I wonder how often we visit beautiful old houses, churches and cathedrals and come away knowing very little about them. In early April, twenty-nine of us were treated to a very interesting and informative tour of Rochester Cathedral by John Bailey, Surveyor to the Fabric of the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
There has been a church on the site for over 1,350 years. A small cathedral was built in AD 604 by Justus, the first Bishop of Rochester, and the outline of the eastern end is marked in the floor and can be seen just after entering through the Cathedral’s superb West Door. However the nave of the Cathedral we see today was begun in about 1080 by Bishop Gundulf, who was also the builder of Rochester Castle and the White Tower at the Tower of London. Over the years some sections were added, others demolished and rebuilt. Two major fires in the 12th century (1137 and 1179) had caused considerable damage.

Various architectural styles can be seen in the Cathedral and, in the recently restored Crypt, we were able to see fragments of mediaeval wall paintings and graffiti. There are memorials to Charles Dickens, to General Gordon of Khartoum and to Dean Hole, founder of the National Rose Society among others. We were also shown the Cloister Garth, now a garden but formerly the centre of the life of the Benedictine Priory. On one side are the remains of a Norman cloister and the red char on the wall is the result of the 12th century fires. Parts of the wall on the south side of the garden are the original Roman city wall.

Our tour ended with a cream tea kindly arranged for us and served in the Refectory.

Judy Haines







Photos by Nick Reynolds and Lesley Parsons, click to enlarge

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