- Take in the breath-taking beauty of this Normal cathedral, and the treasures that lie within.
- Explore the Roman town of Chichester, and it's history.
- Visit the ancient Shrine of Saint Richard, and the modern art that now accompanies it.
- Head to one of the cathedral's family days to get involved with some child-friendly activities.
If you've been wondering what to do in Chichester, West Sussex, make sure you don't miss out on a trip to Chichester Cathedral. Originally established as Noviomagus Reginorum by the Romans over 2,000 years ago, the city of Chichester is no stranger to some ancient history. Chichester Cathedral, located in the heart of the city, is one of the oldest historical buildings there, at almost 1,000 years old. This medieval building was built to accommodate the seat of the bishop in 1075 after it moved from the nearby seaside town of Selsey.
Throughout history, Chichester Cathedral has survived fire, lightning strike and collapse. Although some areas had to be remodelled, the church we see today still retains many of its original features. While the original spire was created in the 1300s, it, unfortunately, collapsed in the 19th century and was replaced. The problem of subsidence, or sinking ground, has long been an issue for the Cathedral's structure and means that the foundations of the building are less sturdy than they should be. Therefore the Cathedral is smaller than its counterparts, such as Salisbury Cathedral. Chichester Cathedral was originally designed with a floor plan in the shape of a cross, like many churches at the time. The original Norman architecture has been updated in various areas throughout the centuries, so if you look carefully, you will also be able to see Gothic features that came in after the Cathedral was initially built, as well as the separate bell tower that was added in the 1400s.
While there are several churches in Chichester, the Cathedral not only has a long and interesting past but is also full of treasures. These include rare carved reliefs from the 12th century, as well as famous graves including that of Richard FitzAlan, the 10th Earl of Arundel, and the world-renowned composer Gustav Holst. Chichester Cathedral is also home to the shrine of Saint Richard, once a site of pilgrimage that was unfortunately destroyed in 1538 as part of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. While the contents of the shrine were lost, in an interesting turn of events, a relic claimed to be the arm of Saint Richard was offered to Bishop Eric Kemp at the Reliquary of the Abbey de La Lucerne in France. Now, all that remains of the shrine today is a simple candle burning by a slab inside the Cathedral, where the remains are buried. However, there are still statues of Saint Richard, as well as a striking Anglo-German tapestry created by artist Ursula Benker-Schirmer. This impressive tapestry contains lots of important symbolism and is a great example of how modern art can have a relationship with religion.
Chichester Cathedral is also a great place to visit with kids. With a huge building and lots of history to learn, the Cathedral is a top option for a day out. The huge stone cloisters are the perfect place for a game of hide and seek, and from here you can peek into the central green area of the Cathedral, nicknamed 'Paradise'. The Bishop's Palace Gardens, located just a short walk from the Cathedral, is a great place to relax and run around, with lots of plants and flowers to see and smell. From here, you can also easily check out the Bishop's Palace or the City Walls, both significant in Chichester and its history.
Chichester Cathedral events take place throughout the year. As well as religious events, festivals and celebrations, the Cathedral is also home to local art exhibitions, as well as evening concerts. Chichester Festival of the Arts has been held in the Cathedral before, so this is a great place to go if you'd be interested in visiting an arts exhibition. There are also regular family days at the church, so if you plan your visit while one of these are taking place, you can get stuck into some arts, crafts and creativity with the kids. At Christmas, you might even come across a Christmas Fayre, Christmas card making or some festive songs at a Carol Service.
Plus, bird watchers should keep their eyes peeled for the Chichester Cathedral peregrines, a pair of peregrine falcons that have nested at the Cathedral since 2001. If you happen to be visiting in the spring, make sure to look out for these beautiful birds and their chicks, and you can even take a look up close at the nesting box at the Cathedral.
For something to eat on your visit, head to the Chichester Cathedral Café, also known as the Cloisters Café. Here, you'll find the ideal space to relax, reflect and enjoy a cup of coffee. There are also options for hot and cold meals, as well as children's options. The city of Chichester itself also has lots of options for places to eat and drink, including local and chain cafes and restaurants. Depending on how long you take in the Cathedral (most people spend around an hour exploring), you might fancy exploring a little more of the local area. For some more medieval history with gardens to boot, Arundel Castle and Gardens is definitely worth the visit and is just a 20-minute drive from the city. Alternatively, head even further back in history to explore the Roman past of West Sussex, at Bignor Roman Villa and Museum, an excavated Roman ruin that will enthral history lovers.
What to know before you go
- Chichester Cathedral is open to visitors from 10am-4pm daily, however, please note that this is a working church so there will be services taking place daily including wedding services.
- There are accessible toilets and baby changing facilities available on site.
- Kidadl recommends spending at least one-two hours at Chichester Cathedral to make the most of your visit.
- There are ramps available for accessibility and free parking for Blue Badge holders on West Street.
- Well-behaved dogs are allowed in the Cloisters and church grounds, but only Assistance Dogs are allowed inside the Cathedral.
- Photography is allowed, but not during services.
- If travelling by car, you can get to the Cathedral by entering Chichester via the A27. There is no parking specifically at the Cathedral itself, but there are multiple pay and display parking areas around the city. Most of the streets are pedestrianized in the city centre so you may need to walk a short distance.
- The closest train station is Chichester Station, which is just a 10-minute walk away.
- There is a bus station and bus depot next to the train station, where you can catch a bus or get dropped off.
- If you are cycling, you'll find plenty of places to lock up your bike nearby and lots of countryside cycle routes that feature the Cathedral.