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Winchester is a small city about 65 miles SW of London. It was a seat of power for many Anglo-Saxon kings, and has had a place of worship there since the 7th century, enlarged to a cathedral in the 11th century.

Winchester Cathedral may have a short, stubby tower, but it has the longest nave (the main body of the building) in Europe. The remains of St Swithun were interred from the Cathedral’s inception, and it became an important place of pilgrimage, until Henry VIII had him and his elaborate shrine removed in 1538 during the Reformation.

The Cathedral suffered more damage in 1642 during the English Civil War, when Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers rampaged throughout the building. They famously broke open mortuary chests and threw the bones of kings through the stained glass windows. The bones have been jumbled ever since, as is the stained glass in the Great West Window when it was restored higgledy-piggledy – a reminder of the fragility of even the greatest works of art.

The Cathedral revealed its own physical fragility in the early 20th century when cracks appeared in the walls, a result of poor foundations and swampy ground. The Cathedral’s saviour was William Walker, a diver who from 1906-12 shored up the waterlogged medieval foundations with thousands of sacks of concrete before new foundations were built. The building’s crypt still regularly floods, and the eastern walls of the cathedral still lean a bit.

More information about the Cathedral here : https://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk


Cathedrals have long been pilgrimage destinations, often holding relics such as the bones of saints, fragments of Christ’s cross or the veil of the Virgin Mary.
Winchester traditionally held the bones of St Swithun, but 3 secular interests have recently become popular with visitors:

The grave of Izaak Walton

Izaak Walton

Walton wrote The Compleat Angler in 1653, and it has been a bible for fishermen ever since. Fellow members of the “Brotherhood of the Angle” visit the Fishermen’s Chapel to see his grave and pay their respects.

The grave of Jane Austen

Jane Austen plaque Winchester Cathedral

Austen came from the nearby village of Chawton to Winchester at the end of her life, seeking treatment from the city’s doctors. When she died her family paid extra to have her interred in the Cathedral. Interesting that her stone gravestone mentions “the extraordinary endowments of her mind” while neglecting to say she is an esteemed author. That was left to this brass memorial erected in 1900. Now many readers go to see her grave.

The grave of Thomas Thetcher

Grave of Thomas Thetcher, Winchester Cathedral

This 18th-century soldier apparently died from drinking cold beer on a hot day, immortalized with an amusing poem on his gravestone. In 1918 Bill Wilson, an American soldier, saw it. Bill had a tendency to drink, and went on to co-found Alcoholics Anonymous. In his The Big Book of AA (1939) he recalled seeing the grave. Thetcher’s grave is now a site visited by AA members from all over the world.