The parish church for the city of Bristol.
Bristol Cathedral is one of England's great medieval churches. It originated as an Augustinian Abbey, founded c1140 by prominent local citizen, Robert Fitzharding, who became first Lord Berkeley. The transepts of the church date from this period, but its most vivid remains can be seen in the Chapter House and Abbey Gatehouse. The Chapter House is a stunning Romanesque gem dating from c1160. The exquisite Elder Lady Chapel was added to the church in c1220 and includes some beautiful features, watch out for the carvings of beasts playing at being people.
The main glory of the Cathedral is its east end, described by the famous architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as 'superior to anything else built in England and indeed in Europe at the same time'. This is one of the finest examples in the world of a medieval 'hall church', with the vaulted ceilings in the nave, choir, and aisles. This creates a lofty and light space with extraordinary vaults that seem to stand on tiptoe on little bridges; amazing 'starburst' recesses line the walls beneath, and some contain the tombs of the Berkeley family.
In the 1530s the medieval nave was being rebuilt, but it was never finished because Henry VIII dissolved the abbey in 1539. Henry began to create a series of 'New Foundation' Cathedrals, and Bristol was included in 1542. Other surviving features include the baroque organ casing, which houses the organ built by Renatus Harris in 1685.
For the next 300 years the Cathedral functioned without a nave, but in 1868 noted architect, GE Street, created a fine replacement in a Gothic Revival design. The work was completed by JL Pearson who added the French Rayonnant style west front with twin bell towers, and a magnificent series of furnishings. These were done in a grand and distinctive style in keeping with the original medieval features. 20th century enrichments include the organ, one of the finest in the country, windows from the 1940s and 50s by Arnold Robinson and the abstract window on the theme of the Trinity, designed by Keith New and installed in 1965.