Quire Ceiling


A Romanesque Abbey

Built by Abbot Serlo, the foundation of stone of the Abbey of St Peter (now Gloucester Cathedral) was laid in 1089, the East End was dedicated in 1100 and by c.1130 the Nave was completed. A great deal of the Romanesque church survives, including the entire Crypt, much of the East End, the great Nave pillars and the Norman Chapter House.

The Nave
The Norman Nave with its Romanesque pillars. Photo by Peter Marlow-Magnum.

The Nave is one of the best places to understand the original Norman Abbey – it has hardly changed in 900 years, and if you look closely at the pillars when you visit, you’ll spot masons’ marks left by craftsmen generations ago. You’ll also notice that some of the pillars have a reddish-brown colour at the bottom. This is thought to be the result of a serious fire in 1122, which caused the original roof to come crashing down; the vault we see today dates from 1242.

The birthplace of Perpendicular Architecture

The remodelling of the East End took place between 1331-1355, and for that we have King Edward II to thank…at least, in part. The young Edward III wanted a more fitting burial place for his father, and sent the royal masons to carry out some experimental work in the French ‘Rayonnant’ style. Needless to say, the experiment was a great success: the South Transept at Gloucester Cathedral is the earliest surviving example of English Perpendicular architecture, and the Quire and Presbytery were then remodelled in what became the standard English style of architecture for more than 200 years.

The Quire is a masterpiece of design, in stone, glass and wood. Further information about the Great East Window can be found further down this page, but the vault above is equally impressive with its 400 bosses and orchestra of heavenly angels. When you visit, have a look in the mirror which can be found just below the High Alter - this gives you a remarkable view of the roof bosses.

The Quire remained almost untouched for over 500 years, but it underwent extensive restoration work under the great Victorian architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

Quire Roof
The Quire - a masterpiece of design. Photo by Kevin Lewis

The Cloisters are also in the Perpendicular style of architecture, boasting what is arguably the world’s best example of medieval fan-vaulting. Read more about the Cloisters below.

A world-famous Cloister

The Cloister of Gloucester Cathedral represents some of the most significant medieval architecture in the world, famed for its remarkable fan-vaulting. This imaginative new style was developed here during the 1300s, and the current Cloister was finished by Abbot Froucester by 1412.

The Cloister's world famous fan vaulting is a true marvel.

Originally built to house the monks, it provided a space for them to live, work and meditate. On the South Walk of the Cloister, you’ll find a row of 20 niche-like spaces; these are called ‘carrels’, and they would have originally housed desks for the monks to study at. Wander along the North Walk and you’ll see the ‘Lavatorium’, a place for the monks to wash which would have made use of a local stream.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and the Cloister has taken on another life as a popular filming location – look out for it in productions such as The Hollow Crown, Wolf Hall, Father Brown, Mary Queen of Scots, The Spanish Princess, and, perhaps most notably, a number of the Harry Potter films. It’s for this reason that this part of the Cathedral is fondly referred to as ‘Hogwarts’ by many of our visitors.

A window the size of a tennis court

It might be hard to believe, but at 22 metres in height and 12 metres in width, the Great East Window is the size of a tennis court! At the time of its installation in the 1350s, it was the largest window in the world and it continues to be one of the greatest landmarks of European medieval stained glass today.

The Great East Window was created as part of the reconstruction of the Quire following the burial of King Edward II, and the colourful glass has been painstakingly designed to reflect the hierarchical nature of medieval society as well as the Church’s interpretation of the Divine Order.

Its centrepiece is the Blessed Virgin Mary and our Lord Jesus Christ in majesty, flanked by 12 apostles.

Did you know that during World War Two, the Great East Window was dismantled to keep it safe and stored down in the Crypt?

Great East Window
The Great East Window fills the entire wall behind the High Altar. Photo by Kevin Lewis

The burial place of a king

In the North Ambulatory of Gloucester Cathedral, you’ll find the tomb of King Edward II, unmistakable with its highly ornate limestone canopy. It is an early example of the ‘English Court’ stye, and the alabaster stone effigy was one of the very first of its kind, with the limestone based clad in Purbeck marble. It represents the only monarch’s tomb in the South West of England, and one of only a few outside of London.

King Edward II was crowned king in 1307, and the years that followed were turbulent. Following his abdication and imprisonment, he was allegedly murdered at Berkeley Castle in 1327 before his burial at St Peter’s Abbey, now Gloucester Cathedral.

The highly ornate tomb of King Edward II. Photo by Kevin Lewis

Our best kept secret

Venture up the spiral staircase in the North Transept and you’ll discover the Tribune Gallery, a remarkable space high above the Quire. As well as providing spectacular views, the Tribune Gallery is home to a number of fun interactive activities for all the family. Find out more about that here.

Connected to the Tribune Gallery is the Cathedral’s Whispering Gallery, which runs behind the Great East Window; taking its name from a feature of its construction, the space enables a whisper to be heard from the opposite side to where you are standing. Try it for yourself next time you visit, and we promise you’ll be amazed!

Please note that the gallery is not accessible when there is a service taking place in the Quire.

The Tribune Gallery is packed with fun activities.

The recently-restored Lady Chapel

Today the Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral is an intimate, tranquil space for worship and contemplation. However, it hasn’t always been quite such a peaceful place and it was the target of vandalism during the Civil War. Even now in the 21st century, the scars of the damage can be seen on the reredos screen behind the High Altar, serving as a poignant reminder to us all.

Dedicated to ‘Our Lady’, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Lady Chapel is unique in its design and decoration. It has a vaulted roof and stunning stained glass windows, which were made famous by the Arts and Crafts designer Christopher Whall in the early 1900s. In front of the altar are wooden rails made in 1617 on the order of William Laud, who was Dean of Gloucester until 1621.

Take a moment to pause and reflect in the Lady Chapel.

Remarkable stained glass

Among many other things, Gloucester Cathedral is famous for its stunning collection of stained glass which dates from as early as the 14th century through to the present day. The Great East Window is medieval, but examples of Victorian, 20th century and 21st century stained glass can be found throughout the building. The Lady Chapel also has beautiful examples of stained glass in the Arts and Crafts style, while the South Side of the Cloister is home to 12 panels and roundels of Tudor heraldic glass. No matter how many times you visit, you’re sure to spot a new detail amongst the windows.

The stained glass in the Thomas Chapel is by Thomas Denny.