Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Monday, 2 August 2010 16:24 UK
The Normans: A walk around Worcester Cathedral
Worcester
Worcester Cathedral seen from Fort Royal park

Worcester Cathedral dates back to 1084 and St Wulfstan, the Bishop who began the building work.

During its long history the building has survived the collapse of the central tower in 1175 and extensive damage in the English civil war.

The BBC and the cathedral have worked together to provide this walk as an audio/video tour.

It will be accessible in the cathedral via 'bluetooth' devices from August 2010.

Step one

Worcester cathedral
A pillar housing the staircase into the tower of Worcester cathedral

There had been a cathedral in Worcester since AD860 - the original being dedicated to St Peter.

In 1062, Wulfstan, the Prior of Worcester, was appointed as Bishop, and he began the rebuilding of the cathedral in 1084.

The cathedral was added to right up to the 14th century, and restoration work continues to this day.

Walk down the steps to your right, and look for the turret in the corner, housing the tower staircase.

At its base, alternate layers of stone show this was part of the original Norman Building.

The green sandstone came by river from Highley in Shropshire, and the yellow is Cotswold limestone.

The wall to the left of the turret is part of the original Norman building, and was covered in plaster.

A diagonal line of stone is a 'vault scar' and shows there was a gallery above it, probably used as a chapel.

Step two

Stained glass window
One of the stained glass windows in Worcester Cathedral

Re-trace your route up the steps - past the entrance is a Victorian window showing Bishop Wulfstan, who founded the Norman Cathedral.

He's seen striking his staff into the tomb of King Edward the Confessor.

According to legend he was the only person who could remove it, proving his right to continue as a bishop under the Normans, although he was an Anglo-Saxon.

Wulfstan was canonised in 1203, and his tomb became a place of pilgrimage.

There have been several major periods of rebuilding in the cathedral:

In 1175, the central tower collapsed, and the rebuilding and restoration work following this catastrophe continued until 1218, when the building was rededicated, in the presence of Henry III.

There was considerable work to be done in the cathedral after the English civil war, when the building was badly damaged by Parliamentary forces.

The Victorians began a 20-year restoration in the 1850s, and the work that is going on to this day began in 1998.

Step three

Worcester cathedral
It is not known exactly where St Wulfstan's tomb was.

Walk along the North Quire aisle and stop by the entrance into the Quire (to your right).

This is a possible site for the shrine of St Wulfstan.

After he was made a saint in 1203, pilgrims flocked to visit his shrine.

Wulfstan's tomb survived two fires, but was eventually dismantled.

It's believed his bones were wrapped in lead and buried under the floor; nobody is sure where.

Wulfstan was made Bishop of Worcester in 1062, only four years before the Norman invasion.

He was a shrewd politician and financier, which probably explains why he was one of a very few Anglo-Saxon Bishops to keep his job after the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Legend has it that when asked to resign by Archbishop Lanfranc, he gave up his Bishop's staff by pushing it into the actual stonework of the tomb of Edward the Confessor.

No-one could remove it except Wulfstan, and this miracle allowed him to keep his job.

He is credited with other miraculous acts during his life, including curing Gunnilda, daughter of King Harold, whose eyesight had been attacked by a malignant tumour.

Step four

Worcester cathedral
Original Norman paintwork in the crypt in Worcester Cathedral

Walk across the Quire, past the tomb of King John, then turn left, and head down two sets of steps into the crypt, the most complete part of the Norman Cathedral.

Look for the original orange paint covering the arch above the foot of the stairs.

There are two famous royals buried in the cathedral, King John and Prince Arthur.

King John was one of the least popular Kings England has ever had - managing to lose all of England's possessions in France, and the crown jewels in the Wash, and to fall out with the Pope, who excommunicated him, and with his Barons, who forced him to sign the Magna Carta.

Prince Arthur is the king England never had.

The older brother of Henry VIII, he died in Ludlow, in April 1502, aged 15.

Although still in his teens when he died, Arthur was already married, to Catherine of Aragon, and was in Ludlow to take control of the volatile Marches area.

Step five

Pillar
The pillars in the crypt come in many different styles

The crypt of Worcester cathedral is the most complete part of the original Norman cathedral.

The south side of the crypt is 30cm (one foot) broader than the north side, perhaps to fit around an older building.

A model of the original Norman cathedral can be seen at the far end of the crypt.

If you look at the bases of the pillars you will see that there are 22 different styles used down here, in no particular order.

Looking at the ornate floor, and the surviving decorations gives a good idea of how the whole cathedral would have looked, before the reformation made churches more plain.

Step six

Stained glass window
Scenes from the life and times of St Wulfstan

Head up the stairs at the far end of the crypt, and go through the door into the cloisters, turning right.

Find the window showing scenes from the life of St Wulfstan.

Around the corner to the left, the outside wall shows more Norman doorways.

After the next turn College Hall is on your right - the undercroft area is Norman but not accessible to the public.

Another left turn brings you to the Chapter House on the right.

This wonderful building was the first circular chapter house in the country.

Excavations outside the Chapter House in the late 1990s uncovered traces of another curving wall, probably of the same date or slightly later than it, that archaeologists initially thought may have been part of an Anglo-Saxon Cathedral that influenced the unique circular design of Worcester's chapter house.

The Chapter House was a meeting place for the monks who sat around the edge.

The perfect acoustic means one person talking can be heard from any other seat.

It looks much the same today as in Norman times, although the vaulted roof was originally decorated with biblical scenes.

Step seven

Worcester cathedral
A model of how Worcester Cathedral would have looked

Turn right out of the door, and on your right are cupboards which in Norman times held manuscripts.

Turn right into the Prior's Parlour Coffee Shop.

This is the passage through which the bodies of monks were taken for burial in the nearby Graveyard.

Although part of the Norman cathedral, the pillars and arches were probably recycled from an earlier Saxon building.

Worcester Cathedral - panoramic pictures

Enjoy these 360 degree panoramic pictures of Worcester Cathedral, taken by Bob Bilsland.




SEE ALSO
Norman Walks
02 Jul 10 |  History
Longtown Castle: history & photos
15 Jul 10 |  History
Grosmont: The Norman stronghold
15 Jul 10 |  History


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