Lincoln Cathedral

On Tuesday we took a two hour bus ride up to see one of the greatest English Gothic Cathedrals. Lincoln Cathedral was first built in 1069 just after the conquest. Part of that original church still remains as part of the west facade, and the rest of the cathedral was built it the Early English and Decorated Gothic styles.


The five arches that you can see are the remains of the Norman church. The windows and sculptures are a later edition from the Gothic periods, but the doorways are Norman.

The doorways are perfect examples of the Norman style that we have seen before. The exquisite beakhead and chevrons matched with the sculpture on the columns and capitols make for an impressive entrance.

One thing that must be said about this cathedral before I show the inside is the photography I did this day. I only got shots of the West facade and no other sides of the building because we were all hurriedly going to the inside. And for a good reason too. On the inside I took 177 pictures in the first 40 minutes. In total this day I shot over 320 pictures. And I wish I had more. The inside is so spectacular, detailed, and massive, that there are so many details that you could photograph one section of wall almost an infinite amount of ways. With that said, here is the best representation of English Gothic that set the rule book for the direction of English Gothic cathedrals.


Our walk around the Cathedral started in the cloister, where we also had lunch.

After the cloister we went into the Chapter house. This chapter house is just like the one at Southwell Minster. A room for the clergy to have meetings. Like at Southwell the room was lavishly decorated, but as you can imagine, on a grander scale.


There is no grand foliage and decoration like at Southwell, but it is not a run down cottage either. The loftiness of the space and the rib vaulting done is spectacular and the carving that is present is it’s equal but I would still argue that Southwell is better. Somehow this space seemed almost cold and clinical, while Southwell felt warmer and gave a more intimate feeling with it being smaller and lavishly decorated.

After the Chapter House we moved into St. Hugh’s Choir. This choir is named after the Bishop that commissioned it’s construction. A very special part of the chior is that it had one of the best master masons to have lived. The features that are found here are incredibly inventive and changed the direction English Gothic took as opposed to French Gothic. One of the things he did was this arcade along the north and south walls.


What is revolutionary is the separation of of the two syncopated arcades. They are completely separate from each other and have different heights of column, colour of column, and shape of the pointed arch. This grandness can be compared to the same arcade that is in the nave section at the bottom along the back wall, but was done by a different mason because the one that did this died.


Another part of St. Hugh’s Choir that is new and inventive is the roof. This is the roof in the nave of the Cathedral.


Impressive, yes, but very ordered and geometrical one it is broken down. Now here is the roof in the choir, titled the “crazy roof”.


Quite different. And here is the rest of the choir that goes with it.

After the Choir comes the rest of the cathedral with the nave, transepts and crossing.

The two transepts with the windows are perfect examples of the difference between Perpendicular Gothic and Decorated Gothic. The one on the left is Perpendicular because it is geometric in pattern, and the one on the right is Decorated because it is all over the place. A side note on the decorated window is that the glass in it was recently restored and it contains about 78% original Medieval glass which is very rare.

That is a quick tour of the Cathedral and it’s history from the ground, but we also got a roof tour here at Lincoln, So here is that portion now.

Starting in this room we can see the addition that was made onto the original Norman church. This little chapel is the bell ringers chapel now but was also once the sanctuary chapel. That is in medieval times if an individual wanted sanctuary from the law they would enter through the separate door and have their own sentencing in the church, where the gift shop is now located.


The first image shows the outside of the Norman building with its arched entrance, and the new addition. The second picture is on the upper level of the room showing the main side entrance of the Norman building and how Medieval walls are made. The addition was made by going over the openings and making a skin around the original part. The third picture is some original Medieval graffiti of the crucifixion.

The next part of the tour was up onto some balconies, both inside and out.


After this we moved further up into the roof above the nave. Here we could see the innards of the construction which is the exact same as was seen in Hereford, but on a larger scale.

Some very cool information about the carpentry of the roof is the wood that is used. It is all English oak and comes from Sherwood forest. The oldest timber used was cut down in the year 980 approx. and the “youngest” timber used was cut down in the 1200’s. They also keep replacement slabs of oak in the rafters to acclimatize them. Only they are acclimatized for over 50 years at least before they are used. And when I say slabs, they are literal slabs and beams of oak sitting everywhere. Also because of the ongoing restoration work that is needed there is a forest nearby with oaks that were planted specifically for the cathedral and are earmarked to be cut down in about 200 years time.

After the tour of the wood room, which one must admit was very tempting to inquire about some of the oak, we went up to walk the length of the nave through the triforium. The triforium is the second level arcade through the Cathedral. On this level some churches use this space for everyday use, but at Lincoln, it was only a storage area. But this still gave a great view of the nave and along the North transept where we went down to end the tour.

One last thing that must be seen is some of the detail on the choir screen. On each side of the screen is a doorway with some sculptures that do rival Southwell. And some on the screen itself.

Lincoln is a place that commands return visits. Though no twice, five times, twenty times, fifty times, but every space chance that you get. The detail alone can occupy the time, but there is the history and research that goes with it that you can learn so much from. Places like Southwell or Hereford are also places that you need to visit many multiples of times to appreciate, but the grandeur and historical significance of Lincoln is what pushes it over the top. It was consecrated in 1069 by William the Conqueror, rebuilt as a Gothic Cathedral, witnessed a battle between the English and French literally on its doorstep, influenced and changed the direction of English Gothic, and at one point while it still had it’s spire was the tallest building in Europe at over 500 ft.

Well worth a two hour bus ride.



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