Cathedra – A Greek term meaning the Bishop’s throne hence cathedral or building in which the Bishop has his throne. In the late 13th century it appeared as the word ‘cathedral’ meaning a cathedral church.
Many of the foundations of todays Cathedrals are based on medieval religious houses some going back to Anglo Saxon times. Their structure was mostly of timber which is why hardly any evidence of them remain to this day. The Benedictine monks arrived from the continent around the 10th century spreading out across the country building monasteries using stone. This order was soon joined by monks from both the Cluniac and the Cistercian orders that were founded in Burgundy. By the end of the 11th century yet another order arrived, the Augustinians.
(Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire – founded in 1132 as a Cistercian Monastery)
The Norman Conquest in 1066 enabled the conquoring barons, bishops and monks to commence a huge reconstruction of England’s religious buildings in the style of their native Normandy. Because they used stone throughout much of their work remains today. These magnificent stone structures built to express the people’s faith in Christianity were not only impressive from the outside but their interiors were lavishly decorated. These highly skilled medieval craftsmen turned their talents to the ‘Glory of God’ using costly adornment in the form of carving – both wood and stone, wall painting, stained glass, statues, screens, metalwork, embroidery and of course their richly illustrated books.
Opus Anglicanum is a term given to a specific English form of embroidery that uses delicately shaded silks to give a realistic, almost three dimensional effect.
To this day these cathedrals represent the country’s greatest treasures and each one is unique. Whilst they stand as living monuments to the past earning our huge respect they also continue to engage with the modern world.