Although the Cathedral at Hereford sits on an ancient Christian site, it has been rebuilt many times during its 1,300-odd year history, most recently in the early 20th century. But this small, attractive Cathedral has had a more colourful history than most, and contains some priceless historical artifacts, notably its mediaeval chained library and the famous Mappi Mundi.
Hereford is thought to have been the centre of a diocese as early as the 6th century, but it is clear that it was refounded in 676AD by the Saxon Bishop Putta, erstwhile Bishop of Rochester. In 792, the cathedral also became home to the remains of King Ethelbert (Æthelberht) of East Anglia, beheaded by Offa, King of Mercia. The reasons behind the beheading are unknown the unfortunate Ethelbert was to have married Offa's daughter. Whatever the cause, miracles were said to have occurred at his tomb, and Ethelbert was canonised: the cathedral still retains its double dedication, to St Mary the Virgin and St Ethelbert the King.
Around 830AD, the church was rebuilt in stone, and stood until ransacked by the Welsh in 1056. The arrival of the Normans signalled a major rebuilding programme, begun under Robert of Lorraine in 1076 and completed in 1145. Much of this work remains, particularly in the Choir and the Transepts, and the finely decorated nave arcade. The retention of the 11th-century ground plan is the reason for Hereford's relatively small size.
A retro-choir and Lady Chapel were added around 1220, and the same century also saw the rebuilding of the north transept, and the clerestory and vault of the Choir. The 14th century saw the essential completion of the church, with the additional of its fine decorated gothic central tower, a western tower, a number of chantries, a fine cloister and the north porch.
In 1786 the western tower collapsed, taking the West front and part of the nave with it. Rebuilt not entirely successfully - by James Wyatt, the 1800s saw further restoration, much of it under George Gilbert Scott, and in 1908 a new West front was completed to replace Wyatt's work.
The cathedral we see now is therefore essentially a Norman building with later additions. Its interior has some remarkable furnishings and fittings, including mediaeval glass, the fine 14th-century tomb of Sir Richard Pembridge in full armour, the tomb of St Thomas of Hereford (Bishop Thomas de Cantilupe, 1218-1282), the small but beautiful 15th-century Audley Chantry, and the priceless mediaeval chained library, which contains books and manuscripts from the 13th century onwards. Chief among its glories is the Mappa Mundi, a map of the world showing Jerusalem at its centre, and dating from the 13th century.
The cathedral has the inevitable shop, and a modern café, situated in the cloister. The cathedral is famed for its music, a choir having been established here in the 13th century. Along with Gloucester and Worcester, it also hosts the famous Three Choirs Festival, every three years (the next occasion being 2009). Dating back to 1727, this is the oldest music festival in Europe, and possibly the world. Details can be found at: 3choirs.org .
The inside of the cathedral is gorgeous, and the gift shop is excellent with a good range of products. There is even a café, and although the indoor seating is limited there is more outside.
But to climb the tower isn't free, and see the Mappa Mundi costs £6 per person!! Gasp.
Great five pound tour of the bellfry and rooftop. Guide was friendly and not rushed. Very impressive! Costs 4,000 pounds per day to run the cathedral! The interior of this cathedral is amazing and there are free lunch organ concerts. Nice gift shop and cafe. Once a year local artist show.
Hereford Cathedral is a truly magical place that will stay with you for years to come. Not only does it hold many historical artifacts like most churches/cathedrals, it also makes you feel very humble and at peace with things. It seems like you step into it and it automatically makes you feel warm. The staff are friendly and very helpful they also are very knowledgeable and always on hand to answer of your questions if you have any. I think the place is suitable for young and old alike, and there is a beautiful green outside for people to sit on, on a good day. I come here a lot as I have family here, and I come here every time, there is something that attracts me to this place although I have yet to be on one of the guided tours up the spire!
This is a beautiful Cathedral in very good condition. The Cathedral was built in the 11th Century, although over the years it has been destroyed and rebuilt.
Housed at the Cathedral is the Mappa Mundi. It is a historical record that recorded how thirteenth-century scholars interpreted the world in spiritual as well as geographical terms. Well worth seeing.
The Cathedral is free to visit although donations can be made. There is a charge for the Mappa Mundi which is £4.50 per adult. There are concessionary fees.
One place I would recommend is the Cloister Coffee Shop. It is cheap and the home made cakes are to die for.
Fantastic place to visit. Great surroundings and lots of things to explore inside! I have had great times here and would advice anyone to see this place! Must visit !
A magnificant cathedral & definitely worth a visit. My chikldren enjoyed going around the Cathedral as youngsters. When the tower is open it is worth going up as the views from the top over the beautiful Herefordshire countryside are spectacular.
A great day out for all the family Admission is free and the surroundings truly beautiful. The on-site café is perfect for a cheap lunch and town centre is a short distance away for a fast food dinner to bride the children. What can be said about the main attraction that hasn't been said already?
a very impotant part of hereford's history and very intresting place to visit.
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