- Worcester Cathedral is in Worcester in the West Midlands.
- Visit the burial place of King John, perhaps best known for his appearance in the myths of Robin Hood, and Prince Arthur, the eldest son of Henry VII.
- Look through architecture that has withstood time and has followed architectural features from many eras.
- Enjoy a stop at the Cloister Café or get a souvenir from the cathedral shop.
Worcester Cathedral has been a place of prayer and worship for fourteen centuries. The cathedral is long-lasting, with many pieces of the Cathedral being from the 11th century, meaning that Worcester Cathedral history is carefully wrapped up in the history of England; it is with Worcester Cathedral Services still happening today. You might also be interested in Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum or Hanbury Hall if you're in Worcestershire.
Worcester Cathedral has a fascinating history. Worcester Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of Worcester. Its official name is Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin, of Worcester, and it was built between 1084 and 1504 after being founded in 680. It's architecturally fascinating as it represents every architectural style from Norman up until Perpendicular Gothic. The crypt dates from the 11th century and is the burial place of King John. Prince Arthur, the older brother of King Henry VIII, is also buried there. The 11th century was the time of Wulfstan, the last Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Worcester. Wulfstan was even made a saint. The Priory was a major part of Worcester, as a major landowner and economic force. The Priory provided education and hospitals as well as having close contacts in the ruling classes and aiding with the law. The Diocese of Worcester was under the care of the cathedral until the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536 and 1541. In the early 16th century, Worcester Cathedral became the home of around 40 monks. The monastic library had several manuscripts which can be seen all over England. The monks would also use the medieval cloister and Norman Chapter House. The remains of the priory can still be seen. During the Civil War, Worcester Cathedral was used to store arms and declared itself for the Crown, supporting the Royalists. The Cathedral was ransacked, stained glass windows were smashed, and the organ was destroyed, along with the books in the library and many monuments. The Cathedral was even used as a prison.
There are plenty of aspects to look at throughout the Cathedral. The Royal Tombs are home to King John and Prince Arthur. King John is best known for sealing the Magna Carta, and Prince Arthur is best known as the older brother of King Henry VIII. King John spent Christmas in Worcester in 1214 and stipulated in his will, the oldest remaining royal will in England, that he should be buried in Worcester Cathedral. King John is buried in front of the high altar, with the Plantaganet badge of three lions. He has the oldest royal effigy in England. His son, Henry III, often visited the altar and was a large benefactor of Worcester Cathedral. Prince Arthur was the product of the unity between the houses of York and Lancaster, and was the start of the Tudor dynasty. He was married to Catherine of Aragon and moved to Ludlow Castle, but both became ill. Prince Arthur died at 15, and his younger brother remarried Catherine, thus becoming heir to the throne. Prince Arthur's chantry, a dedicated area to him, is surrounded by carvings symbolising the multiple houses such as Lancaster, York, Beaufort and even Catherine of Aragon’s pomegranate. While some of these were slightly damaged, the Chantry is still available to visit.
Worcester Cathedral is great for people looking for more information regarding architecture. Worcester Cathedral is stunning even without architectural knowledge, with the intricately created stained glass windows which tower above visitors creating pretty colours on the floor. Lots of the stained glass was destroyed during the English Civil War, but the Victorians restored much. Keep an eye out for the Great West Window, showing scenes from the Book of Genesis. Try and spot the pink giraffe. The windows in the cloister tell the history of England from the 9th century to the 19th century. You can even adopt one of the panes to ensure it stays available for many future generations. Keep an eye out for the Misericords too, telling stories from the Bible, mythology and folk law. There are 42 misericords, 39 of which date from the 14th century; ask a verger or welcomer for assistance finding them inside. See styles of architecture like Transitional Norman, Decorated and Early English. The Cathedral is also the home of the world's first round Chapter House from the 12th century, and St Wulfstan’s Crypt, which was constructed in 1084. There are even some pieces of evidence of Saxon material from an previous building reused inside Worcester Cathedral. The beautiful Early English Quite and Lady Chapel should not be missed. You can even book a specific architecture tour if you want to learn even more information about Worcester Cathedral architecture.
The Worcester Cathedral Library and Archive is home to 298 medieval manuscripts, 6600 post-medieval books and 19,000 archive documents. There is also a music collection, with music from Sir Edward Elgar and Thomas Tomkins as well as many more. It's used by many scholars and theologians even today, and lots of the works are also available at institutes throughout the country. Library tours are available for an extra price if you'd like to dive deep into what information is held at the Cathedral.
Worcester Cathedral's incredible tower stands high above the centre of Worcester and is an iconic part of the skyline. Open on weekends and school holidays; the tower has 235 steps. The tower is the third of Worcester Cathedral's, and the only one surviving. The first, built by Camilla Finlay in 1175, fell down. The second was considered too unsafe to stay up. The present tower was built in 1374, with the exterior re-faced in the 19th century with the rest of the cathedral. The tower has been strengthened since then to ensure no danger. At the top, visitors will be able to see incredible views of Worcester, spreading to Malvern Hills, the River Severn and beyond. It's even believed that in 1651 the future King Charles II viewed the Battle of Worcester from the top. The tower is also important because of its bellringing, which still occurs. You'll be able to see the new Bellringing teaching centre, the Ringing Room and the Bell Chamber.
Events happen at Worcester Cathedral throughout the year. At Christmas, you might see a line of around 100 beautiful Christmas trees decorated by the local community lined up near the Cloister. This is the incredible Christmas Tree Festival, a unique time of year in Worcester. You also might be able to enjoy the Christmas Fayre, the same weekend as Worcester's Victorian Christmas Fayre. The Cathedral is host to Shakespeare plays, flower festivals, operas, photoshoots, and more.
If you want to stop for a nice break, there's the small Cloister Café serving light meals, hot and cold drinks, and cake. The café is situated in the East Cloister opposite the Garth Garden. There is also the Cathedral shop, with plenty of souvenirs, gifts and more. Whether you're looking for jewellery, postcards, books or more, there's something for everybody in the shop.
What to know before you go
- Worcester Cathedral is open from 11am to 3pm Monday to Saturday and 1pm to 3pm on Sunday, we recommend spending at least one to two hours here.
- There are several car parks near to Worcester Cathedral, but none are owned by Worcester Cathedral.
- The majority of the Cathedral is wheelchair accessible. The tower, crypt, library, St John Chapel or inside Prince Arthur’s Chantry are not wheelchair accessible.
- Buggies can be used around most of the site, but welcomers or vergers will be able to help you on the day about where you can go.
- There are male and female toilets available near the Cloister. There is an accessible toilet in the same place, as well as baby changing facilities.
- Dogs on leads are allowed in the grounds.
- The Cloister Café is closed on Sundays.
- Worcester Cathedral is in College Yard in Worcester City, close to Cathedral Square, Worcester. It's a 48-minute drive from Birmingham and a 2-hour 42-minute drive from London.
- The closest station to Worcester Cathedral is Worcester Foregate Street, a 12-minute walk away.
- The closest bus routes for Worcester Cathedral are the 144, 144A, 296, 303.