The great cathedrals of the world represent one of humanity's most glorious architectural and artistic achievements

by Sarah Crossland, Church Tourism Manager

They were especially important in the lives of medieval Christians as places for communal worship, ritual, celebration, education and governance. Cathedrals represented the local seat of ecclesiastical power, but also functioned as a social center.

Today, each cathedral serves its community as the mother church of its area and the seat of a bishop. They are physical and cultural landmarks, often the most magnificent, complex and ancient buildings in their local area. They make a great contribution to the country's spiritual life, historic environment and social and economic activity.

Most importantly, cathedrals remain in use for their original purpose.

They are truly wonderful places to visit.

I never weary of great churches. It is my favourite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral : Robert Louis Stevenson



Cathedrals are generally in the shape of a cross, which has both symbolic meaning and functional practicality, allowing space for clergy, choir, chapels, processions, a pipe organ and other activities and objects associated with cathedral tradition.

A cathedral, in common with other Christian churches has an altar or table, and a baptismal font. Cathedrals of monastic foundation may still have a square cloister, which traditionally provided an open area where secular activities took place protected from the weather. Some cathedrals also have a chapter house where the chapter, essentially the management committee of a cathedral, meet. 

Many cathedral buildings are very famous for their architecture and have local and national significance. They also house treasures such as stained glass, carvings, art and sculpture, historic tombs, rich furniture and reliquaries. Most UK cathedrals are Listed Buildings and some are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.



It is an exceptional event to build a cathedral, it must withstand several lifetimes. Santiago Calatrava