14 St. Mary's Street, Truro, TR1 2AF
Tel: (01872) 276872
Cornwall's one and only cathedral
Although Truro has one of this country's newer cathedrals, the See of Cornwall dates back to earliest times when it was located at St. Germans and was united with the See of Devonshire. The 19th century saw a move to separate the two counties and in 1876 the Diocese of Truro was created, with Dr Benson as its first Bishop, who at once set about raising funds for a cathedral. Whilst fund collecting went on, Dr Benson made use of the church in the centre of Truro as his nucleus cathedral.
Since at least 1259, the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin had been located in the centre of the busy port. It had been re-built twice, first in 1504 in the fashionable Perpendicular Gothic style, and then it was re-modelled in 1768, in a Georgian style.
Work started on the new building in 1880. The foundation stone was laid by King Edward VII. It was the first cathedral to be built in England since London's St. Paul's and Dr Benson thus wanted it to be new in ideas and style and not to be a slavish copy of other cathedrals in the country. He used the architect John Pearson who, at once, had a difficult task for the cramped site in the centre of Truro was so hemmed in by buildings that there was no chance to create a close around the building. Thus it was that the cathedral arose amid the shops and houses - a sheer and powerful building with its spires dominating all around it. The likeness to a cathedral of northern France is at once apparent. The royal party returned in 1903 for the opening ceremony.
The cathedral, which incorporated part of the original parish church, was completed in 1910 having taken over 30 years, but was consecrated in 1889. The planned cloisters were never built. Half a century later, in 1967, the Chapter House was added to give the Cathedral its present appearance.
The towers and spires of the cathedral are its major feature. The great central tower and spire (Victoria Tower) rise to 250 feet and the western towers and spires (known as Edward VII and Alexandra Towers) reach 200 feet. The west front has a rose window in the gable and the porch is adorned with statues of the first three Bishops of Truro, Bishop Temple of Exeter and four of our monarchs.
The impression given by the interior is one of great height and length. It has the quality of a 13th century structure in the Early English style with the slender pillars and tiers of pointed arches taking one's eyes to the vaulted roof whose segments get smaller at the east end. The view of the east window behind the altar however is rather cut off by the massive and heavily carved reredos .
Differing in style, however, is St. Mary's Aisle for this is part of the original parish church, typically Cornish with its granite walls and timbered barrel roof. Here there is an 18th century pulpit of inlaid wood and a 17th century organ designed by the famous Byfield. Different, too, is the Chapter House which, as previously stated, was built in 1967 and which includes a line of tall windows that, in their way, echo the windows of Pearson's Gothic work.
Individual features of the cathedral include the heavily carved Bishop's throne; the choir stalls; the large font of polished porphyry and the windows which were designed in sequence to tell a story - starting at the west end and finishing with the great east window.
Monuments include several that came from the original church of St. Mary. In the north transept is an elaborate monument to John Robartes (1614) and his wife. Another is of Owen Phippen and was placed here with brother George, a rector of Truro. Owen was taken prisoner in 1620 by the Turks but escaped seven years later in a Turkish ship after a desperate fight between group of ten Christians and the crew of 651.
It is estimated that in 1991 more than 300,000 people visited Truro Cathedral and it has been a great pleasure for The Friends of Truro Cathedral to welcome them. Many come in organised parties but it is quite evident that tour organisers and operators are not aware that a team of experienced volunteer guides is available in the Cathedral to enable visitors to have a much more meaningful and worthwhile visit.
Such guided tours must be booked in advance by an application. Coffee, lunch and teas are served in the Chapter House Refectory on most days throughout the year and a well-appointed and purpose-built shop, opened in April 1987 adjoins the Cathedral where visitors can purchase a wide variety of souvenirs, and has proved a very valuable facility for residents and tourists alike.
The Royal Maundy Service was held in the cathedral in 1994 when Queen Elizabeth II presented 134 Cornish people with the traditional Maundy money.
In 2002 the cathedral embarked on what was hoped to be a 15 year project to restore the east end, the west front and the central tower and spire. Each of the projects would be undertaken as funds allowed. The east end restoration repaired stonework and damage to the iron work on the stained glass windows. From 2004 to 2005 a year long project saw the restoration of the massive west front and towers. In 2009 work on the central tower and spire was begun.
1259 St. Mary’s Church consecrated by Bishop Bronescombe of Exeter during a tour of Cornwall.
1504 St. Mary’s church re-built in the Gothic style.
1768 St. Mary’s church re-built in a Georgian style.
1876 The Cornish Diocese of Truro formed. St. Mary’s becomes the cathedral church.
1880 Foundation Stones of the cathedral laid by Edward, the Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall.
1880 Work starts on the cathedral under John Loughborough Pearson.
1880 St. Mary’s church closed and replaced by a temporary church.
1880 The south aisle becomes incorporated into the new cathedral as St. Mary’s aisle.
1882 Bishop Benson leaves Truro to become Archbishop of Canterbury.
1887 Consecration of the Quire and Transepts by the Prince of Wales/Duke of Cornwall. Building work ceased.
1898 Work re-commenced under Frank Pearson.
1903 Dedication of the Nave.
1904 Main tower and spire completed.
1908 Foundation stone of the Old Cathedral School is laid.
1910 Dedication of the Western Towers. Effective completion of the cathedral.
1935 Dedication of the North door into the North transept.
1967 Completion of the Chapter House.
1987 Completion of the Cathedral Shop.
2002 Refurbishment of the Cathedral Restaurant.
2005 125th Anniversary of the laying of the Foundation Stones.
2005 Restoration of the West Front.
2010 Restoration of the central tower.
2015 Re-slating of the roof on the high-level western arm.
2017 Re-slating of the roof on the South Nave Aisle, Baptistry and Narthex.
2018 The Old Cathedral School re-opens as the Cathedral Office and education centre.
1877-1883 Edward White Benson
1883-1891 George Wilkinson
1891-1906 John Gott
1906-1912 Charles Stubbs
1912-1919 Winfrid Burrows
1919-1923 Guy Warman
1923-1935 Walter Frere
1935-1951 Joseph Hunkin
1951-1960 Edmund Morgan
1960-1973 Maurice Key
1973-1981 Graham Leonard
1981-1989 Peter Mumford
1990-1997 Michael Ball
1997-2008 Bill Ind
2009-2017 Tim Thornton
2017-2018 Chris Goldsmith
2018-present Philip Mounstephen
Towering right above the city centre.
The Three Spires Arts Festival draws countless visitors in June each year.
Monday - Saturday 7.30am - 6.00pm
Truro Royal Cornwall Museum The Royal Institution of Cornwall Cornwall County Record Office Hall for Cornwall