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Cathedral of St. Mary
Cathedral of St. Mary Review
Lincoln's crowning glory, this great cathedral was for centuries the tallest building in Europe. The Norman bishop Remigius began work in 1072. The Romanesque church he built was irremediably damaged, first by fire, then by earthquake, but you can still see parts of the ancient structure at the west front. The next great phase of building, initiated by Bishop Hugh of Avalon, is mainly 13th century in character. The west front, topped by two strikingly tall towers, gives tremendous breadth to the entrance. It is best seen from the 14th-century Exchequer Gate arch in front of the cathedral, or from the castle battlements beyond.
Inside, a breathtaking impression of space and unity belies the many centuries of building and rebuilding. The 13th-century stained-glass window at the north end of the transept, known as the Dean's Eye, is one of the earliest traceried windows, whereas its opposite number at the south end shows a 14th-century sophistication in its interlaced designs. Look for the Lincoln Imp on the pillar nearest St. Hugh's shrine; according to legend, an angel turned this creature to stone. Through a door on the north side is the chapter house, a 10-sided building that sometimes housed the medieval Parliament of England during the reigns of Edward I and Edward II. The chapter house is connected to the 13th-century cloister, notable for its amusing ceiling bosses. The cathedral library, a restrained building by Christopher Wren, was built onto the north side of the cloisters after the original library collapsed. Tours of the cathedral roof (daily 1:30 and 11 on Saturdays) and tower (Saturdays 12:15, 1:30 and 3) are fascinating, but for safety reasons no children under 14 are allowed. Fewer tours run in winter; call ahead to check.
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