In Norwich, every building tells a story. From futuristic glass structures echoing ancient Mesopotamia to Tudor houses revealing the secret lives of merchants, stories are written into the very fabric of this city, and uncovering them brings the bricks and mortar to life. To start, we’re going to tell you a story about one of Norwich’s most famous landmarks, the Cathedral.
The story of how Norwich Cathedral came to be begins in 1094, when a Norman man named Herbert de Losinga committed a sin. He paid the king of England, King William Rufus or ‘William the Red,’ to make him Bishop of East Anglia. News of this sin quickly spread across Europe, ultimately reaching the Vatican, and the ears of Pope Urban II. ‘Simony’– that was its name, and it had a price. Bishop Herbert was told that the only way to atone for his sin was to build a new cathedral.
Plans for Norwich Cathedral began immediately. At that time Norwich’s Norman Castle was the most imposing building in the city, a great wooden fortress that was about to be fortified with stone, but Norwich Cathedral was to dwarf even that. It was to be enormous: a tenth of the size of the city (which was already the second largest city in England), and built entirely from Norman stone brought from across the channel. More than ever, the people of Norwich would feel the absolute power of Norman rule. In 1096, the first stone was laid. It would be another forty-nine years until the last was in place.
Once finished, Norwich Cathedral housed a monastery of Benedictine monks who would spend their life there in religious devotion. The monastery would remain for the next 450 years, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.
Relations between the monastery and the people of Norwich were hostile. In 1272, following several disputes over land, taxes and tenures, a riot broke out between the servants of the monastery and some citizens of Norwich. Violence came from both sides, and eventually a mob set fire to the gates of the monastery. They burnt down many of the monastic buildings and badly damaged the Cathedral. Most of the monks fled, but others were killed, along with several citizens. So violent were the riots that the Pope decided to excommunicate the entire city, and although this decision was later undone, Norwich remains the only city in England to ever have been cast out of the Catholic Church.
NORWICH CATHEDRAL EVENTS;
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Norfolk & Norwich Festival 16: Mahler - Symphony of a Thousand
21 May, Royal Norfolk Showground, tickets £28, £24, £18, £12
Norfolk & Norwich Festival 16: Norwich Cathedral Choir
28 May, tickets: £18, £16, £14, £10
Shakespeare Festival: Much Ado About Nothing
15 & 16 July, Norwich Cathedral Cloisters