Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours

Cathedrals and Abbeys of England on 13 September 2019


Today we visited a very special Cathedral perched in a dominating position. Lincoln Cathedral, there is no other Cathedral in England in such a breathtaking position. Enthroned high on the limestone cliff, it stands like a great ocean liner at anchor. Constructed to dominate the vast diocese over which the Bishop ruled. Lincoln was where the Norman conquerors in 1072 wanted their Cathedral in such a strategically important centre. This Cathedral is one of the most important Medieval cathedrals in England.

At the time of the Norman invasion, the diocese that was to become Lincoln was the largest diocese in medieval England, extending from the Humber to the Thames. In 1072, William the Conqueror ordered that a Cathedral be built at Lincoln. Remigius, a Benedictine monk and supporter of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, was the first Norman Bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln.

Lincoln Castle had already been built by William, located in the south-west corner of the old Roman upper city. The new cathedral, constructed of Lincolnshire oolitic limestone, was opposite the castle in the south-east corner of the old Roman city. Over the years the Cathedral has had its fair share of problems with a major fire in 1141, then an earthquake in 1185 and both required major rebuilding. Over the years work continued and after the central tower collapsed in 1237 work started on a new tower in 1307.

Saint Hugh himself was said to have carried a hod to help with the building work, but he died in 1200, before his plans were complete, the great Transept and Nave were still unfinished.

Around 1370 to 1400 the western towers were heightened. All three towers had spires until 1549 when the central tower's spire blew down. The central tower rises to 83 metres and remains the tallest cathedral tower in Europe without a spire. Prior to the collapse of the lead-encased wooden spire, with the spire, the Cathedral rose to a height of 160 metres, making it at the time the world's tallest building. It was the first building to exceed the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Until the collapse of the spire, the Cathedral remained the world's tallest structure for more than two centuries. Looking eastwards, the next highest point was the Ural Mountains in Russia.

Lincoln Cathedral holds one of the four remaining copies of the original Magna Carte. Of the four remaining copies, one is held by Lincoln Cathedral, one by Salisbury Cathedral and two by the British Library. Dating from the Middle Ages, Magna Carta is the most important document conferring democracy and civil rights. It is embedded in English Common Law and has been quoted and drawn on throughout the ages, from the US Constitution (especially the Bill of Rights) through to the UN Charter.

Lincoln Cathedral set standards for its time. Up until then, Norman Cathedrals were small, dark, with thick walls. No one can set foot within Lincoln Cathedral without having their breath taken away by it splendour. Time though has taken its toll. Prior to the reformation, Lincoln contained more monasteries than any other diocese. All contributed to the upkeep of this magnificent building. At a stroke, Henry VIII did away with this income. By the late 1970s, many of gargoyles were almost unrecognisable, eaten away by acid rain.

Entering through the great west door is in itself, an enthralling experience. Tomorrow we move on to Norwich.

Graham Fleeton


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