Bristol Cathedral is a remarkable building, blessed with unique architecture, a magnificent organ and one of the finest acoustics in the country. It is the spiritual home of The Fitzhardinge Consort.
In 1140 a local nobleman named Robert Fitzhardinge founded an Augustinian Abbey outside the walls of the ancient city of Bristol. The oldest parts of the building, including the famous Norman chapter house, date from this early period. In the 14th century, most of the Norman building was rebuilt in the ‘Decorated Gothic’ style which still characterises the eastern portion of the Cathedral today.
The nave was demolished to be rebuilt in the same style, but money ran out before it could be completed, and the resulting hole was simply walled up. In 1539, Fitzhardinge’s Abbey suffered the same fate as all monastic communities under Henry VIII and was closed, but in 1542 it re-opened its doors as the Cathedral of the newly-minted Diocese of Bristol. In 1877 the nave was finally completed (in a style to match the rest of the building), and Bristol Cathedral became the building we recognise today.
The building is beautiful and the people friendly. But what really makes Bristol Cathedral the perfect home for The Fitzhardinge Consort is the singular acoustic, in which choral music – especially Renaissance polyphony – rings clear as a bell.
The Cathedral’s founder, and our namesake, Robert Fitzhardinge, is buried somewhere in the eastern end of the building, probably in the Choir. Take a walk around the eastern aisles of the Cathedral and you’ll find several beautifully carved stone effigies of Fitzhardinge’s descendants, the Barons and Earls of Berkeley. Keep a look out, too, for the Fitzhardinge-Berkeley coat of arms, which pops up in every nook and cranny of the building. Visit ‘who was Fitzhardinge?‘ to learn more.
Click here to visit Bristol Cathedral’s website
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