Sunday, October 14, 2012

Peterborough Cathedral

Peterborough Cathedral is the cathedral church of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Andrew, in Peterborough, UK. The grounds of the Cathedral have been used as an abbey since 655 A.D. The first abbey was destroyed by Vikings in 870; the second abbey by fire in 1116. In 1118 the current church was begun. It was finished in 1238. It continued as an abbey until King Henry VIII made it a cathedral in 1541 (more about his connection to the church later).

Peterborough Cathedral

The church is large and spacious inside and outside. We came from a parking lot towards the back of the cathedral complex, enabling us to see many different views of the exterior.

Work being done on the front side of the church

Back corner of the church

The tower rebuilt in the 1800s

Statue with a live bird on it!

The entrance to the church on the west front is quite impressive.

The front doors of the church

Inside, the first thing you find is the carved 13th-century baptismal font. This marble bowl was one of the first furnishings of the church.

Lucy by the medieval font

The nave has a painted wooden ceiling that dates from the 1200s and is the only one in England to survive from that period.

Nave; sorry I didn't get a good shot of the ceiling

The side aisles are also impressive, made of stone.

Side aisle

Victorian Heating System

In the center of the nave hangs a crucifix donated in 1975. The Latin inscription is "the cross stands while the world turns," i.e. the cross is a solid foundation as the world keeps changing.

Hanging Cross

Many other artworks are found throughout the church.

Eastern Cross

Peter Leaves the Boat to See Jesus

The Good Shepherd

In the south transept is St. Oswald's Chapel. The arm of the saint was there until 1539, presumably it was hidden away during the Reformation.

St. Oswald Chapel

In the center are the choir stalls, dating from the 1800s, along with the organ.

Carvings by the choir stalls

Where the choir sings the Divine Office

Organ pipes

This area also has the pulpit and the cathedra, or bishop's seat.



This leads us on into the sanctuary, the part of the church that extends past the crossing and the choir stalls. The ceiling is even more ornate here, including some fan-vaulting and an amazing depiction of Jesus on the ceiling.

Sanctuary ceiling

Fan vaulting in the side aisle

East end ceiling with Jesus and the apostles

The sanctuary has the main altar of the church.


Main altar

The sanctuary is home to the most important historical parts of the church. Most ancient is the Hedda Stone or the Monks' Stone. Twelve carved figures represent the apostles and the stone itself is dedicated to the memory of the monks who died in the Viking raid that destroyed the first monastery. The stone dates from the 800s.

Monks' Stone/Hedda Stone

On the left side of the sanctuary is the tomb of Queen Katharine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. She was buried here in 1536.

Tomb of Katharine of Aragon

On the other side of the church is the former resting place of Mary, Queen of Scots. The queen was buried in 1587 but moved to Westminster Abbey in 1612.

Former tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots

Some of the bishops are also buried here.

Archbishop William Magee's tomb (d. 1891)

Bishop Mandell Ceighton's tomb (d. 1901)

In the north transept is the cathedral's treasury, where the sacred vessels and other valuable objects used at the abbey/cathedral are on display.

Jacob in the treasury

Gold and silver pattens for holding Holy Communion

Seals used at the church

More sacred vessels

A chapel dedicated to St. Benedict, founder of Western Monasticism, has a splendid stained glass window.

St. Benedict's window

The cathedral complex is quite extensive, including many buildings for administration and other uses.

Map of cathedral complex

Prebendal House

Deanery Mews

Gate to the city of Peterborough

Just for the historical and artistic glory, Peterborough Cathedral is worth a visit.

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