Seen by many to be the spiritual centre of the city, Chester Cathedral is many things to many people. It offers a vibrant community of worship, an ancient abbey, an archaeological treasure, a cultural hub, a centre of musical excellence, and a unique blend of both modern and medieval history.
For visitors hoping to experience the best of the Cathedral, there are regular Tower and Ground Floor Tours, which allow people to explore the magnificent building in more depth, seeing more of the national treasure at the heart of Chester.
The true story of Chester Cathedral is now lost in the mists of time, with many local legends indicating that a place of worship was on the site way before the Roman invasion. When the Romans invaded Britain during the 1st century, they built a temple on the site which was dedicated to the god Apollo. It is thought that this temple was used as the basis for the Christian church in the area when the Romans embraced Christianity under the edict of the Emperor Constantine.
At the end of the 11th century, a Benedictine abbey was established on the site of the current cathedral by Hugh Lupus, then the Earl of Chester. He set up the abbey with the assistance of St Anselm and other monks from the town of Bec in Normandy. The earliest surviving parts of the current building date from that time, although when it was set up, the abbey church was not the cathedral of Chester unlike today. The cathedral of the diocese during the end of the 11th century was the nearby church of St John the Baptist.
There was definitely a church on the site as early as the 9th century when holy relics associated with St Werburgh were brought to Chester to keep them safe from Viking raiders. Werburgh was a Mercian princess who became a nun and rose to become the Abbess of Ely.
Apart from the regular selection of services through the week, Chester Cathedral also hosts a variety of events such as concerts, recitals, exhibitions and tours. There are usually regular lunchtime organ recitals every Thursday, as well as concerts by the Chester Cathedral Nave Choir.
In 1922, the Chester War Memorial was installed in the cathedral grounds and dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the First World War and later the Second World War.
For people visiting the cathedral, refreshments are available from the Refectory Café, set in the original 13th century monk’s dinking hall, surrounded by stunning stained glass windows and original stonework structures. Naturally the catering facilities have been substantially upgraded since that time, with a range of hot and cold snacks and beverages served on simple wooden tables, echoing the simplistic nature of the monastic life that used to happen here.