Things to do | Heritage | Britain’s cathedrals

Britain’s cathedrals

A millennium of history

York Minster Source:© Nick Garrod

York Minster

Nick Garrod

Britain's cathedrals combine a millennium of soaring architecture with incredible stories of saints, conquerors, fire, even murder! It's no wonder visitors and film crews flock to hear the incredible stories connected with these majestic buildings.

Durham Cathedral is most recently known for its role in the first two Harry Potter films , but is also one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Britain. Together with Durham Castle, it forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Climb to the top of the 217-foot tower, or sneak into the library, which contains three copies of the Magna Carta.

It’s said that the masons who worked at Durham also created the unique red and yellow sandstone work on Britain’s most northerly cathedral, St Magnus in the Orkney Islands . It was Viking Earl Rognvald who oversaw construction of the 12th-century St Magnus Cathedral, named after his uncle and the patron saint of the Orkney Islands. Both men are buried in the crypt.

Back in 1170 the cold-blooded murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket inside Canterbury Cathedral caused pilgrims to flock there, as famously told in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales . Today you can see the spot where Becket fell and marvel at the cathedral's stained-glass windows which show stories of ordinary people in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Elsewhere, you’ll want to explore York Minster whose tower has views across the maze of medieval streets below, Lincoln Cathedral that was used as a backdrop to the Da Vinci Code film and Salisbury Cathedral which has the tallest spire in Britain. And if you’re more interested in modern architecture, try Liverpool’s distinctive wigwam-shaped Roman Catholic Cathedral that has more coloured glass than any other building in Europe.

Perhaps the greatest of all British cathedrals is St Paul's Cathedral , an elegant highlight of London's famous skyline. After almost burning down twice, once during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and once over 1,000 years before, the building survives today as the masterpiece of world famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, who chose the Crypt as his final resting place.

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