Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral

Infobox UK cathedral
building_name =Lichfield Cathedral
infobox_width =

image_size =
caption =The West Front of Lichfield Cathedral
map_type =
map_size =
map_caption =
location =Lichfield
full_name =Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Chad
geo =
latitude =
longitude =
county =Staffordshire
country =England
ecclesiastical =yes
denomination =Church of England
province =Canterbury
diocese =Lichfield
bishop =
dean =
organist =
website = []
building =yes
architect =
architecture_style =Gothic
became_cathedral =787-1075, c.1200-
number_of_cathedrals =
year_built =c.1200-1340
year_consecrated =
specifications =yes
capacity =
length =
width_transepts =
width_nave =
height_max =78.6m
height_nave =
height_choir =
tower_quantity =3
tower_height =
spire_quantity =3
spire_height =78.6m (crossing), 60.5m (western)
dome_quantity =
dome_height_ex =
dome_height_in =
dome_dia_ex =
dome_dia_in =

Lichfield Cathedral is situated in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. It is the only medieval English cathedral with three spires. The Diocese of Lichfield covers all of Staffordshire, much of Shropshire and part of the Black Country and West Midlands. The present bishop is the Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, the 98th Lord Bishop of Lichfield.


The Cathedral is dedicated to St Chad and Saint Mary. Its internal length is 370 ft., and the breadth of the nave 68 ft., the central spire is 77m (252') high and the western spires about 58m (190') high.

The stone is sandstone and came from a quarry on the south side of Lichfield. The walls of the nave lean outwards slightly, due to the weight of stone used in the ceiling vaulting, some 200–300 tons of which was removed during renovation work to prevent the walls leaning further.

Lichfield suffered untold damage during the Civil War in which all of the stained glass was destroyed. However, the windows of the Lady Chapel contain some of the finest medieval Flemish painted glass in existence. It came from the Abbey of Herkenrode (now in Belgium) in 1801 having been purchased by Brooke Boothby when that abbey was dissolved during the Napoleonic Wars. It was then sold on to the cathedral for the same price. It dates from the 1530s. There are also some fine windows by Betton and Evans (1819), and many fine late 19th century windows, particularly those by Charles Eamer Kempe.

The Lichfield Gospels are the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the early part of Luke, written in Latin and dating from around 730. There were originally two volumes but one went missing around the time of the English Civil War. It is closely related in style to the Lindisfarne Gospels. The manuscript is on display in the Chapter House from Easter to Christmas.

The Close is one of the most complete in the country and includes a medieval courtyard which once housed the men of the choir. The three spires are often referred to as 'the Ladies of the Vale'.

Within the Cathedral is a tomb with a Latin inscription which, when translated, reads: "This monument is sacred to the memory of Michael Johnson, a man fearless, steady, spirited, regardless of dangers, very patient in labour.... His conversation was so chastised, that neither pain nor pleasure ever led him to utter anything which might offend pious or modest ears." We learn from the epitaph that Johnson was born in Cubley, Derbyshire, in 1656 and died in 1731. Michael Johnson was the father of Samuel Johnson of Lichfield, later of London. [ [ History of the City and Cathedral of Lichfield, John Jackson, London, 1805] ]

History of the Cathedral

Early history and elevation to Archbishopric

When Chad was made Bishop of Mercia in 669 he moved his See from Repton to Lichfield, possibly because this was already a holy site, as the scene of martyrdoms during the Roman period. The first Cathedral to be built on the present site was in 700AD when Bishop Hedda built a new church to house the bones of St Chad which had become a sacred shrine to many pilgrims when he died in 672. Offa, King of Mercia seemed to resent his own bishops paying allegiance to the Archbishop of Canterbury in Kent who, whilst under Offa's control, was not of his own kingdom of Mercia. Offa therefore created his own archbishopric in Lichfield, who presided over all the bishops from the Humber to the Thames. All this began in 786, with the consent of Pope Adrian. The Pope’s official representatives were received warmly by Offa and were present at the Council of Chelsea (787), often called `the contentious synod', where it was proposed that the Archbishopric of Canterbury be restricted in order to make way for Offa's new archbishop. It was vehemently opposed, but Offa and the papal representatives defeated Archbishop Jaenbert, installing Higbert as the new Archbishop of Lichfield. Pope Adrian sent Higbert the pallium, denoting his support for this move. In gratitude, Offa promised to send an annual shipment of gold to the pope for alms and supplying the lights in St. Peter's church in Rome. However, The Archbishopric of Lichfield only lasted for 16 years, ending soon after Offa's death, when it was restored to Archbishop Aethelheard of Canterbury.

Starting in 1085 and continuing through the twelfth century the original wooden Saxon church was replaced by a Norman Cathedral made from stone, and this was in turn replaced by the present Gothic Cathedral begun in 1195. It was completed by the building of the Lady Chapel in the 1330s. The Choir dates from 1200, the Transepts from 1220 to 1240 and the Nave was started in 1260. The octagonal Chapter House, which was completed in 1249 and is one of the most beautiful parts of the Cathedral with some charming stone carvings, houses an exhibition of the Cathedral's greatest treasure, the Lichfield Gospels, an 8th century illuminated manuscript.

