Skip to main content
Select Source:

cathedral

cathedral, church in which a bishop presides. The designation is not dependent on the size or magnificence of a church edifice, but is entirely a matter of its assignment as the church in which the bishop shall officiate.

Romanesque cathedrals (see Romanesque architecture and art) were massive, blocklike, domed and heavily vaulted structures based on the traditional basilica form, reflecting the style dominant in Europe from c.1050 to c.1200. The tall, wide nave arcade or colonnade, flanked by shallower, shorter aisles, ran from decorative exterior portals to a large ambulatory and an apse with radiating chapels. The nave was crossed by a transept and illuminated by a clerestory pierced by small windows so as not to diminish the strength of the supporting walls. The Romanesque cathedral is a strong visual whole with interrelated parts that emphasize its basic structural clarity.

The great cathedrals of the 13th and 14th cent. are the culminating expression of Gothic architecture. These buildings are distinctive in their consistent use of ribbed vaults, pointed arches, rose windows, buttresses, geometric tracery, and variegated stained glass. All of these elements were combined into a design of infinite complexity and richness. Gothic interior structure, also based on basilica form, included a long central arcaded or colonnaded nave with flanking aisles, a transept, a choir, ambulatory, and apse with radiating chapels. Stained glass was used to create a light, lacy effect of spiderweb airyness, made possible by buttressing the comparatively thin walls. The exterior facade was ornamented with great portals covered with sculpture and surmounted by double towers. Further towers often rose above transepts and crossing, and the rear portion of the entire edifice was engulfed in a profusion of buttresses and pinnacles. The building's structure is entirely subordinated visually to the intricacy of its details.

Among the most important medieval cathedrals are the following: France—Amiens, Beauvais, Bourges, Chartres, Le Mans, Notre-Dame de Paris, Rouen, Reims, Strasbourg; England—Canterbury, Durham, Ely, Lincoln, Peterborough, Salisbury, Wells, Westminster Abbey, Winchester, York; Germany—Bonn, Cologne, Mainz, Speyer, Ulm, Worms; Belgium—Antwerp, Brussels, Louvain, Ypres; Italy—Como, Florence, Milan, Monreale, Orvieto, Pisa, Siena, Spain—Ávila, Burgos, Barcelona, Salamanca, Seville, Toledo; Sweden—Lund, Uppsala. Among major cathedrals built in modern times and adhering to medieval styles of architecture are St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (Episcopal) in New York City and the cathedrals of Washington, D.C., and Liverpool, England.

See O. von Simson, The Gothic Cathedral (1956); A. Rodin, Cathedrals of France (1960); G. H. Cook, The English Cathedral through the Centuries (1965); L. Baxter, The Cathedral Builders (1978); J. Gimpel, The Cathedral Builders (tr. 1983); C. Wilson, The Gothic Cathedral (1990).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"cathedral." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"cathedral." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cathedral

"cathedral." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cathedral

cathedrals

cathedrals are the chief churches of a diocese, where the archbishop or bishop has his throne (cathedra). The fabric and worship of the church itself is the responsibility of the dean. The oldest dioceses of the Church of England are Canterbury (597), London (604), Rochester (604), York (625), Norwich (631), Lincoln (Lindsey) (634), Durham (Lindisfarne) (635), Lichfield (656), Hereford (676), and Worcester (680). The newest are Birmingham (1905), Southwark (1905), Chelmsford (1914), Bury St Edmunds (1914), Coventry (1918), Bradford (1920), Derby (1927), Guildford (1927), Leicester (1927), and Portsmouth (1927). There are also more than eighty suffragan bishoprics.

Little pre-Norman work remains, though Wilfrid's 7th-cent. crypts at Ripon and Hexham survive. Among the more remarkable features of the other cathedrals are the Norman nave at Durham (late 12th cent.), the chapter house at Bristol (late 12th cent.), the west front at Wells (13th cent.), the carvings at Southwell (late 13th cent.), the spires at Lichfield (early 14th cent.), the cloisters at Gloucester (late 14th cent.), the towers of Lincoln (14th and 15th cent.), and the great dome of St Paul's (late 17th cent.). Modern Anglican cathedrals are at Truro (1880+), Liverpool (1904+), Guildford (1936+), and Coventry (1956–62), this last to the design of Sir Basil Spence. Westminster Roman catholic cathedral, with its enormous campanile, was built between 1895 and 1903. Two remarkable 20th-cent. catholic cathedrals are at Liverpool, designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd (1962–7), and at Clifton, Bristol (1970–3). [There are separate entries for all the sees of the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales, and the episcopal Church of Scotland.]

