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Winchester CathedralWinchester Cathedral is a fabulous sight situated on a site which has housed a Christian church ever since the 7th century. Outside Winchester Cathedral, you'll see lines in the ground which mark the spot where Old Minster once stood. Old Minster contained the shrine of St. Swithun, a bishop of Winchester who died in 863. His relics attracted droves of pilgrims and by the year 1000 the walls of Old Minster were lined with the crutches and stools of pilgrims who had been healed by the saint. Old Minster was the most important church of Anglo-Saxon England which was backed by the palace of the kings. Among the kings buried here were Egbert in 839 and King Alfred the Great in 899. Old Minster was also the burial church for King Cnut in 1035 and witnessed Edward the Confessor's crowning in 1043. The Anglo-Saxon Cathedral was demolished in 1094 to make room for the present Winchester Cathedral.
It was the new cathedral at Winchester which would become Winchester's most famous landmark. Begun by Bishop Walkelin in 1079, the east end and the transept were ready by 1093 to receive the remains of St. Swithun and the tombs of the Anglo-Saxon kings and bishops. Old Minster was then demolished. The new Norman cathedral still stands, changed by time but still serving the same purpose as 1300 years ago – to glorify god and to welcome pilgrims.
The North Transept and the Crypt are some of the oldest parts of Winchester Cathedral. They date from Norman times which you can tell by the round tops of the arches and the relative thickness of the pillars. The sculpture 'Christus' by Peter Eugene Ball dominates this area as the face of Christ looks down from the cross. On the opposite side of the transept is the Holy Sepulchre Chapel which contains some remarkable 12th century wall paintings depicting the Deposition and Entombment of Christ. Above them is the 13th century figure of Christ in Majesty. They were discovered in 1963. Also here is the entrance to the Norman Crypt which floods for much of the year but you can still see Antony Gormley's sculpture of a man studying himself in the water.
Another noteworthy piece in Winchester Cathedral is the baptismal font which dates to the middle of the 12th century. Made from black Tournai marble, it is decorated with carvings showing the miracles of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children. You'll also see Jane's Austen's grave which lies in the floor of the north aisle but gives no indication that she was one of England's greatest writers. A memorial window was placed in the church to commemorate her. It depicts St. Augustine whose name is abbreviated to St. Austin. The memorial also depicts St. John and David and his harp in a befitting testament to Jane Austen's spiritual side.
Address: Winchester Cathedral Office, 1, The Close
Postcode: SO23 9LS
Town/city or near: Winchester
Adults: £3.50 (donation)
Opening Hours: Daily from 8.30am to 6pm
Attraction Cathedral Tour: Free 1 hour public tour detailing the history of Winchester Cathedral. Tours depart on the hour from 10am to 12 noon and at 3pm from Monday to Saturday.
Attraction Winchester Tower Tour: £4.00. Available from October to May on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2.15pm. Saturdays at 11.30am and 2.15pm.
Attraction Winchester Crypt Tour: Monday to Saturday, 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm. Although no additional donation is required, you'll need to pick up tickets from the Entrance Desk to Winchester Cathedral.