Gloucester Cathedral

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Gloucester Cathedral

Cathedral Church of St Peter
and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity

Gloucester, Gloucestershire

Status: cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral exterior front.jpg
Church of England
Diocese of Gloucester
Location: 51°52’3"N, 2°14’48"W
Romanesque, Gothic

The Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, commonly called Gloucester Cathedral is the cathedral of the Diocese of Gloucester and the seat of the Bishop of Gloucester. It stands in the City of Gloucester, county town of Gloucestershire. It is in the north of the city near the River Severn.

The origin of the cathedral is in 678 or 679, with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter, an abbey dissolved only in the sixteenth century by King Henry VIII.


Wardle records that in 1058 Ealdred, Bishop of Worcester at the time, rebuilt the church of St Peter.[1] The foundations of the present church were laid by Abbot Serlo (1072–1104). Walter Frocester (d. 1412) the abbey's historian, became its first mitred abbot in 1381.[2]

Until 1541 Gloucester lay in the Diocese of Worcester, but as part of the Henrician Reformation a new Diocese of Gloucester was constituted, with John Wakeman, last abbot of Tewkesbury, as its first bishop. The diocese covers the greater part of Gloucestershire, with small parts of Herefordshire and Wiltshire. The cathedral has a stained glass window containing the earliest images of golf. This dates from 1350, over 300 years earlier than the earliest image of golf from Scotland.[3] There is also a carved image of people playing a ball game, believed by some to be one of the earliest images of mediæval football.

Construction and architecture

The soaring stained glass windows behind the chancel

The cathedral, built as the abbey church, consists of a Norman nucleus (Walter de Lacy is buried there), with additions in every style of Gothic architecture. It is 420 feet long, and 144 feet wide, with a fine central tower of the 15th century rising to the height of 225 feet and topped by four delicate pinnacles, a famous landmark. The nave is massive Norman with an Early English roof; the crypt, under the choir, aisles and chapels, is Norman, as is the chapter house. The crypt is one of the four apsidal cathedral crypts in Britain, the others being at Worcester, Winchester and Canterbury.

The nave looking east toward the choir

The south porch is in the Perpendicular style, with a fan-vaulted roof, as also is the north transept, the south being transitional Decorated Gothic. The choir has Perpendicular tracery over Norman work, with an apsidal chapel on each side: the choir vaulting is particularly rich. The late Decorated east window is partly filled with surviving mediæval stained glass. Between the apsidal chapels is a cross Lady chapel, and north of the nave are the cloisters, the carrels or stalls for the monks' study and writing lying to the south. The cloisters at Gloucester are the earliest surviving fan vaults, having been designed between 1351 and 1377 by Thomas de Canterbury.[4]

The most notable monument is the canopied shrine of King Edward II of England who was murdered at nearby Berkeley Castle. The building and sanctuary were enriched by the visits of pilgrims to this shrine. In a side-chapel is a monument in coloured bog oak of Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror and a great benefactor of the abbey, who was interred there. Monuments of Bishop Warburton and Dr Edward Jenner are also worthy of note.

Between 1873 and 1890, and in 1897, the cathedral was extensively restored by George Gilbert Scott.


The cathedral has forty-six 14th-century misericords and twelve 19th-century replacements by Gilbert Scott. Both types have a wide range of subject matter: mythology, everyday occurrences, religious symbolism and folklore.


The Willis organ above the choir

Three Choirs Festival

An annual musical festival, the Three Choirs Festival, is hosted by turns in this cathedral and those of Worcester and Hereford in rotation.[5] The Three Choirs is the oldest annual musical festival in the world. Three Choirs Festival

Film and television location

Cloisters with fan vaulted roof

The cathedral has been used as a fiming location in a variaety of works, amongst them:

  • The Harry Potter films. (Filming caused some controversy amongst those who suggest that the theme of the films was unsuitable for a church.)
  • Doctor Who
  • The Hollow Crown (BBC series)
  • Wolf Hall (representing the court of another King Henry VIII[6]
  • Sherlock

Academic use

Degree ceremonies of the University of Gloucestershire and the University of the West of England (through Hartpury College) both take place at the cathedral.[7][8]

The cathedral is also used during school term-time as the venue for assemblies (known as morning chapel) by The King's School, Gloucester, and for events by the High School for Girls (Denmark Road, Gloucester), the Crypt Grammar School for boys and Ribston Hall High School.


Tomb of Edward II
  • 678-9 A small religious community was founded in Saxon times by Osric of the Hwicce. His sister Cyneburh was the first abbess.
  • 1017 Secular priests expelled; the monastery given to Benedictine monks.
  • 1072 Serlo, the first Norman abbot, appointed to the almost defunct monastery by William I.
  • 1089 Foundation stone of the new abbey church laid by Robert de Losinga, Bishop of Hereford.
  • 1100 Consecration of St Peter’s Abbey.
  • 1216 First coronation of King Henry III.
  • 1327 Burial of King Edward II.
  • 1331 Perpendicular remodelling of the quire.
  • 1373 Great Cloister begun by Abbot Horton; completed by Abbott Frouster (1381–1412)
  • 1420 West End rebuilt by Abbot Morwent.
  • 1450 Tower begun by Abbot Sebrok; completed by Robert Tully.
  • 1470 Lady Chapel rebuilt by Abbot Hanley; completed by Abbot Farley (1472–98).
  • 1540 Dissolution of the abbey.
  • 1541 Refounded as a cathedral by King Henry VIII.
  • 1616–21 William Laud holds the office of Dean of Gloucester
  • 1649–60 Abolition of dean and chapter, reinstated by Charles II
  • 1735–52 Martin Benson, Bishop of Gloucester, carried out major repairs and alterations to the cathedral.
  • 1847–73 Beginning of extensive Victorian restoration work (Frederick S. Waller and George Gilbert Scott, architects).
  • 1953 Major appeal for the restoration of the cathedral; renewed
  • 1968 Cathedral largely re-roofed and other major work completed.
  • 1989 900th anniversary appeal.
  • 1994 Restoration of tower completed.
  • 2000 Celebration of the novecentennial of the consecration of St Peter’s Abbey.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Gloucester Cathedral)


  1. Wardle, Terry Heroes & Villains of Worcestershire 2010 The History Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire p. 10 ISBN 978-0-7524-5515-0
  2. Gransden, Antonia (2013). Historical Writing in England: 550 - 1307 and 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century. Routledge. p. 391. 
  3. "The first Golf record?". A Royal and Ancient Golf History video. Fore Tee Video. Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  4. Harvey, John (1978). The Perpendicular Style. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-1610-6. 
  5. "Three Choirs Festival". Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  6. "The Stately Homes of Wolf Hall", BBC website.
  7. "Information for the Ceremonies held at Gloucester Cathedral". University of Gloucestershire]]. Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  8. "Higher Education Graduation". Hartpury College. Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  • Simmons, D A (1962). Who's who in music and musicians' international directory (4th. ed.). London: Burke's Peerage. OCLC 13309419.  Published in America as Simmons, David (1962). Who's who in music and musicians' international directory (4th. ed.). New York: Hafner Publishing Company. OCLC 12923270.