Driving South I usually bypass Peterborough using the Ring Road. On previous visits into the city I’d often wondered what Peterborough Cathedral or to give it its full name, the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Andrew, was like inside. It’s such an incredible building from the outside.
Visitors are welcomed, there is no entry fee, unless you are doing a guided tour, but they do ask that you might like to make a donation. There’s a small fee if you’d like to take photos. So having paid my dues I set about taking in the beautiful interior and exterior of Peterborough Cathedral.
Peterborough in Anglo-Saxon times was called ‘Medeshamstede’, which translates loosely to ‘Homestead belonging to Mede’. The very first monastery which was built on this site back in 655AD was known as The Medeshamstede Monastery. In 870, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Viking invasion of Mercia reached Medeshamstede and the Abbey was razed and all the monks were slaughtered. The Hedda Stone (The Monks Stone) has twelve carved figures on it and is traditionally held to be a monument to those monks who perished at the hands of the Danes in 870AD. Some believe it’s an even earlier sculpture.
The building of a new church, in Norman style was started in 1118 and was consecrated in 1238 by Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln. Between 1350 and 1380 the Norman tower was rebuilt in the Decorated Gothic style; different architectural styles sitting beautifully alongside each other. Henry VIII’s first wife, Katharine of Aragon, is laid to rest here and visitors often decorate her grave with flowers and pomegranates (her symbol). Mary, Queen of Scots was also buried here for a time before being moved to Westminster Abbey in 1612.
The ceilings are beautiful, some are quite ornately painted but my favourite was the fan vaulting in The Lady Chapel. This is the newest section of the Cathedral and was built between 1496 and 1509; it is thought to have been designed by John Wastell. Trying to do these ceilings justice in photos was virtually impossible, but hopefully I’ll have given you an insight to their beauty.
There was a large group of people working on repairing and restoring various sections of the Cathedral, both inside and out, but this did not impede on my visit in any way. Yes, The West Front of the Cathedral was barricaded off, but you can still see the through these and if you take a few steps back you’re barely aware that they are there. The entrance being used when I visited was just around the corner; all very well sign posted.
If you are ever in the vicinity I would strongly suggest you take an hour or so to have a wander around this stunning area. Even the surrounding streets seemed to be linked with names like Church Street and Priestgate. At the end of Priestgate the Town Hall stands proudly in front of you. Beautiful buildings that really make you want to discover more