258 the nave, transepts and choir were complete. The west front was ready by 1265. The cloisters and chapter house were completed around 1280. Because the cathedral was built in only 38 years, Salisbury Cathedral has a single consistent architectural style, Early English Gothic.
The only major sections of the cathedral built later were the Cloisters, Chapter house, tower and spire, which at 404 feet (123 m) dominated the skyline from 1320. Whilst the spire is the cathedral's most impressive feature, it has also proved to be troublesome. Together with the tower, it added 6,397 tons (6,500 tonnes) to the weight of the building. Without the addition of buttresses, bracing arches and anchor irons over the succeeding centuries, it would have suffered the fate of spires on later great ecclesiastical buildings (such as Malmesbury Abbey) and fallen down; instead, Salisbury remains the tallest church spire in the UK. To this day the large supporting pillars at the corners of the spire are seen to bend inwards under the stress. The addition of reinforcing tie beams above the crossing, designed by Christopher Wren in 1668, arrested further deformation. The beams were hidden by a false ceiling, installed below the lantern stage of the tower.
Significant changes to the cathedral were made by the architect James Wyatt in 1790, including replacement of the original rood screen and demolition of the bell tower which stood about 320 feet (100 m) north west of the main building. Salisbury is one of only three English cathedrals to lack a ring of bells, the others being Norwich Cathedral and Ely Cathedral. However it does strike the time every 15 minutes with bells.
The chapter house is notable for its octagonal shape, slender central pillar and decorative mediæval frieze. It was redecorated in 1855-9 by William Burges. The frieze circles the interior, just above the stalls, and depicts scenes and stories from the books of Genesis and Exodus, including Adam and Eve, Noah, the Tower of Babel, and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The chapter house also displays the best-preserved of the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta. This copy came to Salisbury because Elias of Dereham, who was present at Runnymede in 1215, was given the task of distributing some of the original copies. Later, Elias became a Canon of Salisbury and supervised the construction of Salisbury Cathedral.
The west front is composed of two stair turrets at each extremity, with two niched buttresses nearer the centre line supporting the large central triple window. The stair turrets are topped with spirelets and the central section is topped by a gable which contains four lancet windows topped by two round quatrefoil windows surmounted by a mandorla containing Christ in Majesty. At ground level there is a principal door flanked by two smaller doors. The whole is highly decorated with quatrefoil motifs, columns, trefoil motifs and bands of diapering. The west front was almost certainly constructed at the same time as the cathedral. This is apparent from the way in which the windows coincide with the interior spaces. The entire façade is about 33 metres high and wide.
The front accommodates over 130 shallow niches of varying sizes, 73 of these niches contains a statue. The line of niches extend round the turrets to the north, south and east faces. There are five levels of niches (not including the mandorla) which show, from the top, angels and archangels, Old Testament patriarchs, apostles and evangelists, martyrs, doctors and philosophers and, on the lower level, royalty, priests and worthy people connected with the cathedral. The majority of the statues were placed during the middle of the 19th century, however seven are from the 14th century and several have been installed within the last decade. (see main article)
The Salisbury cathedral clock dating from about AD 1386 is supposedly the oldest working modern clock in the world. The clock has no face because all clocks of that date rang out the hours on a bell. It was originally located in a bell tower that was demolished in 1792. Following this demolition, the clock was moved to the Cathedral Tower where it was in operation until 1884. The clock was then placed in storage and forgotten until it was discovered in 1929, in an attic of the cathedral. It was repaired and restored to working order in 1956. In 2007 remedial work and repairs were carried out to the clock.
The cathedral is the subject of famous paintings by John Constable. The view depicted in the paintings has changed very little in almost two centuries.
The cathedral is also the subject of William Golding's novel The Spirewhich deals with the fictional Dean Jocelin who makes the building of the spire his life's work.
In Edward Rutherfurd 's historical novel Sarum,the narrative deals with the human settlement of the Salisbury area from pre-historic times just after the last Ice Age to the modern era. The construction of the Cathedral itself, its famous spire, bell tower and Charter House are all important plot points in the novel, which blends historic characters with invented ones.
The cathedral has been mentioned by the author Ken Follett as one of two models for the fictional Kingsbridge Cathedral in his historical novel, The Pillars of the Earth. It was also used for some external shots in the 2010 miniseries based on Follett's book and was shown as it is today in the final scene.
The cathedral was the setting for the 2005 BBC television drama Mr. Harvey Lights a Candle, written by Rhidian Brook and directed by Susanna White.
Kevin McCloud climbed the cathedral in his programme called Don't Look Down!in which he climbed high structures to conquer his fear of heights.
The cathedral was the subject of a Channel 4 Time Teamprogramme which was first broadcast on 8 February 2009.
Among the people buried in the cathedral, the most famous is probably Sir Edward Heath, KG, MBE (1916–2005), who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and as a Member of Parliament from 1950 to 2001, and who lived in the Cathedral Close for the last twenty years of his life.
The cathedral's current organ was built in 1877 by Henry Willis & Sons. Sir Walter Alcock, who was organist of the cathedral from 1916, oversaw a strictly faithful restoration of the famous Father Willis organ, even going to such lengths as to refuse to allow parts of the instrument to leave the cathedral in case any unauthorised tonal alteration were made without his knowledge.
An earlier organ was presented by King George III and was installed on top of the stone screen dividing the choir from the nave. It was later taken out and moved to St Thomas's Church.
Salisbury Cathedral Choir auditions boys and girls aged 8–9 years old annually for scholarships to Salisbury Cathedral School, housed in the old Bishop's Palace. The boys choir and the girls choir (each 16 strong) sing alternate daily Evensong and Sunday Matins and Eucharist services throughout the school year. There are also many additional services during the Christian year particularly during Advent, Christmas, Holy Week, and Easter. The Advent 'From Darkness to Lightservices are the best known. Choristers come from across the country, some boarding. Six lay vicars (adult men) comprise the rest of the choir (singing tenor, alto and bass parts).
The cathedral previously employed five cathedral constables (known as "Close Constables"). Their duties mainly concerned the maintenance of law and order in the cathedral close. They were made redundant in 2010 as part of cost-cutting measures and replaced with "traffic managers". The constables were first appointed when the cathedral became a liberty in 1611 and survived until the introduction of municipal police forces in 1835 with the Municipal Corporations Act. In 1800 they were given the power, along with the city constables, to execute any justices’ or court order requiring the conveyance of prisoners to or from the county gaol (at Fisherton Anger, then outside the city of Salisbury) as if it were the city gaol (and, in so doing, they were made immune from any legal action for acting outside their respective jurisdictions). The right of the Cathedral, as a liberty, to maintain a separate police force was conclusively terminated by the Local Government Act 1888.
The Cathedral from the northeast
Salisbury Cathedral from Britford 2km distant
Cloister walk, east side.
Triforium level, looking east.
Inside the spire.
The mediaeval clock
Detail from west front
Salisbury Cathedral by night, from Churchfields.
The Baptismal Font, looking south.
The old baptismal font.
Tomb of Giles of Bridport
The spire 2011