Bristol Cathedral

Bristol Cathedral

I might not be religious, but there’s nothing quite like visiting a cathedral. The architecture, the history, the atmosphere, there’s just something about it. So, on a recent trip, I made sure to visit one of England’s great medieval churches, Bristol Cathedral.

Stood next to College Green in the centre of Bristol, the cathedral is an imposing and magnificent building. It is free to enter, but donations are encouraged for the upkeep of the cathedral.

The Victorian Nave.
The Nave – The original medieval nave was lost in the 16th century. with the cathedral functioning without one for 300 years. This part of the cathedral is Victorian and was built in the late 1860s.
Looking from the nave to the choir and high altar.
Looking from the nave to the choir and high altar.
Looking up in the north transept.
Looking up in the north transept.

This has been a place of worship since the twelfth century. It was originally an Augustine Abbey, founded c. 1140. Much of it has been rebuilt or added onto since, but the transepts, Chapter House and Abbey Gatehouse remain from the twelfth century. The Elder Lady Chapel was added c. 1220 and the Eastern Lady Chapel c. 1298.

The Elder Lady Chapel.
The Elder Lady Chapel.
Eastern Lady Chapel.
Eastern Lady Chapel.

Bristol was lucky when it came to Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries during the 16th century. Henry VIII dissolved the abbey is 1539, but the buildings in Bristol were saved when he created a series of “New Foundation” Cathedrals. Many other places such as Buildwas Abbey, Wenlock Priory and Haughmond Abbey in Shropshire weren’t so lucky.

Today we can still see the cathedral in all its glory and it is in use on a daily basis. There is plenty to see here, especially if you look up above and down at your feet as well as at your surroundings.

A medieval abbot.
A medieval abbot.
A stained glass window in the South Choir Aisle.
A stained glass window at the end of the South Choir Aisle, created by Keith New in 1965, depicting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in arresting abstract form.
The High Altar.
The High Altar.

I would recommend a visit to the cathedral cafe, at the end of the Cloisters. Even as we approached we could smell the homemade soup being made in the kitchen. As it wasn’t quite lunch time, we sat with a drink and rested our feet. A gentleman came and had a chat with the cafe staff, obviously a regular customer. Then he sat down at a table with his coffee and made sure to greet anyone coming into or leaving the cafe (don’t you just love people watching?).

The Choir
The Choir – At the heart of the medieval hall church. You can see the cathedral organ from here, originally dating back to 1685, but updated, restored and repaired many times since.
Looking up from the choir.
Looking up from the choir.
The Choir and High Altar.
The Choir and High Altar.

If visiting the cathedral, I would recommend visiting in the morning as it started to get busy after 11am while we were there.

The cathedral also has its own shop, should you wish to take home a souvenir of your visit.

The Nave.
The Nave.
A stained glass window depicting Henry VIII.
A stained glass window depicting Henry VIII.

There is plenty to see and do in this area of Bristol, with Bristol Aquarium, the Waterfront, The Georgian House Museum, Cabot Tower, Bristol Hippodrome and the shops are all a short walk away. We walked past Bristol City Hall (situated opposite the cathedral) and discovered an Etsy craft fair being held inside, so it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled.

19 comments

  1. Kelly says:

    What a great post! I love church architecture and have visited quite a few cathedrals in the UK over the years. This is one I’ve not been to and would love to visit someday. I think the modern stained glass looks wonderful… something I wouldn’t have expected!

  2. Jayne says:

    That’s so beautiful Nikki, I used to love popping into Winchester Cathedral whilst shopping when we lived in Hampshire. I really enjoyed your photos 🙂

  3. LL Cool Joe says:

    I AM religious and am not a great fan of cathedrals. 😀 The church I attend is very modern, no religious symbols at all, but I can appreciate the beauty of the building, I just wouldn’t really want to worship there.

  4. Anca says:

    I went to Bristol, but when I was there the cathedral was busy with Remembrance Day commemorations, so I couldn’t visit it. I’d love to visit Bristol again and see the cathedral too.
    The pictures are gorgeous.

  5. jeanie says:

    These photos are just stunning. And I understand completely what you mean about no matter what faith, if any, visiting a spot like this brings peace and beauty. Certainly this spot is! I hope to be in Bath next fall and Bristol isn’t far. I think I might have to add this spot to my list!

  6. I really didn’t know anything about this cathedral, so it was lovely to read your thoughts and see your photos. I too love visiting cathedrals (last year I visited Durham Cathedral) and I really need to make a more concerted effort to visit more.

  7. Diana Studer says:

    also has some fascinating windows commemorating people at work during the war. A nurse rolling bandages – which seems so alien when our bandage come prepacked and ready rolled. So much detail in those windows for social history. I wonder if they are portraits of real people too?

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