Year of Cathedrals – Good To Go

16th July 2020

Five of our cathedrals have made the top 60 most loved visitor attractions with York Minster seeing record numbers in 2019, according to visitor figures just released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

Year of Cathedrals, Year of Pilgrimage – You’re Good to Go!

St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey each attracted tens of thousands more visitors in 2019, Canterbury Cathedral moved up one place in this annual survey to feature at number 44, Durham saw a huge hike in visitor numbers with over 63,000 more people visiting in 2019 pushing the northern cathedral up seven places to number 51, while York Minster moved three places up to number 53.

York Minster welcomed 706,484 people to worship and explore the sacred space last year – up 2% on 2018 and its best visitor numbers on record since it introduced new recording practices in 2011.

It is thought the bumper visitor numbers were due to a combination of the Northern Lights sound and light projection shows which attracted 22,500 people, and the completion of the Great East Window in 2018.

The news comes as York Minster reopened its doors to sightseeing visitors for the first time since 16 March and Durham Cathedral prepares to welcome congregational worship for the first time this Sunday.

Westminster Abbey opened to visitors for the first time at the weekend and was able to welcome 200 safely. Canterbury has also just opened for public worship and for visitors with reduced admission fees until the end of August, and St Paul’s just re-opened on Monday for sightseeing visits and a full pattern of services.

All our cathedrals have introduced a range of new safety measures to keep people safe, including one-way routes, enhanced cleaning regimes, hand sanitiser stations, distanced seating, additional signage and floor markings, and many of them have instituted booking systems.

Thirty of our cathedrals – including St Paul’s, Canterbury, Durham, Westminster Abbey and York Minster – have achieved the Visit Britain ‘We’re Good To Go’ standard charter mark to signal they comply with Government and industry COVID-19 guidelines and have a process in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing. Our remaining cathedrals are in the process of doing so as part of their phased recovery and re-opening.

The Right Reverend Dr Jonathan Frost, Dean of York, said:

“Hospitality is at the heart of our life together at York Minster. We were delighted to welcome so many people from nearby and from around the globe in 2019 – our best visitor numbers on recent record.

“2020 will look very different and we’re pleased to have reopened and are beginning to see old and new friends return. There are a thousand reasons to visit York Minster – and those making the journey to this magnificent sacred space will be made most welcome.”

For further details about all our cathedral’s opening times and the safety measures in place or to book tickets, visit their websites.

Exeter Cathedral yesterday marked the 600th anniversary of Edmund Lacy – bishop, visionary – and, if it had not been for the reformation when all shrines were destroyed, very possibly Saint.

Bishop Lacy was much loved in his lifetime and for many years after his death in 1455 pilgrims came to his tomb to pray and seek his blessing leaving votive figures of human and animal parts.

Over a thousand fragments of these votive figures were found in 1943 during the inspection of the Cathedral for war damage following the bombing in 1942.

Working with the Exeter University Digital Humanities department, the nine largest fragments have been photographed and will be available as 3D models in the future.

Just one model of a woman praying is completed so far and to mark the 600th anniversary of his announcement as Bishop of Exeter, she has just gone on display in a small cabinet specially commissioned to house the models now situated by the side of his tomb in the north quire aisle of the Cathedral.

Find out more here.

ALVA represent the UK’s most popular, iconic and important museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, zoos, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions.

They comprise over 2200 tourist sites, hosting over 119 million domestic and overseas visitors each year – around 28% of the visits made annually in the UK.

You can read their latest news here.