Winchester Cathedral

sights / Religious

Winchester Cathedral information

Winchester , England
The Close
+44 1962 857225
More information
adult/child incl cathedral body & crypt tours £8/free
Opening hours
9.30am-5pm Mon-Sat, 12.30-3pm Sun
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One of southern England's most awe-inspiring buildings, 11th-century Winchester Cathedral boasts a fine Gothic facade, one of the longest medieval naves in Europe (164m), and a fascinating jumble of features from all eras. Other highlights include the intricately carved medieval choir stalls, which sport everything from mythical beasts to a mischievous green man, Jane Austen's grave (near the entrance, in the northern aisle) and one of the UK's finest illuminated manuscripts. Excellent tours of the ground floor, crypt and tower can get busy – book ahead.

As the biggest, brightest and best surviving 12th-century English bible, the dazzling, four-volume Winchester Bible has vivid illuminated pages. It was commissioned in 1160, possibly by the grandson of William the Conqueror. At time of writing the bible was being re-bound (with one volume still on display). It's then due to form the centrepiece of a new exhibition inside the cathedral that charts the story of how it was made. Check online for the latest.

Today's cathedral sits beside foundations that mark Winchester’s original 7th-century minster church. The cathedral was begun in 1070 and completed in 1093, and was subsequently entrusted with the bones of its patron saint, St Swithin (Bishop of Winchester from 852 to 862). He is best known for the proverb stating that if it rains on St Swithin's Day (15 July), it will rain for a further 40 days and 40 nights.

Soggy ground and poor construction spelled disaster for the early church. The original tower collapsed in 1107 and major restructuring continued until the mid-15th century. Look out for the monument at the far end of the building to diver William Walker; he saved the cathedral from collapse by delving repeatedly into its waterlogged underbelly from 1906 to 1912 to bolster rotting wooden foundations with vast quantities of concrete and brick.

Choral evensong (5.30pm Monday to Saturday, 3.30pm Sunday) is atmospheric; other Sunday services take place at 8am, 9.45am and 11am.

The highly informative, one-hour Cathedral Body Tours (10am to 3pm Monday to Saturday) and atmospheric Crypt Tours (10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm Monday to Saturday) are included in the admission price for Winchester Cathedral. Tower and Roof Tours (2.15pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, plus 11.30am Saturday, May to September) cost £6 and take you on to the roof for views as far as the Isle of Wight. These tours are popular – book well in advance.

On the Crypt Tour look out for Sound II, an enigmatic life-size depiction of a contemplative man by Anthony Gormley. The Tower and Roof Tour will see you clambering 213 steps up narrow stairwells, navigating an interior gallery high above the nave and visiting the bell chamber.

The cathedral's tree-fringed lawns make for tranquil spots to take time out, especially on the quieter south side beyond the cloisters; the permanent second-hand book stall in the Deanery Porch provides great bargain hunting.