While Lincoln has many charms, there can be no doubt that the city’s Norman cathedral is its’ most dominant, and glorious, feature. Perched atop Steep Hill, Lincoln Cathedral towers over the landscape, and can easily be seen from a distance of at least five miles. This of course was exactly what the new Norman King William I intended when he commissioned the first of the great Norman cathedrals in England just two years after the Battle of Hastings. What better way to announce that there’s a new guy in charge than by building the most massive structure the locals had ever seen?
In fact, the Cathedral we see today is nothing like the original building from 1068, which was made of wood and destroyed by fire. That building displaced the existing Church of St. Mary Magdalene that was inconveniently erected atop the hill already. (The little church was allowed to rebuild at the corner of the Exchequer Gate in 1280, and it continues to hold services in that building.) For the most part, the Cathedral we see today dates from 1192.
Though I have not traveled extensively, I have had the opportunity to view several cathedrals, including those in London, York, Ghent, and Mechelen. All have their charms, but for me nothing surpasses the balance, proportion, and location of the Lincoln Cathedral. Like all the great stone buildings, it is cold inside (especially in mid-winter), but this building exudes the warm presence of humanity like no other.