Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

The full name of Lincoln Cathedral is The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln and is sometimes called St. Mary’s Cathedral. One of the first things William the Conqueror did after he defeated the Anglo-Saxon army of King Harold was to begin a building program of castles and churches to impress the native people. In 1072, the largest diocese in England stretched from the Humber River to the Thames and its cathedral was in Dorchester. William ordered the cathedral be moved to Lincoln. The Benedictine Norman Bishop Remigius de Fécamp started construction in 1088 using Lincolnshire oolitic limestone. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1092 and the large arches on the west front are believed to date from the original building. Remigius died two days before the consecration.

Lincoln Cathedral showing the arches from the 11th C.
Nave of Lincoln Cathedral

There was a fire in the early 12th C. that severely damaged the Cathedral and the Bishop of Lincoln Alexander the Magnificent (1123-48) began rebuilding. When an earthquake did structural damage in 1185, St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln (1186-1200) began renovations in the Gothic style. This included pointed arches instead of round ones, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses. This allowed for larger, stained glass windows. There are two large rose windows one of which dates from the time of St. Hugh. Construction of the Deans Eye in the north transept was started under Hugh and completed in 1235. The other, called the Bishop’s Eye in the south transept was built in 1330. It is said St. Hugh physically worked on the renovation himself. Many of the local people gave their own savings to pay for the restoration.

Given the new techniques of Gothic architecture, some critical mistakes in engineering caused the central tower to collapse c. 1237. A new tower was constructed and some of the town wall was torn down to make the Cathedral larger to accommodate the increase in pilgrims to the shrine of St. Hugh. Between 1307 and 1311, the central tower was raised to its present height. From 1370 to 1400 the western towers were raised. All three towers had spires until the central tower blew down in 1549. It had reputedly been the tallest building in the world from 1300-1549.

Tomb of the viscera of Eleanor of Castile, Queen of England
Tomb of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster

In 1290, when the Queen Consort of King Edward I, Eleanor of Castile, died, Edward decided to honor her by burying her viscera in Lincoln Cathedral and building a replica of her tomb in Westminster. Also buried in the Cathedral is Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster. One of the four surviving copies of Magna Carta from 1215 AD belongs to the Cathedral and is displayed in Lincoln Castle. The Cathedral is the third largest in Britain

11 thoughts on “Lincoln Cathedral

  1. Wonderful account. The central tower and spire rose to a reputed 524 feet…a competition with London’s St. Paul’s at 520 feet. Both measurements might be an exaggeration and both invited weather-related disasters.


  2. Recently visited Lincoln cathedral for the first time – love it! Only problem is that I will need to edit my photos as I took so many!
    I love your posts about cathedrals; there are many I haven’t yet seen but are on my list! Thanks for a great website.


    • Thank you for your kind words Dorinda! After I saw my first medieval cathedral (Salisbury), I was awestruck. It inspired me to write about the history of these wonderful buildings. I have a wish list too.


      • I would have to say Winchester, Ely, Durham and Lincoln are on my wish list. Hope I can get to them on my next trip to the UK. Of the ones I have visited I love Salisbury and Westminster Abbey. And I was stunned by the beauty of Peterborough!


  3. Lincoln Cathedral is just magnificent, I am lucky enough to be able to visit whenever I like and my camera is always at the ready, there is always something you missed the last time.


  4. I’d love to see Lincoln Cathedral – one of several beautiful cathedrals that I’d like to see. I didn’t know that it had suffered such catastrophes. But what an amazing feat of construction even so!


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