Gloucester Cathedral, among the six cathedrals we visited, is the only one that is not, strictly speaking, a medieval cathedral. The structure is medieval, of course, the result of a four centuries of accretions on a Norman abbey. But it was not made a cathedral until 1541, being one of three abbeys Henry VIII decided to preserve for the purpose. Because of this, it is smaller and on the whole less grand than many of England’s great cathedrals, but we were pleasantly surprised by its many charms.
Among the finest is its postcard-perfect Perpendicular Gothic central tower (225 ft. high), seen above, but it also boasts an excellent example of lierne vaulting in the quire.
At the east end of the cathedral is what the cathedral boasts is the second-largest medieval stained glass window in England; although the largest (in York) is, I must say, far more impressive.
Indeed, so is, I must say, the Victorian stained glass West Window–sometimes, I think, ancientry is overrated.
The cathedral’s two greatest claims to fame, however, both date from the 1300s. In 1327 Edward II, the hated homosexual king of England who was overthrown by his wife and murdered by some of his knights, was buried in Gloucester Cathedral (then Abbey), as many other churches refused to take the body. Oddly enough, his tomb became a major site of pilgrimage, contributing greatly to the abbey’s wealth and status.
A few decades later, Gloucester’s cloisters were the site of one of the first experimentations in fan-vaulting, and are the oldest surviving example of this, England’s great contribution to architecture. In recent years, these hauntingly beautiful passages served as a major film location for the Harry Potter films, standing in for corridors at Hogwarts.