Carlisle Cathedral


In our recent work in class, I did some research into the cathedral at Carlisle. The cathedral at Carlisle was built by the Normans after their conquest of Cumberland County which contained the town of Carlisle and it was in this town that a cathedral was built. The diocese itself was established in 1133 A.D. by Henry I of England. The creation of the diocese served more as a defense against the encroachment of the Scottish bishops into northern England. This kept the Scottish bishops from claiming parts of England as part of their diocese. The cathedral was poorly maintained throughout its existence more because it simply needed to exist to maintain its purpose which was to keep the Scottish bishops at bay. The surviving parts of the cathedral include: two bays of the nave, the southern part of the cross patterned church, and the crossing. Churches at this point in time were built in the shape of crosses. The crossing was the middle portion of the cross where the four arms intersect. The cathedral was built in a typical Romanesque style of the time. Some of the decorations that were carved into the surviving walls still exist. For example, a zigzag pattern still is visible as one looks at the walls. The parts of the church that were destroyed were caused by human error whether it was poor maintenance or purposeful destruction. The first damage done was by a fire in 1292 A.D. This led to a rebuild that continued for a majority of the 1300s. The northern part was destroyed in 1380 A.D. by its own tower crashing down on it. This was rebuilt in the early 1400s. The rest of the damage was done during rule of Oliver Cromwell. This period was known as the Commonwealth period due to the fact that there was an attempt made to create a republican government, but this descended into Oliver Cromwell becoming more or less the military dictator of England. This time period saw a massive movement across England to root out Catholic influence which was why these people destroyed many cathedrals or in this case just part of it as in the Western part of the cathedral and the other parts of the nave in 1650 A.D.

The grounds where Carlisle Cathedral stands was at first a priory which was then added onto by the construction of the cathedral. The Augustinian Priory of St. Mary in Carlisle was found in 1122 A.D. by Henry I. In 1540 A.D., the priory was dissolved during the Commonwealth period. The cathedral at Carlis9le became a pilgrimage center which before their removal was run by the priory of St. Mary. The main focus of devotion was to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Carlisle Cathedral during the Commonwealth period was used as a place of worship while the monastic buildings were reduced to rumble and ruins. After the Restoration of the monarchy which occurred after the Commonwealth period. There was a time of rebuilding, but the cathedral at Carlisle was not near the top of the list, so it fell even more into disrepair. The first steps were taken in 1764 by the bishop to rebuild, but most of this was redone in the nineteenth century restoration. It was never completely rebuilt until the 1850s when people retook an interest in the building. It was not until the mid1900s that the cathedral was finally completed of all its restoration work.


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