College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TJ
Foundation c. 1140. Elder Lady Chapel c. 1220s. Choir/east end remodelled 1298-1330s. Central tower completed in later 15th century. Nave completed in 1867-77 and west towers completed 1888.
Unknown/numerous – Street and Pearson extensive 19th century work.
Dundry stone and sandstone rubbles for medieval parts.
Limestone for 19th century parts.
Monastic abbey. Became a Cathedral in 1542.
The Cathedral is open 365 days each year from 8.00am until after Evensong which is 5:15pm. Cathedral opening hours may change during busy periods. The Cathedral may close at certain times for private events. Please check the website for details.
Where Bristol Cathedral stands is thought to have been the site of some kind of church for over a thousand years. Around 1140 Robert Fitzhardinge (Bristol’s Governor) founded the monastic Abbey of St Augustine here. This was closed in 1539 under Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and then became a Cathedral Church in 1542. The cathedral is important architecturally because it is Britain’s leading example of a ‘hall church’. This means it is rather like a large hall with pillars – the nave, choir and aisles are all the same height.
In the 19th century, architect G.E. Street returned the nave to its medieval abbey form (which had set the style for the European hall church), and J.L. Pearson added two towers at the western end. The cathedral’s highlights include a lovely quire (choir). Its soaring, 15.25 metre-high arches are the highest choir arches in England and the wooden misericords (supportive wooden rests under choir seats for monks standing through long services) under the seats are beautifully carved. The 12th century Chapter House is one of Europe’s best examples of Norman architecture.
Within the cathedral are several chapels. The Eastern Lady Chapel dates back to the 13th century and was restored in 1935 to look as it does today. Much more colourful than the rest of the cathedral is now, it reflects the colours that would once have been used throughout the whole building. Notable people buried in this chapel include Bristol’s first bishop. Berkeley Chapel is named after the titled family whose souls were prayed for here. The abbey founder Fitzhardinge belonged to this family and descendants still live in the medieval Berkeley Castle, north of Bristol. This area also contains evidence of an oven used to bake communion bread.
The North Nave windows date from 1951 and commemorate the civilian forces. The window in the south choir aisle was installed in 1962. This is an abstract image of the Holy Spirit by Keith New.