Worcester Cathedral

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Worcester Cathedral has dominated the skyline in the city since 680, although the current building only dates back as far as the 12th and 13th century, and is a popular attraction for tourists, historians and churchgoers alike.

My visit in April 2012 focused on three important people in the history of Worcester, Saint Wulfstan, King John and Prince Arthur Tudor.

Wulfstan II was Bishop of Worcester between 1062 and 1095, becoming one of the few Anglo Saxon Bishops to remain his post following the Norman Conquest of 1066.

He is noted for four miracles in his lifetime, one of which is directly linked to William the Conqueror, which itself links into King John’s decision to be buried at Worcester.

It was in High Wycombe that Wulfstan performed one of his miracles. As an inn he was staying overnight in was falling to the ground, the building began to fall to the ground but the Bishop was unmoved and stayed until all the animals and patrons had been taken to safety. He then left the building and it was only then that it collapsed – the building had held on until the Bishop had evacuated before it fell to the ground.

St Wulfstan is the patron saint of vegetarians and dieters and this stems from one of his many periods of fasting. Prior to this, his favourite food was said to be roast goose and on his way to Mass one morning he passed the kitchen and was distracted by the smell of goose cooking and his thoughts began to turn to dinner.

However, before the congregation that day he admitted that his conscience had got the better of him and from then forward he would not eat meat again, apart from at festivals where he was known to partake in fish. 

At the consecration of a local church in the Wycombe area, Wulfstan was the guest at a celebratory dinner and was told of the plight of a young maid that had a tumor which caused her tongue to hang out and make eating and swallowing difficult.

Wulfstan was said to have gold bezant that was pierced by the spear of Christ, which he dipped in water to hallow it, giving the holy water to the maid, who was subsequently cured.

His most famous miracle stemmed from the Norman Conquest in 1066. William the Conqueror was ordering all Anglo Saxon Bishops to surrender their pastoral staff, which was their symbol of office.

Wulfstan refused and said he would only surrender his staff to the king who had appointed him into office, which was Edward the Confessor. He then thrust his staff into Edward’s tomb and was proven to be the only person who could remove it, forcing William to reverse his decision.

It was this miracle that went a long way to King John’s belief that the king should solely responsible for appointing Bishops and not the Papacy. Wulfstan became John’s patron saint and on his death in 1216, was buried at Worcester. John’s tomb is near the altar, Wulfstan’s is in the crypt.

To the rear of the cathedral is the tomb of Prince Arthur Tudor, older brother of Henry VIII, and this was the main reason why Henry spared Worcester Cathedral during the English Reformation.

The cathedral has been noted in recent years for appearing on the back of £20 notes with another noted native of Worcester, Sir Edward Elgar.

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