Gloucester, England

Medieval stained glass in Gloucester Cathedral. Photo © Sacred Destinations.

Gloucester is a city of just over 100,000 people in the historic county of Gloucestershire, southwestern England. It offers visitors the historic Gloucester Cathedral, some Roman ruins, and the house on which Beatrix Potter's based the illustrations for her Tailor of Gloucester story.

Gloucester's history began with the foundation of the Roman colony of Glevum in 96–98 AD. After the Romans departed, Gloucester's focus was an abbey, founded there in 681 (which evolved into Gloucester Cathedral). Gloucester later became the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. Long an important trade center, Gloucester continued to play an important role in England's history after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It was here that William the Conquerer ordered a vast survey of the land in his kingdom, recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. King Edward II was murdered at Berkeley Castle in 1327 and buried in the abbey church; his tomb attracted many pilgrims and helped finance Gothic renovations to the future Gloucester Cathedral.

In the 13th century, only four towns in western England hosted more than two religious orders and Gloucester had five: the Benedictines at St Peter's, the Franciscans at Greyfriars, the Carmelites at Whitefriars, the Dominicans at Blackfriars and the Augustinians at St Oswalds and Llanthony. St. Peter's Abbey has survived intact as the cathedral; the rest are mostly in ruins. The city was incorporated in 1483 and continued to flourish as a trading center and pilgrimage destination (centered on the shrine of King Edward II). In 1541, King Henry VIII designated the abbey church Gloucester Cathedral, and it remains a working Anglican cathedral today.

Gloucester Cathedral
Founded in 1100 as a Norman abbey church, this cathedral has a huge medieval stained glass window and an elegant interior. Here William I ordered the Domesday Book and Harry Potter was filmed.
St. Oswald's Priory
One wall is all that remains of the New Minster founded by St Aethelflaed in 900 AD, which contained the holy relics of St Oswald of Northumbria. It became an Augustinian priory in 1152.
St. Nicholas Church
The parish church of St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors and merchants, was built in 1190 and expanded in the 15th century. Its tall tower has a truncated spire and a noticeable lean.