Birmingham Cathedral

After articles about cathedrals on the Continent I thought I would choose one nearer home to write about.

It is not a large building or a particularly notable one. But there is a story behind that. Stories abound in cathedrals and this one is no exception.

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There was a church near the site called St Martin's of which it was said that the dead were burying the church rather than the church burying the dead. There are thought to be approximately 60,000 burials in the churchyard.

It was decided that St Martin's was not able to cope with the influx of population to the city and Elizabeth Phillips gave the land nearby that the current church is built on. Designed by Thomas Archer, it is a fine example of English Baroque architecture. It was consecrated as the parish church of St Philip's on the 4 October 1715. It is now a Grade 1 listed building.

St Philip's continued as a parish church until 1905 when the new Diocese of Birmingham was created with Charles Gore as the first Bishop. As a Christian Socialist the Bishop was very aware of poverty and social problems facing ordinary citizens in an ever growing industrial city. For that reason he decided the existing church would become the cathedral.

An outstanding feature of the cathedral is the stained glass windows. They were designed by Birmingham born pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by William Morris and Co.. A story attached to the chancel window is that the lady who paid for it forbade the inclusion of oxen!

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The square around the building is a focal point in Birmingham. It is estimated that at least 20,000 people a day pass through it and yet it still manages to be a haven of peace in a busy city. In July this year the cathedral organised its first free film festival located there which, no doubt, increased its already impressive visitor numbers.

Before visiting do look at the cathedral website. It is one of the most comprehensive, user friendly and informative I have seen with lots of video clips and stories as well as the usual content. Even past sermons are available as audio clips!

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