A beautiful and massive church, Salisbury Cathedral was a delight to visit. I really loved the gothic-style architecture, which this cathedral offers up on a golden platter. In fact, it’s regarded as one of the best examples of “Early English Gothic” architecture in all of England. It sits in the city of the same name, approximately 2 hours from London, and only around 15 minutes from the famed Stonehenge (Stonehenge: Not Just a Pile of Rocks.). It’s very important and super old, at 764 years. Construction began in 1220 and finished in 1258, taking around 38 years to complete. The spire of the cathedral was built in 1320 and stands at 404 feet (123m), making it the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom.
Formally known as the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Salisbury Cathedral is most well known for being home to the best surviving copy of the famous Magna Carta, akin to the U.S.’s Bill of Rights. It’s located in the Chapter House, an octagonal shaped building which was last redecorated by William Burges in 1859. This copy of the Magna Carter was brought to Salisbury Cathedral in 1215 by Elias of Dereham, who was present at Runnymede (where the Magna Carter was sealed). He was then tasked with distributing the four copies. He later became a canon of Salisbury, helping supervise the construction of the church.
Photos of the Magna Carta are strictly forbidden. The flash from cameras seriously weakens and destroys the ink (it’s the same case for the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence in Washington D.C.). There is an attendant standing near the Magna Carta, at all times, to make sure no one tries to sneak a pic.
Salisbury Cathedral is also home to one of the world’s oldest working clocks. Known as the Salisbury Cathedral Clock, it dates to 1386 AD. While it’s universally agreed upon as being among the world’s oldest working clocks, many believe it to be the oldest working clock in the world. However, this is contested. Other places who make this same claim include Cathedral of Beauvais in France, the clocktower in Chioggia, Italy, and Comayagua Cathedral in Honduras. The oldest clock with an actual engraved date of proof (1463) is the Backhaus Clock in Germany.
Regardless, this clock is still old. It’s 636 years old and was among a group of 14th and 16th century clocks found in western England. It was lost for some time, only to be rediscovered in 1928 and restored in 1956. While some parts had to be replaced, the “striking train” of the clock is said to be original.
Overall, we only spent around one hour at Salisbury Cathedral, if that. We still had Stonehenge and Bath to visit, so unfortunately spending a long time here was undoable. However, I feel like the time we were given was adequate. The cathedral is beautiful, but there is not much to do there other than see the Magna Carter and the clock. As mentioned in my Stonehenge blog, the company we took the tour with has stopped visiting Salisbury Cathedral (replacing it with Windsor Castle), and I am unsure why. Either way, that doesn’t mean you can’t visit this historic cathedral yourself!