Bristol Cathedral. Detail of vaulting in nave, 19th century.

study visits

Bristol Cathedral

  • Thursday 24 March 2022
    (1.15pm for 1.30pm start - meet inside West Door)
  • Leader: John McNeill

The former Victorine Priory of St Augustine at Bristol was one of six monasteries saved from demolition by having been granted cathedral status by Henry VIII in 1542, hence the survival of several twelfth-century monastic buildings in addition to the eastern parts of the medieval church. Famously praised by Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘the most important, and at the same time architecturally the most brilliant building of the period about 1300 in the whole of Europe’, Bristol’s nave seems to have been demolished in the early sixteenth century, not to be replaced until George Edmund Street built the present nave between 1867 and 1877. But of the medieval church much survives in addition to the epoch-making choir of c.1300 – the remarkable pair of monastic gatehouses, chapter-house and east cloister walk, the transepts and night-stair, the early-thirteenth-century Elder Lady Chapel, Abbot Elyot’s superb early-sixteenth-century choir stalls and the famous suite of Berkeley tombs and effigies.


John McNeill lectures for the Department of Continuing Education at Oxford University and is a Vice-President of the London Art History Society for whom he has delivered numerous courses and led study tours and cathedral visits. He is the Secretary of the British Archaeological Association, for whom he has edited and contributed to volumes on English medieval cloisters, chantries and Romanesque material culture.

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