Peterborough Cathedral

There is one thing that is really amazing about Peterborough Cathedral and that is its AMAZING west front with these huge arches which look like three big gaping mouthes threatening to eat Peterborough up. This is maybe preferable, because the non-cathedral part of Peterborough that I saw is kind of ugly. This cathedral book I have says that “the standard authorities vary in their assessment [of the west front] from lavish praise to severe criticism… the praise comes from those who enjoy the drama of the overall effect; the blame comes from those who worry about the way it is achieved.”

How you could fail to be as excited and awestruck as I was by the west front is probably beyond my powers of reasoning, but one potentially rational explanation is that it is- OK- lopsided due to one of the intended towers on it being missing. Also, as the book points out, “for some unknown reason the original plan, to make the central opening wider than the other two was altered so as to make it narrower, which gives a rather cramped effect [to the design]”. It seems really you have to be kind of a killjoy not to love it, it really is one of the most impresses pieces of architecture in the whole world I think maybe, or at least I’ve never seen anything else like it myself.

After admiring the west front and giggling a little, I decided to trot round the sides to get a good impression of the whole thing before looking inside. Peterborough cathedral looks mightily impressive from the sides too, however I failed to do a complete circle of it and had to track back and walk the way I’d come to get to the main entrance after reaching a dead end, which is a minus point for it. My favourite thing about the sides is the little statues of people on pillars.

Peterborough cathedral is free to visit- this is definitely a plus point. Inside you can buy a lovely little pocket guide for £2 which has lots of pictures of the interior- the other alternative is you could buy a photo pass and take your own, which might be better if you want pictures of lots of the details. You can learn a lot interesting facts about the cathedral’s founding (as an abbey) and how it later became a cathedral (in 1541). Prior to this it was part of the absolutely vast diocese of Lincoln. Of course, back then, Lincoln cathedral was the tallest building in the world, so you can understand it covering a large area. The cieling in the nave is painted very prettily and- surprisingly- has been consistently since the early 13th century, apparently (by contrast, Salisbury’s painted cieling was whitewashed over and is only partially restored- you can see big ugly splashes of whitewash on the cieling there though).

Other fun facts about Peterborough cathedral include the fact that Catherine of Aragon is buried here, and also the Mary Queen of Scots was buried here, because she was executed at (nearby) Fotheringay Castle, but is no longer buried here because James I moved her to Westminster Abbey.  If you go to Peterborough you can also see the Hedda Stone, which was a grave marker for the monks slaughtered here in 870 by the Danes. There is also a painting above the entrance of some guy called ‘Old Scarlett’ who turns out to be a former verger. They sell books about him in the gift shop.

Overall I don’t know if I really got as much as I could out of Peterborough cathedral- I didn’t get a tour because they were only happening at 2 and I had to rush on to Ely cathedral. And, if I’d gone a day later (on the 22nd) I could have had a tour of the tower :(. Peterborough cathedral also do this amazing-sounding scheme where you can pay £200 to become a “Pinnacle Pioneer” and climb one of the towers, its great they let you do that.

In conclusion, I give you my guestbook entry: “I’m a fan of Peterborough cathedral!”

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2 Responses to “Peterborough Cathedral”

  1. Chris Poole Says:

    You mention thet nobody knows what the four sculptures are; there’s actually a plaque on the wall nearby explaining what they are and when they were presented to the cathedral. There’s a lion, an eagle, a bull and an angel. The angel is my favourite, and I have taken many photos of it.

    • kunlunmountains Says:

      I actually just claimed no one knows for dramatic effect! But yeah, they’re really cool anyway. (you meant to comment on the Wells one, right?)

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