The ‘10-star’ cathedral

Si­mon Jenk­ins has a new book on ‘the no­blest build­ings in the land’. Here, he names his favourite

Country Life Every Week - - Another Country -

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

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