Norwich’s Norman Cathedral is one of the city’s iconic buildings, dominating the skyline with a 315ft spire that is second in height only to Salisbury. Here are 12 things to see and do in one of the Wonders of Norfolk…
1 As you approach the main gate from Tombland you’ll notice the statue of Edith Cavell, a nurse from nearby Swardeston who was shot by the Germans during the first world war for helping Allied prisoners escape from Brussels. She is now buried inside the cathedral precinct.
2 The gate is named after the kneeling figure above the arch, Sir Thomas Erpingham, a local knight who led the Welsh (yes, really!) archers at Agincourt against the French. That’s one back in the eye for the Normans!
3 Going through the gate you might see blue-blazered pupils of the Norwich School, which is just inside the precinct, and a statue of the school’s most famous pupil, Horatio Nelson, which is opposite on the green in the Upper Close. You’ll also notice the cathedral’s majestic sand-coloured Caen stone and flying buttresses.
4 There’s a lot of history attached to the cathedral. After all, it was built more than 900 years ago, and has seen civil unrest, plague, war and fire. So don’t miss out, take a free guided tour. You can learn all about the medieval graffiti!
5 Make sure you see the treasured Despenser Retable behind the altar of St Luke’s chapel. It’s a 14th century painting that depicts the death and resurrection of Christ. It went missing during the Puritan days of the 16th century and was only rediscovered in 1847 when someone dropped something on the floor and looked up at the bottom of a table – the painting had been nailed face down to hide it!
6 The Cathedral has the largest collection of medieval roof bosses of any cathedral in the Christian world – more than 1000! It’s also possibly one of the greatest collections of Bible stories in stone.
7 Walk round the largest monastic Cloister in England, with its stunning high arches and roof bosses. Designed to house 100 monks it was rebuilt in 1297 after its destruction during riots 25 years earlier. Shakespeare plays are performed here during the summer.
8 Based on the site of the original monks’ dining hall, the Refectory is a superb restaurant/coffee shop that combines medieval and modern architecture. It would be rude not to pop in for a cup of tea and piece of cake.
9 Don’t miss the peregrine falcons which have made a nest on the spire and hatched chicks the past few years, the first time to happen in Norwich in living memory. Thousands of people every year, from March to June, view the birds from the observation point located in the Cathedral Close.
10 Experience the beauty of Evensong sung by Norwich Cathedral Choir every evening except Saturday. It’s not often you can witness a medieval tradition that stretches back to 1096.
11 Take in one of the exhibitions at the Hostry Visitor and Education Centre which has a variety of local, national and international events throughout the year. In recent years the Cathedral has also hosted a Helter Skelter and Dippy the Dinosaur from the Natural History Museum.
12 Stroll around the Cathedral Close, the largest to survive of any English cathedral and covering 44 acres, dotted with listed buildings and beautiful, tranquil green spaces. There are few better places to escape the bustle of the modern city.