The ‘10-star’ cathedral
Simon Jenkins has a new book on ‘the noblest buildings in the land’. Here, he names his favourite
ENGLAND’S cathedrals are the noblest buildings in the land. For more than a millennium, they have towered over town and countryside and, until the 19th century, they stood alone in size and splendour. Taller than any castle, grander than any hall, lovelier than any painting, they were engineering, art and faith in one. Today, they are an encyclopaedia of English history down the ages.
Cathedrals are experiencing a remarkable resurgence. Until the close of the last century, attendances were declining in line with those for parish churches, then, in the 1990s, the decline was reversed. Although church worship continued to fall, cathedrals surged, with service attendance rising 37% in 10 years. This was attributed, in part, to a rise in tourism as well as to a new concentration on Evensong and music.
They became cultural citadels, a focus for civic activity across a spectrum from the Arts to conferences to social work. As industrial cities languished, cathedral cities proved growth points. To have a cathedral is now a badge of prosperity, the pull of the old, the magnetism of heritage.
After spending two years inhabiting these places, I became ever