The first Cathedral was built in Rochester in AD 604, earning it the title of second oldest cathedral in England. The current building is the work of the French Bishop Gundulf in 1080, but the earlier cathedral's foundations were discovered in 1889 under the west end of the existing building.
Gundulf was surprisingly multi-skilled for a religious man, being a talented architect as well. He was also responsible for building the neighbouring Rochester Castle and the Tower of London.
The River Medway, Rochester Cathedral and Castle Looming on the Horizon
During the 12th and 13th centuries Rochester Cathedral had a particularly difficult time, being badly damaged in two fires and then looted twice - first by King John then by Simon de Monfort's men as they laid siege to the city. His armed knights are said to have ridden into the cathedral and dragged out refugees, stolen gold and silver, and destroyed documents
In the 13th century William of Perth, a Scottish baker was murdered nearby. After his body was brought to the cathedral a number of miracles were reported, and Rochester became the destination of thousands of medieval pilgrims.
By the 1800's the cathedral had become notorious as a place for gambling and drinking, gradually undergoing restoration until 1880 when the current appearance was restored.
As a result of the various building works over the centuries the cathedral has acquired a number of architectural styles - Norman, Romanesque and Gothic. This does not however detract from the stately grandeur of the building you can see today.
Rochester Cathedral, Seen from the Neighbouring Castle
Rochester can easily be reached by rail from London in about one hour, and the area contains a number of attractions worth visiting including the cathedral, Rochester Castle, Upnor Castle and Temple Manor, Fort Amherst, and the town of Rochester itself.
Budget backpacker accommodation is available in Rochester should you wish to spend a day or two exploring this area rich in history.