Nothing dominates a city quite as majestically as an ancient cathedral, and Lincoln is certainly no exception. The impressive dimensions and splendid architecture of Lincoln Cathedral not only epitomised the glory of God, but also served to exert power and influence on the local community. Today, Lincoln Cathedral maintains that visual impact from a great distance, perched on the crown of a hill overlooking the old Roman city of 'Lindum'.
Until the time of the Norman invasion, however, the seat of the diocese was initially at Stow, and then later moved to Dorchester. It was only after William had re-established Lincoln as an important strategic location, and built his royal castle there in 1068, that he decided to move the bishopric. Appointing Remigius as the first Norman Bishop of Lincoln, the building of his rather 'grim, fortress-like' cathedral commenced in 1072. Virtually coinciding with the death of Remigius twenty years later, Lincoln Cathedral was consecrated. By the mid 12th century a large part of Lincoln Cathedral had been rebuilt by the third bishop, Alexander, following severe fire damage. His work was described as energetic and inspired, enhancing the Norman cathedral with richness and beauty. Troubled times during King Stephen's reign caused much damage to Lincoln Cathedral, and in 1185 an earthquake severely affected the structural condition of the building.
When Hugh became the new bishop, he planned to rebuild Lincoln Cathedral, replacing much of the Norman architecture with magnificent Gothic designs. He worked on this grand project for eight years, until his death in 1200, but it was largely completed by Bishop Grosseteste. By the end of the 13th century Lincoln ranked as the third greatest pilgrimage centre in England, and the cathedral had to be extended (with the Angel Choir) to cope with the increasing number of visitors to the shrine of St Hugh. A new central tower was also built during this period, but heightened by 1311, and before the end of the century the western towers were also heightened. Eventually, more than three hundred years after the foundation stone was laid, Lincoln Cathedral was completed.
The external appearance has changed little in the last 600 years, although it has been subjected to many repairs and renovations. Internally, the church is also stunning but with a noticeably restrained dignity, its refined architecture and wide-open space emanating a wonderful sense of calm. Clustered marble columns, elegant Gothic arches, rib-vaulted ceilings with ornate bosses, and massive windows form the nave. A 14th century stone screen marks the Crossing, and each transept contains a beautiful rose window with slim lancets beneath. These circular windows, known as 'The Dean's Eye' (facing north) and 'The Bishop's Eye' (facing south), both contain a substantial amount of their original medieval glass. At the heart of Lincoln Cathedral, St Hugh's Choir, an inner sanctum of richly carved oak stalls and tabernacles also dating from the 14th century.
Many of Lincoln Cathedral's monuments were destroyed during the Civil War and, if Cromwell's soldiers were granted their wish, the cathedral itself would have been demolished. Thankfully this action was prevented, and Lincoln Cathedral was subsequently restored and enhanced with gifts from Dean Honywood. A memorial to him refers to the Wren Library, built at his own cost, and furnished with a large collection of books. Several tombs vandalised in the 17th century have been replaced in later years with replicas, including the visceral tomb of Eleanor of Castile, but that of Bishop Grosseteste is a 20th century design. Now into the 21st century, Lincoln Cathedral remains a focal point of the community, encouraging worshippers, artists, musicians, and visitors to share in the glories of the building.