Devastation of the English Civil War

There were three great sieges of Lichfield during the period 1643–1646 as the cathedral was surrounded by a ditch and defensive walls it made a natural fortress. The cathedral authorities with a certain following were for the king, but the townsfolk generally sided with the parliament, and this led to the fortification of the close in 1643. Robert Greville, 2nd Baron Brooke, led an assault against it, but was killed by a deflected bullet from John Dyott (known as 'dumb' because he was a deaf mute) who along with his brother Richard Dyott had taken up a position on the battlements of the central cathedral spire on March 2, 1643. Brooke's deputy Sir John Gell, took over the siege. Although the Royalist garrison surrendered to Gell two days later, the close yielded and was retaken by Prince Rupert of the Rhine on 20 April of the same year. Rupert's engineers detonated the first mine to be used in England to breach the defences. Unable to defend the breach, the Parliamentarians surrendered to Rupert the following day. The cathedral suffered extensive da
Bishop Hacket began the restoration of the Cathedral in the 1660s, aided by substantial funds donated by the restored monarch, but it was not until the 19th century that the damage caused by the Civil War was fully repaired. Up until the 19th century, on top of an ornamented gable, between the two spires, stood a colossal figure of Charles II, by Sir William Wilson. Today it stands just outside the south doors.

Victorian restoration

Although the 18th century was a Golden Age for the City of Lichfield, it was a period of decay for the cathedral. The 15th-century library, on the north side of the nave, was pulled down and the books moved to their present location above the Chapter House. Most of the statues on the West Front were removed and the stonework covered with Roman cement. At the end of the century James Wyatt organised some major structural work, removing the High Altar to make one worship area of Choir and Lady Chapel and adding a massive stone screen at the entrance to the Choir. The ornate west front was extensively renovated in the Victorian era by Sir George Gilbert Scott. It includes a remarkable number of ornate carved figures of kings, queens and saints, working with original materials where possible and creating fine new imitations and additions when the originals were not available. Wyatt's choir-screen had utilised medieval stone-work which Scott in turn used to create the clergy's seats in the sanctuary. The new metal screen by Francis Skidmore and John Birnie Philip to designs by Scott himself is a triumph of High Victorian art, as are the fine Minton tiles in the choir, inspired by the medieval ones found in the Choir foundations and still seen in the Library.

Lichfield Angel

In February 2003, an eighth century sculpted panel of the Archangel Gabriel was discovered under the nave of the Cathedral. The panel was broken into three parts but was still otherwise intact and had traces of red pigment from the period. It was first unveiled to the public in 2006, when visitor numbers to the Cathedral trebled.After being taken to Birmingham for eighteen months for examination, it is now exhibited in the Cathedral.


* [ Details of the main organ at the National Pipe Organ Register]
* [ Details of the Lady Chapel organ at the National Pipe Organ Register]


* 1618 Michael East
* 1638 Henry Hinde
* 1662 Mr Lamb (Snr)
* 1688 Mr Lamb (Jnr)
* 17?? George Lamb
* 1750 John Alcock
* 1766 William Brown
* 1807 Samuel Spofforth
* 1864 Thomas Bedsmore
* 1881 John Browning Lott
* 1925 Ambrose P. Porter
* 1959 Richard Greening
* 1978 Jonathan Rees-Williams
* 1992 Andrew Lumsden
* 2002 Philip Scriven

Assistant organists

* William Henry Harris 1911 - 1919


See also

* List of cathedrals in the United Kingdom
* Bishops of Lichfield
* List of the Bishops of the Diocese of Lichfield and its precursor offices
* Diocese of Lichfield
* The Lichfield Gospels
* Architecture of the medieval cathedrals of England
* English Gothic architecture
* Church of England


External links

* [ Lichfield Cathedral Web Site]
* [ Lichfield Cathedral Choir Web Site]
* [ Lichfield Cathedral Photography Gallery by Tom Allwood]
* [ Lichfield Cathedral School Web Site]
* [ A history of the choristers of Lichfield Cathedral]
* [ Flickr images tagged Lichfield Cathedral]
* [ Lichfield Angel Project]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lichfield — • This diocese took its rise in the conversion of Mercia by St. Cedd and his three companions in 652 and subsequent years Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Lichfield     Lichfield …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Lichfield — Vue du centre ville …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lichfield — Not to be confused with Litchfield (disambiguation). For other uses, see Lichfield (disambiguation). Coordinates: 52°41′01″N 1°49′36″W / 52.6835°N 1.82653°W …   Wikipedia

  • Lichfield — City of Lichfield Lichfield Cathedral Koordinaten …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lichfield Gospels — The Lichfield Gospels (also known as the Chad Gospels, the Book of Chad, the Gospels of St. Chad, St. Teilo Gospels, the Llandeilo Gospels, and numerous variations on these) is an eighth century Insular Gospel Book housed in Lichfield Cathedral.… …   Wikipedia

  • Lichfield Cricket Club — The Lichfield Cricket Club, though not the best cricket club in the Birmingham Premier Cricket League, endeavours to have the most fun. The club has the nick name Three Spires . This nickname derives from the three nearby spires of Lichfield… …   Wikipedia

  • Cathedral — This article is about the history and organisation of the cathedral. For architecture, see Main article: Cathedral architecture of Western Europe A cathedral (Lat. cathedra , seat ) is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop. It is… …   Wikipedia

  • Lichfield — /lich feeld /, n. a town in SE Staffordshire, in central England, N of Birmingham: birthplace of Samuel Johnson. 87,700. * * * ▪ England, United Kingdom       city and district, administrative and historic county of Staffordshire, England,… …   Universalium

  • Lichfield —  for the town and cathedral in Staffordshire, England, and for the photographer Patrick Lichfield (1939–2005), who was formally the Earl of Lichfield, Viscount Anson, and Baron Soberton …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • LICHFIELD —    (8), ancient ecclesiastical town in Staffordshire, 15 m. SE. of Stafford, an episcopal see since 656, with a cathedral in Early English style, recently completely restored; has an ancient grammar school, a museum, and school of art; the… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.