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Salisbury Cathedral

Be inspired by the peace and beauty of one of Britain's finest medieval cathedrals, Salisbury Cathedral offers a warm welcome to all who visit. Set within eight acres of lawn and surrounded by historic buildings and museums within the spectacular Cathedral Close, the Cathedral is unique in being built almost entirely in one architectural style - Early English Gothic. Britain's tallest spire (123m / 404ft) was added a generation later.

Salisbury Cathedral has many notable features, but the most famous is its towering central spire. The tallest in England, it rises 404 feet tall and weights 6,400 tons. A climb of 332 steps up the tower (on a guided tour only) is rewarded with rare glimpses of the timber scaffolding above the nave and inside the spire as well as fine views of Salisbury and the surrounding countryside.

The west front was completed in 1255 and the statues were added by 1300. Unfortunately, only 10 of the original medieval sculptures survive today. Sixty statues were added in the Victorian period. They depict a hierarchy of bishops and doctors, saints and martyrs, apostles and evangelists, prophets and patriarchs below Christ in Majesty seated at the top.

Inside, the nave is striking for its great height, unusual narrowness, and strong visual rhythm due to the use of light grey Chilmark stone for the walls and dark polished Purbeck marble for the columns. The entire length of the nave is in the Early English Gothic style of the early 13th century. It has three levels: a tall pointed arcarde, an open gallery and a small clerestory.

Europe's oldest working clock (1386) is displayed in the north nave aisle. Originally located in the cathedral's belltower, it is made of hand-wrought iron. Also of note in the nave is the new baptismal font (2008), designed by William Pye. Shaped like a Greek cross and large enough for total immersion baptism, it is made of patinated bronze with a Purbeck Freestone plinth and brown patinated bronze grating. It runs constantly like a fountain, yet its surface remains completely smooth, reflecting the beauty of the cathedral.

Due to James Wyatt's modifications, there is now an uninterrupted view from the nave into the choir (which was his reason for destroying the medieval screen) and the striking modern window at the east end. Created in 1980 by Gabriel Loire of Chartres, the Prisoners of Conscience Window is colored in 13th-century hues of deep blue, reds, and yellows.

Salisbury Cathedral is home to the largest and oldest complete set of choir stalls in the country, made in 1236 from oak provided by King Henry III. The misericords, carved with foliage decoration, also date from this time, except for some in the front row which were replaced in the 17th century. The musical angels, grotesque figures and animals date from 1860-75.

Behind the choir at the far east end of the cathedral is a second small transept and the Trinity Chapel (1225), with slender columns supporting a dramatic rib vault, which shelters the tomb of St. Osmund.

The chapter house (1263-84) is a beautiful example of the Geometrical Decorated style, with rib vaults fanning out from a slender central pillar. Around the walls runs a medieval frieze (c.1250) with some 60 reliefs of scenes from Genesis and Exodus. Also on display here is the best preserved of only four original copies of the Magna Carta (1215). The chapter house windows date from c.1850 except for the east window, which was made in 1983.

Built in the 1250s and 60s, the English Gothic cloister of Salisbury Cathedral is the largest in England. It was used as a prison in the Civil War (17th century). The central garden is home to two giant cedar trees planted in 1837.

The cathedral library above the eastern cloister houses many precious manuscripts, including a 10th-century Gallican Psalter. The library is open only by appointment - write to The Librarian at the address below.
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