Located in ‘The Cloisters’ within the city, this famous cathedral is Exeter’s no. 1 visitor attraction, and with good reason. Formally known as the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter in Exeter, this spectacular Anglican cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Exeter.
Exeter Cathedral dates back 900 years, and is a testament to the creativity, skill and devotion of those who built it. As one of England’s most beautiful medieval cathedrals it is one of the finest examples of decorated Gothic architecture in this country.
In the mid-13th century the building was already recognised as outmoded, and was rebuilt in the decorated Gothic style, following the example of Salisbury Cathedral. However, much of the Norman building was kept, including the two massive square towers and part of the walls. It was constructed entirely of local stone, including Purbeck Marble.
The present building was complete by about 1400. The cathedral is most famous for its two Norman towers, impressive west front carvings and the longest unbroken stretch of Gothic vaulting in the world. Of note are the Minstrels’ Gallery, the 15th century Astronomical Clock, a complete set of Misericords and the highly-decorated tombs, bosses and corbels. The library contains the famous ‘Exeter Book’ of Anglo-Saxon verse, the Exon Domesday and many other historical documents.
The founding of the cathedral at Exeter, dedicated to Saint Peter, dates from 1050, when the seat of the Bishop of Devon and Cornwall was transferred from Crediton because of a fear of sea-raids.
Like most English cathedrals, Exeter suffered during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Further damage was done during the Civil War, when the cloisters were destroyed. Following the restoration of Charles II, a new pipe organ was built in the cathedral by John Loosemore.
During the Victorian era, some refurbishment was carried out by George Gilbert Scott. As a boy, the composer Matthew Locke was trained in the choir of Exeter Cathedral, under Edward Gibbons, the brother of Orlando Gibbons. His name can be found scribed into the stone organ screen.
During the Second World War, Exeter was one of the targets of a German air offensive against British cities of cultural and historical importance, which became known as the “Baedeker Blitz.”
On 4 May 1942 an early-morning air raid took place over Exeter. The cathedral sustained a direct hit by a large high-explosive bomb on the chapel of St James, completely demolishing it.
Facilities include a well-stocked shop and onsite café which serves a range of light lunches, afternoon teas and light snacks.
The Cathedral prides itself on its choral tradition which dates back nearly 900 years. At 17.30 on most weekdays the Cathedral Choir sing Evensong. The service is free to attend.
The Cathedral receives no funding from the government or the Diocese of Exeter. An admission fee is payable by visitors, which contributes to the £1.3million annual operating costs. Expert guided tours, trails and activities are all included within the admission price.