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Top 10 Cathedrals With A Violent Past

Written by Christopher Lozano These magnificent churches may have stunning exteriors with beautiful interiors, but they also have a dark history with a few skeletons in the closet! WatchMojo UK presents the Top 10 Cathedrals With a Dark History! But what will take the Top spot on our list? Will it be Lincoln Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral, or Durham Cathedral? Watch to find out! Watch on Have an idea for our next video, submit your idea here: WatchMojo.comsuggest

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When it comes to the beautiful exteriors and architecture of the UK’s historic cathedrals, there may be more to the history than meets the eye. Welcome to WatchMojoUK and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 UK Cathedrals with a Violent Past.

For this list, we’re looking at cathedrals with more than just a few skeletons in the closet.

#10: St Paul’s Cathedral

After a severe drought, the Great Fire of London burned through the city in 1666, destroying thousands of buildings and homes. One of the iconic London buildings engulfed in the flames was St Paul’s Cathedral. Due to the immense heat of the fire ad the poorly kept records; it’s unknown how many people died during this fire. After the Great Fire, a new cathedral was built and hundreds of years later, it was this cathedral that would survive being bombed by the German Blitz over London.

#9: Exeter Cathedral

Completed in 1400, the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter at Exeter was damaged during the English Civil War and then again during the Second World War. The Baedeker Blitz of May 4th, 1942 saw the cathedral take a direct hit from a large bomb, destroying the chapel of St James. Several other sections of the building were also decimated or damaged. Luckily, many of the Cathedral’s most important relics had already been moved from the location, in case such an attack should take place.

#8: York Minster

Today, the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York is one of the biggest cathedrals not only in England, but also in all of Northern Europe. However in 741, the original wooden structure was all but destroyed in a fire. Luckily it was rebuilt into an even grander structure. Unfortunately, that new building was damaged by William the Conqueror in 1069. But this time Archbishop Thomas Bayeux was there to save the day and organize its repair. The Minster was again destroyed in 1075, this time by the Danes. And again, it was rebuilt. The cathedral was also looted during the English reformation. Oh, and it was struck by lightning in 1984, resulting in a fire.

#7: Southwark Cathedral

Also known as the Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie, this grand structure is situated near the London Bridge on the River Thames. Legend has it that it was founded by a ferryman’s daughter named Mary. The church was damaged in not one but two different fires, one in 1212 and the other in the 1390s. What’s more, trials of heresy were held on its premises during the reign of Queen Mary and six clergymen were sentenced to death there; interestingly, one of these clergymen was the Bishop of Gloucester.

#6: Coventry Cathedral

Like many historic buildings in the area, the Cathedral Church of St Michael was damaged during World War II. The Germans had launched what was referred to as the Coventry Blitz, which was a concentrated bombing effort on the City of Coventry. The targets were factories and manufacturing buildings, but pretty much everything in the area was affected. Unsurprisingly, the air raids left the cathedral in ruins and a bombed-out shell of its former self. In the 1950s, a new cathedral was built next to it and the ruins of the former building were kept and turned into a beautiful garden.

#5: Peterborough Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul, and St Andrew was founded in the Anglo-Saxon period and features some uniquely Norman architecture due to a 12th century upgrade. Notable points in its history include the fact that, after her execution at Fotheringhay Castle, Mary Queen of Scots was buried there for a time. Later, during the English Civil War in 1643, supporters of the Parliament of England ransacked and vandalized the cathedral, destroying most of the stained glass, altars, and choir stalls. Fortunately, it was repaired, restored, and rebuilt in 1883, thanks in large part to John Loughborough Pearson. In 2001, the church was almost damaged again – this time by fire – but it escaped with no structural damage.

#4: St Albans Cathedral

According to Saint Bede, also known as the “Father of English History,” Alban was the first Christian Martyr in Roman controlled Britain. In the 3rd or 4th century, he was a resident of Verulamium, where he met a priest who was fleeing from Roman persecution. Alban gave the priest shelter and was so impressed by his piety that he converted to Christianity. When Roman soldiers came to arrest the priest, Alban put on his cloak and was arrested instead; the Roman judge had him tortured and beheaded. Ultimately, the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban was built on the site of this execution.

#3: Durham Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham is home to relics like the remains of Saint Bede the Venerable and the head of St Oswald of Northumbria, who died in battle against the pagan Mercians. In the late 800s, after many Viking raids, several monks fled with the remains of St Cuthbert and built a structure that would later become the cathedral. Eventually, the site was used to house up to 3,000 Scottish prisoners after the Battle of Dunbar, but around 1,700 of those prisoners died there due to the dreadful living conditions.

#2: Lincoln Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln was once the tallest building in the world, eclipsing the Pyramid of Giza. However, that was until 1549, when the central spire toppled over. In 1185, the cathedral suffered more damage during an extremely rare earthquake. Even more dramatically, in 1255 the body of a young boy was found in a well and 18 Jews were hanged after being accused of his abduction. So is the Lincoln Cathedral simply cursed? Well, legend has it two imps were sent by the devil to cause trouble on Earth. After breaking some stuff and tripping the bishop, they were ordered to stop by an angel who turned one of them to stone.

#1: Canterbury Cathedral

Located in Canterbury, Kent, the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ at Canterbury is one of the most well known and oldest Christian structures in England. It’s a World Heritage Site and the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it also has a violent past. For example, after going on an excommunication spree, Thomas Becket – former Archbishop of Canterbury – drew the ire of the King. It’s said that several knights interpreted the king’s complaints about the Bishop as orders and promptly murdered Becket at the altar of his own church. However, shortly after Becket’s death, the Pope recognized him a saint. As for the cathedral, it was damaged during a fire in 1174 and required major reconstruction.

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