On a recent trip to Chichester in West Sussex, UK, my parents and I visited Chichester Cathedral. Apparently, I’d already been to the cathedral as a small child but, having no recollection of the visit, I wanted to see it again. Chichester Cathedral is the top tourist attraction in the town of Chichester and for good reason. This almost 1,000 year old cathedral not only has a long history and superb architecture, there are guided tours, a lovely coffee shop and an excellent gift shop – so much to see and do.
Where is Chichester Cathedral? – Right in the center of the town of Chichester, the cathedral is so large you can’t miss it and its spire can be seen for miles. But, just in case finding enormous buildings isn’t your forte, you’ll find the cathedral close to the Market Cross, and near to the town’s main shopping area.
What is Chichester Cathedral? – Chichester Cathedral was named such in 1075, after the bishop was transferred to the town and the town needed a cathedral. Much of the cathedral burnt down in a massive fire in 1187 so what you see today is a building that’s been built and added onto every century for more than 800 years in a mix of mainly Norman and English Gothic styles.
Nowadays, it’s the seat of the Anglican bishop of Chichester and a cause of pride for the town not only for its stunning architecture but also for its art treasures and its world-famous cathedral choir.
What to See at Chichester Cathedral –
Take a Tour – When you first arrive at the cathedral, if you’re remotely interested in English history don’t try to see the cathedral yourself. Of course, they have self-guided tours (you’re given a leaflet and sent off to walk around the cathedral alone), but the free guided tours are more worthwhile, as the guides know so much about the history of the church and the area, you come away feeling you really understand the importance of the cathedral and its place in history.
Don’t miss the Chapel of St. George, where you’ll see memorial boards to all those British lost in the First and Second World Wars, the 12th Century Romanesque Statues, which are rare and very beautiful, the Piper Tapestry depicting the Trinity, and the Roman mosaic.
Tours are twice a day, at 11:15 am and 2:30pm.
Cloisters Cafe – I’m a coffee freak, and I’m ecstatic every time I go anywhere where there’s a nice coffee shop. So, after our guided tour around the cathedral, I was in seventh heaven when we discovered Cloisters Cafe, one of the prettiest cafes I’ve seen.
Cloisters Cafe makes delicious coffee, lovely light meals and sandwiches and, if you enjoy a good baked potato with all the trimmings, here’s where to eat one. They even have a very nice wine list and don’t miss their cream cakes as a final treat – yum!
Cloisters Cafe also offers a lovely view of the cathedral as well as a pretty walled garden, where you can sit and enjoy a nice British summer afternoon.
Cloisters Gift Shop– Another must-visit before you leave the Cathedral is the Cloisters Gift Shop. A typical English gift shop, with hardwood floors and an air of calm and gentility, the gift shop actually has a wonderful collection of treasures to buy.
As it’s the cathedral shop, you’d expect it to be stuffed to the gills with Christian gifts and cathedral memorabilia, but nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, the Cloisters Gift Shop has an excellent selection of handmade gifts from all over the world, from countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet and much of it is fair-trade.
I bought a book on the history of the cathedral, a boxed set of greeting cards, a gorgeous handmade pair of earrings and bracelet. Also look for gift wrapping paper, gift cards, books, children’s toys and games, items of handmade clothing and CDs of the cathedral’s famous choir.
Chichester Cathedral is open to the public every Monday through Saturday (and open, of course, for public church services on Sunday). There are also three public services a day if you want to experience the cathedral in all its glory.