8 Facts About the Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral in England, building photo by Marco Simoni

Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom, Europe

The Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most recognizable landmarks in England. It houses original copies of the Magna Carta, has the tallest church spire in the country, and displays the oldest working clock. Thousands flock to this location to admire its old Gothic architecture. Read below to learn more interesting facts about this amazing 800-year old treasure.

Construction of the Cathedral

70,000 tons of stone, 3,000 tons of timber and 450 tons of lead were used to construct the cathedral. Due to high water levels in its current location, the Salisbury Cathedral’s foundation is only four feet deep into the ground. It consists of a single architectural style: Early English Gothic. Even without motorized equipment, original construction lasts only 38 years.

The Spire

Did you know that the infamous spire of the Salisbury Cathedral dangerously weights heavier than the base supporting structure? The tower and the additional spire, added two years after the finishing construction of the Cathedral, piles an additional 6,500 tons to the total mass. Original engineering designs don’t properly accommodate the additions, so a multitude of buttresses, bracing arches and iron ties act as solutions to prevent the top structure from collapsing. Still, the spire tilts southeast by 27 inches.

World’s Oldest Working Clock

The clock was first constructed in 1386. It originally was located in the belltower but it later moved to the Cathedral Tower until 1884. Then it was transferred to a storage location and forgotten over time. In 1929 the clock was rediscovered by a visitor, and eventually restoration of the devise was completed in 1956. 

Unlike the design of modern clocks, there’s no face and individual bells signal the passing of each hour.

The Original Magna Carta

The only remaining four original copies of the Magna Carta are immaculately displayed in the Salisbury Cathedral, remaining there since the 1200s during the initial distribution of the documents.

John Constable LOVED The Salisbury Cathedral

John Constable features the Cathedral in many of his paintings. His most famous painting of the Cathedral is Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, currently on showcase in the Tate Modern Museum. The pastoral viewpoints that are depicted in his paintings haven’t changed much over time.

An art enthusiast recently purchased a close rendition of the painting for $5.2 million that historians believed was attributable to John Constable. 

West Front Sculpture

At the West Front section of the Cathedral, a statue shows a man holding an object in his hand. The sculpture is a depiction of Bishop Richard Poore, commissioner of the Cathedral. The object he’s grabbing is a model of the original Cathedral design.

Legend has it that he fired an arrow to randomly assign the location. It landed on a deer, and where the deer fell that was where construction began.

Sunlight Changes Its Appearance

Due to the many installation of windows, whenever sunlight directly shines on top of the Cathedral the interior design changes from a dreary gray color, causing the walls to emanate a golden shine.

Sir Edward Heath

Sir Edward Heath lived on the lands of the Cathedral during the last twenty years of his life. Upon his passing away in 2005, he was buried on the Cathedral land.

Now that you have learned some interesting historical facts about the world famous building, perhaps you’re interested in owning your own memento of the Cathedral palace. Check out our photo prints of the Salisbury Cathedral and find your favorite image today! 


  1. Good stuff for the person in a hurry.
    But please correct: Not Edward Keith but Edward Heath, the Tory Prime Minister, is buried in the cathedral close where he had a house on the North side.

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