The magnificent Cathedral dominates the city skyline. Situated in the heart of the city, Norwich Cathedral has attracted many pilgrims and visitors for over 900 years. Separated from the busy streets by flint walls and entrance gates, it is a place of great splendour and tranquillity and has at least three services daily.
The Cathedral was the vision of Herbert de Losinga, first Bishop of Norwich and construction commenced in 1096. However, the Cathedral was not finally consecrated until 1278, built mainly of Caen stone, a pale honey-coloured limestone brought over from Normandy, with Norfolk flints and stone from Northamptonshire. The Cathedral spire is 315 feet (96 m) high, the second highest in England and with the largest monastic cloister. It is also one of the finest complete Romanesque buildings in Europe.
In 1463 a fire, caused by lightning, destroyed the spire and the wooden roof so it was decided by Bishop Walter Lyhart to replace this with stone vaulting. The stone ribs are joined by 255 carved and painted bosses, telling the story of the Bible, from the Creation, to the Last Judgement. These bosses are considered one of the finest art treasures of medieval Europe. The west window contains stained glass by the Victorian artist Hedgeland, and are scenes from the life of Christ in the upper part and of Moses in the lower.
The choir stalls were designed for the Benedictine Monks with seats known as misericords, which gave support to the elderly or sick during long services. The wooden seats are carved with animals and birds and with medieval scenes.
One of the Cathedral's most noticeable features is the Saxon Bishop’s throne. It was brought from North Elmham by the Normans and placed behind the high alter, where its stone fragments can be seen today, underneath the modern wooden throne.
In 1272 the original Cathedral cloisters were destroyed in a fire. They were rebuilt during the 14th and 15th centuries and are the largest monastic cloisters of any English cathedral. The cloisters were designed for two purposes: as a place where the monks could read, write and teach and as a covered walkway between parts of the monastery. Doors from the cloisters led into the chapter house, to the dormitory stairs, the warming house, the library, the refectory, the infirmary, the guest hall and the locutory.
The last room was where the monks could talk to visitors, and is now appropriately the Cathedral shop.
The visitors centre is situated in the west upper story of the cloisters, and access is from the Upper Close. The centre has an exhibition space, audio-visual displays and a self-service buffet.
The Cathedral Close is one of the largest in England, with two magnificent gateways that lead in from Tombland. It is a very tranquil place, best explored on foot. It contains the Prior’s Hall and the Bishop’s Palace and many of the buildings form part of King Edward VI School, which is also known as Norwich School. Houses in the Lower Close are mainly residential, while those in the Upper Close serve as offices.