One of my last hockey games was an hour North of Cambridge in a wee city called Peterborough. Now, we had been told 2 different perspectives of Peterborough. One was that of the tourist book – Peterborough has a stunning cathedral housing the grave of Katherine of Aragon and a pretty market square. The other view from Cambridge locals was that, well, Peterborough was a bit of hole and only worth visiting for the having the only passport office in the East of England. Nice.
We decided to be optimistic about our day trip and go see the cathedral after the game. We were pretty pleased we did.
The history of the cathedral is a little staggered. Originally, there was a monstery on this site in 655AD which was destroyed by Vikings in 870. It was rebuilt as an abbey in 960 then destroyed in an accidental fire in 1116. Finally, it was rebuilt in its present form in 1118. It is known as the Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew.
As with all the cathedrals so far, there is always a gate.
And a spectacular view awaited us just past it! The front face of the cathedral is the only part of the building in Gothic style. And it was a pretty spectacular sight! The arches, and the detail, and all done in stone! We were thrilled with the grandeur of it. The most impressive of the cathedrals we’ve seen so far.
The Nave was so spacious! More so than Ely Cathedral. The ceiling of the nave is the only surviving wooden ceiling from the 13th century in the UK. The Ely Cathedral ceiling is more colourful and decorative, but was painted in Victorian times so very different. This one felt like it was sweeping and classic.
The central tower was rebuilt twice in its history. The original tower was built too tall and heavy so was had to be replaced with a much lighter tower. Then in the 19th century it became seriously weakened and had to be taken down. The foundations were redone and the stones and the foor bosses were put back exactly as they were.
The main reason we wanted to go to this cathedral, a reason we had noted in our tourist book before we even knew about the hockey game in Peterborough, was to see the Katherine of Aragon’s place of burial. Katherine of Aragon was Henry VIII’s first wife (he had 6 in his lifetime) who he divorced (mostly because she didn’t bear him a son). It was thought that after her burial in the Peterborough Abbey, he made it a cathedral as a memorial to her.
A special detail of the cathedral was the fan vaulted ceiling in the newest part of the cathedral (at the far end). It was probably designed by John Wastall who went on to develop further in King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. We were thoroughly impressed with the fan vaulting at King’s College, so it was nice to see a smaller example where the style was developed.
The Presbytery (the area where the priests gather for Holy Communion) was beautiful. But the area was fenced off so seemed so far away. The lighting on the high altar was just perfect though.
For £3 entry and considering the negative comments about Peterborough as a whole, we were thoroughly impressed with the cathedral. It was beautiful and spacious, full of the details and impressive styles.
The market square was nice too. All in all, it was a great afternoon.
Even if I did lose the hockey game that brought us there.