1,400 years of history under one roof
The historical town of Rochester sits along the River Medway in the southeast UK county of Kent (we’ll gloss over the fact that Rochester used to be a city, and due to an administrative error, the city status was lost).
Rochester may also ring a bell with many of you for its ancient Norman Castle or that it was home to Charles Dickens for a number of years.
However, this historic town is also home to a Cathedral, and this building has some incredible history.
Rochester Cathedral dates from the early 7th – century AD604, when the Saxon Cathedral first consecrated the ground, making it the second oldest Cathedral in England after Canterbury.
In 2004 the 1,400th anniversary of the cathedral and the diocese of Rochester was celebrated. And why not, 1,400 years is a long time?
Façade of Rochester Cathedral
The Norman/Gothic style Cathedral as you see it today dates from 1080 when Gundulf, a French Benedictine, monk was appointed as the first Norman Bishop of Rochester.
Gundulf was sent from Bec Abbey, which weirdly we’d visited on our trip to Normandy in 2017.
Bec Abbey, Normandy, France
An interesting read
If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".
You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.
The cathedral appears slightly overshadowed by the castle peering down from above, but I assure you it is striking in its own right.
During the 12th-century due to damage, re-building work was carried out, and this is reflected in the Gothic architecture upon the building.
Rochester Cathedral & Catalpa Tree
Standing in front of the cathedral is a 150-year-old Catalpa tree, due to its fragile nature in 2015 a fence was placed around it for protection.
As you step inside, smiley volunteers are waiting to have a chat with you and happy to discuss anything you like to know about the cathedral.
The Central Nave
An aisle within the cathedral
Not only is this a place of prayer and reflection but, the church also welcomes school parties to learn more about how Rochester Cathedral played a part in British history.
Standing at the end of the central nave above the screen is the pipe organ, which originates from more recent times of 1905.
The Cathedral organ
At this point spin around and take a look at the stained-glass windows standing high above.
The main stained glass window
Rochester Cathedral isn’t too far from where we live, and on one of the occasions we visited, it was just prior to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Throughout the central nave there were beautiful displays of poppies, a large number of which had been hand knitted (not by me I hasten to add).
Inside, decorated with knitted poppies
Something to make your travels easier?
Keep wandering along the aisles of the cathedral, and you’ll almost double back on yourselves to see the organ in reverse. Here also is the wonderful quire and where Rochester’s choir boys and girls sit along the wooden panelled pews, to sing their hearts out.
The Choir towards the nave
Due to Gundulf’s talent in architecture and military engineering while serving under three Kings of England. Gundulf was accepted as the first "King's Engineer".
Plaque to Colonel J.R.M. Chard VC
Throughout Rochester Cathedral there are plaques and tributes to the King’s Engineers, one of which was to Colonel J.R.M. Chard. Colonel Chard was decorated with the Victoria Cross for his role in the defence of Rorke's Drift in January 1879.
To the Crypt
In 2016, a restoration project was undertaken in the Medieval Crypt, Vestry and Chapter Library, as part of the Hidden Treasures; Fresh Expression Lottery project.
As you head down the stairs below the vaulted Crypt opens out before you. This is the oldest part of Rochester Cathedral and dates from the 1080s.
The Medieval Crypt
Tribute in the Crypt
There are beautiful swathes of arches which are now home to a chapel, this sits directly below the presbytery.
Also down here is a lovely exhibition dedicated to Rochester and its bridge across the River Medway.
And if you’re feeling a little tired why not enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake in their café?
In 2017, after the restoration project was carried out in the Crypt, a lift was installed for disabled access. So, everyone is welcome!
Chapel in the Crypt
Off to school
When Rochester Cathedral was built in AD604, it was also a requirement by the Bishop to build a school, this was for chorister training for the priests. Therefore, King’s School was created in the same year and is still operating today. It is the second oldest continually operating school in the world, after King’s School in Canterbury also in Kent.
King's School, Rochester
Would you like to discover the ancient city of Canterbury, have a peek at Our Canterbury Tales post?
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent
Inspired to visit Rochester Cathedral?
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