COVID-19 update: The cathedral is not currently open for general visits or tours but remains open for private prayer and reflection 11-3pm. All services are now online only and everyone is welcome to join.
Do take time to visit our historic Close. Lying at the spiritual and physical heart of Winchester, it’s a large, tranquil green space in a densely built-up city, much of it sheltered behind ancient flint and stone walls. It’s also a busy pedestrian thoroughfare linking the town to Winchester College and the lush water meadows that lie beyond.
This picturesque Elizabethan timber-framed building next to the Close Gate, with its towering gables and leaded windows, once served as the Bishop of Winchester’s courthouse. The long timber-framed building next to it dates from 1479 and was once the priory’s stable block.
Chapter house arcade
These four imposing Norman arches are one of the few remaining traces of the monastery buildings swept away in the Dissolution. They were once part of the monastery’s chapter house, where the monks met daily to hear a reading from St Benedict and deal with business matters.
To the right of the Cathedral’s imposing west front, a narrow pedestrian passage leads through a buttress from the outer to the inner close. Built by Bishop Curle in 1632, the archway created a new outdoor route between the two areas – before that, pedestrians had to walk through the Cathedral. A Latin epigram nearby commemorates the separation of ‘those who would worship and those who would walk.’
Dean Garnier's Garden
One of our hidden gems, this tranquil and beautifully planted walled garden in the Inner Close stands on the site of the monks’ dormitory that was once part the great medieval
Priory of St Swithun. It’s open to the public, and managed and maintained by volunteers.
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Barbara Hepworth sculpture
In the Inner Close you’ll find a striking modernist sculpture by one of the 20th-century’s great sculptors, Yorkshire-born artist Barbara Hepworth: Construction (Crucifixion): Homage to Mondrian. Created in 1966, its spare, geometric bronze form and bright painted colours suggest the shape of Christ’s Cross and show her debt to the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.
The Inner Close
The north part of the Cathedral’s grassy inner close was once the main cloister of St Swithun’s Priory, off which lay the monks’ dormitory and chapter house. To the south, behind the monks’ refectory, was a smaller cloister with an infirmary to care for aged monks. Beyond that was a more public outer court with a guest-house and stabling for visitors.
The Outer Close
A large crowded graveyard once filled the open area between the Cathedral and the town. This was cleared in the 19th century and later became the much-loved public space it is today. To the east, behind some railings, you’ll find the excavated site of the Saxon Old Minster and the New Minster that replaced it.
Read more about the Cathedral’s history
The Pilgrims' Hall
In 1310, St Swithun’s Priory erected a guesthouse for its many visitors, known since Victorian times as the ‘Pilgrims’ Hall’. Its magnificent timber roof is England’s earliest surviving example of ‘hammer-beam’ construction, complete with splendid carved heads, one of which may be the young King Edward II.
The Priory Gate
This fine wisteria-clad late 15th-century gate with its two massive iron-studded oak gates once gave access to the ‘working’ courtyard of the medieval priory, including a guest-house and stabling for visitors. It’s still closed up every evening. The gate is topped by a tiny room, originally part of the organist’s house.
Directly opposite the main entrance to the Cathedral, you’ll find our striking modern Visitors’ Centre, built 1991-93 to house the Cathedral Refectory, Shop and Box Office. Its award-winning contemporary design, large terrace with Cathedral views and pretty walled garden all make it a great place to meet.
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Learn more about the Cathedral’s history
From Saxon minster to great medieval monastery
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Our history stretches back over 15 centuries but our facilities and hospitality services are bang up to date