A cage of stone

Trans­formed into a cathe­dral at the Re­for­ma­tion, John Goodall ex­plains why this great abbey is one of me­dieval Eng­land’s great­est ar­chi­tec­tural sur­vivals

Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden - Photographs by Paul High­nam

Glouces­ter Cathe­dral

Eight hun­dred years ago, on Oc­to­ber 28, 1216, a nine-year-old boy was crowned king of Eng­land at glouces­ter. to those who at­tended the hur­riedly im­pro­vised cer­e­mony in the great abbey church, now the cathe­dral, henry iii’s fu­ture must have ap­peared deeply un­cer­tain. the king­dom he in­her­ited from his fa­ther, John, was wracked by civil war and its prin­ci­pal ci­ties—in­clud­ing Lon­don and the Coro­na­tion church of West­min­ster Abbey were in the hands of his ri­val, the Dauphin of France. Prince Louis also held the royal re­galia, so henry was forced to use a chap­let as a crown, per­haps a piece of his mother’s jew­ellery.

it is one of the fas­ci­na­tions of glouces­ter Cathe­dral that, para­dox­i­cally, al­though the church has changed al­most be­yond recog­ni­tion since 1216, the fab­ric that re­ver­ber­ated to the shouts of henry’s ac­cla­ma­tion re­mains sub­stan­tially in­tact. the abbey claimed de­scent from a monastery of monks and nuns ded­i­cated to St Peter, es­tab­lished in about 679 by Os­ric, King of the hwicce, within the walls of a for­mer Ro­man colo­nia. this set­tle­ment for re­tired le­gionar­ies, the suc­ces­sor to a fort, was called gle­vum and was es­tab­lished in about

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