Much evidence exists to suggest that there had been a Christian community at Worcester since at least the 7th century, but the first cathedral on this site was that from the Benedictine monastery established by Bishop Oswald in AD983. Partially destroyed in 1041, the rebuilding of Worcester Cathedral was started by Bishop Wulfstan towards the end of the 11th century. A remarkable crypt has survived from this period, the largest Norman example in England. The plain, simple columns can still manage to permeate the atmosphere with a certain mystique and calm that the monks must have enjoyed some 900 years ago.
Amidst a series of unfortunate incidents, including the collapse of the central tower and a fire, the restoration was largely completed by 1218 when a service of rededication was held in the presence of King Henry III. Building continued until the monastery was dissolved in 1540, and this was followed by a period of extensive destruction and spoliation. Attempts at restoration and repair were made during the 18th century but it was the great Victorian restoration, begun in 1854, that transformed Worcester Cathedral into the magnificent sight that warmly welcomes todays visitors. With the help of A E Perkins and Sir George Gilbert Scott, some of the finest Victorian sculptures in England can now be found in Worcester Cathedral.
Treasure-hunting in these lofty monuments of religious life can be an extremely rewarding pastime, especially if you have the time to search every nook and cranny of the stonework. Beautiful medieval carvings appear in the most unlikely places and the subject matter is often so diverse. There are commemorative wall plaques to find, elaborately decorated tombs of Prince Arthur and King John to wonder at, and superb stained glass windows each with a theme to discover. In the chancel, the lavish use of Purbeck marble does much to accentuate the height and elegance of this substantially 13th century area of the church, styled in English Gothic. At certain times the sumptuous Chapter House is open to visitors, and it is a truly breath-taking sight. Dating from the early years of the 12th century, this circular, vaulted building displays some wonderful Norman blank arcading.
Probably the best view of Worcester Cathedral is looking across from the famous cricket ground on the opposite bank of the River Severn. From here the splendid tower, lovely west window, and the ruins of some of the monastic outbuildings can be viewed against an uninterrupted backdrop. On a nice day there is the added bonus of the whole creation being gloriously reflected in the river.