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A walk round the Cathedral takes you through centuries of English church architecture, from the massive vaults of its early Norman crypt to the ornate glories of its Renaissance chantry chapels. It’s also home to some great works of art, including paintings, sculptures and carvings.
Seen from Winchester’s surrounding hills, the Cathedral is still the city’s most prominent landmark. The longest medieval cathedral in Europe, it’s also an outstanding example of all the main phases of English church architecture from the 11th century until the early 16th century, when much of today’s building was complete.
This mysterious life-size statue of a man contemplating the water held in his cupped hands is the work of the celebrated British sculptor Antony Gormley. You can find Sound II, fashioned from lead out of a plaster cast of the artist’s own body, in the Cathedral crypt, which floods during rainy months.
The Cathedral is famous for its beautiful chantry chapels, where daily masses were said for the bishops who built them. A total of seven, all in different styles, were added between the 14th and 16th centuries. This is more than any other English cathedral, reflecting Winchester’s great power, wealth and royal connections.
This delightful small chapel in the south transept is a place of pilgrimage for anglers from all over the world. In its stained-glass window, donated by fishermen in England and America in 1914, you’ll spot an endearing small portrait of the ‘Father of Angling’ Izaak Walton sitting peacefully reading, his fishing rod beside him.
These exquisite early 14th-century oak choir stalls, where the priory monks once sang their daily offices, are an outstanding survival. Richly decorated with human figures, tiny heads and carved animals surrounded by luxuriant curling leaves, they are thought to be the work of a Norfolk master carpenter,William of Lyngwode.
This superb low-vaulted stone crypt, which floods in rainy months, dates from the 11th century, the earliest phase of building the Cathedral. Here you’ll find Antony Gormley’s mysterious life-size sculpture of a solitary man, Sound II, sometimes standing up to its knees in water. You can see the crypt and sculpture by taking our Crypt Tour.
In this small chapel in the north transept, you’ll find four richly coloured stained glass windows designed by pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones and created in the workshops of William Morris (1910). Look out also for the tiny, perfect stone roundel of the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) carved by the eccentric and gifted English sculptor Eric Gill (1920).
The ornate, soaring 15th-century stone screen behind the high altar is one of the most important monuments of the period. The original painted statues that once adorned its carved niches are gone, destroyed in the Reformation, but you can see a few glorious survivals in the Triforium Gallery, including a magnificent head of God the Father.
These gorgeous 13th-century floor tiles, their rich colours still glowing, form part of the largest surviving spread of medieval decorated floor tiles inside any building in England. You can see the tiles where they were first laid, and even walk on them, in the Retrochoir at the far end of the Cathedral.
Thought to represent Ecclesia (the Church), this exquisite female statue, with its elegant flowing garments, is a superb example of English 13th-century sculpture. It was dug up from the Cathedral grounds headless, armless and weather beaten, and now graces the Retrochoir at the far end of the Cathedral.
A remarkable survival, these are the finest 12th-century wall paintings in the country, with clearly visible images of Christ being taken down from the Cross and placed in his tomb. You’ll find them on free public view in the Holy Sepulchre Chapel, where they were uncovered in the 1960s.
Most of the wooden seats in our choir stalls lift up to reveal small, exquisitely carved ledges that once allowed the monks of St Swithun’s Priory to perch, half sitting and half standing, during their long hours’ worship. Featuring comical portraits, animals and plants, this collection of 14th-century misericords is one of the largest in England.
High overhead, the Cathedral has over a thousand roof bosses - carvings in wood or stone that cover the joins between the stone ribs of its vaulted ceilings. These roof bosses range from simple 13th-century leaf designs, to elaborate Renaissance images of angels, animals and beasts, heraldic badges and the emblems of Christ’s Passion.
The newly refurbished Venerable Chapel in the south transept has a superb 14th-century entrance screen, once highly coloured and rich with statuary, and a beautiful honey-coloured altar in Jerusalem limestone installed in 2011. It’s used as the setting daily Mattins (Morning Prayer).