Tourists are the cathedral's main source of income
A number of volunteers have resigned as stewards at a Devon cathedral over a new policy of charging visitors.
An entry fee of £3.50 is being requested as visitors enter Exeter Cathedral's 12th Century building.
In the past, visitors were asked to make a donation to help with the daily running costs of £2,000.
The Very Reverend Keith Jones, Dean of Exeter Cathedral, said: "We have not enough income to run the place. As tourists are our main source of income this is the natural way to do it."
He added: "In fact, we can't think of another way."
People who came to the cathedral for devotional purposes would still be able to get in free.
The Reverend David Harding, from Exmouth, who has been a volunteer steward for five years, has resigned with some of his fellow stewards.
He said: "You can't in a sense hold out a hand of friendship and with the other be asking for money.
"I think, financially, it's a disaster. I don't think it'll succeed. And as for its moral affect on the cathedral, it's very sad indeed."
Every year around 500,000 people visit the cathedral - which dates from 1114, making it Exeter's most popular visitor attraction.
Another South West cathedral is also considering charging visitors.
Truro Cathedral, which is more than £60,000 in the red, has appointed a chief executive to help balance the books.
About 10% of English cathedrals already have an admission fee.
Lincoln Cathedral charges £3.50 and Canterbury Cathedral charges £4.
St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey both charge £6 for entry.