There are a few places that you visit that completely exceed your expectations, places that you find so astonishing that you think of them long after you have departed and for me, Gloucester Cathedral, in particular it’s cloisters are one of them.
From the first time I saw them, I knew that their fame was more than justified, the ceilings are draped with the most beautiful fan vaulting, the light plays through the windows and wandering the cloisters gives you a chance to walk in peace, quiet and truly feel as though you have stumbled back in time.
The cloisters at Gloucester are built on the north side of the church, unusual to begin with as most churches have the cloister on the south side.
Cloisters were built to house the monks and to provide them with a place to live and go about their work. I find it remarkable that they were built with the thought that they were to be for the monks eyes only!
They were built in the second half of the 14th century, right when the cathedral, (previously an Abbey) were benefiting from an influx of income due to the pilgrimage and royal attention associated with the burial of Edward II
Thomas de Canterbury designed them between 1351 and 1377 under Abbot Horton, and it is thought that they have the earliest fan vaulting constructed in England. We have Gloucester to thank for the spectacular ceilings of both King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, and the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey.
A scriptorium also survives, and at the north end of the cloister you can see a well preserved lavatorium where the monks used to wash.
There have been famous visitors to Gloucester, Edward III donated to Gloucester generously,Richard II visited to pay his respects to his grandfather, and you can see the painted White Hart’s near to Edward II’s tomb.
Richard’s father, The Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock also visited and donated a piece of the True Cross.
Richard III visited in 1483, and it was during this visit that the city of Gloucester offered him money, for which he refused and stated he would rather have their love than their money.
There is no record of where he stayed whilst in Gloucester, but it is possible that he stayed at the monastery and walked these cloisters on his way to the abbey church.
Today, the cloisters can be recognised on film, from Harry Potter, to the BBC drama Wolf Hall
When I visited, I was lucky enough to have the cloisters to myself, and it is such a pleasure to walk them, almost meditative and you can imagine bumping into a monk from the 14th century very easily.
One of my favourite time travels 🙂
If you would like to see more of my photos from my visit to Gloucester, please visit my flickr