England's Medieval Cathedrals

This Quest is to visit England's medieval cathedrals. No bones: It is our most popular Quest. England has 24 cathedrals that were built during medieval times. Of these, Chelmsford, Leicester, Newcastle and St Albans started out as parish churches, then got promoted to cathedral status in recent times. We have categorised them according to when they became cathedrals rather than when they were built. They are with the post-medieval cathedrals here. This leaves 20 medieval cathedrals to complete this Quest. Your reward for visiting all 20 will be the title Medieval Cathedral Master Explorer. There is an intermediate rank for visiting half of them.

Every medieval cathedral is stuffed with intrigue, fascinating characters, historic events, master crafts, music, relics, treasures, grandiour and class. Even Hereford Cathedral, which only earns Simon Jenkins's mediocre 3* ranking, has 13th and 14th century stained glass, six fabulous Denny windows, Mappa Mundi (the largest surviving medieval map in the world), one of only four 1217 Magna Carta engrossments, and so on. Our favourites are Lincoln and Ely, but only because we once lived nearby.

Part of the fun in visiting England's cathedrals, whatever their age, is that they are vibrant and engaging these days. There is nearly always some sort of exhibition or publicity stunt going on, like the helter skelter in Norwich (above) or a crazy golf course in the nave at another. Perhaps it is working. Unlike all other forms of established Christian worship in Britain, attendence at cathedral services has been growing for the past 20 years. Having attended quite a few ourselves, we doubt that the appeal has anything to do with riveting surmons or heart-warming liturgy. The promotions must play a part. The choir, the organ, the acoustics, the congregation and free service entry will attract some. Lottery funded renovations and amenities help. But there is more to it. People attend cathedral services who would not dream of attending a church service. We suspect that they want to cement their place in history by posting a selfie on Facebook or Instagram. Medieval cathedrals, after all, are the only buildings in Britain that will almost certainly survive into the 4th millennium and beyond.

We envy anyone embarking on this Quest. Those with a love of social history, architecture or religion are in for serial treats with very few disappointments. The reward for completing the Quest is the title Medieval Cathedral Master Explorer. There is an intermediate title of Senior for visiting 10 locations.