Saying it with flowers… Happy 950th birthday to Lincoln Cathedral

One of Europe’s finest gothic buildings – and the world’s tallest building for over two centuries – will turn 950 in 2022.

Sitting high on a hill, Lincoln Cathedral is one of the region’s most iconic landmarks, and can be seen from up to 25 miles away.

For 2022, it will be marking its anniversary with the return of its summer Flower Festival, which will see stunning displays blossom in every part of the building.

And as part of a major restoration project, a new visitor centre is also expected to open in 2022, showcasing some of the Cathedral’s many treasures, joining a new café and shop that opened in 2021.

Once described by Victorian writer John Ruskin as “out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles and roughly speaking worth any two other cathedrals we have”, it has dominated the city’s skyline for almost 1,000 years.

Construction began in 1072 when William the Conqueror commissioned the first Bishop of Lincoln, Remigius de Fécamp, to lay the foundations for Lincoln Cathedral. It was consecrated on 9 May 1092, at a time when Lincoln was the largest diocese in England, extending from the Humber to the Thames.

But it was an earthquake in 1185, which partially destroyed the Cathedral, that heralded its transformation into one of the world’s great buildings.

A year later, Hugh of Avalon became Bishop of Lincoln, and he oversaw the building of a new Gothic-style cathedral using such state-of-the-art architectural features as flying buttresses, ribbed vaults and pointed arches.

Regarded as the greatest medieval Bishop of Lincoln, he died in 1200, and was canonised 20 years later, with his final resting place in the Cathedral attracting a stream of pilgrims over the next three centuries.

It was such a holy place that Saint Hugh’s shrine was one of the great centres of pilgrimage in England, almost as important as that of Saint Thomas à Becket in Canterbury.

The rebuilding of the cathedral, under Hugh included a central tower, but this collapsed under its own weight in 1237. It was later replaced, and subsequently topped with wooden spires, capped with lead.

When the central spire was eventually completed in 1311, it made the Cathedral the tallest building in the world at around 525 feet – beating then record holder, the Great Pyramid of Giza – and remained so until 1549 when the spire collapsed in a storm.

Lincoln Cathedral Flower Festival returns in August with the theme of ‘Vision’ to mark that 950th anniversary, and to celebrate the life and works of St Hugh of Lincoln, as well as many other notable visionaries.

The floral displays will cover poetry, theatre, film, and fashion, alongside history, exploration and invention, and themes will range from the Mayflower Pilgrims’ journey to the New World to the moon landing and even Harry Potter.

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