Norwich Cathedral is a magnificent Norman building set in the largest close in England. The nave roof bosses, illustrating the Bible from Creation to the Day of Judgment, and the Saxon Bishop’s throne in the eastern apse, are unique features.
The cathedral spire is the second tallest in England, and the cloisters are the largest monastic cloisters in the country.
The Cathedral was in the care of a community of Benedictine monks until the dissolution in 1538, when the Prior’s title was changed to Dean and a number of monks became Canons.
Today the Dean and Chapter, the cathedral’s governing body, have a large staff, both paid and voluntary, to help them run the building and welcome visitors.
The Cathedral is primarily a place of worship and visitors are very welcome to attend services that may be taking place – or simply to walk around and absorb the beauty and atmosphere of this holy place.
The Cathedral is built of flint rubble and mortar faced with limestone ashlar, imported from Caen in France (the lighter, smoother stone) and from Barnack in Northamptonshire (greyer, fossil-filled stone).
These two types can be seen alternately throughout the building, although this alternation was merely to distribute evenly their structural properties and was not intended to be decorative: originally, the interior would have been plastered and painted over.
The ground plan is almost unchanged from the Romanesque original, with fourteen bays making up an unusually long aisle. One feature to watch for is the shape of the radiating chapels, which consist of two intersecting segments of a circle. Outside, there has been some alteration of the original, especially on the east side.
The gallery walls were doubled in height in the 14th century to improve lighting, and likewise much taller windows were introduced into the clerestory during the 1360s.
Two of the chapels here also postdate the original building, the Bauchon Chapel dating from 1329 and St Catherine’s Chapel from about 1375. About a hundred years later, sometime during the period 1472-1501, the 315 foot spire was added – among the English cathedrals, only Salisbury’s is bigger. Norwich comes second only to Salisbury in the size of its cloisters, too.
These date from the 13th to 15th century – work was slowed down by financial problems and the arrival of the Black Death in 1349.
The West End exterior, often considered a disappointing feature of the Cathedral, was extensively remodeled during the 18th and 19th centuries, and little remains of the original design there. The Alnwick Porch on The West Front has recently been enhanced with two new statues, one of St Benedict and one of Julian of Norwich.