J. A. Cannon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"cathedrals." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"cathedrals." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cathedrals

"cathedrals." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cathedrals

cathedral

cathedral (Gk. kathedra, ‘throne’ or ‘seat’) Main church of a bishop's province, the church containing his throne. In the Romanesque period, cathedrals started to become very large and many Gothic cathedrals are gigantic structures. The prototype of the true Gothic cathedral is the Abbey Church of St.Denis near Paris. Suger, the abbot, enlarged the existing Romanesque building in the 12th century, adding a chapel and pointed groin vault. Bigger windows and slender arches gave it a sense of lightness very different from the static solidity of the Romanesque. Among the most remarkable of the great cathedrals of western Europe that followed are Notre-Dame, Paris (begun 1163), and Chartres (begun 1194) in France, Cologne Cathedral in Germany, and Milan Cathedral (begun 1386) in Italy. Some of the finest English examples, such as Canterbury and York, combine Romanesque and Gothic features. St Mark's, Venice, is a magnificent Byzantine example. Central and Eastern European cathedrals often amalgamate Byzantine and western features, while many Spanish cathedrals combine Romanesque, French, German and Moorish features. In Latin America, cathedrals are often of Portuguese or Spanish Renaissance and Baroque origin. The Episcopal Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York is the world's largest Gothic cathedral. See also Byzantine art and architecture; Gothic art and architecture

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"cathedral." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"cathedral." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cathedral

"cathedral." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cathedral

cathedral

cathedral the principal church of a diocese, with which the bishop is officially associated. Recorded from Middle English (as an adjective, the noun being short for cathedral church ‘the church which contains the bishop's throne’), the word comes via Latin from Greek kathedra ‘seat’.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"cathedral." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"cathedral." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral

"cathedral." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral

cathedral

cathedral pert. to an episcopal see. XIII. — (O)F. cathédral — late L. cathedrālis, f. L. cathedra — Gr. kathédrā seat, f. CATA- 1 + *hed- :- *sed- SIT; as sb., short for cathedral church XVI.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"cathedral." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"cathedral." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral-2

"cathedral." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral-2

cathedral

ca·the·dral / kəˈ[unvoicedth]ēdrəl/ • n. the principal church of a diocese, with which the bishop is officially associated: [in names] St. Paul's Cathedral.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"cathedral." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"cathedral." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral-1

"cathedral." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral-1

Cathedral

Cathedral (Gk., kathedra, ‘seat’). The Christian church building in which a bishop has his official seat.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cathedral." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Cathedral." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral

"Cathedral." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral

cathedral

cathedral. Church containing the cathedra, therefore the principal church of the See or Diocese.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"cathedral." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"cathedral." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral

"cathedral." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral

cathedral

cathedralapparel, barrel, carol, Carole, carrel, Carroll, Darrell, Darryl, Farrell •gambrel • spandrel •astral, plastral •cracker-barrel •Errol, feral •petrel, petrol •spectral •central, epicentral, ventral •ancestral, kestrel, orchestral •dextral • Sacheverell • mayoral •sacral • wastrel • cerebral •anhedral, cathedral, dihedral, tetrahedral •hypaethral (US hypethral), urethral •squirrel, Tyrol, Wirral •timbrel, whimbrel •minstrel • arbitral • sinistral • integral •triumviral •spiral, viral •amoral, Balmoral, coral, immoral, laurel, moral, quarrel, sorel, sorrel •cockerel, Cockerell •dotterel • rostral •aboral, aural, choral, floral, goral, oral •austral, claustral •scoundrel • cloistral • neutral • figural •augural •demurral, Durrell •mongrel • sepulchral • lustral •spheral • retiral •crural, jural, mural, neural, plural, rural •illiberal, liberal •natural • federal • peripheral •doggerel • mackerel • pickerel •bicameral, unicameral •admiral •ephemeral, femoral •humeral, numeral •general • mineral • funeral •spatio-temporal, temporal •corporal • tesseral • visceral •bilateral, collateral, equilateral, lateral, multilateral, quadrilateral, trilateral, unilateral •pastoral •electoral, pectoral, prefectoral, protectoral •clitoral, literal, littoral, presbyteral •dipteral, peripteral •doctoral • several • behavioural •conferral, deferral, referral, transferral

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"cathedral." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"cathedral." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral-0

"cathedral." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/cathedral-0