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Published January 13th 2016
A stunning cathedral near Birmingham
Lichfield is a quiet village now, but it has a long and significant history with its stunning cathedral taking centre stage. In summary, the Anglo-Saxon saint, Chad of Mercia, is a major figure in the cathedral's history. He moved to Lichfield in 669 AD when he was made bishop. After his death, a shrine was constructed to him and it became a site of pilgrimage for several centuries. St Chad's relics, including his skull (housed in a special 'Head Chapel'), were kept in the cathedral through the medieval period. After the Reformation, the relics passed to various individuals and are now housed in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham. Lichfield Cathedral was also besieged on three occasions during the English Civil War (1642-1651). Today, the cathedral is described as a 'retreat for the soul' and a place of 'hope, healing, and hospitality.'
The following is a selection of just a few of the treasures you should see on your visit to Lichfield Cathedral.
The current façade is the result of a great restoration movement in the late nineteenth century, which sought to restore the statues to their medieval condition. The statues include St Chad, Norman and Saxon kings, apostles, prophets, angels, biblical characters, and Christ.
Three medieval wall paintings were uncovered during the extensive restoration work of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Other paintings were likely destroyed during the Reformation and Civil War.
A modern floor tile and a religious icon now mark the site of the original shrine, which would have been situated at the entrance to the original chapel. The site is now contained in the Lady Chapel, which was added to the cathedral in the fourteenth century.
Stairs located adjacent to the Quire and next to the South Transept lead to St Chad's Head Chapel, which once housed the saint's skull. The Blessed Sacrament is now kept there. The chapel also offers an uplifted view of the cathedral over the Quire and across to the Chapter House entrance.
The illuminated St Chad Gospels are on display in the Chapter House. It is one of the oldest books in England (730 AD) and it is still used for present day services. See here for more information.
Photo by lichfield-cathedral.org/
6. The Lichfield Angel
The Lichfield Angel is also on display in the Chapter House. It has been dated to the late eighth century and was probably part of the original shrine to St Chad.
Photo by Wikimedia (user Mum's Taxi)
7. Military Memorials
The South Transept contains several memorials, including a statue of St George honouring the fallen, Books of Remembrance for the two World Wars, and rows of flags surrounded by stunning stained glass created by the Victorian designer, Charles Eamer Kempe.
The Lady Chapel was added in the medieval period by the Bishop Walter de Langton in honour of the Virgin Mary. The chapel contains the original site of St Chad's Shrine and an altar carving from Victorian restoration works. The chapel also contains seven sixteenth-century Flemish painted glass windows, which are originally from the Abbey of Herkenrode (Belgium). They are said to be the 'greatest collection of unrestored sixteenth-century Flemish glass anywhere in the world.'
The Quire, with its elaborate screen and High Altar, is the result of Victorian restoration after it sustained damage during the three sieges of the Civil War. The Screen is a particularly stunning artistic achievement by Francis Skidmore in honour of St Chad.